Buying A Banjo: By Tom Cussen
W hen 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
For your first banjo, I would recommend a banjo that is
fairly reasonable in price, at present times from about
€ 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 good repair
person to sound good.
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
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.