Fusion of a concert ukulele and banjo results in a fresh sound.
by Teja Gerken
March 24, 2015
Southern California’s Deering Banjo Company started out building traditional five-string bluegrass banjos, but in the course of its 40-year history, it has expanded its range of instruments to include variations such as electric banjos, six-string guitar-banjos, and now, a banjo ukulele.
The banjo ukulele (sometimes called “banjolele,” or “uke-banjo”) has been around since the early 20th century (there’s even a website dedicated to its history at banjoukes.com). Deering’s new take on the instrument is part of the company’s affordable Goodtime line. The instrument consists of a maple concert ukulele neck mated to an 11-inch open-back banjo pot with a three-ply maple rim and a Renaissance head. The size of the pot is the instrument’s most unusual feature, as most banjo ukes have considerably smaller pots. The instrument has guitar-style geared tuners, 17 frets, and a patented bridge design with a rosewood bridge plate between the bridge itself and the head. And it comes from the factory strung with Aquila Super Nylgut strings.
The Goodtime Banjo Ukulele is impressively well made, with excellent fit and finish and quality materials throughout. We found it to be an incredibly fun instrument with a surprisingly wide range of uses. Because of its considerable volume, it would be ideal at a loud ukulele jam, but it could also hold its own in a variety of musical contexts. The definition and power of single-note lines were especially impressive, and because the instrument melds banjo, ukulele, and nylon-string guitar sounds, it has a voice all its own.
SPECS: Open-back banjo ukulele. Concert-scale, four-string maple neck with 17 frets. 11-inch pot with three-ply maple rim. 11-inch Renaissance head. Enclosed chrome, geared tuning machines. Made in USA. $499 list. deeringbanjos.com, goodtimebanjos.com.
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