Banjo trade-o

This entry was posted by on Sunday, 4 May, 2008 at

Remember that awesome folding travel banjo I bought a year ago? It was really cool, but I traded it away for something better.

My original itch was the fact that I was flying to California (and other places) at least five times per year, and wanted to be able to join in jams in other cities. It’s really nervewracking to carry a banjo on a plane — usually the attendants will let you store it in the coat-hanging closet, but you live in constant fear of being forced to “gate check” the thing into the bottom of the plane. And that means burly men throwing the thing around. You can fill your hardshell case with bubble wrap all you want, but there are still a lot of horror stories out there. So the Tranjo was perfect: the neck just popped off (with strings still attached!), and the whole thing fit in a backpack. I went through airport security five times last year before anyone even noticed I had a banjo in my bag — it only got searched on the 6th flight. Great peace of mind!

Unfortunately, the Tranjo had one big drawback: it was too quiet. I’d take it to jams and couldn’t even hear myself playing. The instrument was great for practicing quietly in hotel rooms, or playing solo around a campfire (which I did once)… but that’s it. No group jamming. So, I stopped carrying it with me on trips, and discovered it was easier to just ask friends to lend me banjos on the other side. Turns out there are several Googlers in Mountain View who have banjos I can borrow. 🙂

Thus, I decided to trade in my Tranjo for a really nice “traditional” open-back banjo. It’s a beautiful, light-weight thing, with a rock maple rim and mahogany neck. It sounds great, and is perfect for old-time “clawhammer” frailing. (Clawhammer is a whole different school of banjo-playing that doesn’t involve picks at all—the music pre-dates bluegrass by centuries, long before the bluegrass-heads added resonators to make banjos louder.) The banjo is made by a single artisan in Michigan, Bart Reiter. So now I have my big-ass resonator banjo for bluegrass jams, and my smaller (less expensive) open-back banjo for camping, car trips, and practicing at my office. It’s a joy to play!

(Pictures below are taken from Turtle Hill Banjo’s website.)

2 Responses to “Banjo trade-o”

  1. samwyse

    If you’re ever in St. Louis (and it’s the 2nd or 4th Thursday of the month), come sit in with the St. Louis Banjo Club. Don’t let the “ages from 40 to a young 94” on the home page fool you, there are players as young as 7 who sit in on occasion.

  2. Treenat Tommy, Tom Tom omy, cho Choney indian tribe, no omy, cheemeecheea not chomy and Anderson not omy.