Saturday, March 6, 2010
In early February I still had enough Christmas money to buy another banjo or two.
I surfed the web to Jeff Menzies' website. I noticed a Dipper Gourd Banjo and inquired about purchasing it. Jeff asked if I intended to actually play the instrument and offered me Gourd Banjos #35 #193 or #196 (the email include JPegs). I was so intrigued by the unusual look and the peg head of #196 that I bought it. See photo above.
When it arrived I was amazed at the beauty of the instrument. It is obvious that Jeff was trained as an artist. This banjo has an unbelievable sense of balance, both physically and artistically. The neck is claro walnut with an apple wood fingerboard. Finally I tuned in up to low minstrel standard tuning (dGDF#A) and began playing it. The narrow finger board was not a problem as I rarely play above the 5th fret position. The action at the nut was perfect. The pot is smaller but deeper than my Banjo Factory gourd banjo.
I've seen people on youTube playing Gourd Banjos (while sitting down) with the instrument between their legs - that does not work for me. I place the gourd on my right leg and anchor it down with my elbow at the spike extending through the instrument. The sound of this banjo is excellent - plenty loud with full deep tones.
This Gourd Banjo is a bit more expensive than the one from the Banjo Factory. I will say that both are excellent instruments - you pay more for the artistic beauty of Jeff's banjos.
Here is the link to the Jeff Menzies website.
Several weeks back I first saw Brian Carver's youTube channel. Brian is a college student who makes banjos, some similar in appearance to those that Frank Proffitt made and played. Brian created his own pattern that only uses two pieces of wood. Over the last year he has offered some nice ones made from Cherry and Walnut.
He also introduced a Budget Line - Pine Mountain Banjos for $130 with free shipping. These instruments are made of pine and with walnut hardware (the nut, bridge, pegs and tailpiece) and have a 24 inch scale. They have been sanded but have no finish or stain and the instrument can only support light nylon strings.
Brian still had one Pine Mountain Banjo available and he sold it to me (and I stayed within my Christmas money budget). The banjo arrived, I tuned it up to standard open A and began playing. The sound is not very loud but OK if you wish to play and sing by yourself. No worry about awakening my wife in the bedroom.
Since I've been such a big fan of Frank Proffitt for the last 40 years I am pleased to now own a similar instrument. I have a feeling by this summer that I may wish to get a Walnut or Cherry banjo from Brian. I'll probably sell this banjo on eBay then.
Check out Brian's youTube Channel.
Listen to Baby-O by Frank Proffitt.
Listen to Johnson Boys by Frank Proffitt.