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PostPosted: Wed Oct 19, 2005 2:28 pm 
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OK, now I'm wavering and considering hunting down a tenor instead of going with a 5 string...I just keep thinking it would be easier.

Any of the cheaper tenor's seen on eBay any good?

Here's a list of the lower priced banjos I've seen: Goldtone Cripple Creek, Tyler Mountain, antique Kays, and Deering makes one (kind of the upper end of cheap). Any opinions of these instruments as starters?

Would I be better off searching for an antique model or a new cheap one?

We have a local folk music shop where I could put in a request for a cheap tenor if they get a used one in and just wait patiently...they're great about not buying/selling something they don't think is playable and would provide support if it had problems.

Finally, does it really make much of a difference to have 19 or 17 frets?

Thanks,

Eric


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 19, 2005 2:42 pm 
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I have the Gold Tone IT250, i like it fine. You can find cheaper vintage banjos but they may need some repair or setting up.

17 fret usually has a scale somewhere around 19-20", a 19 fret usually 21-23".

Shorter scale means easier to play (especially if, like me, you come from a fiddle/mandolin background and use that style of fingering) but less tension on the strings so less "pop", especially on the low notes, and harder to keep in tune. Most of your pro Irish players use 19 fretters for those reasons... most of the Irish players who use 17 fretters are ladies (Mary Shannon, Angelina Carberry).

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 19, 2005 2:47 pm 
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The Gold Tone banjos are great. I have a 17 fret short-scale CC tenor. It was very inexpensive, and is of surprisingly good quality. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it. If you want to see one in action check out the Folk of the Wood video demos at:

http://www.folkofthewood.com/page2529.htm#goldtone

I bought mine from Andybanjo.com.

The longer scale 19 fret version is happier with the GDAE Irish tuning, but the 17 fret copes fine if it's wearing heavy strings. I'm glad I have the short-scale as I have smallish hands which never really got the hang of long stretches, even on guitar. If you have small hands or are used to playing mandolin then the short scale may be best. If you have large hands then I'd say consider going for the standard scale 19 fret version for the slightly greater tuning stability and tone.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 19, 2005 3:16 pm 
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Hmmm...food for thought. I don't have particularly large hands, but I play a pratten flute (I have a pretty good stretch). Guitar was no problem, but I found the mandolin more difficult because it felt so small.

Sounds like the 19 fret is likely my best choice.

Eric


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 19, 2005 3:22 pm 
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OK - just called the music store. They have three used tenors reportedly in good shape:

Clariphone, Kay and a no name that's very similar to the clariphone.

I may have spelled clariphone wrong, or misheard the exact name - any opinion on the two named banjos?

Thanks,

Eric


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 19, 2005 5:55 pm 
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Hey Eric,

I have a Lyon & Healy Tenor for sale. I'm in no hurry to get rid of it and don't need the money from the sale anytime soon. I live in Southwest Iowa. If you want to drive as far as St. Joseph Missiouri some time, I'll drive down and you can take the banjo until sometime after the first of the year or next spring to see what you think. We'll figure out how to get it back to me later or, if you decide you like it, you could send me a check. It's just sitting here gathering dust at the moment. I have $175 tied up in it. It's got a solid hard shell case that has some of the covering off.

just an offer

jim d


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 20, 2005 4:42 pm 
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Jayhawk wrote:
OK - just called the music store. They have three used tenors reportedly in good shape:

Clariphone, Kay and a no name that's very similar to the clariphone.

I may have spelled clariphone wrong, or misheard the exact name - any opinion on the two named banjos?

Thanks,

Eric


Not heard of either banjo. There was a guitar make called Kay in the 70s which was available in the UK. I don't know where those were made but they were unspeakably awful.

I very much doubt that's the same company as the Kay who make/made banjos.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 20, 2005 5:55 pm 
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I have heard bad things abut the Kay company in general. I would say the Deering is likely to be the best as it is made in the US that is just my opinion but I would always choose a US brand as opposed to a Chinese.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 20, 2005 6:32 pm 
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Unseen122 wrote:
I have heard bad things abut the Kay company in general. I would say the Deering is likely to be the best as it is made in the US that is just my opinion but I would always choose a US brand as opposed to a Chinese.

As I mentioned somewhere, I've tried the Deering Boston tenor and didn't care for it at all.

Unfortunately, I haven't tried any others to compare it to, so maybe I just don't like tenor banjos.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 20, 2005 6:52 pm 
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Jayhawk wrote:
Hmmm...food for thought. I don't have particularly large hands, but I play a pratten flute (I have a pretty good stretch). Guitar was no problem, but I found the mandolin more difficult because it felt so small.

Sounds like the 19 fret is likely my best choice.


just to clarify, any mandolin is going to have a scale of not much longer than 14", where a tenor banjo -- even a short scale 17 fret -- will have a scale at least 5-6" longer than that. Banjos in ITM are typically tuned an octave below mandolin tuning.

I have big hands, and i do just fine on a mandolin. The question is more: are you used to playing guitar or mandolin/fiddle? If guitar, you're likely used to using one finger per fret, and play whole steps between your index and ring finger. If fiddle/mando, you're used to playing whole steps between index and middle finger. I do well with a 17 fret banjo because i started musical life as a fiddle player and the stretch isn't that huge between the index and middle finger on a 19+" scale. Using fiddle fingering on a 22" scale would kind of slow me down, if you know what i mean. I basically don't want to re-learn the fingering for all the tunes i have on mandolin to play a 22" scale banjo.

That having been said, 19 fret ~22" scale instuments are more plentiful than any other in the TB market.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 20, 2005 7:36 pm 
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I got my TB off eBay for $80. It's an old one (from the 30's probably) with a skin head and friction tuners. The pot is metal clad on the outside and was a bit rusty, which is why it went for so cheap. I cleaned it up and put heavy strings for GDAE tuning on it and it sounds great now. It isn't too loud, but has a very nice mellow plunky sound.

I'm not sure which kind of fingering I use (guitar or mando) but I do one finger for each fret (2-3-4-5) and shift up for playing high B. It's a 17 fret but the stretch is still tough for me...I'm okay with flute so I don't think the stretch is quite the same.

-Brett


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 20, 2005 8:27 pm 
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If you play tunes in D and use your ring finger for the 4th and your pinky for the 5th fret, it's guitar style (AKA cello style) fingering. If you're using your middle finger for the 4th and your ring finger for the 5th, it's fiddle/mando style fingering.

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 22, 2005 9:32 am 
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Jim - that's a kind offer, but I wanted to check out Mountain Music near me with that ultra cheap anonymous banjo...which I just bought.

It's heavy birds-eye maple, open backed, short course tenor that's most likely (according to muggawumps page) made by slingerland. It also sounded much better than the two named banjos.

Now, I just need to get that low G string to hold (it was holding the normal tenor strings/tuning fine). I broke my first low G string...obviously I tuned it too tight, but the electric tuner just never showed that it was getting close to a G at any tension level. After it snapped, I noticed the tuner was turned off which may have had something to do with the problem :oops: . But, I'm rearmed with another string and a complete extra set this morning and am heading off to get her into shape.

If the G string (that sounds bad) doesn't hold well, I have violin peg rosin to try...any other suggestions? It has friction tuners.

Thanks all,

Eric


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 22, 2005 11:16 am 
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Ha! I discovered that little screw on the back of the friction peg, tightened it, and I'm in business. I forgot to mention it's a 17 fret.

Boy, I've forgotten everything I ever knew about mandolin and really regret selling my beginning irish mandolin book which would have come in handy.

Any advice on good beginner irish tenor banjo books? Or, is the irish mandolin book route a better option?

Thanks,

Eric


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 22, 2005 6:42 pm 
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congratulations!

you might start here
http://folkofthewood.com/page5296.htm
it's free and should get you started on basic scales in G and D, and a few tunes.

once you've got that, you can see if you need a tutor book or if you just want to start picking out tunes.

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