6/02/2011

c.1950 German? Banjo Guitar





Yes, this instrument is as cool as it looks. I'm not sure when it was made, or where it was made, but if I had to guess -- I'd say probably Germany and c.1950s. It's a banjo guitar, or a guitar banjo, or a banjitar -- at any rate, a guitar neck on a banjo body.

The type of banjo is special, though, in that it's that peculiar European "zither" style with a floating rim/tension hoop/tonering mount set floating in what's essentially a body and resonator all in one. This gives a bright, loud, and distinctively almost "reverb" tone, with good separation between notes. The head itself is small -- 7 1/2" -- and the rim itself is smaller, too -- only 10 1/2" wide. This means the whole instrument is relatively compact and very comfortable to sit around with and play.


All the hardware is 100% original, and so is the banjo. It has a skin head.


Brass frets -- fresh fret dress, too, so they play silky smooth.


"Hannabach" Music House label.


Zero fret, though I've had to file "nut slots" into it to get the action setup at the nut correctly. For whatever reason, there's this (bad) idea that the zero fret needs to be taller and larger than the rest of the frets -- and this bad idea has been floating around for as long as zero frets have existed. This is totally absurd, because proper action height at the nut means that it should be absolutely no different from any of the other frets.


New Grover bridge. Original bridge (or, at least, what came with it) will come with this banjo, but was far too tall.


This is such a lively instrument and would fit well in a variety of genres -- especially hot swing jazz and backing in a brass-heavy band. Plenty of chop and zing, here, for sure. I can also see it pulling off blues and old-time nicely, too... though the variety of old-time here would be fingerpicked guitar licks, not 5-string screaming.


It looks to me like most of the wood on this instrument is solid hunks of maple... possibly birch for parts of it. It's really hard to tell with the gloss finish and dark stain.


Original brass-plate tuners.


Massive heel means durability!




Except for the funky textured knobs, these tuners could easily be c.1890s machines.




This 'jo plays quite nicely. I've got it strung up with a set of loop-end GHS gypsy-jazz strings -- which are slinky and quick, and light-gauged -- just what you need on an instrument like this. In addition, the loop ends mean a quick string change with the mandolin-style "hook" tailpiece found on this fellow.



I suppose that ring on the bottom of the tailpiece is a strap hanger... but I'd want to put something heavier-duty on this if I really wanted to hang it by a strap.


...ah, and it comes with its original canvas carry-case, too!

No comments: