Open Back Banjos
Open back, old-time instruments are the bread & butter of George banjos. We offer open back models in every possible configuration, with tone rings ranging from woodies to white ladies and everything in between. We are currently working on a new Dobson frailer and a pair of scalloped-rim minstrel banjos - be sure to check out the In Progress page on this site to see what's cookin' in the old-time corner of the George Banjos shop!
Open back banjos differ from bluegrass models in their lack of an internal resonator, and these banjos are perfect for the clawhammer player, or "frailer." Frailing is a method of banjo playing that relies on a series of downward strokes in which the player contacts the string with the fingernail of his index or middle finger, and then plucks or pulls off the fifth "drone" string with his thumb. This is a very old stlye of playing, with roots in African gourd instruments and Appalachian mountain melodies.
Tone rings offered on George open back banjos include simple wooden rings constructed of a variety of tonewoods such as East Indian rosewood, granadillo, cocobolo, ebony and even Brazillian rosewood. We use No Knot, Waverly-stlye and Kerschner tailpieces on our open back banjos. Neck and rim woods are maple, mahogany, walnut, cherry with exotic hardwood appointments (laminated necks, peghead veneers, heel caps, etc.), and figured wood is available as an option (curly, quilted, burled, etc.). We cut our fingerboards from the finest Gaboon ebony, rosewood, wenge and cocobolo available. George Banjos stocks rennaisance, white and fiberskin heads, and we can custom stretch skin heads as well. We use Gotoh tuners on most of our models, buy we can special order Schallers, 5-Stars, Waverlies, etc.
You can view the standard models we offer below. Please note that the term "standard model" is loosley applied - practically every George banjo is a cusom banjo, and you have many choices that will make your banjo unique. This will be clear from the photos below of the widely different instruments in each category. But do not let this list limit you - we are happy to build a 100% custom banjo based on your needs and our expertise. Use the Contact page and tell us about your dream banjo, and we will make your dreams come true.
This is the banjo to tote to your favorite old-time festival or local jam session. The big 12" pot is a volume king, especially when you order one with our hand-rolled 1/4" brass tone ring. Order with a tubaphone ring for extra brightness and carrying power, or with a woodie tone rim for plunkier sound.
The Festival Favorite features a 25 1/2" scale neck for easy playability on late nights, and a booming, resonant 12" rim. Maple rim and neck, 1/4" brass hand rolled tone ring or woodie tone ring. White Lady, Tubanphone or Dobson-style rings are available as an option at extra cost. Dowel stick and brace. Ebony fingerboard with either no inlay or a simple dot and star inlay pattern. Frailing scoop optional at no additional price. Gotoh tuners and German made maple and ebony bridge.
Base Price: $1,200 (includes gig bag)
Tommy began building short neck, travel sized banjos in 2007. They feature an 11" pot with a neck that allows the banjo to be tuned to A or D without a capo. Using medium gauge stings, the A-scale banjo may also be tuned down to G or C. These banjos are available for custom order in a wide variety of woods.
Ms. Vera Victoria's "Perfectly Suited"
Christian presented this banjo to his wife, Ms. Vera Victoria of the Side Street Steppers, on her 23rd birthday in July 2010. They are indeed "perfectly suited" for on another: the 5-piece laminated neck (walnut and maple) is short scaled to be tuned to A or D without the use of a capo. This makes fingerings easier for small hands, and the 11" maple rim (stanined dark) with a 1/4" hand-rolled brass tone ring, dowel stick and ren head combine to give the banjo a bright yet old-timey sound. As you can see in the adjacent photo, Ms. Vera love her new banjo!
Here are Randall and Tommy hanging out at the Geoge Banjos booth in the vendor hall at Folk Alliance 2012. This was the last Folk Alliance Conference to be hel in Memphis, Tennessee. Next year Folk Alliance goes to Toronto, Canada, and then it moves to Kansas City, Missouri for the five following years. Be sure to see George Banjos in KC in 2013!
Randall is holding the George long neck in this photo, and this banjo is now available for purchase - see the For Sale page if you are interested in acquiring this one-of-a-kind beauty!