Creek Don't Rise

Deering Classic Special Open-back
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Author:  paulrace [ Thu Jan 07, 2016 10:31 am ]
Post subject:  Deering Classic Special Open-back

Okay, I didn't really NEED another banjo. But now that I have finally tracked down pro 6-string and Bluegrass banjos that I could afford, I was starting to think that a better quality open-back might be a good investment. One with a more traditional finish, spikes, and maybe a tone ring. In fact, out of the entire pantheon of Deering GoodTime banjos, I figured that the GoodTime Classic Special open-back was the one that would probably do me the most good. Since they tend to sit around $780-$800 on most Internet sources (and local vendors NEVER carry anything near that quality), I figured I was safe from another case of "Banjo Acquisition Syndrome" for a while.

Then MF offered a "return" unit on closeout for $400. Ooops.

I received it last night and spent about a half hour with it. It is in new condition except for a tiny bit of show-room wear that is nothing to what I expect to put on it in the next six months. As I had hoped, it is as easy to play as my GoodTime, which is one of the easiest fretting, hammering, sliding, and pulling-off banjos I've ever owned, and I've owned some good ones. There are four notable differences, one of which is cosmetic.

The walnut finish (even though the banjo is maple) helps it look more "old-timey". (This finish is a feature of their "Classic" GoodTime line.)

The tone ring makes it more "chimey" and less "plunky" than my base-model GoodTime. Though I like the more old-timey sound of the base model for certain songs, the brighter, louder "special" really sounds great on three and four-finger picking styles. (The "Special" tone ring is a feature of their "Special" GoodTime lines.)

The spikes at frets 7, 9, and 10 are very nice, although I'll probably only use the spike at fret 7 very much. On my baseline Good-Time, I frequently tune my 5th string up to A for playing in A or D. With the spiking, I can change the pitch more quickly and not worry so much about making the 5-th string "crazy and old before its time."

The planetary tuners are top notch. I never minded the guitar-style tuners on the base-line GoodTime, but I have planetary tuners on my Sierra 5-string, so this makes going back and forth between my open-back and Bluegrass-equipped 5-strings more intuitive.

I would like for it to have an adjustable neck, but my baseline GoodTime doesn't have one, and it stays in adjustment better than some of my banjos that do.

I would definitely prefer that it had dual coordinating rods, since the extra weight of the tone ring does put a tad more strain on the neck-to-body connection. But I'm probably being paranoid. That said, if I was buying a resonator/tone ring banjo today, I would insist on that feature, based on what I've learned.

In other words 5 out of 5 stars. It is definitely the best open-backed banjo I've owned so far, and quite possibly the last one I'll ever need.

I'll post a more detailed review when I get a chance to really spend some time with it.

In the meantime, here's a link that should take you to the Amazon page about it: ... UODVH3TGKE

Here's a link to our RiverboatMusic page describing open-back banjos and showing examples in each class: ... enback.htm

Author:  paulrace [ Mon Jan 11, 2016 1:02 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Deering Classic Special Open-back

Compared it physically to my standard Goodtime and my Samick 5-string that I've been using as an open-back.

Prior to this purchase, the Samick (which has been tweaked and upgraded considerably) was my "good" open-back, and my standard Goodtime was basically my "travel" and practice banjo.

However, the necks on the two Goodtimes are so CLOSE, that going from one to the other should be no big deal. So I'm thinking I'll sell the Samick and keep the standard Goodtime for my backup/travel/practice banjo. Although I do like the planetary tuners on the Samick. I wonder which banjo would be easiest to "spike." :-)

BTW, if anyone tells you that "made in the U.S.A. doesn't raise the quality quotient of your banjo significantly, they haven't compared the out-of-the-box playability of Deering's Good-times to the Asian-built versions.

Author:  paulrace [ Fri Mar 25, 2016 2:49 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Deering Classic Special Open-back

Saturday, March 19, I used this banjo for a 3-hour gig at the Clark County (Ohio) Historical society. The darker color (not blonde) helped it look more old-timey. The Deering action made it easy to play. The Deering construction helped it stay in tune with nothing but a few minor adjustments all night. The tone right helped it to be as loud as I needed it to be. The seventh-fret spike for the G string helped me go almost seamlessly between songs in G and songs in D. (There are also spikes at the 9th and 10th fret, but I don't usually play 5-string in E or F, so I don't use them much, and I didn't use them at all on the 19th.) Verdict: it was a winner in every way. Now I'm petitioning Deering to make a 6-string equivalent. :-)

16_03_19_old_timey2_345.jpg [ 74.34 KiB | Viewed 16935 times ]

The photo includes my sister Tess Hoffman, who was a folksinger before I was (back in the day), who was an elementary school music teacher, and who went along to sing harmony and to keep reminding me of the words to the old folk songs we played.

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