5/07/2011

c.1920 Gretsch-made Tenor Banjo


Here's a simple, no frills, sweet-sounding, nice-playing tenor banjo. I know I show everyone a lot of these Gretsch-made tenors, but I work on them a lot because they're always rewarding when finished. This one has a simple, non-tonering, maple pot, with a raised crown for the head to rest on. It's mostly original, though the bridge, two hooks/nuts, and some of the shoes are replacements. Head is original skin.

The scale length on these is short -- 19 7/8" on this fella -- which make them great Celtic/octave mandolin-tuned instruments. I have this strung with a set of silk & steels for a warm, plucky old-timey tone (and springy quick action), tuned to GDAE. I find silk & steel or gypsy-jazz style copper-wound strings have a more percussive, pop and warm sound to them that mixes nice with the openback skin tone. They're also less susceptible to irritating overtones.


Stained headstock veneer, original friction pegs, bone simulated nut.


Fretboard looks like ebonized pearwood or maple. MOP dots. I've given it a fret dress and it plays slick and well.


Cut-down 5/8" bridge makes this a nice thin profile, quickly responsive bridge.


11" head on a shorter scale neck makes this feel nicely balanced.


Ruth Gold certainly didn't want to lose this banjo!


Maple, 3-piece neck, of good quality. Maple pot as well.


A couple secure hairlines in the fretboard.


Tuner buttons are original ivoroid.



I love the cute little middle piece of rosewood (or mahogany?) down the neck.




Very simple neck brace, works pretty well, too -- especially after I shimmed it up.


Overall a pretty handsome banjo, for being so simple. Because it has no tonering, it's not as loud and punchy as it could be, but if someone installed a new Remo-style head, volume would increase probably threefold. The original skin looks pretty spiffy, though, and has that warm sweet old-timey tone, perfect for recording with, or for small group shows.



Simple tailpiece accepts ball or loop-end strings.

No comments: