Should I Buy A Banjolele?
Buying A Banjolele
Should I buy a banjo ukulele?
What is a banjolele?
The Banjo Ukulele, more affectionately known as the “Banjolele”, was first introduced by inventor Alvin D Keech in 1917 in response to the need for a ukulele with more volume. George Formby (the British equivalent to Ukulele Ike) played a banjolele which immediately shot it to its peak of popularity in the 1920s and 30s.
Nowadays, with the rise in popularity of Folk, Bluegrass and Jazz, these appealing little characters are enjoying a revival.
Banjoleles have a unique sound, they don’t really sound like banjos, but they don’t sound like ukuleles either. Different banjoleles also sound different from each other, one thing is certain though, a banjolele will always add something extra special to your uke group and is especially effective in songs such as ‘Monkey Man’ by Toots and the Maytels.
Tip for singers: Due to the louder sound produced, sometimes placing padding (such as old socks) behind the plastic head will help to mute the sound and improve the tone.
Tips for buyers:
• The banjolele is slightly more technical than a standard ukulele and because of tensioning the brackets and pitching the neck positioning the bridge, you may need these to be set up by the seller.
• Mainland and Flea/Fluke Banjo usually sell you an instrument that is set-up and ready to go. With some of the other online stores however, you may need to tighten the head with your tension key to produce a better sound or lower the action by filing down the bridge.
• Generally speaking, the more hooks the better quality the banjolele. Although this is not always the case, it is probably better to buy a banjolele with more than five or six hooks.
• Make sure to buy from a reputable dealer with a good returns policy, just in case the banjolele is not what you want and you need to return it swiftly.
• If buying second hand, don’t be too put off by missing parts. Bridges, tailpieces, nut, tuners, and heads can all be replaced. You can always get a specialist to re-condition an older model for you.
• However, do check your instrument for signs of cracking or rust and that the neck is perfectly straight.
So the answer to ‘Should I buy a banjolele?’ is a resounding Yes! A banjolele will make a fabulous addition to your (ever growing in my case) uke collection.
Experiment with a few before you buy and above all, enjoy!
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