View Full Version : One step further into insanity

Jul-28-2008, 1:37pm
Marcy Marxer sent an email by accident to the cittern@yahoo group and as a result, I bought a four string Gold Tone Cello Banjo (CEB-4) which is tuned an octave below the standard cgda tuning of a tenor banjo.

Apparently this was the brainchild of Wayne Rogers of GT and I have to say he has a winner. Now I just have to figure out what to do with it http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

So far I have managed to duplicate what MM is doing on youtube and have started to use it in sessions for Irish music. It comes with nylon high tension classical guitar strings so it is not as loud as my GDAE tenor banjo, but it adds a baritone voice with its own special timbre.

Has anyone else played one yet?

Jul-28-2008, 3:00pm
I've seen the videos of them and they do sound really cool. I wouldn't mind getting one but I wonder if it's possible to re-string it and tune it GDAE? I've just never had much luck learning to play in CGDA....

Jul-28-2008, 5:58pm
The scale length is 25.5 " (647 mm) so some of the sonority would be lost at GDAE. Besides, you lose the low end which is the reason for taking up the cello banjo. A better solution might be to capo up two and play there. I am learning to use the CGDA tuning to play in Am (like Em in GDAE) and D (Like A) and taking advantage of the low end.

Also, although GT will not endorse this, I think that you can put on a set of steel strings from the D'Addario J73 Mandola set (52-14?) with no problems. A five string version of this banjo has done well so far with a set of strings that would have more tension on it than the four string with the mandola strings. It would be possible to play in GDAE but you would have to go to a 36-12 set or so. (The D'Addario J63i set, otherwise useless.)

Jul-29-2008, 5:23am
Here is my Youtube Review (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5zX6xpRswI) of the Gold Tone CEB-4 Cello Banjo.

Jul-29-2008, 9:45am
I have been LUSTING after one of these after seeing the first video--thanks for your kudos, Mike. I'm still saving up. I play mandocello in a mandolin orchestra, so I'm hoping I can convince them to let me play it on a tune if I get one--what a COOL sound! Keep us posted with any new things you discover you can do with it and any sound clips, OK? Yvonne in OH

Jul-29-2008, 10:39am
Dude, that thing is a BEAST!

Love it though...

John Hill
Jul-29-2008, 1:40pm
Now that is a cool sound. Thanks for sharing.

Jul-29-2008, 2:06pm
I've been staring at these since they've been announced, and wish the supply was better. I always hate to order something that says "availability unknown". I got an e-mail from Wayne Rogers the other day assuring me that the shortage was actually of cases, and that it would be resolved soon.

Ted Eschliman
Jul-29-2008, 3:09pm
Mike, I'd be afraid played too loud, the ultra-low vibrations combined with instrument playing position might impair one's ability to produce offspring.

Jul-29-2008, 3:17pm

Only if you put the new JazzDola strings on it, assuming they are long enough http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

Besides, I don't have to worry about that any more.

Jul-30-2008, 11:16am
I assumed the person asking about GDAE was thinking of tuning it down, not up. Any chance of that working, or is it just lower than a 25" scale could go?

Jul-30-2008, 12:21pm
It might be possible to tune the CEB-4 down a fourth but it would take some very large strings to do so and they may not be available. #I'll have to get on a string tension calculator and work it out.

I think a problem with that tuning would be playability since the bridge would most likely have to be higher than 5/8" in order to keep the strings from buzzing. #The present height already presents some problems for those of us used to a tenor banjo. #Not only is the sustain longer, but you can't play a lot of notes in a short period of time (as you can with a mandolin) because there is a significant lag time needed to articulate notes, otherwise the music becomes muddy.

Jul-30-2008, 6:12pm
Bet that the La Bella contrabass classical guitar strings (http://www.juststrings.com/lab-cb60.html) would do the trick.

fred d
Jul-31-2008, 6:57am
http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/tounge.gif Being dollar challenged at this and far two maney instruments I hace lowered My Irish banjo 4 string to E B F# C# and to me itsounds almost the same not quite as loud?? http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/mandosmiley.gif

Aug-01-2008, 9:53am

The difference is the 14" head which allows all that low end power to be realized whilst the 11" head will not realize the full sound of a cello banjo. Also, unless you change to heavier strings, your banjo will sound very floppy with that tuning.

My cello banjo has a longer scale, but I am not sure if that will make a difference. There certainly is a difference between a 17 and an 19 fret tenor banjo however. My scale is 24.5 inches and yours probably in the 22.5 range.

That being said, it is not a bad idea to try out.

Aug-01-2008, 4:33pm
Part Two (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=333RiqnNaxE) of my critique on the GT Cello Banjo.

Aug-02-2008, 1:54pm
Appreciate the videos, Mike, so that we can hear it and also your observations....I REALLY want one now. (And also a bass domra, but I've no money at present.) Keep those YouTubes a'comin'! Yvonne

Sep-08-2008, 3:13pm
Well, my CEB-4 showed up today. No special markings, but it still must be in the first 100 or so.

Not being a banjo player beforehand, I can't compare this to other banjos. It provides a nice low tone, and should sound good doing the bass lines. I can manage to get double-stops to sound pretty good, but if someone can really make pleasant sounding chords on this thing, they have a skill and talent that I don't. The stock strings need fiddled with: the A has clearly different tone than the rest that I find a little jarring.

Tuners are good. Despite Elderly and GoldTone both stating that it was completely set up, there was a bit of a saddle problem when it arrived: the groove for the C was barely a scratch, and anytime it was strummed by a thumb it tended to pop out. A bit of groove cutting with a fine hacksaw blade took care of that.

As an experiment, I tried GDAE tuning (one octave below an Irish tenor). Floppy as all hell, but the head was able to resonate well at that frequency. I have a set of contrabass classical strings on order, so I'll give it a real try when they come. They should be able to provide be with decent tension at that tuning, and that tuning will provide real competition with a standard bass.

Sep-11-2008, 10:12am
My classical guitar strings are wearing out after about two months of daily use (the windings are coming off at the frets, a known problem and GT is getting a special set of strings made) so I will try a set of mandola strings on it this weekend. I'll have to make a different bridge for it but that will be no problem.

I have been able to do double stops easily with good tone, but chords are not the forte' of this instrument. For one thing there is too much sustain and there are no treble to ring out. On the other hand, the head pumps out a lot of low frequency energy and it fills the low end of an ensemble or jam.

My other choice for strings is to put on a set of carbon high tension classical strings.