When buying a banjo for the first time it is advisable to have someone knowledgeable at hand who has some experience as a player. We at Clareen Banjos offer expert advice to beginners and advanced players without predjuice.
For your first banjo, I would recommend a banjo that is fairly reasonable in price, approximately € 225.00 to € 575.00 depending on your interest and pocket. The banjo should meet the musicians' requirements, and in most cases, may be altered and set up by a qualified repair person to sound good.
A good example of a well set up beginners banjo is "The Bridge" imported and set up by Clareen Banjos
This is the distance of the strings from the neck. This distance should not be too high as this makes playing rather difficult and if it is too low it will cause buzzing on the frets. A generous height is about 1/4" or 6 - 7 mm near to where the neck meets the body.
The banjo should not be too difficult to tune and the main factor here is the tuning pegs. Where possible the geared tuners should be good quality. Some old banjos did have friction style tuners similar in idea to fiddle pegs and these can be very difficult to tune for the inexperienced player.
This is of course, the most important factor in any banjo, but most banjos when set up and properly adjusted, can sound good. If a Banjo sounds "noisy" it probably needs the head (vellum) tightened a little. Most heads should give no more than about 3-5mm (1/8" to 3/16") of an inch near the bridge when pressed hard by the thumbs. Generally the more expensive banjos have a better quality tone and this is due, in the main, to quality rim construction and the type of tone ring fitted.
Other Points To Look For
Check that the neck has no warp. A little warp may be strightened by a good repairer. Also a little warp is just tolerable when playing. Sometimes you get a bow in the neck, but for the most part this is brought about by inexperienced people interfering with the truss rod (if fitted) which runs through the neck of some Banjos.
If you are buying or playing a second-hand banjo and if it feels like a quality banjo, even though it may look in poor or damaged condition, it is worth going for. The banjo can usually be restored. It is difficult to bring an old cheap banjo to its maximum potential.
These are just a few little pointers when buying your first banjo. Later on when you have some experience and you want to move up market to a better banjo it becomes a little easier to know exactly what you want. There is also a wider range of choice in quality instruments as you move up the scale to a better banjo. Your primary objective should be a banjo that is playable with a good tone. Your ultimate objective will be a top quality banjo with an excellent tone.
Here at Clareen Banjos we offer unbiased advice on your banjo selection wheather you buy from us or not.
Here's to good buying!!!