Now, I love guitar, but I also love banjos, violins, basses and other stringed instruments. My Banjo is an Epiphone MB200 which is just a step up from the other entry level banjos. It has a mahogany resonator and neck and a rosewood finger board, nothing out of the ordinary. I personally am a maple fan but you really can’t beat it for the price. It is a lightweight instrument mainly because of the aluminum tone ring, which makes the sound more tinny sounding. This unfortunately makes it top heavy and a little awkward to play because it has a tendency to dip down. However next time I will probably get a Deering. I have done a few minor upgrades like changing the bridge which have definitely made a difference in tone.
Banjo Head Stock
I’m still an beginning player, but there are a few things I can say about it. First replace that bridge. I used to get this buzzing sound on the 5th string because I play clawhammer. The first thing I noticed about the tone was that a banjo is loud and twangy. This was one of the reasons that Jass (old time spelling of jazz) bands of the 1920s used banjos a lot and significantly more than guitars, which couldn’t hold their own that well.
Now one thing you have to understand is that I am a guitar player, who went to banjo, and I’m trying to get more into the banjo style but it takes time. I have to say if you like Irish, bluegrass, country or Old time music, the banjo is a worthwhile investment. I am hella glad I bought one.
Significant differences between 5 string banjo and guitar
-open tuning, I use G. If you are a guitarist try playing in open tuning a bit to get the feel of it. I am very surprised at how many musicians and guitarist have little to no idea of what open tuning is. If you don’t know go google it, or maybe one day I’ll make a post about it.
-high string (drone string) is at the bottom
– all about pickin’
-2 main styles scruggs/bluegrass and clawhammer
-strings vibrate on a taut head
Now the banjo came over from Africa during the 18th and 19th centuries. There is a good Bela Fleck documentary where he goes to try to find the origin of the banjo and the way that is it played in different tribes. For a long time it was much more popular than the guitar because bending those guitar sides is hard and costly. Now it is a lot easier but guitars really didn’t catch on until after WW2. Anyway banjos were also cheap to make and you could make one on your own so you didn’t have to buy one. It became the instrument of the poor and of folk music. The banjo is currently experiencing a revival in indie and Americana music. Pretty much my favourite styles.
Epiphone Banjo- I don't think you can see it on this photo but I do have some wear on the head. Makes me Proud.
Unlike my guitars this is the first banjo I have ever owned and I like playing but there are some things that I would like to see in my next banjo.
1. Maple Neck
2. better tuners and hardware
3. wooden or brass tone ring
4. Probably no resonator or if it does have a resonator it should because easily removable and not full of sharp unfinished edges like mine right now
What is your dream banjo? if you are a guitarist would you start playing banjo?