6/05/2015

1920s Lange "Banner Blue" Resonator Tenor Banjo




Lange's "Banner Blue" instruments seem to be aimed at the mid-level, advanced student or "professional on a budget" market. This tenor banjo is clearly in that spectrum as it has a regular-size 11" rim, heavy-duty typical Lange-brands build with an integral bracket band and plenty of hooks, but a simple finish, no-frills appointments, and a non-tonering, beveled-top-edge rim build. It's as loud as you could ever like and, to my ears, is a bit more pleasant than your average Paramount or Orpheum as it doesn't have a tremendous amount of over-ring.

This one's a consignor's instrument and my work included swapping out the head, cleaning it up, adding a new (compensated) bridge, leveling/dressing the frets, a new bone nut, and setup. It's currently setup with DGBE (Chicago/guitar tuning) strings but the bridge is compensated for both DGBE or standard CGDA. I tend to use gauges 30w, 20w, 14, 10 for tenor banjo DGBE tuning and 32w, 20w, 13, 9 for CGDA... so it's an easy swap if you like the fifths sound.


This instrument plays perfectly, is very functional, and feel sturdy. Action is 1/16" at the 12th fret and while the neck has a tiny amount of relief overall, the fret level/dress dealt with that.


I like the star inlay. The original ebony nut was chipped away so this new bone one serves quite well. The friction tuners work as they should -- but an easy, and very functional, upgrade would be to put 4:1 geared pegs on before shipping. I leave this to the next owner's discretion because banjo pegs certainly cost money. The ones I like best are Waverly units and they're about $100 a set these days. The $50-65 Asian-sourced units just fail and fall apart... I know!


This has pearl-dot inlay and the dyed/painted-pearwood or maple board is very typical of Lange banjos for the lower-mid market.

The scale length on this guy is 22 7/8" which puts it in long scale territory which suits chordal playing or chord-melody playing to a T. I'm imagining that this was probably made between 1925-1930 so that's typical for the time.

The neck has a sturdy, but quick, rounded C shape.





As you can see, the original topcoat of finish (glossy and thin) has chipped-out just about everywhere except the sides of the rim... where it's quickly popping off here and there if you rub it up against stuff. I think it looks "mojo-tastic," but someone concerned about fancy looks: stay away.



I forgot to snag a pic, but the (repaired) lower edge of the resonator (near the tailpiece) has been reglued and overhangs slightly at the side/back seam.



Lange (in New York) was one of the largest banjo makers in-country. The "Paramount" and "Orpheum" brands are their most-known products but I've seen their hands in stuff all over the board in terms of overall quality.

I like the easily-adjustable neck brace on this instrument.


The "bracket band" is a good upgrade for a lower-mid-level banjo like this. It gives the shoes a good hold and keeps the rim from warping under tension.


All the hardware appears to be original. These simple tailpieces may at first look plain and dull -- but they easily accommodate both loop or ball-end strings and the "cover" at the top lets one stuff a bit of foam under it to mute the extra string length (and cut down on overtones). A plus.

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