Advice: Buying your first Banjo in the UK

A couple of years ago some friends of mine decided to put a Folk/Bluegrass band together, I has happy to join in, my intention being to play slide on my Dobro and develop my abilities in that area, however my friends had different ideas for me. Long story short, you've guessed it, they suggested I should buy a Banjo, and me not needing much of an excuse to buy a stringed instrument set about finding one to learn on. My first port of call was, where I typed in 'Banjo' and got nearly 4,000 results! Knowing a little bit about how search engines work I then typed 'Banjo -strings", to exclude unwanted items from my search, but still I had around 3,800 results, and then there were other questions, what is the difference between a Tenor Banjo, or an Open Back, a Resonator..? I needed to do some research. So back I went to Google I went, and typed 'wiki banjo', and read the wiki page on Banjos, which told me I needed a 5 string resonator Banjo to play Bluegrass, the style I wanted to learn to play.

Bluegrass Banjos tend to be highly decorated, it comes with the genre, and that finish is a large part of the price of a Banjo…

One important piece of advice to consider when buying a Banjo is what you want it to look like. Many Bluegrass Banjos tend to be highly decorated, it comes with the genre, and that finish is a large part of the price of a Banjo. Personally, I like something with as little decoration as possible, which is a good thing when buying a banjo for under £500 because you get more of an instrument for your money.

I resumed my ebay search, and I found that you can buy a new 5 string Banjo for as little as £70! However I have seen several instruments of this price range, which have the expected tuning issues, as well as poor components, which wear quickly. I wanted something that would at least get me to an intermediate level and I needed some advice, so I left ebay, and decided to start a fresh search. It did not take me long to find, which claimed to be the UK's widest selection of new, used and vintage banjos. My initial impressions were that the site looked a bit old, but that's not always a bad thing, and seeing that Andy was a UK supplier I decided to give him a call. Andy Pekins can best be described as a Banjo geek, all knowing, able to offer expert and at times blunt advice, and withing no time at all I purchased a Rover RB35 Resonator Banjo, with a case for under £300. This was not the cheapest Banjo he had, and far from the most expensive, but the one that suited my needs, and aesthetic taste. Within days I received my Banjo, perfectly set up, with clear instructions on how to fit the bridge, and a guarantee to change it if I was not happy. I was set up and ready to start my journey.

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About Me

I have been playing guitar for over 20 years, at first playing in indie bands, followed by a long stint playing rockabilly on the streets of Oxford, a short excursion into dance music, followed by looking at early blues styles. Now after a few years of listening to Dylan, Guthrie, and early Americana I find myself in possession of a banjo, and I'm addicted! Currently I play Banjo and Guitar in an Oxford based group called Swindlestock, you can hear our music our myspace page.

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