Nylon strings give this guitar-banjo a warm sound.
by Teja Gerken
September 01, 2016
Deering’s Goodtime Solana 6 six-string banjo combines an open-back banjo body with a nylon-string guitar neck. Although similar instruments have been made in the past, Deering’s Solana 6 is a modern interpretation of a rare instrument type. The Goodtime Solana 6’s six strings are tuned just like a guitar, so guitarists can pick it up and play it immediately; it’s essentially a guitar that sounds like a banjo. Steel-string guitar-banjos are offered by many manufacturers (including Deering), but while nylon-strings are sometimes used by old-time players on open-back banjos (and of course classical guitars), using them on a six-string guitar-banjo yields a warmer sound than steel-strings, which can sometimes sound harsh when played with standard guitar techniques.
Like other banjos in Deering’s Goodtime series, the Solana 6 has a maple neck and a three-ply maple rim. Its pot measures 12 inches and is outfitted with a Renaissance head. The instrument has a 26.25-inch scale, which is slightly longer than most guitars. The Solana 6’s neck has a full profile and a wide, two-inch nut, resulting in a feel that is a lot like a classical guitar neck. It also has a slotted headstock with standard classical guitar-style open-gear tuning machines.
The Solana 6 comes set up with low action, which, combined with the soft nylon strings, makes the neck very comfortable and easy to play, although its wide girth will take some getting used to for steel-string guitarists. Tonally, the instrument has an unusual voice. It’s clear from the first pluck that its sound is securely in banjo territory, but the nylon-strings impart a mellow and warm quality to the tone. Whether played fingerstyle with open chords or strummed with swing-style closed chords, the Solana 6 offers a variety of great sounds. And the instrument’s built-in passive pickup creates similar sounds if you want to amplify it.
If you’re in the market for a six-string banjo, the Solana 6’s impeccable craftsmanship, high-quality materials, and warm nylon-string sound should move it to the top of your list.
SPECS: Open-back nylon-string guitar banjo. Six-string maple neck with slotted headstock. 12-inch pot with three-ply maple rim. 12-inch Renaissance head. 26.25-inch scale. 2-inch nut width. Open-gear classical guitar tuning machines. Passive piezo pickup with ¼-inch output jack. Made in USA. $899. deeringbanjos.com, goodtimebanjos.com.
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