emerald banjos

emerald banjos

How Ye buckos,

Just happened to come across emerald banjos online (http://www.emeraldbanjos.co.uk/home). Was wondering if anyone knew anything about them( the banjo maker etc…) and how they sound in comparsion to the boyle/clareen banjo.


Re: emerald banjos

I don’t have any direct knowledge of these banjos. At first glance, they look very much like they were built using either the Gold Tone kits, and maybe standard 5-star parts, from StewMac, or similar dealers.

The headstock shapes look very much like the Gold Tone kits: http://www.goldtone.com/products/details/w/instrument/88/MC-150R-Kit-Maple-Classic

The first model has a standard Mastertone tone ring, and the arch top models look like the 5-star arch top tone ring, I think. And the flanges look like the standard Gibson copy, probably a 5-star. Like this one: http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Hardware,_parts/Banjo:_Pot_assemblies/Five-Star_Bluegrass_Banjo_Pot.html?actn=100101&xst=3&xsr=663

My guess is that they build these using standard bits and pieces, and put a bit of finish on them. That’s not to say that they can’t be good quality instruments, but to me, they don’t appear to be the same kind of hand made quality that you would find in either Tom or Dave’s banjos.

My apologies to the maker if I have inappropriately jumped to conclusions here ;-)

Re: emerald banjos

"Emerald" is pretty new business and I think it only appropriate that some examples of the banjo themselves should be assessed before any conclusions are arrived at.

Without wishing to cast any aspersions at all, I’ve got one of the very earliest Clareen banjos and I’m sure that Tom would agree that his skills have improved since then. You wouldn’t want to have judged him for all time based on the earliest stuff.

Everyone takes a while to get into their stride and figure out (the hard way) what works and what doesn’t.

Tony Sullivan had many fine banjos made (a lot of them still in daily use) based on the StewMac rim assemblies with ready-made StewMac resonators and hand-made necks.

At the time, they were good bits of kit, reasonable value for money and about the only alternative to the Far Eastern "Masterclones" of the period - some of which were much, much worse than the current offerings.

My view would be to let Graham & his sons have a fair crack at this and see if they can come up with a decent range of instruments.

Apologies due, I think, Reverend - though not to me, be it said - in this case I am a truly unbiased observer. It’s hardly in my commercial interests to promote yet another banjo seller!

Re: emerald banjos

The more the merrier IMO

Re: emerald banjos

I have an emerald banjo - photos here on Irish tenor banjo site
The bajo is great to play, has a fabby sound and best of all (for me at least) has a much wider neck than a Cussen (I’m a guitarist originally) tho’ I suspet that won’t be to everyones advantage. It gets loads of compliments about its sound - unusual for a banjo I think you’ll agree.
I really HATE, HATE HATE the almost bluegrass scrolly kneck at the back. Fortunately I’m the only one who generally gets to see it so it doesn’t offend too many others. I bought it just over a year ago and the ones I have seen since (on www) have not had the horrid neck. I do suspect that I bought one of their first banjos. When it arrived it wasvirtually unplayable. Took it to local shop (a banjo player himself) who sorted it out with different tailpiece and bridge etc..
If I had the money, would I buy another? Yes. Most definitely.
Sean Cannon regularly sings at a session I go to and he really likes playing my Emerald - not that he’s a noted banjo player but he has got a good pair of ears!
Hope that helps. contact me for any other "punter" info.

Re: emerald banjos

and a few other fotos here

Oh yes, its a really heavy banjo. The tone ring must be something amazing because the sustain is tremendous.

Note that in these fotos I have replaced the metal arm rest with a fantastic ebony arm rest. My vintage open backed Slingerland (for sale btw) has such a wooden armrest and that convinced me to change the Emerald’s armrest. It took loads of research to eventually get it made for me in the States by a banjo fanatical furniture maker(!) Little did I realise how much the import duty etc would come to. One born every minute DOH. Before you ask. I have emailed him for others and have had no reply so he might have ceased trading.
I’m not sure that the ebony armrest adds to the looks as much as the metal one did (subjective) but is lovely to play when I’m wearing T-shirt or have sleeves rolled up.

Re: emerald banjos

With the greatest respect to Reverend I have played various Dave Boyle, and Clareen banjos. Both Dave and latterly Tom manufacture their own tone rings. The sound off one of these is actually no better than the tone rings used by us. There’s a hundred years of technological improvement and experience which has been undertaken in America with tone rings. We use that experience. The advantage to our customers is that we’re able to give them very serious choice of tone, snap, solidity, woodiness, loudness, and have serious discussions with them as to the nature of the sound they want from their banjo. We then spend lots of time tailoring that sound. I don’t think that either Dave or Tom have ever made a solid ebony banjo such as the one we’re currently making for a client https://skydrive.live.com/?cid=3529f6b1b7d50361&Bsrc=Photomail&Bpub=SDX.Photos&id=3529F6B1B7D50361%21224&sff=1#cid=3529F6B1B7D50361&id=3529F6B1B7D50361%21225
So Reverend, if you can just give us a bit more goodwill we’d appreciate it - for instance our headstock shape happens to be the simple distinctive shape we have designed to complement the look of our instruments. We made the fundamental decision to make our instruments as simple and distinctive to look at as is possible, relying on the sound and quality of our design, manufacture and customer service and recommendation from customers to sell our instruments. However hard you look you will not find a single dissatisfied EMERALD BANJOS customer. Each one has a top quality very distinctive banjo with a wonderful sound at a very reasonable price. Hope this helps a little !!

Emerald Banjos – A Personal Perspective

My new Emerald ‘Elite’ banjo has just been delivered so I thought I would add my own observations to this Discussion thread.

The most important things to say about my Emerald banjo are that
• it sounds incredible
• it plays very comfortably
• it is extremely well made, and looks really good

Emerald Banjos is a small family business and the high quality of the instrument and the personal service provided reflects this. Throughout the commissioning and production of my banjo, communication has been excellent with regular updates, including photographs at different stages of build, being provided throughout. Communication has at all times been open and honest. All choices were carefully explained and there was absolutely no hint of a ‘sales’ focus (i.e. no sign of pushing towards more expensive models or additional components and accessories that I did not want or need). If anything, Emerald seemed more interested in finding the best banjo solution for me than they were in making a living for themselves.

Having ordered my Emerald Banjo, I stumbled across this discussion thread on Emerald Banjos on The Session website. The member operating under the pseudonym ‘Reverend’ has given, above, a detailed opinion including the following comment:

“My guess is that they build these using standard bits and pieces, and put a bit of finish on them. That’s not to say that they can’t be good quality instruments, but to me, they don’t appear to be the same kind of hand made quality that you would find in either Tom or Dave’s banjos.”

This statement, which seems to be based on no more than a cursory look at some website photos (and certainly cannot have been based on seeing, holding, hearing or playing an Emerald Banjo ‘in the flesh’) is ignorant, highly inaccurate and very unfair on the company. In essence the suggestion appears to be that the banjos are simply assembled from mass produced kit components with the company merely branding the assembled instrument. Nothing could be further from the truth

The wooden components of the banjo are all hand made by Emerald Banjos (they make bridges too). For my instrument, block maple was used i.e. blocks of solid maple carefully glued together to make the rough form which is then machined and hand finished to the final shape. The rim and the resonator are both lathe turned and profiled. The rim is shaped precisely to the actual tone ring used. The laminated neck, which includes a truss rod, is also hand made by Emerald and the shape is finely finished, including the fit to the profile of the body, which in my case includes a special tubular tensioning ring.

Emerald produce a wide range of different tenor banjos and I am sure would also discuss possibilities that were not already reflected in their existing designs. If you are considering getting a new banjo I can recommend looking at Emerald – they are high quality, but at affordable prices.

Re: emerald banjos

what has surprised me a little about this is that although they have a number of videos posted, the only one that actually has a soundtrack of the instrument really doesn’t show much at all. I know judging instruments from internet recordings isn’t a great thing to do, but I’m surprised that Emerald don’t make the effort.

Re: emerald banjos

I’ve got a Dave Boyle and an Emerald Labasheeda. The action on both is identical. The sound off my Labasheeda is superior to the DB. The weights are near enough identical. The sustain on my Emerald is longer than the DB. The quality of the Labasheeda is superb. There are laquer runs on my DB resonator. AND my Emerald looks really funky. Use the www.emeraldbanjos.com site not the .co.uk site which seems to have stagnated

Re: emerald banjos

I’ve had my Emerald for a for several years now and it still gets lots of attention (my playing doesn’t). I have people asking lots of questions about it. Oh yes, I do need to reiterate the fact that it is LOUD. However when you play quietly it still has a fabulous sound. It does look different to others, which is a bonus. Need to also mention that Emerald now sell their own wooden armrests. If you’ve never tried one, you really should. They are so much nicer than the metal armrests.
I recently played a "vintage" sought after banjo in a session in Ireland and was, quite frankly, totally underwhelmed. The sound (to my ears) was dull and lifeless. Each to their own. If I had the money, I’d definitely buy another Emerald to compliment my ‘pride n joy’. Perhaps an archtop just to be different. Dream on ……