Choosing Your Banjo: Listen To Yourself

by Carolina Bridges

Choosing a banjo can be quite an adventure. You know you like banjo. You know you want to play banjo. But where do you go from there if you don’t know anything about banjos?  How can I say to you “listen to yourself” when it comes to choosing one?  You actually know more than you think. Let me explain what I mean.

Questions To Ask:

Deering Banjo Company is a great resource for your questions if you have them, but it is also a place where we will ask YOU questions if you don’t. It is by getting to know you and your needs that we can find among the many banjos we make, the right one for you. So, “listening to yourself” means thinking about what it is you feel inside will work best for you. It is more basic than you realize!

One of the first questions I ask our customers when they want to buy a banjo, is “what kind of music do you want to play?” For those who cannot answer this question (and for many this is a hard question), the follow up question is “what kind of music do you listen to?” Now this is where you begin to know what I mean by “listening to yourself.”

We usually know what kind of music we like. It might be rock, classical, bluegrass, jazz, gospel; you get the general idea. Banjo is well suited to all of these genres but not all banjos will be equally suited to each of them. Some folks say they want a “warm tone” or a “bass tone” while others like something snappy or bright or sparkling. It is getting to know what these adjectives “mean” relative to a banjo and its components that will help us help you to find the banjo of your dreams. I will go into great detail on this so that I can find out if I understand your meaning correctly.

And just so you understand me well, in helping you find a banjo we will do our best to not make this journey a matter of price point, but a matter of preference - YOUR preferences as you see/hear/feel what is most important. That is the beauty of Greg Deering’s love for the banjo. He has made it affordable for you to find the banjo that will best fit your needs and your financial situation.

Ask Frequent Questions:

You will never wear your welcome out at our customer support line. I know, because I am customer support. I encourage you to contact me.  Start by asking a question in the comment section below or the traditional route via phone/email. (carolinabridges@deeringbanjos.com or 800-845-7791).

If you don’t know what you want to ask, it’s ok. I have plenty of questions on my end to help you find out what you need to know. It has been one of my greatest joys to help you all with your banjo needs. So what are some of those questions that I may ask to help you understand you know more than you think?

  • What kinds of music do you like to listen to? This will help me decide which of the many models we make will work best for you. I will almost always recommend more than one and refer you to the website and videos or artists to help round out this question for you.
  • Who are some of your favorite bands/musicians (not just banjo players)? It is not just about banjo players, it’s about who you enjoy sitting and listening to overall and how banjo playing can increase that joy.
  • Do you plan on playing with a group or alone? This will help me know about amplification needs.
  • Are there any weight issues we need to be aware of? Bell bronze tone ring banjos can weigh up to 12 pounds while non tone ring models can weigh as little as 4 pounds. We have enough banjos to fill in all those spaces for you.
  • Will you be traveling with the banjo? Some banjos are easy to travel with; some have more specific travel needs. We can address those when we find out how you travel and how frequently you travel. It might be that this is your travel banjo you are looking for!
  • Is this your first banjo? If so, I will need to explain the parts of the banjo to you so you understand the instrument as a whole much better.
  • Why do you want to play the banjo? Maybe your grandfather or father had one, maybe you want to sing with it, every answer is personal and critical to making a good decision.

This is just a sampling of what I begin with. From here, the answers usually lead to more questions which lead to more answers and referrals to YouTube, our website, our catalog,  and our dealer base.

Research Is Good:

There are folks who are very detail oriented, folks who are minimalists and anything in between. Whichever you are, listen to yourself. If buying the banjo means you have to confer with 2, 5, or 10 dealers, go ahead. You will find that the skill level of each dealer varies but that will help you choose the dealer that is best for you. This is not always a matter of who will give you the best price but of who will give you the best service.

I would suggest you start with a call or email to folks at Deering first. This will give you the foundational information you need to ask what you want from your next resource.

Here at the factory you will find that we refer you to our website or YouTube to hear artists who play our banjos. A skilled artist can bring out the best in a banjo and various musical styles will sound different when played on different banjos. Because we are fortunate to have many talented artists play Deering, I am able to send you to these valuable videos to listen to the sounds of the various banjos. The variety of artists on our site include such virtuosos as Jens Kruger, Bela Fleck, Mark Johnson, Eric Gibson, David Holt, Ryan Cavanaugh, and others.

Up For the Challenge:

I spoke with one new player this week that was 70 years old and just beginning his journey with banjo. He called frequently and we covered many details about banjo. He also talked to many dealers and listened to many artist videos. His final choice was the one he wanted and he told me “I am up for the challenge.” Let’s all follow his adventurous spirit. Deering is here to help you be successful at conquering the challenge and having lots of fun along the way!

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