Bang that Banjo

    Best Banjo Brands


    Few things will come close to buying that brand name banjo. For all the time spent practising on those cheaper models, which are perfect for beginners, the finishes and additional touches that make a quality banjo can feel like gold in deserving hands. Make no mistake, the best banjo brands aren't focused on saving money. Their aim is to satisfy the musician and a lot of expensive time and materials go into the process.

    The following brands are well-known and trusted across the globe for their banjos and other stringed instruments..

    Deering Banjo Company

    This manufacturer made its appearance in 1975 as a family business. As with most great quality equipment, it started small with custom designs. After reaching a high level of popularity they started to take beginners into account. The result was known as the "Goodtime" series. This is a simplified version which costs a whole lot less, but still retains Deering quality. It is a great stepping stone for enthusiastic players who are just getting started. 

    Gibson

    One of the oldest companies to exist, Gibson has been making banjos since before the Second World War. In modern times it's hard to imagine that their quality was heavily questioned back in the day. Yet the demand kept growing, mostly due to the affordability at that particular time. The great thing about them is the variety which they present. It is one of the most versatile brands on the market today, catering for professionals and beginners alike. 

    Gold Tone

    It is rather new compared to the other manufacturers, but it also prides itself on better quality for less money. Thanks to Wayne Rogers and his original design of the TB-100 in 1993, Gold Tone has developed into a very sought after brand. Beginners should definitely take a look at the range available because even their high-end banjos have very reasonable price tags. Wayne's single design quickly expanded into 5 and 6 string banjos along with Banjitars, mandolins and metal bodies. Their slogan is "More Bang for the Buck" which says it all (and goes rather well with this banjobang.com site!). 

    Washburn

    Last but not least, Washburn currently holds the title for the best beginner banjo called the B9. It has a classic style which promises to entertain novice and pro players all day long. Along with Gibson, this manufacturer isn't limited to one instrument and their reputation for great quality bass guitars is still very much alive. The B9 is most probably the best choice for aspiring players. It is inexpensive and don't need to be replaced later on with something better.

    Left Handed Banjo - a lefties dream machine!


    It is rather prejudiced in a way when considering the lack of variety regarding left handed banjos. One would think it's a simple matter of just re-stringing the instrument and throwing it the other way round like a normal banjo. Unfortunately this isn't the case. For those who are attempting to play the banjo within their comfort zone a few discomforts will be waiting. However, this shouldn't be too much of a cause for discouragement.

    Although many adept musicians don't mind conforming to play right handed instruments, banjos do involve a certain amount of speed. For this reason it is best to utilize the hand the player feels comfortable with. The style known as "picking" forms the basis of playing the banjo and doing this flawlessly makes this instrument so special. Another popular style for left handed players is referred to as "claw-hammer" and this relates more to a conventional guitar. A series of strings get pressed at the same time which typically forms a full chord.

    There are even some left handed tricks which gives the banjo a very unique sound. The "slide" for example is a left hand favourite and is very easy to practice and execute. Mentioned earlier are the discomforts which mostly consist of sheet music, the lack of options and the amount of adjustments that sometimes need to be made. In addition, left handed players might also have a difficult time learning some basics compared to their counter parts. Keep in mind that this can work both ways and restrictions are only limited by the imagination.

    A neat little trick for reading right handed sheet music is by making use of a mirror. In this instance, find the chord of interest. After finding the chord, turn the book upside down and place the mirror in front. Now it represents the exact way it should be played for the lefties of the world. Although it does seem rather tedious, keep in mind that universal chord books cater for right hand players.

    The additional costs of the adjustments can convince beginners to either play on conventional banjos or not start at all. Remember that people who are just starting out don't need to buy high-end equipment in the initial stages. Lower costing banjos are usually designed for easy playing rather than quality sound. After the basics chords and picks can be played comfortably more expensive instruments should be considered. Learning to play an instrument is very rewarding, but having difficulties like these only make it more worth-while.

    Learning to Play Banjo


    Learning to play banjo or any other instrument for that matter will require some dedication. Before running to the music shop and buying the first banjo closest to the cash register, take some time to consider what style you like. The range available is vast and rather intimidating. Although the difference between banjos might not seem important, it will have a great effect on the playing experience. It is best to ask for guidance from a professional in order to make an informed decision.

    There are 4, 5 and 6 string banjos currently on the market. Each one has its own distinct features. The 4 string is normally recommended for beginners because of its simplicity. It is the classic among the rest and is typically used for Dixieland type of music. By no means is it limited to this style, but it is the optimal choice. Five string banjos are the most popular, but it is not recommended for beginners.

    The two basic designs consist of an open back or resonator. An open back is exactly as stated. It is completely open at the back and tends to cost a little less. A banjo with a resonating back is enclosed with the resonator acting as an amp. This one is louder and preferred in a band setting. In most cases beginners will go with the open back because it's not very loud and should be cheaper.

    An action scale determines the space between the neck and the strings. Newbies should go for a low action scale due to the fact that it's easier to press a chord. After buying the desired banjo, a great first step is to tune it. For this there are tuners available, but to try to play it by ear as time goes by. This will help the musician to become accustomed to how notes should sound and what keys the strings should be tuned to. The tuning can be done by turning the knobs located on the neck.

    Regardless of whether the musician is left or right handed, one hand will be pressing the chord while the other plucks the strings. In regards to the pressing hand, the wrist should be slightly pushed to the front while holding the neck. Many beginners fail to do this and end up killing the lower strings with their palm section. Although it resembles a guitar, the banjo is much more sensitive and doesn't need to be pressed as hard. On the contrary, pressing too hard can lead to another tuning session.

    For the hand which handles the picking, only the thumb, index and middle fingers are needed. With these fingers the player can strum or play individual strings. It is best to assign the fingers to certain strings in order to avoid confusion. Basic exercises like keeping time while playing a steady rhythm are good places to start. When this can be done while changing chords or picking rolls on the other end, more intense exercises can be attempted. Most importantly, explore and have fun.



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