Thursday, January 24, 2013

Cracker Barrel Banjo

A year or so ago I was visiting family and went to Cracker Barrel. I'd been looking for a small banjo, something I wouldn't cry over if anything happened to it dragging it around camping or to social gatherings. I'd not expected to find it in the gift shop while we were at brunch but low and behold there it was. A "junior banjo guitar" aka a short neck five sting banjo. It may also have been modeled on a banjeaurine an instrument I haven't seen too many of. It was about $40 on sale and definitely a toy. Out of the box it was almost playable, with steal stings and a plastic head. Worth noting is that it takes a "no collar" head, something that isn't super common but not terribly hard to find online if you know what to call it. The head that comes with it is too soft and as it stretches, while you are playing it, the banjo goes out of tune in a hurry. Mind you with a new bridge and head it plays ok. Really, I like my Washburn and will almost always grab that first but people have been cobbling together banjos out of everything from gas and oil cans to gourds and cigar boxes since the instruments emerged. No, it doesn't sound "great" and no it isn't nice but there is a certain charm in playing through the challenges. I out a calf skin head on mine and used a nicer bridge and it's almost decent.

What it is mostly is affordable but it's not a good beginner banjo. I use mine to practice rolls and just play around when I'm by myself with no one to annoy. Even at that, I'm a hare's breath away from putting a metal or birch top on it due to it's inability to be properly adjusted. It's a toss up really, either I modify this thing a bit more or hang it on the wall and look at it while I build a gas can banjo or some other fun thing that is vaguely more playable. There are also lots of nice banjo's and banjo ukulele's out there for a couple hundred bucks. This is far from the only low end of the market option.

Bottom line though, it's a fun thing to have around and as long as it isn't your only banjo, you might as well grab one next time you are having hash brown casserole at Cracker Barrel. I did look on the website but there were very few instruments and no banjo but my parents say they are still selling them in the gift shop at the one near them in northern Indiana.

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