If you’re undecided, consider these two things. First, which size banjo looks more visually appealing to you? This is an important factor in choosing a banjo you will enjoy holding, playing and sharing with others. Second, consider what types of settings you expect to find yourself performing in.
If you expect to play mainly small settings or for personal pleasure, consider our 10″ Music City Belle model. If you’re playing concerts, larger gatherings, or jam sessions, consider the 11″ Broadway or 12″ Cumberland model. If you’re after a deeper song for your soul or next recording project, the 13″ Governor model is a good choice.
Bottom line, our best advice is to get one of each!
A great question with a fairly subjective answer. In our opinion, some of the biggest factors are:
Style and Position of String Attack – From mellow to snappy, the way you play a banjo, how you strike the strings, and where you strike the strings has an incredible and endlessly variable affect on the tone.
Head Tension – In general, the tighter the head, the brighter and clearer the sound and vice versa.
Rim Size – In general, the larger the rim, the deeper and more resonant tones you can produce.
String Choice – There is a huge difference in sound between gut (more mellow) and steel (more ringy) strings.
Head Choice – Usually, natural skin heads have a more “thumpy” sound, compared to the “ring” of synthetic heads.
Bridge location – A banjo designed with a bridge located closer to the tailpiece sounds brighter than the same banjo designed for a bridge located closer to the center of the rim. (Our banjos are designed for a bridge location a bit closer to the center to help complement the mellow flavor of our integral wood tone rings.)
To a lesser degree, other factors such as wood choice, nut material, string gauges and neck angle also affect the tone.
A banjo is a hearty instrument that only asks a little from you. Avoid storing it in humidity or temperature extremes. Damp basements or hot cars are never good.
Wipe the strings down after each time you play, and change strings at least a couple times each year to help keep the sound clear and bright.
Put a light pencil mark at the bridge location, so you can quickly re-position it if and when it gets bumped out of place.
Check your tension nuts from time to time to make sure they’re snug and the head is tight. If you have a natural skin head, you may need to adjust tension nuts more often. The head will loosen in humid conditions and tighten in dry conditions. Though this phenomenon lessens over time as the head stretches and seasons, it is something you will learn to readily recognize and quickly adjust. You can also carry a couple of taller bridges to swap out in unusually humid playing conditions.
The natural beeswax finish was applied with a hi-temp heat gun, allowing the wax to penetrate into the surface of the wood. It is quite durable, but from time to time you will want to freshen it up to help keep it looking its best.
High humidity or moisture droplets can sometimes lead to faded or milky areas in the finish. These can be buffed out by hand with a soft cotton or t-shirt rag using our Banjo Wax, – a mixture of natural beeswax and coconut oil.
One really great thing about the beeswax finish is handling touch-ups. If your banjo gets scuffed or scratched, you can lightly sand or buff out the scratch with extra fine grit paper or steel wool, reapply some beeswax, then buff it out. The new finish will blend perfectly with the old.
If you are picking up your banjo locally, you are welcome to buy a case from us, but you don’t have to do so. If we are shipping your banjo, you will need to buy a case from us to help insure safe packing and delivery.
In today’s hi-tech world, there are several great online options for learning a variety of styles; just ask the Google. You can also do some research for old-time string music clubs or jam sessions in your area, – always a great group of people eager to welcome newcomers and encourage them along.
Many purists may disagree, but our opinion is an open back banjo can and does add great flavor to any style of music, from jazz and classical to old-time roots or modern rock. The issue with bluegrass music is that an open-back banjo will not project as loud as the industry standard resonator-back banjo, which many consider a defining characteristic of the bluegrass music genre.