I came from Alabama with …?

..a banjo in my trunk! Euh, actually it was not Alabama. I acquired this piece of antique from JnR Music, Hasselt (www.jnr.be). When you buy the Pete Seeger -“How to play the banjo”- handbook , you might as wel go for a banjo! Master Luthier John Joris introduced me to the five string chick’n-pick’n-twang’n-pluck’n banjo sling’n! Thanks John, I hold you responsible for a new addiction: bleeding fingers!

New instrument on our block is the W. Dennis 4477 Zither-banjo. The oldest instrument in my collection. More antique instead of vintage… William Dennis (°1864 – Hampstead) was the English instrument maker who conceived this instrument somewhere between 1890 and 1895. The name of the luthier is stamped in the headstock and on the fretboard near the pot along with the model number 4477.

banjo

The Zither-banjo is the English cousin of the American banjo. A zither-banjo has a wood backside which acts like a “resonator.” It is a bowl-shaped back a bit wider than the head of the banjo. This allowed the sound from the back of the banjo’s head to come out the front of the instrument. The resonator increases the volume of the instrument remarkably.

The English banjo makers used the same gauge string for the fifth and first string. The drone string was not fixed to a tuner on the neck but it was “tunneled” behind the fifth fret. The drone string dives into the instrument neck and comes out at the peghead near the sixth tuner.

The headstock has six tuners. One is a faux tuner. All tuners have knobs made of horn. The neck is made of mahogany and the fretboard is ebony with pearl inlays. The pot is a nice solid dark piece of rosewood with pearl inlays on the rim. The heel of the neck carries a nice abalone ornamental inlay.

Overall a nice piece of “antique” that will still be in use after 130 years! No shit, no pills, no coke! … my friends are into hiphop but I am into folk!

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