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 Post subject: Banjo's ???????
PostPosted: Fri Sep 25, 2015 10:00 am 
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Location: Bicester, Oxfordshire, UK
Hello everyone. I have a question to throw into the ring.
Banjo's to be more exact tenor banjo's. I would be interested to hear opinion on the best value and favourites for Irish/celtic music.
I ask as being a left handed player I do not have a great deal to try in the average music shop. The other thing I would value some opinion on is, arch top vs non arch top if that's the correct technical term. I have already more or less decided on 19 frets rather than 17.
?????????.


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 Post subject: Re: Banjo's ???????
PostPosted: Fri Sep 25, 2015 12:47 pm 
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normholifield wrote:
I have a question to throw into the ring.
Pun intended? :lol:
normholifield wrote:
I would be interested to hear opinion on the best value and favourites for Irish/celtic music.
I can say with some certainty that the best banjo is the one that you have in your hands and can play today.

"Best" is a loaded question. Good value in today's new instrument market might be found in the Gold Tone or Deering tenor banjos sold over here in the States. Don't know what you have that is similar over there in the UK.

I tend to gravitate towards the older, vintage banjos personally. I presently use a 19 fret Vega. I'm always in the market for others. There are so many banjos out and around that it its hard to choose just one.

normholifield wrote:
I would value some opinion on is, arch top vs non arch top if that's the correct technical term.
Just buy one you like the sound of. It depends on what sound you prefer. Both can be good sounds. The common wisdom on the difference between each is well documented throughout the Internet. There's no need to go into that here.

normholifield wrote:
I ask as being a left handed player I do not have a great deal to try in the average music shop.
The only substantial physical difference between a left or right handed tenor model would be the string slots in the nut. So a new nut would have to be profiled and the slots cut. Some luthiers might even fill the slots in the original nut with CA glue and baking soda (or other filler) and then file the new slots. The bridge on a tenor should be able to be flipped around 180 degrees - unless it is one of those newfangled compensated bridges. Arm rests can usually be re-positioned on the other side of the banjo. It's not at all like a five string banjo where you'd have to deal with that extra tuning peg sticking out of the middle of the neck.

I've never understood why anyone thinks there should be a difference between a right and left handed guitar or banjo. So pardon me for saying so. Left handed players have so much of an advantage with fingering the strings on the standard neck-out-to-the-left layout. But if you've played with the neck out to the right all your life though, so be it. Test driving right-handed banjos for tone and playability shouldn't be too tough though. You'll still get a good sense of what the banjo can do and what it will sound like. Challenge the sales staff to play a reel or two. That could be informative and a giggle too. :)

Have fun looking for the new banjo.

Feadoggie

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 Post subject: Re: Banjo's ???????
PostPosted: Fri Sep 25, 2015 3:14 pm 
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Left handed players have an advantage with right handed instruments, Feadoggie? Any advantage they have to fretting is greatly outdone by the increased difficulty in plucking.

If the advantage of fretting with your strong hand outweighed the detrimental impact of picking with your offhand, then right handed instruments would be made with the neck to the right. I would argue that it is better to pick with your strong hand, especially in Irish music, as that is where the pulse comes from, and this aspect of the music is more important than the notes themselves. Also, I can't imagine playing snappy triplets and trebles with my offhand. The precision necessary to execute proper pulse and picking technique greatly outweighs the difficulty in fretting with one's offhand, and coordinating the timing of picking with what you are fretting is more easily done when the picking is done with the strong hand. There is a wider window of time allowed with the fretting than there is with the plucking. Instruments haven't been made with the neck to the left for centuries without good reason!

I can totally understand why the OP wants an instrument with the neck to the right. That's not to say some lefthanded players haven't learned to play well on right handed instruments, and it is indeed an advantage for a left handed player to have more options by having right handed instruments available.. but I think it would be far easier for them to play instruments intended for left handed players.

As for banjos, I agree that any right handed instrument should be easily made into left handed with no problems at all. However, you mention guitars, and this has made me curious. I don't play guitar or banjo, however I remember reading on mandolin and cittern forums that simply swapping the bridge and nut might not work as ideally with some instrument designs, as the bracing and body design is made with the tension and tuning of standard stringing in mind. I am not sure if this applies to guitars or not, and of course it wouldn't apply to many instruments if there is a symmetrical design anyway.

And to the original poster- Oakwood is based in the U.K. and they make some very nice tenor banjos! Angelina Carberry plays an Oakwood tenor banjo and it sounds terrific. If their banjos are priced like their other instruments, they are likely quite affordable as well. I'm not sure how close you are to them, but it might be possible to arrange to try one out in person to see firsthand whether or not you like their instruments.


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 Post subject: Re: Banjo's ???????
PostPosted: Fri Sep 25, 2015 3:52 pm 
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Sirchronique wrote:
...I remember reading on mandolin and cittern forums that simply swapping the bridge and nut might not work as ideally with some instrument designs, as the bracing and body design is made with the tension and tuning of standard stringing in mind. I am not sure if this applies to guitars or not, and of course it wouldn't apply to many instruments if there is a symmetrical design anyway.

At the very least swapping string order would be difficult because the nut and bridge are cut to accommodate the sizes of the strings. Here's a nut:

Image

As you can see, if string order were reversed then the thinnest string would have a potentially loose and buzzy footing, and the thicker string would only sit atop the thinner cut and be unlikely to sit secure. In addition you would end up with an ungainly elevation profile of the array - not a good thing for fingering. As you indicated, you would have to reverse both nut and bridge for a righthanded instrument to be strung properly in reverse.

And then, as you also pointed out, there's the issue of inner bracing. Even if nut and bridge were successfully reversed, I would err on the side of caution and assume that the instrument wasn't meant to be strung in reverse fashion, for that being the case, eventually you risk damage to the instrument. I'm no expert, but I would suspect that an either-or purposed bracing would entail a significant compromise from best sound quality, too. Don't know how it is with banjos.

If you (not you personally) have the disposable income to try the experiment just for the empirical evidence, then have at it.

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 Post subject: Re: Banjo's ???????
PostPosted: Fri Sep 25, 2015 4:00 pm 
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Sirchronique wrote:
Left handed players have an advantage with right handed instruments, Feadoggie?
Yes. We happen to disagree. I've been teaching strings for 50 years now and I just tell it as I've witnessed it. They're only called "right-handed" instruments because some closed minded individual (that could have been a nun, based on my earliest experiences with left handedness) labeled them that way. Leave off the label and any young player will pick up the instrument and figure out what to do. Same with flutes and whistles.

Sirchronique wrote:
As for banjos, I agree that any right handed instrument should be easily made into left handed with no problems at all. However, you mention guitars, and this has made me curious.
You've perhaps mistaken what I've said then. Remember that I suggest there should be no need for neck-out-to-the-right guitars and such. That does not mean that I would suggest that all players who have learned to play with the neck out to the right should just flip a standard guitar or mandolin around. As I did say.
Feadoggie wrote:
But if you've played with the neck out to the right all your life though, so be it.
My suggestion to Norm was to test drive banjos set-up in the standard layout. That should give him a sense or playability and sound. Single string playing can give him a sense of the action, tone and volume. The conversion to left-handed layout could/should follow. And it is a snap to do - he should even press for the cost of the conversion to be zero, zip, nada.

I've only talked about flipping the tenor banjo around and that's what the subject is here. Isn't it? Tenor banjos are among the most symmetrical instruments out there. Even the bridge is reversible. Gotta love that.

Many guitars and mandolins don't usually flip around as easily as a four string banjo. Bracing patterns for bass presence differ inside of acoustic guitars and some mandolin type instruments (but not all). Scrolls on F style mandos do get in the way when played Jimi style. Cutaways end up in the wrong place (unless it's a Mosrite Venture's guitar and then they begin to look normal). A five string banjo would require a new neck. Etc., etc., etc..

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 Post subject: Re: Banjo's ???????
PostPosted: Sun Sep 27, 2015 8:40 am 
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Sirchronique, I agree with much you have said. I was once told many many moons ago by a semi pro bassist that "if you are left handed you should sell that right handed guitar and buy a left handed one as you will only get so far picking with your wrong hand" I took the advice. All my stringed instruments are left handed and I even have a left handed melodeon.
So, as for tenor banjo's I was really fishing for advise on what to look for, what's popular and what to be weary of. I had already short listed Deering and I know Oakwood instruments are good I have a very nice Mandola by them. I have listened to a lot of demos on youtube but you never really know how good a recording it is and I'm told the youtube files are compressed so the sound may not be what you would experience in the flesh, so to speak. As for all my local music shops, well I think they have only heard of Electric guitars. basses, drum kits and keyboards as that is all they stock.
I guess I will have to take a day trip out sometime to a banjo specialist shop and take it from there. Maybe there is somewhere in London.
Just don't want to make any expensive mistakes. :thumbsup:


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 Post subject: Re: Banjo's ???????
PostPosted: Sun Sep 27, 2015 11:18 pm 
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Hi Norm,
I tend to prefer the fuller tone of flat head tenor banjos over the tone of archtops. B&D Silverbells are wonderful, but fairly costly. And vintage 1920s Vegas are wonderful too, built really sturdy, reasonably priced as great vintage banjos go, and relatively easy to find. I've had more old Vegas than any other brands, and currently have two Vega Tubaphones. I much prefer the tone of a top frosted mylar Remo Weatherking head to that of a Renaissance head on a tenor banjo, even though the Renaissance head might look a little prettier. Skin heads absorb moisture and loosen up and can be hard to keep in tune, so I always replaced them with plastic (mylar) heads.

Regarding the nut. You can easily convert a nut slotted for right hand playing to that of a lefty simply by packing the nut slots with bone dust and adding superglue (cyanoacrylate) to it and then recut the slots (after it dries) for that of a left hand set up. Put some masking tape over the front and back of the slots first before filling them with bone dust. It's a quick, forgivable operation and works like a charm. Same thing with the bridge, if you wish, except use wood dust. Or get a new bridge.

If you're serious about a good sounding banjo, get one with a tone ring. That makes a huge difference in the tone of a banjo, so I'd recommend doing some in-depth research into the various tone rings.


W.


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 Post subject: Re: Banjo's ???????
PostPosted: Mon Sep 28, 2015 1:12 am 
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Since you're in the UK, it might be worth to visit Tom Cussen from Clareen Banjo's in Clarinbridge, Co. Galway, Ireland.
Visit his website www.banjo.ie

I've tried a few of his banjo's and they're among the finest you can get your hand on.
Besides that, Tom is a great player himself and a wonderfull guy.


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 Post subject: Re: Banjo's ???????
PostPosted: Mon Sep 28, 2015 4:09 am 
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Toonboog wrote:
Since you're in the UK, it might be worth to visit Tom Cussen from Clareen Banjo's in Clarinbridge, Co. Galway, Ireland.
Visit his website http://www.banjo.ie

I've tried a few of his banjo's and they're among the finest you can get your hand on.
Besides that, Tom is a great player himself and a wonderfull guy.


I'd also suggest that this is a good source for an instrument. Banjos, BTW, are a great instrument for customizing, as there's quite a bit of easy interchangeability of components.


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 Post subject: Re: Banjo's ???????
PostPosted: Mon Sep 28, 2015 5:28 am 
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Check this post:

viewtopic.php?f=35&t=101307

It's a Clareen Setanta. Brillant instrument. You might youst be lucky enough to get it.


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