Related to Pār's discussion on upgrading, I have to admit to not knowing the relative merits or otherwise of the various CE banjos. Which were the student-level instruments, and which were the top pro-level instruments? And what were the defining characters or qualities of each? I keep using the past tense, but of course these banjos are still with us. 

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Clifford Essex banjos

That's a link to some info about Clifford Essex banjos. Would of course be nice to hear from someone who have first hand experience with the instruments

Useful. Thanks. 

Actually, not very useful as more than half the entries are more missing. But it's a start.

all the levels are fabulous , from the  entry level to the top level , with the small exeption tthat the " popular " ( entry level ) has a narrow neck

Hi Par,

Regarding the original Clifford Essex banjos if you check out the catalogue that you can download from the "TUTOR BOOKS" page of the site:


You will see almost the entire range from the lowest price to the highest. I like Clifford Essex "Special" banjos, especially the wood hoop version if you can find one, but the spun over metal hoop Special is a superb instrument for Classic Style. I had one when I was learning and I know a couple of site members on here who own them (ask Carrie or Marc Smith). They have a deep hoop (around 3") and give an excellent tone.  The "professional" is favoured by many players, but I prefer 11" hoop banjos and the Professional is a 12" hoop. William J Ball often played a Professional and you can see him here:

The Special XX or the later model named "Concert Grand" are both superb and expensive banjos. The "Regal" has an excellent sound when fitted with a frosted Remo head and medium gauge CE nylon strings.  (I posted Kentucky Parade in the videos section, played on a "Regal" and this was discussed recently)

My personal favourite banjos for Classic Style are those originals made by Alfred Weaver. They are simply made with little flash mother of pearl, but sound and feel superb. You will not get better. I would find a 20 fret version in preference to 22 frets as they feel so much nicer when stretching for chords!  I have only played a New CE Weaver once and personally did not like it that much, but I did not have time to get used to it though and it had very thin strings and I don't like those either!

So my choice without paying a fortune:

No1   20 fret Weaver

No2   22 fret Weaver

No3   11" Wood hoop or spun over hoop CE Special

I fancy having a Boudoir Grand, but have never seen one for sale. And you can't find a Weaver for love nor money lately. The CE Special might be easier to get hold of, I imagine. 

Looking at their catalogue, I was intrigued by the Grover Tone Ring - anyone used such a thing? Big claims are made for it.

Boudoir Grands have been known to show up in Australia. Photos make it seem as though this model has an ebony tone ring but I suspect  it's just a circle of black paint on the inside of the pot. Has anyone played one?

Rob MacKillop said:

I fancy having a Boudoir Grand, but have never seen one for sale. And you can't find a Weaver for love nor money lately. The CE Special might be easier to get hold of, I imagine. 

I have a Boudoir Grand, and yes the "Tone Ring" is actually a "Bevelled edge" of the wood hoop (as in the Farland Artist Grand) that is painted black. The instrument is effectively a wood hoop concert grand without a metal tone ring. I think it sounds magnificent, and the bass is to die for but the fingerboard is a bit too narrow for my fat fingers.

So, Ian, you could sell it to me! :-) Pity for it not to be played...

That's interesting, Ian.  It seems the neck profiles are different across the CE range. I actually prefer a narrow, thin neck profile.  I tried a Concert Grand at a banjo rally and didn't like the neck at all - too wide/thick compared to my CE Special.

Those Grover "Tone Rings" should be called "Tone Killers" 'cause that's what they do.

My guilty hobby is collecting useless banjo accessories, I have two of these.  To install them correctly there are two big and thick wood screws that you are supposed to drive into the dowel rod (no thanks!).

They will hold themselves in place without the screws and successfully remove all "Tone" from the banjo while adding weight (they are made of genuine high rust steel).

I also recently got a "Grover Vibrator," this is better and cuts some of the echo, much like a cork or Van Eps paint stick. But works no better than either of those.  The idea is that it is supposed to flex when the head is tight on a dry day.  On a humid day it is supposed to straighten out and tighten the head on either side of the bridge.  I think old A. D. had some wishful thinking.

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