Small sound sample of Reily Baker Zither banjo

Sound sample of my Reily baker zitherbanjo with martin v730 strings (mediums)

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Views: 122

Comment by Jake Glanville on September 10, 2023 at 16:04

Thanks for putting this on.  Riley-Baker (NB spelling) were very fond of using aluminium in the construction of their banjos.  I've even seen an all aluminium one which was claimed to be 'fretless', but some vandal had removed the fingerboard.  I have a 'Mikado' zither-banjo.  It's strung with extra-light steel strings (1st and 5th strings are .008 inch).

It's a pity the clip didn't last longer and show a bit more of the banjo, in particular the tailpiece.  Mine, which I have no reason to believe is anything other than the original, has the strings running OVER the pressure bar instead of under as is usual.  There is no way they can run under.  I've never seen this before, and believe me, I've seen a lot of zither banjos in my 86 years.  I would be grateful for Classic-Banjo Ning's always interesting comment.

Black Jake of Norwich.

Comment by Jake Glanville on September 10, 2023 at 18:20

PS.  Re my previous comment.

I should have pointed out that the tailpiece on my Riley-Baker ZB appears to be the usual lyre-type, apart from the fact that the strings wont pass under the upper pressure-bar.

All other Riley-Bakers that I've seen have an actual bar running the full width of the vellum along the lower quarter of the banjo.

BJ of Norwich.

Comment by Cana Rochbell on September 10, 2023 at 19:55

Hey there Jake Glanville, I saw the same banjo you speak of many years ago, if I remember correctly it was posted on here or Banjohangout can't quite recall. I know the images expired recently though when I went back to try and collect the pictures they were nolonger available. I've got a few more pictures of my Riley Baker banjo in an album on my page, it's quite difficult and cumbersome to add pictures onto this website unfortunately but I did go through and add tons to an album. Think you're limited per day as to how many you can add to the website.

I play that banjo everyday though, its sat here to my left always read to be picked back up and played more. I do not have a bar on my one, it's been lost to time unfortunately.  I did make a new bridge for it though. Real pleased with it. Action is perfect, very pleased with the tone and volume of this banjo. Its not too loud and not too quiet. I'll upload another video tomorrow for you, outside in the sunlight if weather permits. This banjo's been a nice blessing on these hot humid days, the aluminium is nice and pleasantly cool to the touch.  Here's my tailpiece in this picture below this message, and below that there should be two other pictures showing the mounting brackets where the soundbar belongs. I might make a new soundbar sometime, as I'm no stranger to working with metal and the original bolts to attach the soundbar etc are all still there. Original soundbar was just a round bar with a flat end on both sides and holes to let the bolts through to attach it. Should be a few minutes work with the flypress.

Comment by Cana Rochbell on September 10, 2023 at 20:03

Here's the bridge I made for it with the one it came with for comparison. The old one had barely any contact with the skin, and the slots were far too wide for the strings.  I copied over the string spacing though, absolutely beautiful string spacing and I kept the action the same nice low bridge but it feels just right. To make this bridge I cut the legs off a modern two leg bridge, and sanded down the top of a modern bridge and the stumps left of the leg till I got the height that sounded and felt best for this banjo.

Super lightweight banjo at  only 5.6 lbs in weight, very wide comfortable fretboard, but slender neck, so even short fat hands play chords with ease without stumbling. Neck feels slender and skinny but string spacing is wide. A remarkable balance was created with this banjo atleast to my ears and eyes. :)   If you're ever around Warrington you're welcome to pop over and play it.

Comment by Jake Glanville on September 10, 2023 at 20:36

Thank you so much, Cana, for your pictures and comments.  They've been very helpful.  My problem is total ineptitude with with today's tech, or I'd send a few photos in return.

My tailpiece certainly gives every indication of being an original fitting.  At first glance it looks like one of those typical lyre ones so beloved of Windsor, but looking closer one can see a number of differences.

The banjo was in a poor state when I got it and gave every impression of having been dumped somewhere for many years.  The vellum was split.  It only had one string (which went OVER the upper pressure bar, i.e. the one nearest the neck), missing inlay and signs of corrosion.  But it was fundamentally sound and took next to nothing to get it playing again.

It has a pleasant sound, tunes easily and keeps its tuning, and is very nice to play.  One of my favourites.

Kind Regards,

Black Jake of Norwich. 

Comment by Jake Glanville on September 11, 2023 at 19:00

I used to live near Manchester and would have loved to have taken you up on your kind offer to have a play of your banjo if ever I was in the vicinity of Warrington.  Alas, I am now in Norwich!  So glad to hear though, that you play your lovely Riley-Baker every day.

You seem highly competent in all things banjo, and it would be great to have a longer vid of you playing that particular instrument.

I must confess to being a zither-banjo fanatic.  Simply love 'em.

Best wishes, happy playing and kind regards,


Comment by Jake Glanville on September 12, 2023 at 9:57

PS.  Further comment on my Riley-Baker Mikado tailpiece.

I believe that what I've referred to throughout as a 'pressure bar' is in fact a protector for the vellum>  I've seen many early banjos where the strings actually touch the vellum at the tailpiece end and cause wear.  string manufacturers like Black Diamond (and another whose name escapes me) put 'furry' ends on their springs to give some protection, and I always used such strings on my old Temlett Senior banjos.  My guess is that Riley-Baker on some of their ZB's, got round the problem by devising a special tailpiece which raised the strings above the vellum.

Best Wishes to All,


Comment by Jocko MacNelly on October 12, 2023 at 13:45

Hey can you tell me about those picks?

Comment by Cana Rochbell on October 12, 2023 at 15:05

Hey there Jocko, actually don't wear picks. What you are seeing are silver splintrings made by Zomile a silversmith south of manchester. They help stop hypermobile joints etc

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