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Thread: Affordable melody banjo options

  1. #1

    Default Affordable melody banjo options

    Hello everyone. I recently played someone's old melody banjo (I.e. a banjolin with just four strings), and really enjoyed it. I am thinking it might be a good way to be able to actually hear myself at an Irish session. I am wondering what would be the best way to get my hands on something like this. Should I just try to track down something vintage, or are there any affordable options for buying them new or customs made?

  2. #2
    Registered User dustyamps's Avatar
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    Default Re: Affordable melody banjo options

    In the vintage market there very few melody banjos available but a lot of reasonably priced mandolin banjos. I converted mine to a 4 stringer by making a new nut. I later altered the headstock.
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  3. #3
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Affordable melody banjo options

    How about a Gold Tone or Oscar Schmidt (or other brand) banjo-ukulele and tune it to mandolin tuning? Or even an old one—preferably with brackets to tune the head.

    These are around and easy to find and some are quite inexpensive.
    Jim

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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Affordable melody banjo options

    Yea, might do OK buying an 8 string and modifying it ..

    Geared tuners are a must , with short, steel strings ..
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    Default Re: Affordable melody banjo options

    As Dusty says, actual 4-string mandolin banjos, AKA Melody banjo, are fairly uncommon. Most have a 13” scale length which is 7/8” shorter than an 8-string mandolin banjo. They were intended as a doubling instrument for violin players, the need didn’t seem to last long hence their scarcity. The single string does cut through the other instruments nicely.

    It is not unheard of to simply remove four strings from the regular 8-string mandolin banjo and arrange the strings in the stock nut by offsetting all strings one way or the other. You may have to dampen the unused tuning pegs so they don’t rattle.

    Here is the base model Vega style K 4-string Mandolin Banjo for sale. (Vega never used the term Melody Banjo as did Paramount, but it is in common usage today) https://www.banjohangout.org/classified/73505

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    Vega offered five levels of 4-string Mandolin Banjos, most are hard to find especially the fancier ones.
    Style K (no tonering)
    Style Little Wonder
    Style L Whyte Laydie
    Style S Tubaphone
    Style X Tubaphone (larger fancy #9 pot and gold trimmings)

    Good luck in your search!
    Mark
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  6. #6
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Affordable melody banjo options

    There were quite a few makers of these though there are often mistaken for banjo-ukes: Paramount, Gretsch, Lyon & Healy, Supertone (Sears), B&D, Weymann. A friend of mine has two Weymann melody/lead banjos: one with a 15" scale and one a bit shorter. He promised that he would save one for me. What is especially nice about these is they have a 7 inch head. My only mandolin-banjo is a Weymann style 25 with a 7" head and it actually sounds good. I would love to have one of the melody models to match that one.

    Quote Originally Posted by mandroid View Post
    Yea, might do OK buying an 8 string and modifying it ..

    Geared tuners are a must , with short, steel strings ..
    Mandroid: If you found a solid, no-name banjo-uke you could remove the friction tuners and put geared ones on it. No one would fault you for that. Frankly there are lots of those banjo-ukes around. Someone should do something with them.
    Jim

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Affordable melody banjo options

    So: would a four-string Slingerland Maybell with a 13 3/4 inch scale and an 8 1/2 inch shell, be a melody banjo or a ukulele banjo?

    Question arises because I have one sitting here next to the computer. (It's not mine, though that could change if I decided I wanted it, and worked something out.) I have it strung with uke strings and tuned CGEA right now; that could change, too...
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    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Affordable melody banjo options

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    How about a Gold Tone or Oscar Schmidt (or other brand) banjo-ukulele and tune it to mandolin tuning? Or even an old one—preferably with brackets to tune the head.

    These are around and easy to find and some are quite inexpensive.
    What Jim said.......

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/131353#131353

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    A bunch of stuff with four strings

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    Mediocre but OK with that Paul Busman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Affordable melody banjo options

    Why you so definite about short steel strings? A Tenor banjo is a whole lot of fun, same fingering as a mandolin,albeit stretched out).Making the transition isn't difficult.
    What kind of music would you be using it for?
    For wooden musical fun that doesn't involve strumming, check out:
    www.busmanwhistles.com
    Handcrafted pennywhistles in exotic hardwoods.

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