I have enjoyed learning how to play the banjo. I feel like between my fun riot of an instructor and the group of people who jam together weekly, I have made social connections while I am learning something new. As far as I'm concerned, that's what this life thing is all about.
I've thought about how I ended up playing old time music, and it's one of those funny things. A friend from the dog park just happens to play fiddle in this kind of music. My goal for learning to play the banjo was to be able to play as part of a group of people sitting around and playing. I don't need to solo and as yet can't quite swing singing and playing at the same time. It's a good fit.
After a little over a year of playing, I can tell that my beginner banjo is just that, a beginner banjo. When the third string is pressed over the second fret, it's supposed to be an "A" tone. Play that string open and it's supposed to be a G. My banjo cannot be tuned to do this. Tune to the G and the A is flat (or sharp, I can't remember, but it sounds funny). Go the other way, and the G is weird. I use both a lot, so this is a bit of a problem.
Enter dad's Christmas gift money. Looks like it's time to buy a new banjo, so I've been looking around and I think I have found what I want. With dad's gift and some of the craft show bucks, I can throw in a some money and get a new plunker. The above picture is what I'm thinking of - isn't it nice? You're thinking, a banjo is a banjo is a banjo. Here's what I like about this one. It's an open back banjo. There's no resonator like in bluegrass banjos, so it sounds more old timey. It's got what they call a scoop neck, so the first part of the neck up from the pan is a little lower than the rest of the neck. This makes it sound plunky, too. Finally, look at the neck. It is largely unadorned, which I like. It's got a little shooting star motif by the fifth peg, but otherwise nothin'. Some banjos are almost gaudy in the neck inlays, IMO, and it doesn't affect the sound.
A friend is looking around to see if there are any vintage banjos for sale right now that might also be what I want. Apparently some of these old instruments (100 yrs or so) can sound really nice and they are in good shape. If he doesn't find anything in the next couple of weeks, I'm going to order this one.