I have a friend interested in playing the banjo and is wondering what brand of a banjo he should get.
I have a friend interested in playing the banjo and is wondering what brand of a banjo he should get.
There are 2 types of Banjo, Tenor - most common
type used in Traditional Dance Music, and the
American 5 String.
It would be foolish to say that the Tenor is the
better, it is not. However to be that good on
the 5str that one sounds superior is a lifelong
task so typicaly student chose the Tenor.
There are so many brands that one could be forgiven
for gettin confused, however Framus ( FDR Ger ) is
the most common I see in Ireland. Elsewhere all
the major makers are leaping in the deepend - some
haven’t a clue about setup - and making Tenors.
In the US Ome, Stelling, Gibson etc began to make the
Tenor. You can also get a perww2 model for a couple of ks. I own an
old model which eventhough it is 5 string can be
retuned to Tenor tuning. This Vega also is topped
with real hide not synthetic which above all else
determines performance, tension being the last
and most important factor in permitting or preventing
ease of picking, usually with a ‘flatpick’.
There are a few things your friend will need to know. First…do not buy a banjomandolin or anything that looks like a pot with strings!!
Tenor banjo with a shortscale neck seems to be ‘best’ for trad.Tenor plectrum banjos have a very long neck and don’t really carry all that well."Framus will make you famous" or so the saying goes…best in show would be pre-war banjos made in UK or USA.Good luck!
Oh, tuning can be either GDAE (standard) or CGDA (jazz).
Sorefingers - just give the guy a break - *dont* buy a 5 string if you want to play trad. *dont* buy an electric fiddle if you want to play trad. Its simple - please dont try and confuse the situation for this guy. Noone is saying that tenor is better than five string - but it is definatly more suitable for trad irish music and seeing as this is a trad irish site maybe we should just stick to it!
Sorry - that sounded heaps harsher than I intetended!
And I cant spell either🙂
Hey bb, not harsh enough. ‘dink’ ‘dink’ ‘dinky’ ‘dink’. Buy the one which has a bit of sustain. Stringed instruments which dont ring. Someone please explain the appeal. 🙂)
"I have a friend interested in playing the banjo" - that’s what they all say!
What’s the definition of perfect pitch?
It’s when you throw a tenor banjo into a skip and hit a piano key accordeon.
*hee hee hee*
Bear in mind that the short-necked banjos tend to have a sharper, sometimes tin-tone and wearing sound to the ear, compared to the more mellow, longer neck tenors. It depends on your preference.
Some learners on tenor de-tune 3 or 4 semitones, then capo up (for ease of fingering, less stretching).
Make sure your friend has John Carty’s banjo CD called, The Cat that Ate the Candle.(I personally love this CD as well as his other fiddle CD’s) Oh course he’s playing the 4 string banjo!
Like the other "under-dogs" of irish traditional instruments, the banjo is very cool if played well. One of my "home boys" plays a very impressive banjo. I count my lucky stars this guy hasn’t migrated down to NYC or Boston and includes me in the music, he’s soooo good….
And John M, if you are reading this, your banjo playing is also sounding really really good! Keep coming to the session!!!! : )
Not quite, Breandan - in the North-East of Scotland, you throw the banjo THROUGH the bodhran ,and it hits the piano-accordion driver in the gob!
Ok I think i’ve made it clear that I do love a good banjo player or 2 in a session. So here’s my favorite banjo joke:
What do you say to a banjo player wearing a 3 piece suit??
May the defendent please rise….
try to listen to some ALAN MUNDE bluegrass scruggs-style banjo and EARL SCRUGGS, too, for that matter…alan is the best ever, i think..i have jammed with him many times..his playing picks up the session like we were on a magic carpet..he played with the COUNTRY GAZETTE for many years…i love appalachian clawhammer banjo, esp. the fiddle/banjo tunes in minor and modal keys….good luck…listen..listen…listen. i would be happy to mail you a cassette of a jam with alan if you would like…
check with the gibson banjo company..the internet might have pictures, history, and the like…
My advice to a beginner (I’m still a beginner) would be to pick a style of music you want to learn and stick with it. Don’t dabble a little in Irish , bluegrass, old-timey, whatever…..in the beginning you have to pick one and learn it correctly!!!!! Listening to a bunch of different styles in the beginning can be confusing…..trust me, my first year was horrendous…another story for another time….so if it’s Irish music you want to learn,then immerse yourself in nothing but Irish Trad music. That’s just the way I see it….
Now if you are a seasoned Irish musician and really "get" the Music, I guess it doesn’t hurt to try and play other styles. But for me, right now I need to stick with the Irish stuff if I want to play it well….all my other "celtic" CD’s are put aside for another day and anothe time…..
Ok I’m outta here…have a great weekend! Hope to find some fun and interesting posts monday morning ; )
Joyce, don’t say you’ve dabbled in bluegrass too loudly or Tanya might hear and fall out of love with you 🙂
hahahaha…God NO…never have i attempted to play anything old timey or blue grassy….but I used to be subjected to a session with both irish and old timey tunes my first year of playing….it was really awful….luckily that session has been tranformed into a proper Irish session with musicians who are really dedicated to playing the Music….so where is Tanya??
I’m sitting here at home now trying to learn another Junior Crehan tune. I think Tanya would like this one……
Hmmm well JMH when I used blow a lot for a buck or
should I say the poind, t’was never we’d see a yank
play anything but Bluegrass or OT, and odder still
that WE learned YOUR stuff then, and did it as well
as anyother but OC that was then. Now is now and
dweediddlums-spongetunes the seSSioneer is all
ova the pudding, Ahem.
Seriously why would anyone NOT like well played OT
or BG for that matter? I think solowonking a Flute
,if I may be so snotty, don’t cut the cake - we have
also to be able to do it well where I come from.
Still the more the talk the less the wind - oh well.
Wasn’t it one of them oldtimers back in Chicago that
used say ‘shut up and buy the beer’ to the never
ending witty wonders who gassed and gassed and
never a tune? Who remembers the Limerick Ceilidhs and
the great craic we had trying to get that off, like today
some folks are still trying to play poor ould Joe Cooley, lord
rest his long suffering ears and all the sh*t he
had to put up with.
Oh well I better light another one and kick the Cat
out on the street before the bairns skin her for the
pot to go along with the old dog that died of hunger
last thursday… jayyy sus and me drinking
meths to cool off the wear of last nights mis4tunes
Sorefingers, your prose is hilarious!
sorefingers - I can appreciate WELL played BG or OT, but I failed to mention in my last post that this mixture of music was NOT played well. But BG or OT just doesn’t strike my fancy anyway and that’s all I’ll say about it since this is a site for Irish Music….
"WE learned YOUR stuff"…well isn’t that quite the generalization. Maybe I was born here but my mother was born in Ireland. I feel closer to Irish music than this appalacian hill-billy mountain music which does nothing for me. I certainly don’t think of BG or OT as OUR music….. When I think of "American" music, the first thing that comes to my mind are the delta blues or the chicago blues…I think of Muddy Waters, BB King, Albert King, or someone like Robert Johnson. The POINT is a lot of "yanks" don’t listen to OT or BG and would puke if they read your post….
so sorefingers, I’m guessing your name is NOT from typing NOR from playing your instrument……….have a nice day……
Tanya- Robert Johnson was the one who sold his soul to the devil and used to dance in the graveyards…some people say his music was an offshoot of voodoo….he sought the guidance of a Root Doctor to channel engergy through his guitar……….where are u??
Now back to Irish music ; )
Dear DOW you have no idea how thrilled she would be
to know that anyone cared.
I was posting a personal history of who I knew and
happened to be around over the years, what they did,
who they did it with or to, and so on but happily
the computer ate me blathering and it failed to
Now that stuff is ribcracking in places which explains
why I have no time for bull, I’d rather be
There used be an ould sh*te back in Mary’s who
played on the Flute but you could no more get a
smile out of her than a tenner out of a Scotsman.
Anyroadup one night didn’t she get asked to perform
on the Violin at me father’s house were a brother
was resting after a long week dancing poms…
When after herself had a few bows early in the evening
the brother woke up and cussing he went to the loft
to escape the scratching, but when herself went off
to get the feed in preperation for the night’s
tortures Eamon went down and taking a lump of homemade
butter applied that to the bowhair.
Mighty was the sound of herslelf when the band
got started and she could not get a thing out of
Me brother swears to this day he never heard a
thing that night. The father set a sum on the
head of the terrorist who did it and only found
out years after when a clattering would be no
Just want to drop a few info on this. For me, as a 5-string banjo player there is great difference in sound and tune between a tenor banjo and 5-string banjo. The last has a high G-note as a drown note and that makes all the difference.
Within the area of 5-banjo you have different styles (bluegrass, frailing, old-time, clawhammer, …). As I am playing clawhammer banjo I can assure you that you can play irish music in this style on a 5-banjo as easy a tenor banjo but it sound different. Ken Perlmann, who is one of the best regarding clawhammer banjo, wrote a very good instruction material and converted a lot of irish music to play on a 5-banjo.
Take a look at his website (http://www.kenperlman.com/)
The only thing I can advise you before choosing or buying listen to some music you want to play on the different instruments.
If you want more info on irish music on clawhammer 5-banjo or anything else related to it just let me know and I will try to help out.
having spent an afternoon with ken perlemann last month playing irish music, i can certainly testify to his skill at playing more or less anything with great conviction. two snags from the beginners point of view (1) key changes - an integral part of lots of sets of tune at a session - are really hard work on the 5-string involving re-tuning and moving capos (2) you;d need to put in a LOT of hard work to get anywhere near the necessary standard on 5-string to play tunes the way ken does - playing the tunes on the tenor banjo is infinitely easier, technically speaking. the fiddle music just falls under your fingers and more or less plays itself……………….
i think that maybe the original question was to do with what brand (rather than what type) of banjo was best for a beginner - i sort of understood that the intention was to play ITM on the tenor banjo. recommendations for a beginner are highly dependent on where one lives (UK, Ireland, USA, Oz etc) and how much money is available. for more concrete advice, please e-mail:-
I have not heard Ken Perlman play, but there are not too many 5 string players that I have heard that can play Irish Music well, I’m sure there are many, Chris Grotewahl is one (I’ve heard) and there are probably others, that I’m unaware of.
But I think the "ideal" banjo, is the Tenor (19 fret) as opposed to the 17 fret (which is recommended too often).
Personally I like vintage banjo’s and have purchased quite a few over the years, from Elderly, Bernuzzio and Ebay. If you can have someone help you look on eBay there are always a few decent one’s there, it just depends on how much you want to spend.
I have a Paragon & Paramount A, I’ve had a few different vega’s over the years too and a lot of lower quality Maybell’s etc., I think it really depends on what sound you like from the banjo, I prefer a deeper tone and I get it from the Paragon. The Paramount has a brighter tone, but not quite as bright as some of the banjo’s coming out of Ireland at the moment.
Get a dozen banjo players together and none of them will play the same.
Both my spouse and I play ( sometimes together! ) and he insists on playing the tune on 5String or tenor and I do accompaniment.
My best wishes to you, new banjo player!
Find a Folk Festival with some banjo workshops.