Inexpensive banjo that still sounds good?
April 1, 2006 12:10 PM   Subscribe

What's the least amount of money you can spend and still get a decent banjo?

I want to buy a banjo. I want this banjo to sound pretty good, but I don't feel like making a huge investment.

I heard somewhere that you need to spend at least $500 to get anything worth owning. Is this true? I'd rather spend closer to $200 or even less if that's possible.

Sure, I know you get what you pay for... but is there a decent banjo out there that's inexpensive?
posted by defenestration to Media & Arts (5 answers total)
Best answer: The Deering Goodtime is a great little banjo, but at around $300.00, it may be more than you're willing to pay.

I bought a Fender FB-54 a couple of years ago (I wanted a banjo with a resonator), and I'm perfectly happy with it, though I don't play it professionally. Also, the resonator comes off, so it doubles as a sort of open-back banjo. It was also around $300, but I think I found a deal on mine where it was $250.

Have you tried local music stores for used banjos? I found an antique tenor banjo locally that was only about $150. I'd be willing to bet that the banjo is one of those instruments that people buy, get frustrated with, and hock, so you should be able to find some good deals.
posted by interrobang at 12:24 PM on April 1, 2006

I second the Deering Goodtime. I'm hardly a prolific picker, but I've been very happy with it. A little extra will get you a nice resonator, but that's not necessary when you're starting out (I don't have one).

I went for a used, cheap instrument at first and it was positively awful - almost unplayable. I don't think you need to put $500 into it, but you definitely want something playable. The Goodtime is really the way to go.
posted by aladfar at 1:08 PM on April 1, 2006

A hearty third for the Dearing Goodtime. I would splurge for the resonator (I didn't), with the resonator you get a well made American banjo that you'll be thrilled to play for years as you get better.

And people won't make fun of you for your cheap banjo when you get together for those bluegrass jams. They'll say "That dude bought the right banjo."
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:22 PM on April 1, 2006

Best answer: For future reference, here's the best banjo website. The forums are excellent and very active, filled with a bunch of the nicest folks you'll find on the internets.
posted by wsg at 3:24 PM on April 1, 2006

I had a friend whop bought an expensive old banjo, and it wasn't half as good as the Dearing Goodtime. It is pretty impressive, at least for old time and clawhammer. The problem with cheap older banjos is the thinner neck warps easily, the tuners are often worthless, and the flanges holding the head skin may be made of stale potato chips. . Best advice is to go play a Deering at a shop, then compare used models to it, especially try playing higher up the neck, where banjos with warped necks will be hard to play and out of tune.
posted by zaelic at 1:53 AM on April 2, 2006

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