Grateful Dead Music Forum

A place to talk about the music of the Grateful Dead 

 #1770  by pharewellphish
 Sun Jun 26, 2005 7:48 pm
now im looking for a banjo... i dont want an expensive one but i dont want one that sounds like shit. so what should i look for for a banjo and whats some good brands to look for. someone told me to look into the deering goodtimes banjo. im thinkin i want a 5string
 #1970  by Jerryhead
 Wed Aug 17, 2005 7:13 pm
Depends on what style you want to play, as far as 4 string clawhammer, i havent a clue, but if you want to play 5 string, scruggs style, melodic etc., Gibson is traditionally numero uno, definately look for a solid back banjo, the heavier the better, kinda. enjoy!

 #2503  by whitelacestrange
 Sat Dec 17, 2005 8:42 pm
i wanna learn banjo, maybe take lessons, i picked one up at the music store, started playin it, sounded like complete shit. i know your supposed to finger pick with it, but it just seems really hard to play that fast finger picking, did jerry use a pick? he played lightning fast.

 #2511  by spilly
 Sun Dec 18, 2005 10:23 am
jerry fingerpicked, if you going to play the banjo you have to, theres no use doing anything half assed because you don't have enough patients to practice.

as far as buying a banjo, I recommend a build your own kick. All the major companies seel build your own kits, it's not hard to do, It's a hell of alot cheaper, and it'll turn out just like a store bought banjo.
 #3423  by dmass1977
 Sat Feb 11, 2006 8:30 pm
I've got Gold Tones cripple creek banjo. It is a decent beginner banjo that is pretty playable, and for teh money, i'm not sure it can be beat. You definitely don't want to spend 1200-3000 on a banjo, before you're at least acquainted with how hard they are to play well. Lots of practice.

bound to covers just a little more ground

 #3451  by mutant_dan
 Tue Feb 14, 2006 11:57 am
I picked up a Gibson RB-250 banjo about 10 years ago and made the conversion from guitar fingerpicker to banjo picker fairly easy.

Once you have the basic rolls down everything is downhill.

My problem with the banjo is that the thing weighs about 25 lbs. My back couldn't take the additional stress. I have since traded the banjo for a mandolin and my back is much better...

 #8549  by jerrysbanjo
 Fri Sep 01, 2006 8:47 am
Intermediate, pretty decent 5 stringer picker here.

Sure you want a 5string.
6string banjos are just funny looking/sounding guitars for wannabes IMO. 4 strings are for Jazz/Dixeland or Irish music, and are played with a flatpick.

The CC100R is my reccomendation. Good bang for the buck, decent tone, well constructed for an Asian product. Resonator comes off easily to quiet it down for proactice or for use as a clawhammer banjo.

Goodtimes are good too. American made. But butt ugly IMO. No tone ring of any kind, frets directly into neck like a fender. Still a good product tho.

Saga SS 10 is a nice inexpensive openback.Good for quieter bluegrass picking practice or can amplify. Openbacks are for old timey clawhammer/frailing style,

Of course, my CC100R dont hold a candle to my RB3 Gibson Mastertone, but its fun to play and weighs a lots less. I prob play it more than the Gibson around the house. CC100Rs sell for around 350-400 new. A real Mastertone will cost ya 2000-3000 used.

If you want to go with an inexpensive bluegrass banjo that has pro level sound, check out the Gold Stars GF85 or GF100 for 800-1000 bucks new.

Next up I'd reccommend the Derring Sierra or Sullivan Festival(From First Quality Music in Louiville) both in the 1500-2000 range.

Your run of the mill music store, if they even have a banjo, will not know how to keep them well set up and will prob sound like crap.

Buy from a local acoustic shop or online from, Janet Davis Music, Elderly, First Quality, or Turtle Hill Music.

Stay away from ebay cheapies and even recommended brands on ebay. Buy from a knoledgeable local shop of a reputable online dealer or you'll get burned. Even if you get a deal, you'll still have to spend a fortune and hassle on set up.

Take a lesson or 2 to from a real live knowlegeable banjo player to get you off on the right foot.

Jerry played 3 finger bluegrass Earl Scrugg/Don Reno/Bill Keith style. On a resonator 5 string banjo.
Plastic thumbpick, 2 metal fingerpicks.

As mutant dan said, if your a fingerpicking guitarist, it should come fairly quickly, otherwise, learning curve kinda steep initially. Not the easiest instr to start out.

Jerrys stuff will be pretty tough. You'll need to start out by studying Earl, Ralph, JD Crowe, intently before branching out into Jerrys territory too far.
 #8651  by nkarnes
 Tue Sep 05, 2006 10:00 am
I would not go with a Deering Goodtime if you think you'll be playing for a while. They're pretty bad instruments. I picked up a Hohner used for $400. I've been playing for five years and playing professionally (keyboard and banjo) for two years and I still use the Hohner. I would definately plan to spend $400-600 for a nicer cheap banjo because you won't want to upgrade so soon. Some Alvarez, Fender, and Washburn banjos are alright and in the same price range (don't spend less than $300 on a Fender though.)
In regards to the speed question there's really a couple of key things. First you have to be wearing finger picks. It may seem easier to play without them at first but eventually you can pick far faster with them (less resistance than your skin on those strings.) Also practice a couple of banjo rolls every day for 20 minutes a day at first. This will get you playing quite fast in very little time. The tricky part is keeping things interesting though, that depends on how varied your right hand patterns and rhythms are and how well your left hand knows scales, licks, and chords up and down the kneck.

 #8661  by Jimkkc
 Tue Sep 05, 2006 4:56 pm
Ah - the banjo - the devil's own instrument! I took lessons a few years back, and I have to say, the lessons pretty much convinced me that I am a guitar player and not a banjo picker. Thankfully, I only bought a Deering Goodtimes - The Goodtimes is definitely a good banjo to get started on; however, if you think you will continue, don't buy one because you will never make your money back on the Goodtimes. It is not that they are poorly made, it is that there are so many on the ebays of the world that the market is flooded.

In terms of speed - I have to disagree with the necessity of picks. First, the picks make the banjo extremely loud (especially the resonator/bluegrass ones) thus - you may end up practicing less. This was my case; I decided that I did not want to subject my ears to such loundness each day. To my ears, the banjo hits right at that level that is horribly uncomfortable. So for me, I played w/o the picks and developed speed enough and have subsequently applied that speed to guitar fingerpicking. I would also suggest a violin muter for practice - you can get them from any good acoustic instrument shop.