What’s the Best Bluegrass Banjo for Around $1000?

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Defining the History of Bluegrass Banjos

September 16, 1946 was a defining day for the banjo. This was the day that Earl Eugene Scruggs made his first recording playing banjo on the song “Heavy Traffic Ahead” with Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys. Mr. Scruggs set the bar for banjo players around the world with his tone, style, timing and drive from the time of his debut to present day long after his passing. He continues to be an inspiration to musicians world wide and will have a lasting influence on the bluegrass genre until the end of time. Every bluegrass banjo player, at some point in their musical journey has sought out that “Scruggs bluegrass tone”.

There are so many prominent Grandfathers of Bluegrass Banjo it’s impossible to name them all, but most if not ALL of them played Mastertones. I’ll mention a few of these greats here; Don Reno is seen here playing one of his Mastertones on a tune called “Arkansas Traveler”. J.D. Crowe was another heavily influential banjoist who played Mastertones his entire career. Here is “Nine Pound Hammer” from one of the best right hands in the biz. Sonny Osbourne of the Osbourne brothers was another highly prominent and influential banjoist who played Mastertone banjos. Here’s one of his tunes called “Banjo Medley”.

Setting the Standard for Bluegrass Banjos

Mastertone style banjos have been categorized as the best for the bluegrass genre since the late 1940’s and the same rings true today. The problem is they can be expensive! Some original “Pre-War” Mastertone banjos have sold for astronomical six figure prices. There are many modern makers of Mastertone style banjos but they tend to be a bit pricey also.

As stated in our “Buying a Banjo on a Budget” article, owner and founder of Gold Tone Music Group, Wayne Rogers, has striven to provide the “most bang for the buck” to musicians around the world. This core principle does not only go into our beginner and intermediate level instruments, but it is applied across all build tiers offered by Gold Tone. This means every model is packed with features that you may not be accustomed to finding on banjos in their price range.

Combining Quality with Affordability

The Flagship of the “Affordable Bluegrass Banjo Armada” here at Gold Tone is the Orange Blossom OB-150. These banjos are packed with tone and provide a professional quality musical instrument for not so much cost. The OB-150 is a heavy hitter, sporting a 3-ply Canadian maple rim. Three ply rims are a timelessly accepted standard for Mastertone style banjos and produce great bluegrass tone. The OB (Orange Blossom) also has a one-piece Mastertone style flange, notched Mastertone style tension hoop and Mastertone style J-hooks and lugs. Now, under the hood, we have a Mastertone Replica sand cast, 20 hole, brass tone ring machined to pre-war specs. These tone rings combined with their fit to the rim make for one bluegrass jammin’ cannon. The neck is maple, with a double cut headstock, bound in vintage cream with vintage Mastertone style inlays. The maple resonator is perfectly matched to the color of the neck, also bound in vintage cream. Other features include: two way adjustable truss rod, dual coordinator rods, planetary tuners, geared 5th string tuner, the Terminator tailpiece and an ebony capped maple bridge.

All these parts and pieces, along with years of design and refinement combined with Gold Tone’s desire to see quality, professional grade instruments in the hands of students and working musicians who may not want to pay $2999.99 for a domestically manufactured banjo of equal or lesser quality, doth the OB-150 make. We provide the bang, you save bucks with the OB-150. This banjo, coming in at $1099.99 (hardshell case included), provides so much tone and playability, we are comfortable saying this is not only one of the best valued models of banjos we offer as a manufacturer, but we also believe you will be hard pressed to find an equal quality domestically manufactured banjo for less than twice the price of the OB-150. These banjos are bluegrass machines that come finely tuned and set up from our warehouse in Titusville, FL. We hope you can check one out at your local music store! If not, we hope to see you at our shop someday! And of course, the OB-150 is available online as well.

Click here to buy the OB-150 Bluegrass Banjo ($1099.99)