View Full Version : Some input on a Tenor Banjo
Is this a headache or a possible good find? #I 'd get it just to have around and learn later:
Ebay Tenor Banjo (http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=3703729893&category=10177)
Another Ebay Tenor banjo (http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=3703381087&category=10177)
Go to the Folk of the Wood site and check out that brand new 17 inch Goldtone tenor Banjo. I think that is the way to go myself-just a personal opinion. Spend extra and do the best. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/cool.gif
That first banjo looked like it had potential. I recently bought a headless old Bruno tenor on Ebay; I paid fifty bucks for it. I had to buy a couple of bracket hooks, install a new head, and make a couple of simple wooden wedges to secure the dowelstick to the pot. I spent about thirty bucks (including new strings) and worked for three hours making the banjo playable. I've never played a banjo, but I play in an Irish/eclectic session with a fine tenor player who sparked my interest in the instrument. My main instrument is the fiddle (with mandolin and bouzouki close behind) so the fingering has been easy for me.
The main thing to look out for (you might e-mail the seller) is the straightness of the neck and the condition of the frets. I was lucky, but one thing to consider is that the tenor banjo is a relatively low-tension instrument compared to the mando or guitar. This means that old necks are more likely to be unbowed.
One last thing: an old, inexpensive banjo will likely have friction tuners, while a newer one will have 4:1 planetary tuners. A new set of tuners costs between fifty and sixty dollars. Friction tuners do work, after a fashion, but they require more attention. I'll put up with them because I'm not totally committed to playing tenor; I just wanted to give one a try without spending a lot of money. If it turns out I continue to enjoy playing (they are a lot of fun!) I'll probably keep my eyes peeled for an old Bacon and Day or something of similar quality.
Here's another Tenor on ebay, a little better shape and cheap
Another Tenor banjo on Ebay (http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=3703764925&category=10177&sspagename=STRK%3AMEBWA%3AIT&rd=1)
That is cheap, but I'll bet there is a reserve price on it. It does have geared, though non-traditional, tuners which is a plus (kind of). I think you will find the best deal on a banjo which needs a new head. A head costs about $15.00 and isn't too difficult to install.
Personally I'd rather be seen with a tenor wiith a blank headstock rather than one with a big inlaid quarter-note!
I've picked up a couple of old Vega tenors on Ebay. Never spent more than $300 and gotten some nice ones. For Irish music, you need to be aware of the scale length. 17 frets are a lot easier to deal with than 19 or more.
Good recommendation, Mike. There seem to be quite a few of the 17-fret Vegas out there; evidently the jazz players prefer the 19-fret models. The Vegas are well-made and are worth the extra price they command, and they tend to cost much less than the sought-after Bacon and Day and Paramount banjos.
A 17-fret banjo has a scale-length of around 20-21 inches. They have a "stretch factor" like that of a short-scale octave mandolin.
I have purchased 4 instruments from ebay and all needed work. I play 2 of them and junked the other 2 as not worth fixing. All in all I would have been just as fsr ahead to buy from the local vintage music store and they are not cheap.
I don't even look at instruments on ebay anymore.
I've bought several instruments on eBay. One tenor banjo that needs work that I haven't gotten around to doing yet (but it was way cheap), a couple of electric guitars that I'm quite pleased with, and my current favorite playing mandolin--a prob'ly teens Vega two-point flat top. Oh yeah, there was that archtop guitar (hmmm, and a couple of other electrics), that I turned around & sold on for about the same I paid.
All told I'm satisfied. I advise against looking at high-value instruments there (especially "collectable" ones), since the potential for fraud is so much higher when you don't have the axe in hand, but for cheap to mid-price, it works for me....
Oh yeah, and a Hohner Jack bass (Steinberger headless, but with a body), that I'm also really pleased with, just not playing right now....
here's another one to check out:
another tenor banjo (http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=3704494898&category=10177&sspagename=STRK%3AMEBWA%3AIT&rd=1)