Finding a beginners banjo is very hard to do if you don’t know what to look for. This is true of many things; here’s a real life story that illustrates my point. I remember getting my sons some sleeping bags when they were in the Boy Scouts. I actually bought 8 sleeping bags over time for them. Why? Because I didn’t know a thing about a good sleeping bag and the poor things froze to death. Finally my husband intervened and bought them 2 mummy bags. Voila! No more useless purchases! So to prevent you from buying a banjo that will not support your heart’s desire to make music, let’s see if I can give you just a few pointers to make it easier so you can begin to play the banjo today.
Many of the banjos made focus on glossy finish, fancy inlays, shiny hardware. Why? Because those distract the beginner from the features that are most important. But being a beginner, you are not sure what is most important. Think about the following:
The more information you can get on what each component is, the better you can understand the sound of your banjo. If it just says “tone wood”, you will not know from that brief description what the sound of the banjo will be. Here is what I mean:
This is something a beginner would not know. Many banjos have thick, clubby necks which are hard to reach around. A D-shaped, slender neck makes it easy for the beginner to reach around and fret. This is all important…put your hand around that neck and see how much the stretch is to get your fingers over the fingerboard.
Does it have one? And how easy is it to get service on your banjo from the manufacturer? Are there email addresses, numbers to call, contact names? Or are you left “on your own” once you walk out the door? This is even more important for a beginner because we have questions that cannot be answered from our “experiences” because we don’t have any yet!! Good follow up after your purchase is a key element to smooth development of your banjo knowledge.
Go on to the internet and make a search for the reviews on beginner banjos. Let the experiences of your fellow musical travelers lead you along the way. Customers, for the most part, will give you their honest opinion about their experience with the instrument and the maker.
When in doubt, trust your instincts: By and large, most of us know when we are being treated well and honestly. Use an authorized outlet for your banjo. Good dealers are worth their weight in gold. They know the product, give good service, give you a place to come back to if you need help, and can send you to the manufacturer for further help.
Enjoy the journey: Last, but certainly not least, enjoy the journey. Try out as many banjos as you can. Ask lots of questions and note who has the answers! Those are the folks you want to help you into the wonderful world of making music!
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