What banjo brands and models are considered great for classic banjo playing?

Hi everyone,

I have recently been bitten by the classic banjo bug.

I currently have a Deering Artisan Americana banjo with a 12” pot.

I ordered some LaBella strings, a bridge from Joel Hooks, and the Frank Bradley book. Hopefully, this will be adequate for me to get started.

Since I do not know much about classic banjo, I was wondering what brands and models of banjos are considered to be great for this style? What would be considered a great banjo to own and play (vintage or contemporary) by a competent player of this style?


Milwaukee Matzen

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Thanks. Based on previous experience, I know it will be difficult for me, but I am going to give it my best.

Randy Dary said:

Congratulations for taking up the challenge of reading music!  Persevere!  It is a language worth learning. As a retired band teacher in Oregon, I once had a student who told me she had dyslexia (and had suffered early on form people who did not understand) but she seemed to be able to read music and was a great student (clarinet). I regret I never did get to talk more with her about whether or not she had to do any accommodating to be able to read music, so I can't make any helpful suggestions, but it always seemed to me that the logic in music notation might be a help. 

Anyway, good luck in your endeavors! enjoy classic banjo!

Milwaukee Matzen said:

Hey Jody,

I’ve dealt with Elderly for years. So, I am aware of them. I’ll have to check Intermountain Guitar & Banjo though! On a side note, I’ve been enjoying your YouTube videos!

Hey Par,

I did mean the Bradbury book

I came across AJL’s lesson on YouTube yesterday. They look to be a good resource.

I am really excited to try my hand at this music. Because I have dyslexia, I am a little nervous about learning to read music. I tried when I was younger and had a very hard time. But, I plan to take my time and work hard at it. I’d love to be able to take advantage of all the great music that it available. 

Fortunately, I had nut files on hand. So, I was able to widen the nut slots on my banjo. Then, I just ordered the correct height bridge from Joel Hooks. I’ve got it set up real nice. Unfortunately, despite not leaving my home for months, I caught COVID from my housemate (who is an essential worker). I have been out of commission for the last three weeks and haven’t touched my banjo. I am finally starting to feel better. I’ll hopefully be able to start playing soon. I am still congested, have no taste or smell, and have been perpetually exhausted. So, sleeping is my number one hobby at the moment!

Jackie Cook said:

I have an old Ome Grubstake open back banjo that I setup for classic style, a few years ago. I put some of the nylgut strings on it, but had a problem with the action being way too high. So, I contacted Tanya at Ome banjos and sent it to them to set it up for those strings. They had to make some adjustments with the nut and bridge to accommodate the new strings, but I am very happy with their work and it is a very happy banjo. 

Hey Milwaukee, so sorry to hear that the wretched Covid got you but pleased that you are getting better.

Keep safe and all best for a speedy recovery from me and I am sure all members of Classic Banjo Ning.

Hi Milwaukee, You have my sympathy as I had a mild form of Covid in March, last year and know how lowering this infection can be, You have overcome many obstacles and setbacks already in your quest to play the banjo in the classic style, I have no doubt that you will overcome this further trial.

Thanks much. I really haven’t had many setbacks. I believe that should be able to get to playing in a week or so. I am just too exhausted at the moment, I feel pretty lucky as I have lost some acquaintances and a good friend to COVID. I am a little nervous about what this may do to me long term. And, I am really hoping that I get my smell and taste back. I am finding it a bit depressing and a little scary not being able to smell or taste anything. I am grateful as I am very much aware that things could be much worse.

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