Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Bell vs a Hartel minstrel banjo? (can someone explain?)

Hi Everyone my name is Jason. I'm new here and I was wondering what is the difference in sound quality and craftsmanship between both makers of the Boucher minstrel banjo? I know the Hartel Boucher is more expensive, perhaps a little more modified then the Bell Boucher. Although Im new to the Victorian fretless banjo, I have been a musician for years. I would greatly appreciate any info on this topic.

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Comment by Tim Twiss on August 12, 2015 at 8:24pm

I've owned and loved both. You really need to take them for a spin yourself, unless you are strictly shopping with your pocketbook in mind. They are beautiful....and distinct. In my recordings, the Hartel is on all the Briggs stuff, and the Bell is all the others. I hear the tonal difference there.

Comment by Chris Prieto on August 12, 2015 at 9:44pm

I recently played a hartel and it was like butter. A joy to play. A little lighter than I imagined. Thick ol peg head and neat lil thumb groove by the bottom of neck by the rim. It's pretty old, so everything was nice and used.

I haven't played a Bell Boucher but I own a Bell Sweeney and it is a beast. Loud enough to wake the dead. Kinda beefy. Love it to pieces.

Comment by Strumelia on August 12, 2015 at 9:48pm

I have a Bell and a Hartel.   I find the Bell has a softer warmer rounder resonant tone, and the Hartel is crisper, punchier, cuts through a bit more.  I love them both!

Comment by Jason Adam Young on August 15, 2015 at 6:10pm

Thanks Tim,Chris and Strumelia for input. :)

Comment by Michael Cypret on August 29, 2019 at 5:27pm

Thanks for asking this question. I’m seriously considering purchasing a Minstrel banjo and wondered about the same thing. 

Comment by Rob Mohr on August 29, 2019 at 5:43pm
If I remember correctly from my previous shopping/buying, all of Bell's rims are the same size based on the original Boucher rim & tailpiece, necks & headstocks are near the originals. Hartel on the other hand bases his banjo on each original design, much closer to the originals. Though, the bottom of Bell's rims are relative to the originals as far as brackets being scalloped or sticking out (like mine). Not sure about Hartel, but Bell will customize/hybrid certain design features, like bottom of the rims...I own a Bell Stichter and love it...


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