A reader writes:
Thanks for your great website. I'd appreciate a little advice, specific or general, about inexpensive handmade American open-back 5-string banjos. I am a beginner and I play in a jug band. (www.fatchancejugband.org
) I am trying to learn the old jug band and country blues repertoire, clawhammer style. (Not traditional, I know, but...) I own a Deering Goodtime, but I have wondered about buying a banjo from an artisan producer such as Ron Hudiberg - like this one http://www.banjobarn.com/banjo/68420
or this one: http://www.banjobarn.com/banjo/69023
. The prices are so low that I assume they can't be great, but Hudiberg has great feedback on Banjo Hangout and eBay, and the audio samples on BHO sound good to me. Any thoughts about how these instruments might compare for quality and playability with my Deering? There's also this guy, whose shop I have visited: https://www.facebook.com/ourenbanjos/
Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks for getting in touch and for the nice comments. If you want to keep the open-back, you might benefit from a tone ring. Though I have several banjos, my go-to for most things is a Deering Goodtime Classic Backless Special, which is a Goodtime that has brown color for a more traditional appearance, and a basic tone ring that adds volume and "chime" to the sound. They have replaced those with the Artisan line, which has more traditional-looking cosmetics. Sadly, they run close to a Grand. ("Special" is Goodtime code for "tone ring).
BTW, I have a basic (non-tone-ring) Artisan. Except for the spikes, it's almost identical in sound and playing as my basic blond Goodtime. I use it when I need to look authentic and play more quietly than the Special will allow.
If you're satisfied with the overall sound of your Goodtime and you just want something that looks more traditional, the Hudiberg ones look pretty cool. I doubt it will PLAY better than your Goodtime, though.
Guess it sounds like I'm addicted to Deering products. Maybe I am, but only because I've never gotten a bad one, and I can't say that about the made-in-China brands.
Let me what you decide and how things work out.
Best of luck,