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Author Topic: My son wants to play the banjo  (Read 3721 times)

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Offline carolina girl

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My son wants to play the banjo
« on: Jan 03, 2007, 06:32:49 AM »
My son is 9 and wants to play the banjo.can anyone give me  advice what brand banjo to buy for him to start out with.
  :)

Offline martyn

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Re: My son wants to play the banjo
« Reply #1 on: Jan 03, 2007, 03:52:01 PM »
Does he mean 5 string banjo or 4 string tenor banjo? As for advice, if gentle persuasion doesn't work try a bribe. If that doesn't work, try beating him with a big stick, that may get this silly notion out of his head ;D :P

Offline feodosia

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Re: My son wants to play the banjo
« Reply #2 on: Jan 03, 2007, 04:06:27 PM »
Hi

  First you have to determine what type of banjo music he wants to play ?

Irish, Dixieland, oldtime, bluegrass or folk singing ,etc...  then comes the banjo choices

 ;)

Offline PeterG

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Re: My son wants to play the banjo
« Reply #3 on: Jan 03, 2007, 05:27:07 PM »
If he wants to learn bluegrass, 3 finger Scruggs type, Beverly Hillbillies, Foggy Mountain Breakdown style, he will need a five string banjo. The fifth string peg should be at the fifth fret. I say this because there is a long neck variation where it is at the 7th fret. As with any instrument purchase, get an expert's advice before buying. There are banjo shaped objects out there. If you want to discourage your son from playing, buy one of those. Half decent banjos tend to be expensive.

Offline PeterG

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Re: My son wants to play the banjo
« Reply #4 on: Jan 03, 2007, 05:30:50 PM »
Washburn, Fender, Epiphone all make banjos worth checking out. Gold Star also has nice instruments. The ultimate was always the Gibson Mastertone but you don't need that for a beginner, very pricy also.

Offline madmat

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Re: My son wants to play the banjo
« Reply #5 on: Jan 03, 2007, 09:13:11 PM »
I bought a little Hohner short-scale travel banjo, which is a 5-string, but I have restrung and used it as a tenor banjo and octave "mando-banjo" successfully.

Other than a little setup (nut slots cut and a new bridge and strings) it was pretty much ready to play out of the box. The shorter scale would probably be a good thing for smaller hands. From tracking the prices used on eBay, you won't be losing much if it's not his bag, there seems to be steady demand for them.

Musician's Friend link to Hohner Travel Banjo
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Offline carolina girl

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Re: My son wants to play the banjo
« Reply #6 on: Jan 03, 2007, 09:56:00 PM »
Thank you for all of the advice.
Corben told me he wants a 5 string banjo.He saw Bela Fleck & the Fleck tones on tv and he was hooked.So that is the style of music he wants to play.We have wanted to find an instrument that is a good fit for him. I think a banjo would be a good match for his personality.
My GrandMother would be so happy ,she had said for years someone in the family need to play banjo like her father.She passed way in October and I wish she were still here to she the start of this great adventure. ;)

Offline frodopogo

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Re: My son wants to play the banjo
« Reply #7 on: Jan 04, 2007, 01:18:38 AM »
Well,

Bela Fleck is a progressive, or maybe rather
<radical> bluegrass player.
At least the technique is bluegrass 3 finger picking,
and standard bluegrass would be the starting point.
You might get him to do a bit of research listening
to see if there are any other 3-finger pickers
he likes... a teacher is not likely to give him any stuff
by Bela Fleck right off the bat!

Those banjos generally have resonators and metal
flanges.  That's not the style I play, so I'm not real
familiar with brands and prices.
(I play clawhammer, and have a Hohner Travel Banjo like
MadMats, but play it the right way!  ;) )
However, the bluegrass type banjos Elderly Instruments Catalog
has in the entry price range are $320 and up, with several
in the $400 to $500 bracket.
They include:
Fender FB-54   $320
Fender FB-55   $450
Rover RB-45     $315
Goodtime GOOD2 $489
Hohner HB100   $439

There may be cheaper Asian resonator
banjos for around $225,
but I would ask a couple of banjo
teacher if you think they are good
enough... I personally think they sound
awful!
You don't want to discourage the lad!
Actually, now that I think of it,
I think I read something about Bela Fleck
using an open back now, which would fit,
since he's such an iconoclast,
no reason he would conform in banjo choice either.
But then you could point that out and maybe get
him to settle for a cheaper open back!

For more detailed advice,
go to banjohangout.com.
Very knowledgeable and helpful banjoists over there!

Michael

Offline woodwiz

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Re: My son wants to play the banjo
« Reply #8 on: Jan 04, 2007, 02:56:22 AM »
You might take a look here: http://www.janetdavismusic.com/

They carry a wide selection of banjos, and their service has been good on the  items I bought there.  I think Janet Davis is a banjo player, so they migh be able to advise you pretty well, too.

Personally, I don't think I could tell a good banjo from a bad one without looking at the label.

Offline madmat

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Re: My son wants to play the banjo
« Reply #9 on: Jan 04, 2007, 10:26:59 PM »
(I play clawhammer, and have a Hohner Travel Banjo like
MadMats, but play it the right way!  ;) )
It's a regular 5-string setup right now, it was set up CGDA and GDAE for some odd little recording projects. It's a lot easier to record than an large resonator. In the octave mando setup, you can *almost* play all your fiddle tunes with normal violin fingerings, though the pinky stretches (eg, B on the high E) are difficult. It's an open back, so with the door closed it would probably not bother someone in the next room.

I was looking at the Dean 6-string (EADGBE guitar tuning) not too long ago, but I may end up getting a VariAxe instead... that will be a LOT easier to record and perform amplified with... ;)
Not your mama, or Yo-yo Ma!

Offline madmat

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Re: My son wants to play the banjo
« Reply #10 on: Jan 04, 2007, 10:31:09 PM »
We have wanted to find an instrument that is a good fit for him. I think a banjo would be a good match for his personality.
My GrandMother would be so happy ,she had said for years someone in the family need to play banjo like her father.She passed way in October and I wish she were still here to she the start of this great adventure. ;)
I just keep flashin' back to those scenes from "Deliverance"...
Not your mama, or Yo-yo Ma!

Offline Barefoot Larry

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Re: My son wants to play the banjo
« Reply #11 on: Jan 05, 2007, 04:47:59 AM »
I just keep flashin' back to those scenes from "Deliverance"...


And from "Big Fish" (2003).

In the scene where the main character is walking up the path into the Lost Town, he passes a cabin with Billy Redden (pictured above) leaning back in a chair on the front porch of a little cabin, playing a few notes from "Duelling Banjos".

At the age of 16, he was the only authentic "Local" they used in "Deliverance".

He was hand-picked from his local elementary school largely due to his "look" (his large head, skinny body, odd-shaped eyes and moronic grin had sadly branded him a poster-child for inbreeding and mental deficiency).[color]
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0714681/bio

The kid actually grew up to be pretty normal-looking.



Offline madmat

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Re: My son wants to play the banjo
« Reply #12 on: Jan 05, 2007, 04:56:27 AM »
Hey! We're talking about someone who wants to play like Bela Fleck, here! ;D

Pos(t)er child... indeed! ;)
Not your mama, or Yo-yo Ma!

Offline Barefoot Larry

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Re: My son wants to play the banjo
« Reply #13 on: Jan 05, 2007, 05:00:23 AM »
The kid actually grew up to be pretty normal-looking.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billy_Redden



http://experts.about.com/e/b/bi/billy_redden.htm
Redden, then sixteen, earned his role in Deliverance during a casting call at Clayton Elementary School.

To add authenticity to the film, the filmmakers found Redden to fit the look of the inbred and mentally retarded banjo boy called for by the book (although Redden is neither inbred nor mentally retarded).

The scene depicting Redden playing the instrumental "Dueling Banjos" opposite actor Ronny Cox on guitar is considered one of the most memorable scenes in cinematic history.

Redden could not play the banjo or even convincingly fake playing, so director John Boorman had another child slip his hand through Redden's sleeve to finger the chord changes.

Offline madmat

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Re: My son wants to play the banjo
« Reply #14 on: Jan 05, 2007, 05:23:02 AM »
To add authenticity to the film, the filmmakers found Redden to fit the look of the inbred and mentally retarded banjo boy called for by the book (although Redden is neither inbred nor mentally retarded).
...
Redden could not play the banjo or even convincingly fake playing...
Let's not draw any hasty conclusions from these 2 well documented facts. :)

In the spirit of "truth is stranger than fiction" (and TOTALLY derail this thread) here's another movie/musical factoid: (for those of you that don't know, Kim Peek inspired the autistic savant played by Dustin Hoffman in the film "Rain Man")
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kim_Peek
Although never a musical prodigy, Peek's musical abilities as an adult are receiving more notice now that he has started to study the piano. He apparently remembers music he heard decades ago and can play it on the piano, to the extent permitted by his limited physical dexterity. He is able to give running spoken commentary on the music as he plays, comparing a piece of music, for example, to other music he has heard. In listening to recordings he can distinguish which instruments play which part and is adept at guessing the composers of new music by comparing the music to the many thousands of music samples in his memory.
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Offline ApK

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Re: My son wants to play the banjo
« Reply #15 on: Jan 06, 2007, 01:41:54 AM »
My cousin recently took up 5 string resonator banjo and in fact is taking lessons from a teacher of Bela Fleck!

He got a fairly in expensive Stagg which met with the full approval from his teacher.

We live in a Golden Age of cheap instruments.

Offline fiddle4

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Re: My son wants to play the banjo
« Reply #16 on: Jan 06, 2007, 02:23:44 AM »
tell him to learn IRISH TENOR BANJO-Then
he will be able to go on to learn the FIDDLE
easy...     just jokeing..
 fiddle4

Offline Don Stackhouse

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Re: My son wants to play the banjo
« Reply #17 on: Jan 08, 2007, 01:28:13 PM »
I'd recommend getting something decent. This is another case where "buy cheap, buy twice" applies.

The general consensus among the banjo players I know is that the cheap banjos all sound awful, with the one exception being the Deering "Good Times" 5-string banjo. It's typically only a few hundred dollars, relatively cheap as banjos go (sort of like some other instruments the folks on this forum are familiar with!).

However, there's more to the equation than sound quality. About four years ago my wife and I thought it might be interesting to try the banjo, and picked up a Deering "Good Times", not wanting to spend big bucks if we weren't sure we were going to stick with it (sound familiar?).

It did sound nice. We dabbled with it a while, but just couldn't master that clawhammer style, then got sidetracked, and it ended up spending a lot of time in its case the last couple of years.

Unfortunately, the neck is just a solid piece of (as it turns out) not terribly hard maple, with the upper surface sanded flat and then fretted to form the fingerboard. There is no truss rod, and no easy way to install one without some extreme surgery.

Last spring, the quintet we were in started playing a bunch of tunes that would benefit from a banjo sound, and I decided to give it another try. Sure enough, when I got the Deering out of its case for the first time in about a year and a half, I discovered that the neck had warped badly, a very common problem with banjos, especially the cheap ones. I might someday try to repair it, including some structural changes that will keep the problem from coming back (such as installing a truss rod), but the only reason it makes sense is because I can do the work myself, and enjoy the experience. From an economic standpoint it would make more sense to just buy a new one.

At the moment I have a William Lange 3/4 size bench-made tenor banjo from about 1922-1923. I found it on eBay and got it for a lot less than it's really worth (of course I passed up on a whole bunch of others over the course of weeks of searching, along with getting lots of second opinions from my local banjo experts, before getting extremely lucky with this one). The neck is straight, it looks and sounds beautiful, and I've set it up with very low action and perfect (for a banjo) intonation. I did replace the original goatskin head with a "Fiberskyn" synthetic head. The goatskin sounded great, but just like gut strings on a fiddle, it was extremely sensitive to the weather. The synthetic head is far more stable, and sounds almost as good. I have it tuned to the "Celtic-style" tuning of GDAE, an octave below a fiddle or mandolin, so the fingerings and chords are the same as the ones I already know for those instruments. It's great fun to play, and it's also taught me some things that have significantly improved my fiddle and mandolin playing as well.

My one other bit of banjo advice is in the form of a story told by one of our local singer/storytellers. There was an old banjo player who had just turned 104, and a reporter was interviewing him for an article in the local paper:

"So tell me, what is your biggest regret in life?"

"That I only spent 40 years doing anything productive."

"What did you do with the other 64 years ?? !!"

"I TUNED THE BANJO !!"

 




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