looking for a 6 string banjo....

Birddog

Member
Messages
3,116
Just played a Fender at GC in Buffalo. Very nice sounding and well made -- and crazy heavy!
 

blasius01

Member
Messages
166
Go all out if you're gonna get one... I tried all the budget friendly ones and they were awful ... Found my Deering B6 on ebay used in mint condition for $1,000 which is a steal
 

Tim Bowen

Member
Messages
3,481
My version of "go all out" would be to get a five string banjo and learn Scruggs/Keith/Reno styles. I'd vote for investing more time (practice, hard work) over investing more money, if we're talking starting from scratch.

That said, the six string does have its share of devotees and enthusiasts, and it can be the right choice, depending on what you're looking to do. Six string banjo is all over modern country music; for example, you can hear it on Taylor Swift records, and Keith Urban is a fan. Lots of session players have some sort of banjo in their arsenal, lots of six strings included here. A session player buddy of mine in Los Angeles tells me that a lot of "scoring for banjo" at studio dates is more about getting in the sound of the instrument than about traditional rolls and such. And as far as "old school" traditional cats, Norman Blake plays six string banjo.

But if you want to play traditional Scruggs rolls and such, the five string is the way to fly.

I may be preaching to the choir and wasting bandwidth here. It's just that I often see guitar players get off on the wrong foot with this.

I'd be looking at a can o' worms trying to mic' my acoustic five string at the noisy bars and clubs I work. So I use this Gold Tone electric at shows:

http://www.goldtone.com/products/details/w/instrument/56/EBM-5
 

bob-i

Member
Messages
8,763
My version of "go all out" would be to get a five string banjo and learn Scruggs/Keith/Reno styles. I'd vote for investing more time (practice, hard work) over investing more money, if we're talking starting from scratch.

That said, the six string does have its share of devotees and enthusiasts, and it can be the right choice, depending on what you're looking to do. Six string banjo is all over modern country music; for example, you can hear it on Taylor Swift records, and Keith Urban is a fan. Lots of session players have some sort of banjo in their arsenal, lots of six strings included here. A session player buddy of mine in Los Angeles tells me that a lot of "scoring for banjo" at studio dates is more about getting in the sound of the instrument than about traditional rolls and such. And as far as "old school" traditional cats, Norman Blake plays six string banjo.

But if you want to play traditional Scruggs rolls and such, the five string is the way to fly.

I may be preaching to the choir and wasting bandwidth here. It's just that I often see guitar players get off on the wrong foot with this.

I'd be looking at a can o' worms trying to mic' my acoustic five string at the noisy bars and clubs I work. So I use this Gold Tone electric at shows:

http://www.goldtone.com/products/details/w/instrument/56/EBM-5
I agree. The chord shapes are no harder than learning an alternate tuning. The challenge with banjo is the right hand. 4-5 or 6 strings doesn't matter if you can't get the right hand technique down. (I speak from experience) :messedup
 

blasius01

Member
Messages
166
I agree that if you really wanna learn how to play banjo, get a 5 string. I for one wanted the sound of the banjo without the learning curve. Guitar is my main instrument and will always be. It's nice to pick up the 6 string for the 2 songs a year I need it on. If you play it like a guitar, It will sound like crap. Most of the modern songs that have banjo are just plucking out single notes ( which the 6 string is awesome at) Deering boston is an amazing banjo... It's the one that Taylor Swift, Keith Urban, Eric Church, Zac Brown Band and so on use... Find one used for 1,000 and the buy the Kavanjo head for it if you wanna play it live
 

walterw

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
38,740
the problem with 6-string banjo is the frequency range!

banjos sound "good", as in loud, crisp and "banjo-y", in a pretty narrow band of notes, which a guitar's A and especially low E pretty much fall outside. those strings just end up being much more quiet and "plunky" than the rest.

one cheat is to sort-of "nashville tune" it, throwing on an octave string for the low E and maybe even the A. this puts those notes back up in the range where the head can project them properly.
 

mockchoi

Member
Messages
581
the problem with 6-string banjo is the frequency range!

banjos sound "good", as in loud, crisp and "banjo-y", in a pretty narrow band of notes, which a guitar's A and especially low E pretty much fall outside. those strings just end up being much more quiet and "plunky" than the rest.

one cheat is to sort-of "nashville tune" it, throwing on an octave string for the low E and maybe even the A. this puts those notes back up in the range where the head can project them properly.
This is true. I've never heard a six-string banjo that I thought sounded very good across all the strings (acoustic banjo; I don't have any experience with electric banjos).

And the gist of it is; if you hear a real banjo song you'd like to learn to play, with a six-string you won't be able to play it. If I wanted 'banjo-sound' with a six-string, I'd just use a Zoom pedal or a Variax or something.

This is just my opinion; I don't want to put down people that love the instrument!
 

SUPROficial

Member
Messages
422
It cracks me up how whenever the topic of 6-string banjos comes up, someone invariably suggests getting a "real" banjo (aka a 5-string).
Sorry, but not everyone lives in a bluegrass-centric universe.
The 6-string banjo has nothing to apologize for, it isn't some recently conceived "hybrid" - it predates bluegrass music by decades. It was a fixture in early jazz, and the folks who played them, such as Johnny St Cyr, were certainly not "lazy guitarists who wanted the sound of the banjo without the learning curve" by any stretch of the imagination.
They just weren't concerned with being Earl Scruggs...

I play a 1922 Gibson GB-4, the same instrument that was used by Papa Charlie Jackson (who was the first self-accompanied solo blues performer on record). With its huge 14" head, there certainly are no problems with its frequency range. Whether you like how it sounds or not is a matter of taste, but to my ears the Gibson GB-4 is superior to any guitar for 1920s ragtime fingerpicking.

 

Tim Bowen

Member
Messages
3,481
If I were posting a thread toward the target of spending money for an instrument, I'd want to hear various points of view first. Differing points of view is what has occurred here. There's nothing to get upset about. Threads like this one pop up quite frequently, and when they're fairly open ended, some five string comments are nearly inevitable. I've seen the original posters for threads like this wind up choosing six string, five string, and four string banjos after weighing the pros and cons. I've just seen so many guitar players get a six string and then get frustrated trying to play Beverly Hillbillies or such.

Certainly the banjo was around before Earl Scruggs. As for bluegrass music, I enjoy it but am far from a maniacal fan. As a music teacher I work with standards of the bluegrass repertoire a lot with banjo and mandolin students. But at the moment I'm not playing any bluegrass music per se when I play banjo or mandolin live. Nontheless, my feeling is that not including some bluegrass in one's studies of these instruments is to miss a very large chunk of education.

There are many other types of banjo playing that have not been discussed here, including clawhammer and frailing, as well as tenor banjo stylings and cultural considerations such as the rich Irish tradition.

It's not difficult to tell from my previous post that I prefer the five string. I'm one of those guys that years ago posted a thread about which banjo to get, although not at this particular forum. After weighing many opinions I got a five. I did attempt to toss in some perspective here from a different point of view in my previous post, but perhaps I failed miserably. Old Crowe Medicine Show is another act that utilizes six string banjo, and I believe Glen Campbell has used it as well.
 

mockchoi

Member
Messages
581
If I were posting a thread toward the target of spending money for an instrument, I'd want to hear various points of view first. Differing points of view is what has occurred here. There's nothing to get upset about. Threads like this one pop up quite frequently, and when they're fairly open ended, some five string comments are nearly inevitable. I've seen the original posters for threads like this wind up choosing six string, five string, and four string banjos after weighing the pros and cons. I've just seen so many guitar players get a six string and then get frustrated trying to play Beverly Hillbillies or such.

Certainly the banjo was around before Earl Scruggs. As for bluegrass music, I enjoy it but am far from a maniacal fan. As a music teacher I work with standards of the bluegrass repertoire a lot with banjo and mandolin students. But at the moment I'm not playing any bluegrass music per se when I play banjo or mandolin live. Nontheless, my feeling is that not including some bluegrass in one's studies of these instruments is to miss a very large chunk of education.

There are many other types of banjo playing that have not been discussed here, including clawhammer and frailing, as well as tenor banjo stylings and cultural considerations such as the rich Irish tradition.

It's not difficult to tell from my previous post that I prefer the five string. I'm one of those guys that years ago posted a thread about which banjo to get, although not at this particular forum. After weighing many opinions I got a five. I did attempt to toss in some perspective here from a different point of view in my previous post, but perhaps I failed miserably. Old Crowe Medicine Show is another act that utilizes six string banjo, and I believe Glen Campbell has used it as well.
Well said. Really the best answer is the one you gave, which is 'What kind of music do you want to play?' I still think a 5-string is the most versatile instrument though.
 

Rob Sharer

Muso-Luthier
Messages
2,822
Guitar banjos are super-cool and under-appreciated. I play 4-, 5-, and 6-string banjos, and each has its own sound and utility. It's not particularly helpful to suggest subbing one for the other.

As for versatility, if you haven't really explored what a good guitar-banjo can do you might be surprised how many different sounds you can get. On my '20s Vega Tubaphone, I can summon up the sound and vibe of old-time 5-string frailing and fingerstyle techniques, tenor or plectrum chord melody and single note swing, piedmont blues, and chunky big-band rhythm. I'm not sure any 5-string could cover all that.

Here's the great Johnny St. Cyr, banjoiste with Louis Armstrong's Hot 5, holding his Vega:



Would you want to tell this man to go get a 5-string?


Rob
 

noley

Frequently Mistaken for Fabio
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
2,144
I had one of these: http://www.rondomusic.com/country6vs.html I bought it for one song in particular and wanted to do more with it but could never get it to stay in tune. The price was nice and it it a good looking instrument but I sold it and am looking for a nicer 6 string banjo.

I mess around with a mando and a uke but guitar is my primary instrument and a 6 string banjo has a real appeal to me. Anyone play one of those black Dean A/E 6 string banjos?

n.
 

Crocker

Member
Messages
1,077
The bigger the head, the better. My Gold Tone has an 11" head and it doesn't have near the bass that the 12" head model has. The Gold Tone is the best of the less expensive choices, but if you can afford it, get a Deering. An old (or new) Vega or Gibson would be great if you can find one in good condition.

All the other cheap guitjos just don't cut it in my opinion.
 

TheJesoph

Member
Messages
108
I've got a 6-string banjo that I don't play and requires some loving. If you're interested, PM me and I can send you pics of it. It's kinda really old and feels gross probably because the strings haven't been changed in ages, but again I don't play it nor will I plan to, so I want it to have a good home. Not sure if this post is against TGP rules or something, but whatevs...
 

walterw

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
38,740
The bigger the head, the better. My Gold Tone has an 11" head and it doesn't have near the bass that the 12" head model has. The Gold Tone is the best of the less expensive choices, but if you can afford it, get a Deering. An old (or new) Vega or Gibson would be great if you can find one in good condition.

All the other cheap guitjos just don't cut it in my opinion.
i'll buy that! it may mostly be a matter of cheap 6-string banjos not handling the low strings worth a damn, especially if the head is not so big; it's been a long time, but i remember a friend's custom-ordered deering 6 sounding pretty damn good all over.

with a set of ernie ball super slinkys on it you could just rock it like an electric for solos that would cut through any string band, just without electric guitar sustain.

OTOH i've dealt with tons of deans and gold tones and whatever else, and they all just lack it on the low strings. they also come out of the box with huge strings and heavy bridges, in an attempt at more low end i suppose; i'll set these up by thinning the bridge to real "banjo weight" and putting "banjo-sized" strings on, typically 9 or 10-gauge electric strings.

along with a good head-tightening this usually wakes them up, increasing volume and sparkle (on the top 4 strings at least).
 




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