Why Your First Banjo Should Be A Goodtime

by Barry Hunn

If you are new to banjo, welcome! If you are anything like many fellow beginning banjo players, you likely deal with one or more of these common issues.

  1. The over-powering desire to play the banjo “right now.”
  2. Learning to move your fingers and hands to fret notes and chords.
  3. Learning to play comfortably, beautifully and smoothly.
  4. Finding ways to “inspire” yourself to keep playing with the same enthusiasm that brought you to the banjo.
  5. What to look for in buying your first banjo

The last point, at least in the beginning, is arguably the most important as your choice in banjo affects all of these five issues.  When you really love your banjo, it will inspire you.  It’s easier to look forward to practicing when you can’t wait to hear that beautiful sound.  It’s more fun to play and practice when the banjo plays comfortably in your hand.  Plus, it’s easier to be patient when you are enjoying each minute of your “banjo time.”

Now take the opposite and consider how all of those things might feel when using a cheap, poorly made banjo. Practice would be a struggle. It will demotivate you when it should inspire you. And boy, we all know what these things do to our patience! 

How do you think the Goodtime banjo came about in the first place? 

 

View all of the Deering Goodtime banjos here!

The Goodtime Banjos  

Greg Deering designed the Goodtime banjos to enhance your learning experience by focusing on several important features. He wanted a low priced banjo that “has it where it counts.” He built the Goodtime to be easy to play, have a resonant, musical tone, high quality geared tuning machines, and a heel that is beautifully fitted to the rim and a rim that is vibrant and responsive.

  1. The neck is slender, with a “D” shaped profile and uses the same neck profile that is used on all of our upper line Deering banjos.  So this neck has a proven, professional neck profile to enable the player to hold chords easily and fret notes fast and easy.
  2. The rim of the Goodtime banjo is three layers of the beautiful, violin grade maple; this is the same maple that is used in the backs and sides of the world’s best violins.  It is chosen for its resonance, clarity, even response to all of the desired frequencies in a banjo.  Historically, only hi-end professional banjos have been built with three-ply maple rims.  The Goodtime is the first, and only American-made low priced banjo to be built with a professionally proven three ply rim of musical enhancing violin maple.
  3. Every Goodtime banjo has all geared tuning machines.   The mechanical advantage of “geared” tuners is professionally proven to be over-whelmingly easier to accurately tune than old fashioned friction tuners.  For beginners, tuning can be challenging enough so making tuning easier is a Godsend.  (it’s true for professionals too)

Why is the Goodtime So Different?

Virtually all banjos commercially available in the price range of the Goodtime banjos, are manufactured overseas. They are usually made in factories that manufacture “luxury” items like lawn furniture, guitars, amplifiers, stereo equipment, toys, etc. Just so you know, Deering never has and never will plan to build lawn furniture! 

The Goodtime banjo is made, from scratch, in our shop in Spring Valley, California. We make almost every part for our banjos in our shop and the few metal parts we don’t make in house, are proprietary Goodtime parts made in select machine shops around the U.S.

Imported banjos commonly use soft aluminum rims that are inexpensive to make.  Some have soft wood rims with veneers covering the interior wood.

The Goodtime three-ply rim is similar to our Deering three-ply rims chosen by professional players for tone.  These are made out of violin grade maple.

The import necks are often thicker, and not always easy for some players to wrap their hands around because the shape is commonly more of a “U” shape and not always uniformly consistent.

The Goodtime neck is “D” shaped and combined with a sleek and slender profile fits hands of almost any size….comfortably.

Instead of investing in better rims, higher quality tuning machines, better neck shape, and a more precise heel cut on the neck, import banjos often put more money and labor into thick shiny finishes and some “flashy” plastic fingerboard inlays to encourage beginning buyers to “buy with their eyes.”

The Goodtime has elegant, exotic hardwood inlays on the fingerboard to serve as “position markers” for ease of playing, as well as three coats of a satin finish that protects the wood, but doesn’t muffle the natural resonance of the high quality tone woods used in a good instrument.

Why is this significant for a first time buyer? 

I am going to say something very bold. But take a second to think about it.

Beginners, actually, need a better instrument than a professional.  Professionals know how to play.  They know when the banjo is a problem or when their technique is a problem.  Beginners cannot know when their banjo is a problem or if their technique is a problem because they do not have a developed technique!  So, beginners might blame themselves for not playing well, when it’s the banjo that is the underlying cause of thier issues and frustration. 

It is kind of ironic that a beginner would actually profit more from a high quality banjo than a professional banjoist.  But, most of us, when beginning the banjo, tend to think:

  1. Will I be able to do this?
  2. Will I stay with it?
  3. Do I have any musical ability?
  4. I’ve never played an instrument and have no idea what I’m looking for.
  5. The banjo music “sounds” complicated.
  6. What if I can’t do it?

These concerns encourage us to be cautious, so we buy something less expensive.  Our thinking is “if we can’t do it, we’re not out too much money.”  This is financially wise, but limits our ability to grow with the banjo if we buy a hard to play banjo with un-inspiring tone.

Greg Deering designed the Goodtime banjo to give a beginner a super high quality banjo in terms of playability, sound and ease of maintenance.  This helps beginners to stay enthusiastic because they can make great progress and enjoy listening to the high quality tone of a Goodtime.

The formula for import banjos is to make a product with eye appeal.  They are made to “look like” professional banjos. “Look alike products” are made in every market: guitars, tools, tennis rackets, etc.  The “look” of the product is more important than “the function.”  They are counting on you to “buy with our eyes.” But that doesn’t help you to play the banjo.

Deering has built over 120,000 banjos in its 42 year history.  A huge percentage of those have been Goodtime banjos.  The Goodtime banjo has evolved from the original 9-ply birch and maple rim to the current, 3-ply violin maple rim.  The latest Goodtimes have better, sealed, heavy duty tuning machines. The peghead shape of the Goodtime was “fancied up” since the originals.  The newest fingerboard inlays on even the lowest priced Goodtime are made of exotic hardwoods.

This evolutionary development of the Goodtime banjo clearly illustrates Deering’s commitment to continuous improvement of the banjo at all levels.  Deering is always focused, experimenting, and developing every banjo model and listening to artists and customers about what is important to them.

Deering Banjo Company makes banjos to make music - not just to catch your eye.

Deering makes banjos exclusively. No imported banjo comes from a company that can make this claim.

It seems logical that there is more care, thought, engineering, attention to detail, tonal awareness, skill, and dedication built into a Goodtime banjo than any banjo that comes from a “luxury item factory.”

The Goodtime: A Real American Banjo 

I think it’s fair to say that you get a lot of banjo for your money when you buy a Goodtime.  The Goodtime banjo is made by banjo specialists and has the same world class ingredients found in banjos costing $5,000.  The Goodtime banjo is “made to be played.”  It is a “real banjo", an original, not a “look alike.”

If you want to buy a banjo and learn to play, get the best banjo you can afford.  Get a real American banjo.  Get an original.  Get a Goodtime.

 

VIEW ALL GOODTIME BANJO MODELS HERE

 

 

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