Creek Don't Rise

Will They Laugh When I Sit Down to Play?
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Author:  paulrace [ Fri Apr 03, 2015 2:30 pm ]
Post subject:  Will They Laugh When I Sit Down to Play?

A reader writes:

I have had a curious interest in a 6-string Banjo for a while now.... It seems they do get a bad rap as a hybrid alien sort of instrument, usually those who have no playing style and just strum it and expecting some miracle sound!!!!! (They usually play a guitar just as bad!). Most reviews seem that you have to read between the lines and consider the source.

I've played guitar for 30+ years (off & on) and consider myself a "casual" professional. Had a few lite-rock bands and have done paid events, parties, weddings, and small clubs over the years....but never relied on it for making a living! Always enjoyed music! Anyway, I have seen several "low-cost" brands that you do not mention but would like your input. Fender, & SX(Rondo Music) specifically because I have seen these pop up often in banjo searches. Understood, these are aprox. $150 and can't expect much. I have not had my hands on any of them yet, but I never exclude China/Asian products because I've seen great stuff from them. What's your thoughts? Would either of these become a "keeper"? By that, meaning they would fulfill the casual, yet decent quality music entertainment, Yet command a little respect from other musicians without the LOL comments?

-------Our Response -----------Please log in and add your own-----------

Who is your favorite guitar player? What are your favorite guitar-based songs? That will help me recommend a kind of 6-string you might find most useful.

I will say this: most 6-strings under $200 are made in the same few factories with no quality control. Stagg, Johnson, Savannah, Rover, etc. make great canoe paddles. You're in a big market. See if you can find a used Washburn or Dean in the price range you're looking at. MOST used 6-strings you see on Craigs list were bought by 2nd rate guitar players who thought the banjo would turn them into a first-rate banjo player (that's what the ads say), and they never even got the things set up properly.

My under-$500 favorite right now is the electric Dean Backwoods 6, because its UNPLUGGED sound is perfect for the kind of music I play on it I've tried some more expensive ones, but, until you start getting into Deering Bostons or whatever, they're not that much of an upgrade. The acoustic-only Backwood 6 is less useful - it has too much ring and sustain for most styles of playing - although Country or Bluegrass lead guitar pickers and Irish banjo pickers can get nice sounds out of them.

Going out to a practice soon, but I'll try to get back to you when I get back. - Paul

Author:  paulrace [ Fri Apr 03, 2015 2:31 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Will They Laugh When I Sit Down to Play?

The reader replied:

Wow! Quick response! Thanks for your input.

I seriously don't have a favorite player (really!) but I very much enjoy most music that encompass a variety of instruments.
My music background started in elementary school as a clarinet player. So an orchestra or string section combined with modern music always got my attention. I loved Moody Blues style, as well as other groups as the Beatles when they took a guitar trio and combined it with an orchestra production.
Yet I love the unique guitar style and sound of the rock group "Boston"

But lately I've taken a favor to classic Country music in general. Yet I still admire and enjoy the talent of Taylor Swift! Crazy, huh??
Simply put, I like everything and my curiousity has recently gravitated to the banjo. And being a guitar player, my original thought was the 6-string banjo sounded like a logical move.

I do understand that many of the Asian/China brands probably come from the same factory with minimal quality of any sort. But sometimes some production brands/models stand out that seem to defy the "cheap" expectations. Example: I purchased a Gretsch G5120 hollowbody guitar a while back for $500 brand new (made in Korea) and the quality was truly exceptional, especially for the price. I could never afford (or justify) a Pro Level Gretsch, but by comparison, a $500 Korean model gave almost everything I could want for quality & performance vs a $4000 pro model (still made in Japan?).

So.... to continue......
I have been cruising the Craig's List ads with the optional hope of a used banjo bargain.... don't seem to find any used 6 string Banjos so far..... not sure if it's because no one buys them or everyone keeps them!

But I've also ran across a few used 5 string Banjos (made in China) that pop up occasionally.
Do you have any familiarity with the Iida brand? From what I understand, they were circa 1970-80's & made in China. I found some info on the web that gives decent marks on this brand.... compared to what? ...can't say since I, myself, have no experience with banjos at all.

I almost bought a Model 227 Iida that was in very good condition for only $75. I hesitated because my mindset was still on a 6-string banjo and missed out.

Last week I've discovered a friend of mine has had a 5-string Iida 235 (research indicates it may be a Mastertone copy - late 70's) in excellent "almost new" condition and with the orig.hard case! He's had it over 20+ years and never really learned to play it, and may consider selling it (no price mentioned as of yet). I'm thinking a 5 string banjo may fill my curiousity needs, and if I can get this one at a great price (don't know what is fair price for this one), it might be worth trying to learn.
Any input or comments would be appreciated.

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