Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Hello everybody,

I'm new here. I've always loved the banjo. About 8 years ago now, I wandered into a music shop in Ottawa, Canada. In hindsight, the owner was a bit like the "Soup Sazi" in Seinfeld, in other words, YOU TOUCH YOU BUY. I touched, so I bought, but I never was able to learn it and eventually gave it to my landlord in exchange for one months rent.

Fast forward, april 2017. I decided to give it another shot. Bought a banjo. Learned how to play clawhammer by practising regularly (many hours per week)... My playing ability has become quite respectable over the past few months (although still a lot of progress needs to be made). This may sound a bit odd, but me learning to play the banjo has completely changed my perspective on the so-called cultural rift in the US (and to a larger extent, in North America).

During this time, I also discovered on YouTube the wonderful world of the fretless Minstrel banjo. Luckily for me, I came into a bit of money this past christmas and ordered myself a banjo from Don Gardner (it should be getting here in about two weeks). My decision was based on price and solid video demonstrations by Tim Twiss and  Leonidas Jones on YouTube.

My family is in no way imbedded in Civil War history or anything (although John Brown did plan his raid on Harpers Ferry in a small church in my small hometown in southern Ontario, Canada), so for now, hopefully I don't come off as a sham, but my desire to learn stems from my love for the music.

I look forward to learning a lot on this forum and I look forward to diving into a brand new culture as well as indulging in the pleasures of the minstrel banjo.

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Great progress.    :)

Thanks. I have to keep telling myself however that this isn't some sort of race to learn every song in the Briggs banjo instructor as quickly as possible. I'm hoping that I'll be playing for many years to come. Perhaps even meet some of you at some sort of gathering in the future. Baby steps.

Tim Twiss won that race, and every other race, years ago! Haha!  Good thing tho -- go to his recordings, I find them immensely helpful when learning new tunes. 

Not that I'm looking to buy or anything... My Gardner is a suitable beginner instrument. I'm just wondering.... Eventually, what would be considered a slight upgrade ?

I may be selling a guitar soon, so I will be able to start a new fund!

A price range would guide us in making recommendations.

You've already grown beyond this introductory thread.  ;)

Well my canadian dollar is worth less less than your USD$, but i figure to make it worth while and allow me to take my time, somewhere between $400-$900 USD

Maybe Terry Bell banjos then.  Good banjos, very reasonable prices.  But some folks experience frustrating delays from him- perhaps more timely results ordering his banjos on Ebay... or even one of his kits which are not that hard to put together.

Although I prefer the look of the Bell, I'm wondering if there is a major difference in sound quality between a Bell tackhead and a Prust tackhead?

I have heard both.  Terry really has done an outstanding job with the sound of his banjos. 

They both have appeal, but I think the Bells have a bit more 'finish' to them. The prices reflect that as well.

Just out of curiosity has there been a difference with time and communication with Terry depending upon whether you order a finished or kit banjo?

I think Terry sells more kits on Ebay than finished banjos, and of course he can produce kits much faster. Ebay and Paypal enforce seller rules about timely shipping of purchased goods and communication, so that's a real advantage for the buyer.

If you order directly from Terry you don't have the usual Ebay/Paypal buyer protections in terms of promised delivery time.
Don't get me wrong- I absolutely LOVE my Bell Stichter banjo- it's terrific and the price was great too.  But I did have to wait 9 months rather than the initially promised 3 months.  Many folks have delays and difficulties getting him to respond, though I think they always do get their goods in the end.

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