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Thread: Converting Banjo-Mandolin to Banjolele

  1. #1

    Question Converting Banjo-Mandolin to Banjolele

    Hi all, just registered so this is my first post on here, though I've been on this site many times.
    I'm not sure If this is posted in the right section, but hopefully someone can help me out anyway, though this isn't strictly just a mandolin question.

    I've recently started playing uke (played mandolin first) and have become quite set on getting a banjolele ( wouldn't mind a banjolin, but i think the mandolin has a nicer tone than the uke, or at least more cutting, so I feel the uke would benefit more from the banjo tone.)

    I've been watching the wondrous (or dreaded...) ebay and unfortunately for me banjoleles go for like 100+, whereas the banjo mandolins go for quite a bit less.

    I know there are many topics similar to this, but none covered everything I needed to know.
    My idea was to buy a banjo mandolin, but tune and string it like a nylon uke. But I'd like to keep the 8 strings, something I haven't seen mentioned in other posts.

    I think this would make the nut and bridge work simpler, as I'd only have to possible increase the size of the string spaces and maybe lower the action?
    This way I can still play beautifully simply ukulele chord shapes, but get the banjo skin tone, and the unison strings wow factor!
    Plus then it'll be alot easier to switch it back to banjo mandolin if the mood takes me (hopefully only needing to switch the nut and bridge).

    I'm no luthier, so I'll be checking into my local guitar stores for some advice, but I thought I'd come here first.

    Anyone have any experience of this kind of change, or any whizz's see any problems with this idea that I haven't considered?
    Any advice would be awesome.

    Thanks very much

  2. #2

    Default Re: Converting Banjo-Mandolin to Banjolele

    No experience with, but I have been thinking of doing the same thing to an old Supertone banjo mandolin.
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  3. #3
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Mar 2003
    Westchester, NY

    Default Re: Converting Banjo-Mandolin to Banjolele

    I know that Aquila will work with you to get the right strings for your tuning. You would just need two sets and that would make this a taropatch banjo uke. You might not need to do much with string spacing tho may have to change string slotting on the nut and the bridge, tho i would try restringing as-is.

    Do you have a candidate for this conversion yet? Over here there are quite a few mandolin-banjos of American make and even the name brands are relatively cheap. Actually the banjo-ukes are not all that expensive either -- it is surprising they are going for more than the mandolin-banjos.

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    Registered User pfox14's Avatar
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    Sep 2009
    Holiday, FL

    Default Re: Converting Banjo-Mandolin to Banjolele

    Do banjo ukes use nylon strings - just curious?
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  5. #5
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Rochester NY 14610

    Default Re: Converting Banjo-Mandolin to Banjolele

    Quote Originally Posted by pfox14 View Post
    Do banjo ukes use nylon strings - just curious?
    Ukulele banjo players have used both nylon and steel strings. I string my S S Stewart Collegian with nylon; I tried steel but had trouble getting accurate noting up the neck. I've seen U-B players in old-timey bands with steel strings.
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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Converting Banjo-Mandolin to Banjolele

    Gold Tone Gets Both made, new, so If you don't like competing with the collectors ,
    Driving up prices on the 20's stuff, and Just want a Banjo Uke to play, consider that Option.
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  7. #7

    Default Re: Converting Banjo-Mandolin to Banjolele

    I think you might have a string spacing problem if you string a banjolin with doubled courses of nylon strings. The spacing of the doubled courses is usually closer together than the 4 single courses of a ukulele, and nylon strings are much thicker than steel. Ask your seller the nut width - I'd guess that anything under 1 3/8 inches is likely to be a problem, and most banjolins are nearer 1 1/8.

    Apart from that it should work OK, unless the doubled courses interfere with each other (nylon strings flap about more than steel). Overall tension will be lower, so no structural issues.

    If the worst comes to the worst you can put mandolind strings on it, or simply 4 single strings for uke tuning.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Converting Banjo-Mandolin to Banjolele

    I encountered a vintage taropatch banjolele a friend had. He had found in an old catalog that manufacturers sometimes would make a banjolin one year and the next issue it as a taropatch banjolele. We brought a banjolin to Lyn Hardy (a luthier in upstate NY) who converted it to a taropatch banjolele. She posted the work on her website:
    She is a very reasonable luthier... who does magnificent work!

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