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I would like to share some information of interest:
To whom it may concern:
Subject: Miss banjo International
The Colombian Committee of Miss Banjo International is looking for a nice old time lady which would be our participant this year. The contest will be effectuated in Kuala Lumpur according to the Banjo Beauties International Board.
For almost five years our beauty queen has been Ms. Savannah SB-100. This fine lady, with a lovely Chinese heritage, came from North America to Colombia where she has been making a marvelous participation since then. However, these are new times, and therefore it is time for a new participant in order to have more chances at international events.
We are looking a participant with these main characteristics: open-back, preferably an old time girl (1890-1930), if is possible with geared tuning pegs (SB-100 does not have the fifth string tuning peg), prepared to perform classical style tunes, and with an American or British ascendance. Unfortunately we have a small budget (500-1000 US dollars), therefore we would prefer an American lady because the travel fees to Colombia.
Therefore, we would like to know your opinion about some possible candidates which we found at USA, exactly at the Bernunzio website: S.S. Stewart Universal Favorite (http://bernunzio.com/product/ss-stewart-universal-favorite-16592/), SS Stewart Special Thoroughbred (http://bernunzio.com/product/ss-stewart-special-thoroughbred-16656/) and SS Stewart Lady Stewart (http://bernunzio.com/product/s-s-stewart-lady-stewart-15827/).
We are open to suggestions. In addition, we really appreciate any information about additional websites where we can find other possible candidates.
Director and only member
Colombian Committee of Miss Banjo International
Why do you want geared tuners? I'd not wish them on anyone using proper strings. My first choice is properly fitted violin pegs. Second are the patent pegs (not the champions) that are on many of the late 80s & 90s SSSs, my (formerly Carl's) Elias Howe Superbo and My 1960's Gretsch knock around.
Another thing to consider, the presence of modern replacement tuners could be an indication of wire string damage. Watch for improperly "reset" necks. Necks of the banjos you describe should be set level with the rim with no back angle. Comfortable action bridge height is 1/2" not the moder 5/8".
Buying your first good period banjo is very exciting. Jody helped me with some great advice on finding one.
You also can't go wrong with a good condition SSS at a good price, but you will likely want a full size banjo (11"+ rim).
I'd say go for the Special Thoroughbred if you don't mind the non-original hooks. You might want to change the tailpiece, but it's a pretty good price for a quality banjo.
I'd avoid the Universal Favourite as it only has 19 frets and believe you me, you will kick yourself when you try to play something and realise you haven't got enough range. You want the full 3 octaves, 22 frets. Same with the Lady Stewart. -- only 20 frets and I don't think a 9" head will give as musical a tone as an 11" or 12".
Dear Joel, and Mike. The Colombian Committee really appreciated all your comments and suggestions. We will probably contact to SS Stewart Special Thoroughbred at Bernunzio.
We will let you know what will happen.
German ,I would say the special th .It Is the cheaper and these serial around these numbers are very good ; I would not be sure of the same thing ' bout the universal favorite without the neck fastener ( a friend lend me a SSS 2nd grade around 4000 for one year & i didn 't buyed this onebecause the banjo had no harmonics in the trebble tessiture _however the banjo was perfect )
if you plan to have a lonely banjo , you need a 11 ' one ; do not buy other ( exept 11 1/2 or 12 ) ; with original tuners , regular Grover or champion , it is always better
Of the Bernunzio instruments in that price range, I'd probably opt for this UF: http://bernunzio.com/product/s-s-stewart-universal-favorite-16465/ It has 22 frets and appears to be in decent shape and "unsullied", beyond the Lyon & Healy tailpiece. The UFs make excellent players even though most are not highly ornamental.
Of course, a good Special Thoroughbred would be optimum...but that over-reworked mess they have with the geared tuners isn't what I would want.
I'm not all that concerned with having 22 frets. The bulk of what I'm playing doesn't get past 19. Yes, when you attempt the high-altitude pieces, you'll be looking for a 22 fret banjo...but you're talking about only 1 or 2% of the tunes available.
And a lot of times you can fake it by stopping the string on the head like a smooth arm banjo.
LOL, somewhere I've seen a banjo head with ink lines for the extra frets. I'd glue on a couple of toothpicks if I needed those notes regularly. ;-)
Although my head is also a member of the Cammeyer Club, I do get a hair cut from time to time. As to which hair will be cut, I have to think that over.
It will be a hard competition the banjo contest in Kuala Lumpur