Dean BW6 Backwoods 6 String Banjo with Hard Shell Case
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|Item Dimensions LxWxH||6 x 20 x 45 inches|
|Item Weight||27 Pounds|
About this item
- 6-string hybrid banjo
- Guitar tuning makes it a great crossover instrument for guitarists
- Grover tuners
- 11" Remo head
- 25" scale length
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The Dean Backwoods 6-string banjo is ideal for every guitar player that yearns for that banjo sound without having to learn a new instrument. Tuned like a standard guitar, you're ready to go! Constructed with attention to detail the Backwoods are a notably solid line of banjos with very appealing prices. Reminiscent of their fore fathers from the 30's, the Backwoods present a bright tone with a traditional look.
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The instrument came with tools to adjust the truss rod and various things in the pot. Overall, it seems well-made, with no obvious loose frets or other problems. The action's certainly acceptable, on-par with a $200 guitar with the added benefit of light-gauge strings, and is definitely playable. The tuning machines do their job.
First impression: this thing is loud! Anyone writing "While My Banjo Guitar Gently Weeps" must be writing ironically, 'cause if you got the blues, the neighbors'll know it. Consider a banjo mute for noise-sensitive environs.
It responds well to a flat pick, and Lester Flatt runs are a trip. I'm not very good with finger picks yet but it seems to do well with them, too.
The Dean BW6's tailpiece uses loop-end strings, so it should work with something like Gold Tone Banjitar Strings, but the holes are small enough that it looks like it would also handle ball-end strings, though you'd probably want to keep them light.
You will need to position the bridge. The factory-recommended method is to put the bridge under the strings, tune the high-E to pitch, then fret the 12th fret and check whether it's also an E. If it's sharp, move the bridge towards the tail piece. If it's flat, move it towards the nut. Re-tune and repeat. I had to clip the tuner to the instrument's body for this operation because it wouldn't reliably read the 12th fret when attached to the headstock.
The instructions don't mention it, but after you've finished the high-E, I suggest doing the same with the low-E string. The positions for each end of the bridge will be slightly different because the strings are different thicknesses and the bridge is slightly sloped. You don't have to press a thick string as far to fret it, which means it stretches less, which puts its end of the bridge a different distance from the fret for proper pitch.
Because the 5 string banjo has radically different tuning (its 5th string is its highest-tuned string), it would take some work to use a book written for 5 string banjo with this instrument. The tab and chord shapes will be different, and even roll patterns would take some translation. Fortunately, some web searching will turn up books for the banjo guitar. Good search terms include "6 string banjo", "banjitar," and "gitjo." While you're looking, spend a bit of time reading about the instrument's history and types of music that seem to fit it.
I give it 5 stars. It's well-made for its price point and a lot of fun to play.
EDIT: As it turns out, "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" sounds lovely on it of you cross-pick instead of strum.