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Old Time Music and Little Banjos
January 2016 FAQ

Old Time Music
Old time music and old time banjos have been a major part of my adult life these past forty years.  I have been building and restoring vintage musical instruments since 1975.

Banjo Sizes
I have built banjos as large as 16" in diameter (Big Bessie) and as small as 1.5" in diameter (The Midgett), and many in the 12"-13" range.

Piccolo Banjos
In my old age, I find it very pleasing to create little banjos as there has always been a rarity of piccolo size instruments that are easy to transport and lovely to own and play and are vintage in appearance.

It is the proportions of these little banjos that are so appealing to my eye. The combination of 7" diameter rim with 10" neck looks just right and one wants to take the little jo home to introduce to the folks!

Antique Parts
For me part of the fascination of vintage instruments is the hardware and the antiqued parts. Partly for this reason, I have chosen to use original and antique banjo ukuleles and banjo mandolins to recarve and create these piccoleles.

What makes it more appealing for me is the variety of models and methods of construction of these original ukuleles. As a consequence, they all have an undeniable unique personality and sound, and each one is fun to play.

Custom Tone Rings
Additionally, I have often brazed tone rings for most of these banjos. Some will have a plastic head, custom antique ebony bridge, custom vintage style fabricated brasstailpieces, nuts, hooks, tension hoops, or other accessories.

Custom Stewart Style TailpieceMost will have customs vintage bone nut and custom 5th string bone pip.

Shellac & French Polish
All my finish work is done in the traditional manner with shellac and oil in keeping with the earliest finish techniques of vintage banjos.

Complex Arrangements
I love each one of these banjos for what they are, not what you want them to be. Old time music jumps out of these little guys(and gals) if you are playing old time music!

Complex arrangements of clawhammer up the neck probably will be difficult. Short scale on a banjo usually means sensitive tuning and intonation, but certainly one becomes used to it with time.

Even Tempered Scale

The even tempered scale that we have adopted today is not perfect for a longer scale and hence, also imperfect for these shorter scale lengths. That is why the oldtimers prefered a fretless banjo (030.Pmico) as you are more in control of the intonation and inflections ultimately, once one becomes accustomed to the lack of frets.

Strings

I use Nylgut or LaBella for strings, as metal strings are just too taught and will be even more difficult to tune. The LaBellas are slacker and easier to play but the 4th string does wear out rather sooner than one would like. The Nylguts are heavier and quite nice but will require a good deal of stretching.