View Full Version : Banjolin

Oct-27-2004, 2:09pm
I would love to ba able to play like my fiddle tune heroes but always come back to jugband and blues and ol'time.
I wonder if the drumheaded mandolin would suit me?
How are the entry level ones?
Real banjolinists please take no offense, but to my untrained ear I don't think a 'good' one would impress me much.

Jim M.
Oct-27-2004, 2:16pm
Get a resonator mando instead. Here's a good'un:
http://www.mandolincafe.com/cgi-bin....mmodium (http://www.mandolincafe.com/cgi-bin/builders/searchdb.cgi?uid=default&view_records=1&keyword=commodium)

Made from a bedpan but sounds great. I think the cost is about $600. The maker plays in a jugband and is a real nice guy to boot.

Oct-27-2004, 2:41pm
A truly fitting design!

Bob DeVellis
Oct-27-2004, 2:46pm
Having had three vintage mandolin banjos, I found that quality mattered very much. An entry-level Bacon (not a piece of junk, mind you) was pretty much a nightmare. The two top-end Vegas, a Tu-ba-phone and a Whyte Laydie, were much nicer playing and better sounding. But they were still pretty limited in my hands. The sound was just too "in your face" for the kinds of situations I found myself in. I got rid of all three of them. Actually, the resonator mando suggestion is worth considering. I personally prefer the wood-bodied (e.g., Dobro/Regal) resonators for their smoother, less harsh tone. They're very loud but surprisingly sweet. I didn't care for the several metal-bodied (National) reso-mandos I've tried. These are, of course, personal opinions and you or others may very well have different opinions based on the situations you play in or just what sounds you prefer. But it might be worth trying some options before taking the leap.

Oct-27-2004, 2:53pm
I was just at a 1920's vaudeville program and heard a banjo-mandolin for the first time live. It really sounded good. Don't know the brand, but the sound was very nice.

Oct-27-2004, 3:35pm
Thanks for input. I wish I had somewhere to try out a few.
I live within driving distance to Mandolin Brothers, my wallet is unable to make the trip. Other then Stan and Co., I haven't found any advertised locally. For fun I should ask at Guitar Center to try out some.

Until recently, I have always had a metal bodied guitar around, so I'm kinda familiar with the voice.

Oct-27-2004, 6:15pm
Until recently, I have always had a metal bodied guitar around, so I'm kinda familiar with the voice.

me, too. that's why i bought a fairly cheap (60's harmony) banjo & play it in open g.

Oct-28-2004, 7:43am
You might also consider a tenor banjo. I know Mandolin Brothers usually has some laying around. I think they play the high price game, myself, but it may be worth taking the trip just to find out if you like the sound.

Oct-28-2004, 8:31am
I'm intriued by the Tenor Banjo (a statement not often heard), but on my first two trys, I was put off by the low string tension. Seemed like I couldn't get enough string under my fingers.

Jim M.
Oct-28-2004, 9:51am
I'm wondering if the banjo was strung correctly. I don't remember having that problem with the tenor banjos I've played. If you are considering the longer scale, you might try a tenor resonator guitar. Some of the older Nationals and Dobros are very nice. I was able to find a beat-up but playable one (with the tropical island scene) for about $600. It had some repairs but was original. It has a very sweet tone for a resonator, and also cuts like a knife.

Oct-28-2004, 2:22pm
Was the tenor tuned standard (CGDA) or "Irish" (GDAE, ie, an octave below mandolin)? The latter tends to use thicker strings and higher tension, and is much more comparable to mandolin-playing, IMO. Also, tenor banjos usually come ing two sizes: 17 fret (about 20 inches) and 19 fret (about 22 inches). However, few makers make more than one set of strings, and even if they did, few stores would bother to stock a range, so any strings you get are likely to be not-quite-perfect for your instrument--either a fret too loose or a fret too taut.

Oct-29-2004, 8:38am
Good questions; I do believe the tenors were in C.
I'll do my homework and start researching prices.
If I promise to keep it tuned GDAE, will you guys still talk to me?

Jim Garber
Oct-29-2004, 9:54am
I actually have a banjo-mandolin that is quite tolerable. I have played it for variosu ragtime pieces. The secret is the small head on it. It is a Weymann with a 7inch skin head. I have played others with larger heads and they are quite annoying.

This one works.


Tom C
Oct-29-2004, 11:43am
Here my 1932 Slingerland. orig labels and price still inside back resonator. Frets are a bit rough for sliding but it's very playable.

Tom C
Oct-29-2004, 11:44am
The back

Oct-29-2004, 11:49am
and now I'm back to wanting a banjolin....

Oct-30-2004, 12:25am
Quite happy with my vega lil' wonder, open back. heavy maple rim. and 3pc. neck
replaced the old worn tuners [put schallers on] , and a remo 'renaissance' synthetic head.

... another one with a much lighter rim is set up #as a 4 string.
...Armrests are the thing to have on banjo edges.

a third started out as a derelict banjo uke, rim and neck now its finished with a spruce 'head' and a mix of baritone and soprano uke nylon strings for a Fcgd tuning..


Nov-01-2004, 6:45pm
This guy always has some laying around:


a good shop.....i've purchased both a Vega tenor (i tune it like an OM) and a Vega banjolin...happy with both purchases....

he also had a good recomendation on string type for the banjolin: flattops...it softens the sound up a bit...however i can still torture people with it

Nov-03-2004, 3:52pm

As the owner of two banjo manolins and <unlisted> number of tenor banjos all tuned to GDAE, I'd recommend you try both. As mentioned above, the quality of the banjo mandolin is important, but so is setup and most of the ones that I played are terrible because they are not well setup. I am playing mine as melody banjos now which means they only have four strings. It is easier to articulate the notes that way.

As for the Tenor banjo in Irish tuning (GDAE)the trick is to get heavier gauge strings. For my 19 fret instruments I use .038, .026, .018w, and .010/11 which give the proper tension for triplets and is more like my mandolins. I think you would like that setup.

If you were to ask me what would be a good starter banjo I would tell you to get a Vega model N or Little Wonder in 17 fret (they are the same thing) even on ebay as they tend to be bullet proof and are much better than the similar Slingerlands or no-names (and they hold their value). But since you didn't ask, I won't mention it. But if you did ask, I would tell you to set up with .040, .030, .020w, and .011 which you can buy as singles from www.fqms.com or www.janetdavismusic.com as a set.

Mike Keyes

Nov-03-2004, 4:26pm
Good stuff there Mike, I'm browsing now for Vega bargains...

Nov-07-2004, 9:23am
I own an no name mandolin-banjo, with an 11 inch pot, which is not great. I use it for certain songs (Big Rock Candy Mountain etc.) I have toned down it's obnoxious ways throught the use of an "OAS" mute. Stands for Old Army sock. I roll it up and stuff it between the bridge and the dowel stick. Loosen off the string tension first, stuff the sock in and re-tension the strings.

Nov-07-2004, 7:47pm
anyone tried the Goldtone Irish banjo yet, and openback worth the price upscaling, other than the dark stain..

17 fret to rim, shorter scale than many tenors at 19 fret

Nov-10-2004, 4:40pm
I just ordered a Goldtone Mando Banjo. I sold a Tyler Mountain model that was a piece of doo doo. The action was way high, and the neck was warped. Several websites rave about the Goldtone in that it stays in tune and sounds decent. I'll give it a few days and let you know. I play in a duo with my brother in law and I'm always looking to change up the sound we emit, hence the buying of several different instruments.

Jim Garber
Nov-10-2004, 5:41pm
What could possibly be more absurd than a std banjolin? How about a 12-string (http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&rd=1&item=3761180741) with 4 courses of 3 strings each. Yikes!


Bob DeVellis
Nov-11-2004, 9:17am
Jim, given the small pot, I wonder if it's actually a tiple-banjo?

Jim Garber
Nov-11-2004, 9:33am
I have a 8-string Weymann (mentioned above) that looks almost exactly like this one with the exception of the addition of a reinforcing bracket that attaches to the dowel stick. It has a 7" head and actually sounds tolerable. Given that it is an American-made 12-string I would think that it is a triple strung mandolin-banjo. These were pretty popular in bowlback form esp by makers such as Oscar Schmidt and Lyon & Healy. I have even seen a Gibson A version.