What's a good banjolele/tenor banjo choice for a beginner?
January 22, 2011 9:43 AM Subscribe
I have been thinking about getting a banjolele, or possibly a tenor banjo, and I am looking for suggestions.
I am beginner-level. I remember half a dozen chords on my old electric guitar, and it has been years since I was practicing regularly. But we recently got our toddler a $20 ukulele to bang on, and I think 4 strings look easier to learn on than six. While I could just get another low-end ukulele for my own use, something about the banjo-ish sound is more appealing to me.
I guess my banjolele fascination started about a year ago, after listening to "Thank you, Jeeves". Getting our son the ukulele has kicked that up a notch. I have looked about a bit on and off, lurking on banjohangout, ebay, and various musical instrument sites. I have not yet gotten to the point of plunking down cash for something, because (a) I'm still not sure, and (b) most everything I see seems pretty pricey, especially compared to more normal style ukuleles. I can easily justify spending up to $100, no problem. Between 100 and 200, I start getting a little more cautious -- is this something I am really going to get that much enjoyment from? Anything more than $200, and I'm going to have to wait for my birthday to roll around before I could spend that sort of cash. I have even thought about trying to make my own, but we live in a small apartment, with a young child. I don't really have space or tools to work on one right now.
I have also noticed banjoleles seem to be more expensive than 4-string tenor banjos (probably due to scarcity?), and I know that a tenor banjo can be tuned ukulele-style, so I was considering that as a possible substitute. I am a big guy, with large hands, so a bigger fretboard might also push me in that direction.
Another concern is I don't want anything too loud - like Bertie, I do have neighbors. I believe open backed instruments are less loud than ones with resonators?
So any suggestions on which way I should go, and where I should look? Either online, or near Hoboken, NJ (which means NYC area). Any particular brands to look for, or avoid?
New instrument, or vintage? While I like the idea of owning a 1920/30s era instrument, I do know vintage instruments often have peg tuners, which are tougher to use, and that shorter scale instruments are harder to keep in tune, so modern may be preferable.
Or should I postpone my dreams of banjo/banjolele, and just get a tenor or baritone uke? I see on Amazon I can pick a decently rated one of those up for under $100. I could learn on that, and if I make sufficient progress, then later spend the bigger bucks on a banjo uke or tenor banjo. The skills should translate directly, correct?