Hello all, I'm new here. I've tried asking around, but I never got the sense those who I sought advice from never totally understood what I was really trying to refer to when asking about classic fingerstyle banjo.

Basically, I began playing banjo about a year ago. I started off with standard old-time clawhammer, but as time goes on, my interest is gradually moving towards minstrel stroke-style banjo (I've been playing for a few months), and I'm really interested beginning to learn classic banjo.

Basically, what I'm hoping to better understand is what I should be looking for in an instrument to play classic banjo? I understand that "Classic Banjo is played on a five-string banjo (either old or modern) strung with nylon, nylgut or gut strings with the bare fingers; no fingerpicks are used", but will really any 5 string banjo with nylon strings do the trick or should I be looking for something specific? Where should I be looking?

I've attached a photo of a banjo that was proposed to me buy a seller in Toronto, Canada. Its a tackhead banjo with a fretted neck. Its well within my price range ($379 CAD + shipping), but do you guys believe that it could do the trick or should I look elsewhere?

Thanks for reading and I look forward to broadening my musical horizons and learning tons from all of you.

 

Views: 238

Attachments:

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

In my opinion you are unlikely to get the requisite clarity for classic banjo repertoire and style from a tack head banjo. Any normal hook and bracket banjo that is in good working order should be fine.  Peruse this website and you will find all the answers.

The tackhead wouldn't be my first choice as the action may be high.  You really want a fully-fretted, full-scale 5string banjo.  You could look at a used Deering goodtime and replace the tailpiece with a no-knot/tie-on tailpiece and a plain maple Morley-type bridge in order to fit nylon strings.  Or, you could go vintage and look for a nice banjo with a spunover rim - I have a Clifford Essex vintage banjo.  Basically, you want to avoid banjos specifically designed for clawhammer - as these tend to have a frailing scoop, high action and wide fingerboards.  

Since I've begun playing banjo (in general), I've always been overwhelmed by the kindness of others who are always willing to give advice and so on. I doubt that if I was into heavy metal that I could easily get answers to my questions from Metallica or Iron Maiden.

I've decided that in the meantime I'll just adapt my current Deering Goodtime. That will give me time to eventually find the right instrument and its the cheapest option. 

The tackhead was proposed to me by a fellow at a music store in Toronto, Canada. It was not your general run of the mill guitar supercentre loaded with entry level instruments but a supposedly true, bonafied specialized music store. I guess that the banjo guy is not totally into the minstrel/classic scene.

I look forward to learning a lot here.

I think you will be fine with the Goodtime - Deering make good banjos; they have really nice necks!  You'll just need to convert it for nylon strings and you can see how you go with learning classic-style without a heavy investment.  Good luck! 

Thanks. Have you ever done the conversion on a Goodtime? I purchased some nylon strings (La Bella's). I know that I'll probably need a different bridge, but are there any other things that I should know? Is it just a matter of putting the strings on the Goodtime and off I go? Will I need to widen the nut slots?

I live in a "banjo desert" so it's quite difficult to see things first hand and ask questions.

carrie horgan said:

I think you will be fine with the Goodtime - Deering make good banjos; they have really nice necks!  You'll just need to convert it for nylon strings and you can see how you go with learning classic-style without a heavy investment.  Good luck! 

Okay, so it's best to get a plain bridge (rather than an ebony capped one). Look for something like this: http://cliffordessex.net/index.php?_a=viewProd&productId=271

You also need a tailpiece designed for nylon strings.  You could contact Joel Hooks as he sells the right kind of bridges and tailpieces for classic-style banjo.  http://www.thejoelhooks.com/

I don't know if you will need to widen the nut slots.  You may need to tinker around. 

You will be amazed at the difference in sound once you have the right strings and bridge.

Much as I dislike disagreeing with Carrie, I have a different opinion.

Labella strings are narrow gauge. I expect that you will not need to make adjustments to the nut. I have used much heavier nylon strings on banjos that were previously strung with steel and I've gone back and forth with no change at all to the nut or the tailpiece. I do change the bridge. Well....usually.

I have used the same tailpieces for steel and nylon strings. One should never put steel strings on a wood or bone tailpiece designed for gut strings and built in the 19th century. The metal will ruin the tailpiece.  But there is no reason to not affix nylon strings to  a metal tailpiece designed for steel strings.  Make loops by tying a bowline. Instead of the metal loops of the metal string use the nylon loops you have made on the nylon strings. The tailpiece doesn't care.

You will get a different sound with each type of tailpiece but the range of sounds that can come from a Goodtime are limited. You might get a better sound with a plain bridge but bear in mind that a Goodtime cannot sound better than what it is. It is not capable of producing great sound. Pretty good sound,  yes.  Try the ebony tipped bridge first. On this banjo it actually might help.

carrie horgan said:

Okay, so it's best to get a plain bridge (rather than an ebony capped one). Look for something like this: http://cliffordessex.net/index.php?_a=viewProd&productId=271

You also need a tailpiece designed for nylon strings.  You could contact Joel Hooks as he sells the right kind of bridges and tailpieces for classic-style banjo.  http://www.thejoelhooks.com/

I don't know if you will need to widen the nut slots.  You may need to tinker around. 

You will be amazed at the difference in sound once you have the right strings and bridge.

Thanks everybody. In the end, I ordered some nylon strings from LaBella and a new bridge from Joel Hooks. Joel Hooks tells me that I should be fine with my current tailpiece, so I'll give that a whirl. I'm actually very excited to modify my Deering Goodtime. Hopefully, all will go well.

I also ordered the two books from Clifford Essex. 

I began learning to play the Sunflower Dance which seems to be the "Cripple Creek" of classic banjo, with mixed results. I can play the first part ok, but the rest needs a lot of work. 

I know that this has been covered many times, but I'm wondering what are some other common beginner tunes ?

Many pieces composed by Weidt are relatively easy to play and have some musical merit.  One classic banjo solo that sounds fantastic and yet is not too awfully hard to play is Ellis's Kansas Jig. There are some vides of Kansas Jig on this website including one with 2 banjos and bassoon. If you learn to play the repertoire in Emil Grimshaw's books each of which focuses on a particular technique you will be equipped to play almost anything. But really the best thing to do is watch and listen to the videos here. When  you hear something you really like, find the dots in the library and go for it. Being attracted to a banjo solo is like the attraction in courtship. If there is attraction persistence does not seem like work.

david caron said:

Thanks everybody. In the end, I ordered some nylon strings from LaBella and a new bridge from Joel Hooks. Joel Hooks tells me that I should be fine with my current tailpiece, so I'll give that a whirl. I'm actually very excited to modify my Deering Goodtime. Hopefully, all will go well.

I also ordered the two books from Clifford Essex. 

I began learning to play the Sunflower Dance which seems to be the "Cripple Creek" of classic banjo, with mixed results. I can play the first part ok, but the rest needs a lot of work. 

I know that this has been covered many times, but I'm wondering what are some other common beginner tunes ?

"Being attracted to a banjo solo is like the attraction in courtship. If there is attraction persistence does not seem like work."

Honestly, that is beautiful way to put it. Thanks for brightening up my day.

I believe that the Deering Goodtime banjo has a modern "Presto" tailpiece and these eat nylon banjo strings!

They have sharp edges that will need considerable sanding to stop them cutting the nylon. I am with Carrie... a new tailpiece would be better. 

Look here:  Presto Cuts Strings

I have used nylon strings on Presto tailpieces for decades. I never had a string break.

thereallyniceman said:

I believe that the Deering Goodtime banjo has a modern "Presto" tailpiece and these eat nylon banjo strings!

They have sharp edges that will need considerable sanding to stop them cutting the nylon. I am with Carrie... a new tailpiece would be better. 

Look here:  Presto Cuts Strings

Reply to Discussion

RSS

© 2018   Created by thereallyniceman.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service