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Thread: Is it a Banjo Mandolin or Banjolin or Banjorine?

  1. #1

    Default Is it a Banjo Mandolin or Banjolin or Banjorine?

    Hello, new to this thread and I've been searching for the proper description to this instrument but am not having much luck nailing it down.

    The tailpiece has Bell Brands - Patented - N.M.S.Co - which I learned was put on a few different brands, so it's not distinct. The Head is original animal skin but is worn and repaired. The Neck ends with a unique scroll cut, most are straight cut or adjoin the Resonator. Besides the stamp on the Tailpiece, the only identifying mark is the inlay pearl star in the Head.

    Is it a Banjo Mandolin or Banjolin or Banjorine? Was it made by Bell? Vega? L&H? S.S.Stewart? OIiver-Ditson? La Melodia?

    Can anyone help?
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  2. #2
    acoustically inert F-2 Dave's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is it a Banjo Mandolin or Banjolin or Banjorine?

    My money is on Manjo.
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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is it a Banjo Mandolin or Banjolin or Banjorine?

    Well, a banjeaurine is a short-scale 5-string banjo, so you can rule that name out.

    I don't know that it's ever been definitively established whether "mandolin" should precede "banjo" or the other way round. One school of thought would hold that since a "mandoline banjo" was August Pollman's term for an instrument with the size and tuning of a 5-string banjo, but with a mandolin-type top instead of a skin head, perhaps the term "banjo mandolin" should be reserved for the type of hybrid in your photo. This would be consistent with "banjo ukulele," which I see more often than "ukulele banjo." On the other hand, "cello banjo" and "guitar banjo" are the common terms for banjos tuned like cellos or guitars.

    I think it was David Lindley who said something to the effect that there is really only one stringed instrument, but it's so vast that we can manage to play only a small piece of it at any given time.
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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is it a Banjo Mandolin or Banjolin or Banjorine?

    Gibson used the letters MB to precede the model number on mandolin banjos so I use that term as I hate the term banjolin, but that's just me.

    Your mandolin banjo was made for the trade with no brand name. Bell wasn't a manufacturer, they made parts. Ditson was a distributor and jobbed out there work as well. If it was a Vega it would say Vega on the dowel stick. Never heard of Le Melodia. L&H was probably beyond manufacturing banjos when this was built. I'm pretty sure S.S. Stewart was probably simply a brand name at the time as well. There were major banjo manufacturers that were turning these things out and I'm sure one of the banjo guys will be able to ID the factory that produced it.
    Last edited by MikeEdgerton; Mar-29-2016 at 5:22am.
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    Default Re: Is it a Banjo Mandolin or Banjolin or Banjorine?

    I call mine a banjolin. I don't agree with the patented "banjolin" name from the 1890's, as it is a 4-string instrument, not double strung courses, which I consider the defining aspect of "mandolin". "Banjolin" also fits the "banjolele" and "banjotar" pattern.

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    Registered User Tom C's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is it a Banjo Mandolin or Banjolin or Banjorine?

    It's a mandolin banjo. A Banjolin or whatever is a banjo neck and a mandolin type body.
    Here is a banjola (Mandola body??) https://www.goldtone.com/product/banjola/

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    Default Re: Is it a Banjo Mandolin or Banjolin or Banjorine?

    Quote Originally Posted by David L View Post
    "Banjolin" also fits the "banjolele" and "banjotar" pattern.
    I don't use those either. GB, UB.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Is it a Banjo Mandolin or Banjolin or Banjorine?

    Terminology!

    There is a specific patented "banjolin," which often has four strings, as opposed to the mandolin-banjo, which has eight. The Wikipedia article on "Mandolin-Banjo" is helpful on the distinction.

    However, "banjolin" has become a generally accepted shorthand for mandolin-banjos. So most people know what you mean when you call a small banjo with an eight-string mandolin neck, a "banjolin." Not totally accurate, but there aren't many of the four-string banjolins around.

    A "banjo neck and a mandolin body," like the Gold Tone banjola, was originally called a "mandoline banjo" when August Pollman started selling them in the 1890's or so. I have an old Pollman that's so labeled. Pollman made them in four-, five-, and six-string versions, tuned like tenor banjos, five-string banjos, and guitars.

    Then there's the Gibson tenor lute, again a tenor banjo neck on a mandolin or mandola body, which has absolutely nothing to do with lutes at all.

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    Default Re: Is it a Banjo Mandolin or Banjolin or Banjorine?

    There might be a regional aspect to the terminology.

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    Oval holes are cool David Lewis's Avatar
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    Default

    I understand a banjolin has four strings and a mandolin banjo has eight. But I can't find where I got that from.
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    Default Re: Is it a Banjo Mandolin or Banjolin or Banjorine?

    Quote Originally Posted by David Lewis View Post
    I understand a banjolin has four strings and a mandolin banjo has eight. But I can't find where I got that from.
    I'd call the first a banjolele and the second a banjolin. I've seen a few of the latter being played, seem to bring out the worst of both worlds -but you will get heard.

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    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is it a Banjo Mandolin or Banjolin or Banjorine?

    It's a diaphragmatic membranophone, that much is certain.
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  17. #13
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    Default Re: Is it a Banjo Mandolin or Banjolin or Banjorine?

    We are staying deeper into the terminological thicketry. There is a specific instrument called a banjolin, which is a small banjo with four strings (generally), scale length similar to a mandolin or mandola. According to the Wikipedia article I cited above, it was patented by one John Farris in 1885, and originally came in several sizes, from soprano to bass. Don't know how it was tuned, but it sounds like Mr. Farris came up with a predecessor of the tenor banjo, about 20 years before tenor or "tango" banjos were introduced.

    The ukulele-banjo, or "banjolele," was first manufactured after the ukulele was imported, again around the turn of the 20th century. It also has four strings, a short uke-length scale, and is tuned like a soprano ukulele, generally GCEA, 4th string to 1st. However, it's not a banjolin; smaller, shorter scale length, and designed (originally) for gut/nylon stringing.

    The mandolin-banjo is a different instrument, with eight strings, mandolin-length scale, body size quite variable -- from as small as the ukulele-banjo, to full-size (11 inch or so), similar to a tenor or five-string instrument. It's often called a "banjolin" ("banjoline" in France), mainly as a shorthand term, but it's not the same as Mr. Farris's instrument. The Wikipedia article references an 1882 patent by a Benjamin Bradbury as being the earliest in the US; this would seem to make sense, as this was near the beginning of the mandolin craze of the late 19th century.

    For my own usage (though you'll see the "banjolin" shorthand in my signature), I follow Mike E in using the term "mandolin-banjo," since, basically, it is a banjo, and the prefix is similar to "tenor banjo," "plectrum banjo," "five-string banjo," and the other adjectives used to differentiate the various styles. But I'm aware that "banjolin" has become the common term for the mandolin-banjo -- little harm in that, since the banjolins designed by Mr. Farris are few and far between, so there's little dance of mistaking a mandolin-banjo for one of them.

    Call it what you will, the instrument in question is doubtless a mandolin-banjo; eight strings, mandolin-length scale, strung with steel strings. Mike E has nailed the question of manufacture; there were a lot of these instruments around, some labeled with manufacturers' names, some with distributors' or music dealers' names, many unlabeled. Googling around to find one with similar headstock shape or inlay pattern is probably the only way to get near pinning down its origin, and that method may prove fruitless.
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    Default Re: Is it a Banjo Mandolin or Banjolin or Banjorine?

    Thanks Mike. I was leading toward S.S. Stewart as manufacturer as all others clearly identified their instruments with a brand insignia. I came across an article where SSS private labelled the mandolin-banjo to Sears at one point. My thought was they removed the branding for this production run.

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    Default Re: Is it a Banjo Mandolin or Banjolin or Banjorine?

    Hmmm... Google reveals some S S Stewart MB's with a star inlay on the headstock, but none with that particular headstock silhouette, that I can find. Stewart marked and serially numbered most of his instruments, and there are other features, such as neck adjustment hardware, that are characteristic of Stewart instruments. Here's a Mugwumps article on ID-ing Stewart banjos.
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    Registered User Frankdolin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is it a Banjo Mandolin or Banjolin or Banjorine?

    For me, growing up it is a "banjomandolin" one word and said or pronounced as one word. Interesting.

  21. #17

    Default Re: Is it a Banjo Mandolin or Banjolin or Banjorine?

    On Doc Watson's Legacy cd, he and David Holt have fun on stage arguing about whether a six string banjo tuned like a guitar is properly called a bantar or gitjo. In the end Doc slips up and calls it by the name David uses while the audience laughs.

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