I'm going on holiday to Kent in a few weeks and noticed on Ebay that there is a Zither banjo near where I am staying.  I wondered what you make of the condition of the fretboard - the inlays are good but the fretboard looks 'dry' in places - would it just need oiling or would it need more work?  Again I am blaming Rob MacKillop for my interest.

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/5-string-zither-banjo-by-George-Houghton...

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So I won it.  I will post some pictures and an update once I have it set-up.  I will be collecting it from Kent in a few weeks.

I am going to try and play some zither banjo tunes on it so any ideas for tunes (that are not too difficult) appreciated.  Thanks. 

You got yourself a nice zither banjo Carrie and at £250 it's like finding money in the street. 'Homoresque'/Humouresque is a sweet tune that is not too demanding, 'Don't Sigh, Don't Cry' and the 'Dustman's Picnic' are also good and accessible. 'Handy Jack' is not as hard to play as it sounds if you take it at a gentle speed. The secret of the zither banjo is light strings, a 007 first is a good starting point, and the right bridge.

Thanks for those suggestions Richard.  That's very helpful.  I have never heard of the 'Dustman's Picnic' but I like the title!  I ordered some zither strings from Clifford Essex (they start with an 008 but I can easily source lighter strings if need be) and will see if they work with the bridge that looks original.  It's a shame that so many Zither banjos are ending up in a poor state on Ebay - they sell for peanuts - it will be rewarding to get this one back in shape and playing the tunes it was designed for.

Great. I started with 009, but find 008 to be better. Haven't seen a James Bond 007, but if I do I'll give it a go. Have fun with it, Carrie!

I would start by playing chords and scales. Also exercises and also some of the repertoire for regular banjo that you are most comfortable with. Doing these things will give you a solid sense of what the zither-banjo is and isn't. 

carrie horgan said:

So I won it.  I will post some pictures and an update once I have it set-up.  I will be collecting it from Kent in a few weeks.

I am going to try and play some zither banjo tunes on it so any ideas for tunes (that are not too difficult) appreciated.  Thanks. 

In Scotland or south of the border I dunno but in the USA you can get .007 loop end steel from juststrings.com and ball end .007 from stringsbymail.com .  Both are D'Addario and the ball ends can be pried out of their loops.... or sometimes the balls can fit between the prongs on the tailpiece. I agree with Richard that with zb the lightest possible string is the best. So far .008 has been fine for me but it all depends on the scale, the vibrating length of the string between nut and bridge. On a Temlett .008 should plenty thin. Carrie, what's the scale length on the Houghton?

Rob MacKillop said:

Great. I started with 009, but find 008 to be better. Haven't seen a James Bond 007, but if I do I'll give it a go. Have fun with it, Carrie!

Thanks Jody - I am not sure of the scale length as I haven't got the banjo in my possession yet.  It will be my first ZB.

I had a look at the Herbert J Ellis 'Advanced' book (here in the Tutor Book section) and it has some useful information on playing the zither banjo and hand position etc.  

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