Banjos

Stairwell Sisters bango (credit: Vance Dubberly)

Stairwell Sisters bango (credit: Vance Dubberly)

They say you know a gentleman by his ability to play the banjo, but his choice not to. Or words to that effect. This and other banjo jokes have not deterred my long-standing interest in the instrument and its music. Recently Steve Martin produced an album that epitomises a banjo lover’s seduction by this peculiar but distinctively quirky musical instrument.

After some years of fascination I have now decided to acquaint myself with the banjo first hand. Yes, I want to buy one and learn it. Tenor or 5-string? Short or standard scale? With or without a resonator, and what of the those still made in the USA such as the Deerings and Gold Tones, versus those assembled from parts made in Asia? I am lured by Saga’s Rovers but what do I know? Not much at the moment but I am looking forward to an odyssey of musical and self-discovery that I didn’t think possible but am now brave enough to try. So far much of my initial armchair research has involved poring over the following banjo sites.

Andy Perkins, The Banjo Works (UK specialist in banjos).
Hobgoblin Music (UK and US folk instrument suppliers).
Eagle Music Shop (instrument suppliers including US Deering banjos).
Gold Tone banjos (well-known American makers).

I am learning a lot from:

Banjocrazy.com, particularly the videos of Paul Reynolds playing everything from Irish trad to Persian folk on the amazing Gold Tone cello banjo.
Banjo Hangout, a great forum with reviews.
Banjo Physiology 101 . A great introduction to banjo terminology, anatomy, tone rings, rims, metal or wood, explained.

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