Romero Banjo reviews at www.banjohangout.org.
"Jason Romero is making banjos that are at the absolute peak of the art form in terms of sound, design, feel, woodwork, inlay, etc. He unites tradition with innovation in an effortless way, creating masterful works of art with each instrument. He is at the forefront of his field, making some of the most exciting and rewarding banjos in America today. If you're looking for "that sound," this is it."
- Dirk Powell
Jason, Love my "big boy" banjo. He rocks! I used it on my latest CD "Instrumentals." Sure love the way it sounds, and it's so well made. You really put your heart and soul in these banjos. You do yourself proud...
All the best,
- Ricky Skaggs
You can hear Ricky Skaggs playing Banjo #0667 on his releases, "Mosaic","Ricky Skaggs Solo: Songs My Dad Loved", and "Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder: Instrumentals".
It's everything I hoped for and so much more. I really couldn't be happier. It's beautiful and plays fantastic. I can't thank you and Pharis enough. It's obvious to me that you both went well beyond the initial plans on the inlay and I really appreciate it.
Warmest wishes to you and Pharis
Jason this guitar has such a rich sweet tone. I am so grateful. Nobody's making anything with this beautiful pure tone. The aesthetic of fit, finish and design detail is deeply satisfying, but it's the sound. I never cared for the twenty pound National style guitar, and wood resophonics always sound like parts guitars. Your guitar sounds like you wanted to create something that represented a vision of a homogenized whole. It is so cool. It applies beautifully to anything I play.
My banjo arrived yesterday afternoon about 4:30. I was in my studio painting and covered with paint, so had to have a shower and change, then I lit the fireplace and poured myself a glass of wine before I allowed myself to open it!
With only a small interlude for dinner I never put down my new banjo until 11:30 and bedtime! It is wonderful to look at, wonderful to listen to, and wonderful to play. What can I say? I love it!
Thank you so very much. It was fun working with you.
.... I watched you play at the folk music awards. You were terrific as usual.
All the best
Banjo # 15383
Yeah. The banjo arrived in perfect condition and I'm more than happy with it. The only thing better than the way it looks is the way it sounds. Couldn't be happier. Thanks for everything.
Hey Jason. Been playing lots. Im still so blown away with the banjo. Everything. The neck shape and size is perfect. I love the hog neck....its my favorite wood. The stain is perfect. The hardware is aged perfect and so uniform. The glossy black rim, the shoes, nuts...
Seriously, Im just loving every detail. The inlays are so perfectly amazing...and tasteful. The sound is quite something to hear. You guys nailed it. Im so happy. Thank you. Hope to see you down here in the spring.
Hi Jason and Pharis,
Just a quick note to let you know that my new banjo arrived with no issues. It's all tuned up and the strap is installed and it looks and sounds fantastic. I really like the size, weight and balance and it is exactly what I had hoped for. I am pretty sure it will make me a better banjo player. The inlay really pops and is quite striking – very nice. Thanks for making such a wonderful instrument for me. It has been a great experience.
Thank you so much for the superb job you both did on my banjo. It is a true joy to play and to hold. This may seem a little odd, but what assured me of the attention to detail i would encounter, when i finally had the banjo in my hands, was the packing job and the case design! No stone unturned there reflected the care that went into building and refining my banjo. The banjo is a true work of art - a modern-day heirloom.
The sound is so sweet and pure and the materials are exquisite. I have already taken it out to our stream and recreated, in my own way, the feeling that your Wild Bill Jones video gives. How sweet. I have had a number of custom guitars built over the years by a few of the premier luthiers - all exceptional people and friends, accompanied by great communication during the building process. My experience with Romero Banjos tops even those. Thank you. You really took care of me. And Pharis, your treatment and execution of the Orca Inlay was absolutely perfect; and it was exciting to see it in the various stages.
I'm so glad I left the banjo's refinement decisions to you, the artists. I'm sure I would have over-thought. This Romero banjo has already given me such pleasure. Take care of yourselves!
PS - Just received the warranty card/certificate today; exquisitely appropriate.:)
I was able to pick the banjo ukulele up on Thursday. You sure packed it well. It arrived in excellent condition.
It looks beautifully aged even though it is new. I like the simplicity of it. The different pieces of wood are not evident until you look closely and see the lovely grain and careful craftsmanship. I am so lucky you had this started when I contacted you.
No other guitar, mondolin or banjo that I own has such a thick rounded neck. As it turns out this is a pleasant surprise. It fits very comfortably in the curve between my thumb and fingers. It feels like the whole thing is curved out of one solid chunk of hardwood. The head is nicely mottled and stained. Given the changes in humidity hear, the Renaissance head is a better choice than a skin head.
It sounds great and puts out more volume than my conventional ukulele. This is just what I wanted - a cross between a ukulele and a clawhammer banjo strung with nylon strings. The scoop make it possible to play much harder than I can on a ukulele where the strings are close to the fingerboard. The beautiful design of the brass plate sets it off in keeping with the simplicity of the rest of the instrument.
The strap is wonderful. The leather is so soft and comfortable. I would like to order one for my banjo. Is a similar strap available for acoustic guitars with a pin on the heel?
Now that I have time I just wanted to pass along my comments:
My favorite thing about the construction of the banjo is the neck. The wider/beefy neck worked out to be perfect for my hands, it could not have fit any better and makes everything easier to play.
When I asked you to build the banjo I was looking for something versatile (as I use my banjo for everything-from singing accompaniment on solo gigs to playing bluegrass/fiddle tunes and jazz ballads). It works great for three finger picking with and without picks not to mention clawhammer as well.
I took the banjo out to a bluegrass jam last night, we had two other banjos (with resonators), two loud Martin guitars and an upright bass. My banjo cut right through and everyone there was totally blown away with the looks and sound. I also ran into a mutual acquaintance that said he knew you, a guy named Brad Oviatt (fiddle player)
Soundwise-every time I hit the 4th string on this banjo I can feel it resonating throughout the instrument. At the same time, if you play between the 12th and 22nd frets it has amazing clear highs as well. The clarity in the upper registers on this banjo far surpasses anything I've played.
The 12inch rim and the Belle Rose tonering turned out to be a winning combination as it made one incredibly balanced instrument.
Thanks for all the hard work you did on this instrument it is GREATLY appreciated. It is a work of art in sound and craftsmanship Everyday I've taken it out of the case has put a smile on my face.
Jason & Pharis,
To quote Shirley Temple, " Oh my Goodness" . This is one fine banjo!
The sneak preview photos, actually any of the photos, do not begin to do this rich instrument justice.
My wife had the box and a knife waiting on the trunk at the foot of our bed when I got in from the airport. It was such a joy extracting it from its snug well packed box to unveil the fitted Romero bump case, (sharp).
It felt like one of those movie scenes, when they open the treasure chest and the glow shoots out into the room, bathing the explorer in a wonderful light before reaching in to feel the smooth weight and examine the jewel more closely.
Jason, your wonderful set up stayed intact during the shipping and required only an initial tuning before the range, volume and voice of this banjo filled the room. Your skill in woodworking and finish are a marvel. It sounds absolutely superb strung with steel over the ren head, and I am certain will be as distinctively different and beautiful with nylgut over skin. Thank you for facilitating my request for the secondary set up. All of your trademark Romero designed components not only work flawlessly but are a visual joy. The workmanship of the neck just begs to be touched, frets cleanly and easily to bring forth music.
Pharis, your inlay work is amazing. The way the black and gold mother of pearl play together is just magic and is so complimentary to the cocobolo fret board, accents and amber tuners. The raven and engraved flourishes are so tightly cut in that even under magnification they appear to have just emerged from the wood. The feathers fit the scoop so well and catch the light in ever changing reflections. All of it, I just could not have asked for more. Thank you for your time during the back and forth design conversations. Both of you lead and listened throughout the project and were a pleasure to work with.
It was worth every single brown bag lunch for the 16 month wait, every dime spent, and every exquisite moment of anticipation!
I wish you both success in all your musical endeavors. You have provided this simple man endless hours of joyful music. Gotta go, I hear my banjo calling.
Thank you both so very much!
Jason and Pharis,
Absolutely every thing I thought it would be. The fit, finish, inlays and sound are superb! Well done, Oh Canadians!
Howdy Jason! My banjo arrived safe and sound despite Nature's best attempt at melting it! it is absolutely stunning. more so in person than photos could ever show. i love the extra details you incorporated, the two tone copper/brass dots and the coppery or case hardened look for the tuning pegs. really above and beyond, true artistry. the inlay is amazing, please thank pharis for me. i think the overall concept really came together. also, the stained head is very cool and looks great, my only concern is that it looks so striking and different it might pull attention away from the actual banjo!
The curly maple and ziricote could not be any better. the neck fits my hand great and the extra width feels good and isn't throwing me off too much. it is not even close to too heavy for me with the 20 J hooks and they look amazing. i am making a cradle strap from some brain tan leather so as not to put too much stress on them by hooking on a regular strap.
The action is just right. no buzzing. the sound is killer, very much what i was after. i couldn't say if i would've liked the tone ring better or not but i like this very very much. has a bit more volume than my Ome (which i wanted) but not overpowering. i can still get on it. i will try the lighter bridge this weekend too.
I can't wait to get together with some folks and really let this baby rip. hope Fiddle Tunes is going good. Thanks so much for everything,
Hi Jason and Pharis,
I don't even know what to say...this is the most amazing banjo I've ever played. You two did an amazing job. Do I just stare at it or play it? Both!
Thanks so much again!! What a work of art!!!
The tone of this banjo, from depths to highs, using Jason's basic tone ring, is beyond belief. There is a resonance and warmth that mystically transcends what one ordinarily expects to hear from most banjos.
Working with Jason is a pure joy. He is patient, and really listens to your musings about what you want to see and hear in an instrument. Together with the beautiful inlays of Pharis, Jason translates these attributes into three dimensions of wood and string, and executes a final product to perfection.
There are always some surprises of extra carving and detail that make simply holding one of Jason's instruments sheer delight.
I have never found an instrument so well-suited to being played both clawhammer and fingerstyle. Jason's attention to string spacing, action height, and general setup is remarkable.
It just arrived and I tuned it up. It is gorgeous and what a rich full sound. Your finish work is impeccable!! Thanks for such a beautiful instrument, something I will cherish and hand down to my family. Thanks again.
Good morning Jason & Pharis,
I watched Craig's piece on you guy's. I commend you on allowing someone to put a camera in your face and talking. I spend my time on the back end of a camera and I know it is not easy.
I'm impressed with your energy and belief in each other. My wife Sian and I have carved a long friendship,partnership and love which I see in you two. It's great to see and hear people that understand the beautiful things the world has to offer. Finding someone to share your life with is wonderful. We have two boy's Nolin 15 & Bela 10 both musicians who find your banjo's very cool. They have taken me to places I would not have been able to get to without them.
Though you folks are in a very remote area your efforts are very communal. Not only is your banjo giving me a great deal of pleasure to play you've made me feel like a part of a much larger world of art and music lover's. It feels nice...
I would be honored if you used my comments.
If an opportunity comes up I would love to recommend you guy's. As I travel around with the banjo I'm sure the conversation will come up.
You both have inspired me in more than music.
Have a great day!
I just want you to know how much I love the Banjo you built for me and that I am truly amazed at your talent. The quality of your work is next to none! I have my banjo on a stand in my living room and pick it up every day to play and admire. Out of the 15 or so stringed instruments this is the one that I play every day for at least a half hour or so. I have always believed that learning and playing good music requires both a little talent and a quality instrument and now that I have a JRomero Banjo the old "GoodTimes" banjo just might get donated to someone. Now if I can only convince my wife I need another banjo……
Banjo arrived Mon, so I've had some time to evaluate and appreciate it. First off, I must say that was THE best job of packing for shipment I've EVER seen -- I've seen quite a few and 2nd best was WAY behind. Very classy!
The pix were great but the real thing was greater -- I am sooo glad you bore with me though the details decisions we made -- visually, #11282 is a knock out! For example: your website (or an online interview I read) states: "no CNC" -- but how, Pharis, did you get such perfect inlay work?!?!! And the Sun is a lovely golden shade -- just what I wanted! And Jason: your fret ends really do look like there's binding . . . but there isn't! Very crafty ;~) Lastly, tho' there's more, the snake head -- a mando-thing, of course -- just seems to be classic: made to order on a vintage open back. I'm thinking you might get future calls for this headstock shape . . . .
On to the sonics -- "Into the mystic"! I can report that #11282 (yet to be named -- could, though, become "Snake" [apologies to Mr Chapman!]) is VERY responsive to the lightest touch. This is good -- nice to be able to play with confidence. No one else has played it yet, so I can't speak about quality of tone I hear when played well. However, my "Bum Ditty" sounds very toneful IMHO ;~)) BTW: Guitars "break in" -- sound better with time. Can I expect the same from #11282?
So put me down as another VERY happy customer! Now, if you could just build in your style of playing, Jason -- kinda like a Player Piano -- I'd buy that model! Ah well, guess I'll just have to learn, practice, and do the work . . . ! ;~)
ciao for now,
Ohmygawd Jason, its BEAUTIFUL!!!!!! I'm so happy! The sound - wow - its like I've been playing on a Toys-r-Us keyboard and now I have a church organ ! I absolutely love it. I've been playing all day!
Dear Jason and Pharis,
Thank you for the banjo. It now ranks as the most beautiful thing in the house (dog and boyfriend aside)! Of course, it also sounds lovely and is a pleasure to play. I've got some big banjo boots to fill now so I better get to it.
Banjo # 11279
Jason & Pharis - Banjo arrived last Friday, and WOW, I really love it. It's a pleasure to practice on such a beautiful instrument. I will definitely be devoting more hours to banjo'ing than ever before ! Thanks very much, I am already plotting to get another.....
I want to let you know the banjo meets all my expectations for sound, playability, and artistic workmanship. I'm particularly happy with the full, clear low tones it can produce, a wonderful contrast with its rich high pitches that sing rather than scream. Pretty much unadorned as I'd wanted, it's quietly beautiful.
The more I play my new banjo the more I realize that getting it is one of the best things I've ever done for myself. It's an absolute joy to play, and it makes me as happy as do my Corgis on a sunny California day.
Appreciation and warm regards,
Thanks very much for this one [#11253]. It's just wonderful. Just played “Sweet Sunny South” with it and sounds great. I'm afraid to look at website any more for seeing another that I like. Thanks to both of you. I am enjoying both fine pieces that you”ve made. The wheat one [#10246] has got a lotta compliments. Also is a fine decoration in the house.
I have been playing around with it all day today. It is a work of art.
Thanks again for the amazing, badass banjo. I've had two months with it now and am only loving it more. I was a bit nervous about the custom order sight-unseen aspect, as I've had that not work out so well previously, but you were excellent to work with. You really got the aesthetic and tone qualities I was seeking, and you were both patient and helpful in working out the details of the banjo I was uncertain about. It really felt like a collaboration and in the end you created a highly functional work of art; the craftsmanship is spectacular and every little detail of the design falls together perfectly. The tone is what I was seeking (the low end is especially fine) and the volume is great. I can definitely get behind a voice like this. The banjo has been an inspiration to my playing, and it is constantly turning heads. She is definitely a keeper! Thanks so much!
I received my banjo last Friday, and the reason you havnt heard from me is probably because I haven't put it down long enough to call or write an e-mail. Everything about it is just over the top, I have never seen or played such a masterpiece.
The sound far exceeds what I imagined it would sound like, I picked up my old deering good time banjo yesterday and wondered how I was able to play this thing for so long.
Banjo arrived safe and sound, and its the most amazing banjo Ive ever played, not to mention how beautiful it looks too. I put medium weight strings on it and it sounds great with fingernails or picks, with capo or not. Got to jam late into night with Chirps Smith at our Sugar Maple music festival here in Madison Fri night, and this banjo works well even in the dark with mosquitos all over it. Thanks to you and Pharis for all the work you put into it. (Neck is perfect too.)
Dear Jason & Pharis and banjo aficionados,
I've settled into a relationship with my recently commissioned banjo, created by Jason and Pharis Romero. The concept of WWII Bomber Nose Art and Aircraft Spotter Playing Cards inspired them both, and initiated several inlay design concepts. With a detailed list of materials options and finishes available to clients, construction decisions seemed simple in comparison to the inlay design. Let it be said: Pharis excels in fretboard and peghead inlay.
Scour the internet for banjo luthiers as I have, in search of classic materials and workmanship. Then add artistry to the mix, and the couple create lasting musical instruments that are unique, one-of-a-kind statements that we owners fall in love with. Let me speak of the love that draws musicians to their instruments, and the sound the wood and vibrating strings convey. We cradle them, care for them, and merge with them in music.
As I apt to do, I've named my bomber girl banjo, Misty. She's dark and reserved, tending towards the shadows while shunning the bright lights. May she find in me to be good company on dark nights, and bright days alike.
Respectfully yours and many thanks.
- Trisha Shattuck
Hi Jason and Pharis,
I just wanted to drop you a note and let you know how much I am enjoying the beautiful musical sculpture that you created for me. It is both a feast for the ears and eyes and is an absolute joy to play. The sound is rich and resonant and the highs sparkle. The feel of the neck is perfect in my hands as is the setup. What an amazing instrument!
As you know, I too am a luthier and specialize in building high end acoustic guitars for fingerstyle players. I was at a crossroads and was considering building a banjo for myself but your work completely captivated me. After careful consideration I came to the conclusion that just like in guitar building, it takes time, experience and hands-on expertise to build a truly great instrument. You have all those qualities and more and I am completely satisfied with the decision I made. I now have the banjo of my dreams and can focus my creative self-expression on making music and guitar building.
I’m sure you are aware from our many conversations over these past weeks that I am very much into the small details and I believe I set the bar very high for this instrument. It is clear to me, now that I have the banjo in my hands that you are a master craftsman of the highest caliber. Pharis you too are an amazing inlay artist. Your work is simply breathtaking and you
completely achieved the design concept that we discussed and the engraving took it to another realm completely. This banjo is simply stunning!
If, God forbid, there was ever a fire or other catastrophic event in my home and everyone I love is out safely, the two items I would take with me are your banjo and the first guitar I ever built - two treasures that will be past down for generations to come.
If I may offer you one piece of advice it is that your prices are too low for the quality of instrument you build. There are many other fine banjo builders crafting wonderful instruments today but you truly have something unique that sets you apart from your peers. I hope that someday we can meet in person and I can thank you both for the wonderfully creative tool you have given me. Thanks again for making the entire process a complete joy. It was sure nice being on this end of a build project for a change!
You kindly sent me a photo of my banjo all packaged up and ready to send, which I really enjoyed, so here is a picture of my new banjo all snuggled up nice and safe by my favourite chair. And as you may be able to see from the light streaming in, its a beautiful day here too.
'Fireweed' arrived safely yesterday. Picked up her well-packed form from the York Parcelforce Depot but I was so excited it took several cups of good Colombian Roast before I opened the parcel. Anticipation is half the fun after all!
As you know I wanted a fine, hand built instrument to mark an exciting change in my life, but I also wanted this banjo to celebrate a lifetime working professionally with honeybees, something special, something personal, something a little different from my other 'plain Jane' instruments. And you have done both so well. She...is.....BEAUTIFUL!
I had worried a little that perhaps I'd overdone the inlay we'd worked up. In your website photos, that I'd poured over while waiting for the banjo to arrive, the inlay really stands out quite brightly. But when I opened that lovely case for the first time I knew we had got it just right. The gentle, shifting colours of the shell and beautiful, crisp and delicate detail you engraved make the inlay look quite subtle and well balanced when you are sitting with it in front of you. Its gorgeous. And the idea of putting the tree and hives on the back of the peg head worked beautifully. My wife loves that detail and can't stop taking a peak at it. It looks real enough to make you feel you can walk up to the hives with your smoker to take a look into them!
You take wonderful photos, Jason, but no photo can ever do an instrument like this any real justice. You just have to see it in the flesh. It shouted 'quality' at me the moment I took it out to tune up. I love the feel and heft of it, the beautifully crisp cut of the fingerboard and peghead, with its wonderful ebony and maple pinstripes under the ebony overlays. The match of cherry neck and chechen rim is wonderful in daylight. And the chechen binding on the neck with that beautifully delicate ebony/maple purfling riding under it ties it into the rim detail perfectly. Your workmanship is nothing short of flawless, Jason.
You know, I have been very lucky in my life to have owned some wonderful things. My favourite has always been our mahogany grandfather clock. Made in 1810, five years before Wellington met Napolean at Waterloo, it gives me a warm glow every time I look at it or hear its chimes. Well Fireweed usurped that affection from the moment I opened her case – and that is some achievement let me tell you!! And her position in my life was confirmed the moment I had her tuned up and playing. The woods are warm and welcoming and the banjo feels so comfortable to hold (and even hug!)
You are right...she can be one loud banjo. I tried what Scruggs I could remember using finger picks near the bridge and...boy... she takes NO prisoners. But frailed over the scoop and she can be played as soft as you like. The range of tone you can get is incredible. But most of all I love the rich resonance that her chechen rim/tubaphone tone ring combination gives her. Every note from the low to high end beautifully clear. And capo'ed up to double D and she sounds really sweet. I can see my practice sessions increasing beyond measure while my lawns grow shoulder height and our old cottage begins to crumble! Could be a divorce in the offing here, caused by my new mistress!! See what you have done?!
I am absolutely certain that if future owners look after her as I most certainly will do, then like our old grandfather clock , this lovely banjo will still be around giving pleasure to someone in 200 years time as well. But......of course.......in the meanwhile she will only leave me when prized from my cold white hands!
You and Pharis were a joy to work with; patient, helpful, responsive. You have the knack of making a customer feel like they are the only person you are dealing with, the sole focus of your attention, when I know you are very busy dealing with others. Thank you, the pair of you. I never had a moment of doubt that I had made the right choice from amongst the range of highly rated banjo luthiers out there today - from the time I put my deposit down to the time the banjo arrived. Worth every penny spent and every minute of the wait.
I seem to remember reading a review somewhere that a customer wrote about one of your banjos. They said something that stuck in my mind, something like “I hope everyone gets to own the banjo of their dreams; I know I do”. Well I too most certainly do.
I am the proud and humbled owner of #200. I’ll confess to having a couple of Jason’s instruments, so perhaps I’m biased. But this instrument (like his others) is spectacular. Woody and warm, with great dynamic range. Perfect playability and flawless workmanship. Some author I once read said rainbow trout are prettier than they need to be. That can be said double of Jason’s instruments. But if you’re buying a lifetime instrument that you’ll spend thousands of hours with, why not get the best looking as well as the best playing instrument? And consider this: how much would the equivalent quality cost in a dreadnought guitar? I bet three or four times what Jason charges. I truly believe that Jason is the most talented and artistic openback builder working today. There are other great builders, and great sounding banjos, but no one IMHO has the same aesthetic sense. Credit is also due to Jason’s wife, Pharis. I understand that she has a big role in inlay design and execution, and maybe more. Finally, while I’m here, let me plug Jason’s stringband, The Haints, and their great CD: Shout Mona. Not to detract from anyone’s musicianship, but their fiddler, Erynn Marshall is outstanding. Find “Erynn Marshall Old Christmas Morning” on Youtube. Brother, the hair on your neck will stand up!
"The Dancing Crow" has landed! I received a call late yesterday afternoon at work that the package had arrived, so I quickly jumped on the first train home. When I arrived, my wife had placed the shipping box out on our coffee table, waiting for me. The banjo was extremely well-packed, and made the journey safely. My teenage sons, both avid guitarists, were impressed with the professional hard-shell case even before I unlatched it to see the instrument within.
The banjo itself is a true beauty. While the photos you sent to me were stunning, but they did begin to show the magnificent craftsmanship that went into this instrument. The "crow" theme of the banjo really shined through. The black walnut of the banjo is pitch-dark -- as requested -- but at every angle a new rainbow of iridescence appears, just like on a crow's feathers. The two crow footprints in the scoop are very intriguing. In the photo, it looked as if one footprint was darker than the other. When I had the banjo in my hands, I realized that with every angle change, one foot seems to turn bright and silver, and the other foot goes dark. Another shift makes the feet jump and switch brightness again. This effect really makes the crows feet in the scoop appear to dancing and hopping. This effect was unexpected, and really amazing! My family was also thrilled to see the tiny crow footprints etched on the fingerboard dots dancing up the neck. The black mother-of-pearl and silver "Dancing Crow" inlay on the peghead is wonderful. The inlay work captures the clever, trickster essence of the crow, one of my favorite animals. Just like the footprint inlay, it hides slightly in the shadows at one angle, and then jumps out in amazing brightness at another angle. The light aging on the nickel hardware throughout the banjo is wonderful and provides an amazing iridescence and sheen.
As amazing as the banjo looks, it sounds even better! After tuning up, I played "June Apple" first, and then "Sandy Boys," two of my favorite tunes. Both sounded fantastic on The Dancing Crow. The banjo responds and resonates superbly to even the slightest variation in touch or playing style. This response reminds me of a finely-tuned sports car. And your Romero tone ring really sings! I was inspecting the back of the rim up close when I happened to speak a few words; I almost jumped when the banjo rang back at my words like a bell! While my banjo may look like a crow, it sounds like a joyful songbird! I look forward to years of playing enjoyment with this instrument.
Jason, you were a joy to work with throughout this past year as we were planning the banjo. I really appreciated your expert advice and suggestions. Since "The Dancing Crow" was in the same batch as your #200 banjo, I was fortunate enough to get glimpses of my banjo's development on your fascinating blog posts documenting #200.
My thanks to you and Pharis for the fantastic work on this banjo. I am a very satisfied customer. Your banjo is a true work of art that I will treasure for a lifetime!
Thanks and regards,
PS: Happy Holidays! I know that mine will be spend playing my banjo.
The banjo arrived at my office today, in perfect condition. It is, in a word, simply stunning. The figure on the neck is indeed incredible, and your workmanship simply the best. I love the inlay and the stained goatskin head. I have'nt had the time to play it much yet, mostly because of the snowstorm, but I did pick a few tunes and it really plays and sounds well. I have a couple of other banjos, some from well known makers, but your instrument is far and away the best. Thanks for all the time and effort you put into it. I'm planning to get back on your waiting list soon to have you make me another banjo next year.
Once again many thanks and I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday season (filled with great music of course)!
I tracked banjo #8155 across North America and today sat on my stoop until the UPS truck rumbled down the hill … Romero banjo #8155 flew out of the case, I tuned it to G modal and played Elzik’s Farewell, Greasy Coat and Boatin’ Up the Sandy.
The sound is deep with rich overtones, the notes hang in the air, then blend with newer notes. There are no extra vibrations, each note sounds true, almost like you could feel the sound wrapping around your arm as it curled out from the tone ring.
The inlay pattern is exquisitely understated. And the walnut grain pattern comes to a focus point at the base of the heel.
It’s the big, beautiful sound and attention to the small details that makes your craft a visual and acoustic art.
You’re an artist Jason … thanks for a great banjo … now all I need to do is get into a jam with #8155!
- Doug Coulson.
The banjo arrived today in perfect condition. She's absolutely magnificent, and plays like a dream. The peghead and all the inlays are just superb, and I love the finish color. So are you going to start offering carved scoops now as an option? :-)
- Lawrence Ullman.
I thought I'd better let you know how much I'm enjoying the banjo.
I have never played a banjo with such response, even when barely striking the strings; so the dynamics of the instrument are really quite extraordinary.
I've always desired a banjo with a wider fingerboard than what I've been accustomed to, so when I played a few tones at your house I thought "well, this is different" and so it is!
The tone and the playability of the banjo are far beyond my expectations. In fact until now I didn't think such instruments existed. I guess it must be that 12" rim and rosewood tone ring.
As others have noted your craftsmanship is exquisite and I particularly like the shooting star placed exactly at the sweetest point on the banjo. #08145 is spectacular in every way.
Thank you Jason.
- Jim McConnan.
I am the person who bought the 10" A-scale banjo with the polar bear inlay. I received it yesterday and could not be more pleased. It is absolutely beautiful, has a great sound, and the action is excellent. Thank you very much for making such a nice banjo, it will be enjoyed by me for many years.
- Dan Oliver
The banjo uke made the journey in perfect condition - nice packing!
It tuned up like a dream and the sound is exactly the warm tone I was looking for. The instrument is a work of art - beautiful inlay and workmanship. I've been playing it all this morning - nothing else will get done today. It has been a great joy to work with you creating the uke.
All the best,
...the banjo arrived last Wednesday pm at the depot in York. I picked it up Thursday morning and sailed to Ostend Belgium pm the same day. I took it with and have not put it down all weekend. I arrived back today Monday pm and have just opened my Emails. The Banjo arrived safe and well. It is all that I asked for and more besides the banjo in itself it is a work of art, and I practically like the copper with the inlays and that combination of the tone woods.
I love the head stock, from a distance the inlay in the headstock looks like a winged elf, with my love for Tolkien this is an added bonus. The colour variation in the claro walnut neck is exactly what I wanted, the walnut pot with the gold hardware sets the whole thing off. I was and am more than happy.
Then I tuned it up and played it WOW. Played soft it stops you in your tracks. Played out, the tone is amazing and each time that I put it into a different tuning my wife looses me for 2 or 3 more hours. I just can't put it down I will be giving it it's first outing with the Saggy Bottom Boys on Wednesday this week, I can't wait to see their faces. I will keep you posted. and thank you Jason it is one very special banjo.
- John Yeaman
True to form, you have created another masterpiece in my latest banjo. The perfect mix of craftsmanship and artistry. I love the A-scale, and the combination of 12" pot and calfskin head results in a sound that is mellow and plunky, yet sustains a note. You were right about the 12" pot helping to add more bass, and projecting the sound. This really enhances playing in the stringband setting or in a jam where the sound can be overpowered. At the same time, when played alone, it can be sharp as a razor... or soft as a prayer.
- Jerry James
This banjo is exquisite. From the moment I opened up the box and the new case, which was a THRILLING moment, I was struck by how much more artistry had gone into it than I could have imagined. I love the custom tailpiece and L-shoes, the wood combinations, the inlay, and most important, the tone--so rich and deep and clear. The tuning pegs are exact, the weight is nice and solid but not too heavy at all, the length of the neck is perfect. I can't keep my hands off of it--am finding more moments to play during the day and in the evening than I ever thought I had. Also, it was a pleasure working with you to design this banjo. You always seemed to have the time to answer my questions and listen to my concerns, and had great patience throughout the whole planning process. You always made it seem like anything was possible, and yet you also stuck to a value of simplicity and elegance, and helped in the end to arrive at what I feel is a perfect banjo for me. At first, when I saw such a personal symbol, the hand with the altar in it, right out there on the peghead, I felt kind of shy about it and worried that it wasn't "traditional" enough. (When I saw it in the photos). Then, when the banjo was in my hands, I felt what a true gift it was to have such personal symbols on this instrument that I play every day and will treasure for the rest of my life.
Jason, you are doing some very unique and wonderful work, and I wish you the best as you continue this work. I will look regularly at your website to see what other miraculous creations are coming out of June Apple Workshop, and I look forward to visiting again next time we are in Arcata. Thank you for everything!
Tardy me -- I've been meaning to write to you since well before the Old-Time Gathering and tell you how much I like my new banjo. The short version is, "I couldn't imagine being more pleased." The longer version... first, the construction and aesthetics expressed in the instrument are absolutely first-rate. From the joinery to the finish to the inlays -- everything is as nearly perfect as a human being has any right to expect. And I greatly respect your attention to all the little subtle details -- the things you didn't have to do, but did; for me, that's the line between competence and thoughtful artistry. And of course the most important thing by far is the SOUND, which is impeccable. What's amazing to me is how well this banjo and this setup nailed the sound we talked about in the conceptual stages -- loud, but not brassy and brilliant; suited to accompanying my voice or playing ensemble in an acoustic old-time setting and balancing, but not overpowering the other instruments. I asked for clear, ringing bass with lots of sustain, usable for pedal tones when needed. And the instrument has that -- lovely, crystalline bass that sustains beautifully when I want it to. Trebles are pure and sweet, slightly complex; and the intonation is *great*, which is wonderful for those rare times when I play up the neck. So maybe I just got lucky and asked for the sound you always build anyway; but I rather think that the combination of woods, setup, head choice, bridge and doubtless a few other things are what make this instrument sound so good. The mechanics of the instrument are also great -- the neck suits my hand perfectly, and I really like the oil finish. Everything fits and everything just works; the setup is perfect. And I am really liking the "all-wood" rim construction; I had a little concern that it would prove to be less comfortable than instruments with metal hoops but that has not proved to be the case.
So, many thanks again for the wonderful instrument -- it's turned a few heads up here already.
Got the banjo this afternoon....the old hen is cluckin, the chicken is definitely real, and Sally Ann is a happy girl. Thank you so much for your artistry and getting such a rich sound out of the wood!
I contacted you some time ago about the A-Scale you had on hand but instead found a fretless at the Music Emporium, since then I have picked up a used Regal. I wanted to complement you on your fine instruments, after being a player for 30 years it is nice to encounter a builder that captures the entire melodic range on an artistically beautiful instrument.
Thank you for your precision and attention to detail. Your banjos are a true pleasure.
.....the custom fretless from the Music Emporium arrived last week. I could not put it down, and like any finely tuned instrument the more it was played the better it sounded. The walnut banjo is more than just any instrument, its lines flow smoothly to the headstock in its brilliant simplicity. Every part functions to its greatest capacity, taking natures own to form a musical and artistic masterpiece, one to cherish for generations. Some time in the future, hopefully, I can add a blackberry blossom to my collection.
Thanks again, Regards.
The "ARCHTOP" arrived safe and sound today. It is truly a "MASTERPIECE". It is exactly like the "MORNING GLORY" and the "SUN BOLT" that I have, they all are absolutely wonderfully-built instruments. I love it, the setup is perfect, and just like the other two, each one has it's own unique voice. The quality of the tone just blows me away, and mega-power if you want it. I continue to be impressed more and more every different setting you use these banjos in. They never let you down. Thanks again for me getting this banjo. I hope to one day meet the best banjo luthier in the "Universe".
I just thought I would drop you a line and tell you how excellent my new banjo is. I am extremely happy with everything about it from the craftsmanship to the incredible sound. It has been a pleasure to play from the minute I took it out of the box. It has the most incredible sustain that almost allows you to accompany yourself, I don't know how to describe it other than that, but it has added another dimension to my playing. I will recommend your instruments to anyone I know looking for a new, one-of-a-kind banjo.
Thanks again for all your hard work and efforts, it really shows.
Having now had this new banjo in my hands for not quite a week I was keen to get back to you and reemphasize my feelings about the whole process. I must admit I was virtually in shock by the time it got here from worrying about it getting here intact.
Firstly, let me say what a pleasure it has been communicating with you on the project. When I decided last year to go with you I had no idea what I wanted other than a wood tonering reso banjo that would sound good for bluegrass style picking. When it came time to make the final selections of wood, engraving, detailing, etc., it came together so well, and you made the whole thing a reality with no fuss.
I had every confidence in your workmanship, both from your website presentation, and also, more importantly, from talking to several of your other customers who were obviously ecstatic with the instruments you built them. It was something of a gamble to go to the wood tonering concept for a bluegrass model, even though I was initially inspired by having played a Deering Deluxe that was kitted out with their John Hartford tone ring. I had even less idea whether your ideas and methods would translate into the same direction of tone and sound as what I was looking for in a "Bluegrass" banjo. Your website sound bytes helped, plus did your customers I spoke to. Glowing in praise, they were nevertheless open back buyers, not reso, but they were unanimous in the opinion that one of your reso, wood tonerimg banjos would sound great, with plenty of volume.
They were, of course 100% right and I am so glad I went ahead with you.
The photos you sent me of the finished banjo were stunning but nothing compared to the reality of what I saw when I opened that case. The inlays are perfect and they sparkle and glow. The combination of the Cocobolo fingerboard, head stock veneeer and armrest against the Santos mahogany are perfect and the combination of the Gold and chrome plating look excellent. I have inspected all over the instrument and not only would I describe your workmanship as perfect, I keep finding little finishing details in your wood work like those flutes carved under the neck by the 5th string tuner, plus by the heel, that make this instrument say,"Built by a Master". And then, take off the resonator and there is that trademark turned rod cover sheathing the rod. And you never even see under here on a resonator banjo unless you take the back off!!
The tung oil finish seems good. It certainly has a nice feel. As you know I had some doubts about this due to my background in surface coatings, but a little research into the polymerised versus raw, plus your confidence in the suitability of it was a factor in this aspect.
The cocobolo armrest is a great success, isn't it? You did very well indeed Jason, even on this detail. It has just enough mass to be sturdy, but still looks streamlined and not at all obtrusive. Plus it is very, very comfortable.
This banjo has great playability. The neck is quite generous in its dimensions yet is not "chunky." You have set it up perfectly. I replaced the strings with the lighter gauge that I am used to and it immediately felt more familiar. As I mentioned, I have mostly been playing the Nechville Meteor of late and going back to the fatter bodied acoustic is somewhat of an adjustment, but I love this Romero so much, that's not going to be a problem.
The sound is certainly something of a revelation. It has the popping, pealing sound that you would expect from a good bluegrass banjo without the tinniness that a metal toneringed banjo can sometimes impart. The quality of the woods, the fit of the componentry (and even, I believe the wood armrest) all contribute to this of course. The renaissance head sounds great, too. I have no intention of changing that.
What has surprised me the most is the volume. This banjo is loud, if need be, and I mean loud. I am not a hard picker by any means but I can crank on this banjo. We had a band practise last week and I played both the Romero and my old Jap Washburn archtop (which is a very loud banjo) as a comparison, and my fellow band members pronounced the Romero to be every bit as loud, plus, of course they liked the tone a lot better. My daughter also plays banjo and I have been able to stand back and enjoy the sound of it when she plays. Only thing is I will have trouble keeping it out of her hands!
From a players point of view the tone is interesting. Clear, exceedingly clear, with hints of overtones that are not masterclone like. Hard to describe them. The banjo sounds fantastic both up and down the neck, as well as when played hard or soft. I especially love the sound of that low D string. Overall the sound is exquisite and should only improve as the instrument ages.
I could go on.
Jason you have done a fabulous job on this project and I am much more than satisfied. It is my priviledge to own one of your instruments, and I expect it to last a lifetime.
Banjo # 0547
I just wanted to drop you a line to tell you how much I enjoy the spruce top banjo you built for me. It is a very beautiful instrument and I love the look as well as the sound of it. I have shown it to quite a few people and had some play it and they were all impressed. I really like the different sound. It can sound like a mountain dulcimer, a harp or even like the wind blowing through the trees.
It is really neat that you have the pictures on your website and I especially like the two sound tracks from my instrument. I’m glad to be able to hear what a real banjo player can do with it. I have had a couple folks that play banjo professionally try it out and they both thought it is really cool and were impressed with your woodworking talents.
Thank you again for your efforts. I am extremely happy with the instrument and very much enjoy playing it.
I received the “Krazy Kat” banjo about a month ago now, and I wanted to wait a little while, live with the banjo a bit, before I gave you my verdict. I initially contacted you with a strange idea, to have a banjo built out of submerged wood with an inlay based on the cartoon Krazy Kat. I told you my ideas about this and you translated my ideas into wood, walrus tusk, gold, mother of pearl and a host of other materials. The end result was much, much more amazing than I could have imagined. You got the cartoons and the cartoonish nature of the banjo perfectly. The banjo is a work of art with exquisite lamination, inlays, color shape and heft. It’s the best construction I’ve seen up close, the only banjos I’ve seen photographs of that approximate this sort of workmanship are Enoch, Flesher, and Ode. But there’s a creativity here that’s really unique to you, no one else can touch it.Playibility is excellent, it has one of the two most comfortable necks I’ve ever played. It also has great balance, and due to the wooden tone ring it’s much lighter than my Deering.Now sound! I had no idea how a wood tone ring banjo would sound for bluegrass. First off I don’t think anyone would guess this was a wood tone ring banjo if I didn’t tell them. It’s loud and can be hear over the banjo killers. But it’s not a paint peeler. Nor does it sound like a prewar wanna be. The Krazy Kat has a rich sound with scads of bass and great clarity up the neck. Maybe that’s the best way to get at the sound. As opposed to a bronze tone ring banjo there are no breaks in the sound. You can play it very quietly and you get a very similar sound to playing it very loud. If you play on the 22nd fret the sound it is like a higher pitched version of playing on the 1st fret. The sound itself has a lot of different overtones but its very, very coherent – fundamentals and overtones are united together in a way that it all comes through. It’s a very “organic” sound. And it sounds great for bluegrass.As you might expect it’s extremely responsive as well, actually the most linearly responsive banjo I’ve played. I hope I’ve conveyed why I’m so impressed. It doesn’t feel like a tool it feels like a living thing, and it’s a rare craftsman and artist who can make such an extraordinary instrument.
My new Romero "Torch" just arrived in the mail .... I'm astounded by the quality and attention to detail that is evident in this instrument. I've gone through lots of banjos and this one is a keeper. It's right up there at the top with my Ome Columbine, which says a lot I think.
When I opened the case I was impressed with the look of the banjo. You've let the wood grain speak for itself and the inlay flows with the patterns of the wood. Then I played it. The low end is bold and full, the high end is bright without being harsh, and the overall sound is a warm honey sweetness that isn't afraid to linger. The banjo is bell-like in its sustain and roundness of tone. The profile of the neck is graceful and avoids that "clubby" feel that so many open-back builders seem to be going for. This allows for speed and accuracy with triplets and chord shapes up the neck, with minimal energy expended.
I've played every current small builder's banjo available. The "Torch" is far and above anything being offered by the small builders. The finish, the neck feel, and profile, the overall playability and tone all add up to one thing: banjo perfection.
My apologies for such a gushy email. I'm not prone to these outbursts of emotion, but your banjo has inspired me to go ga-ga. Thank you for taking such obvious pride in your work, and for providing an open-back banjo that is trying to do something a little different. In a sea of turn-of-the-century clones and mediocre copies, you've produced an instrument that takes the open-back banjo to new heights...
From a New Romero Banjo Devotee
I am speechless.....the instrument (that I received just hours before I left for Wintergrass:) that you made me surpasses my every expectation. The fit and finish and attention to detail are more than just impressive...they approach fanatical! The small groove under the 5th string tuner, and the delicate grooving above the heel (that I first noticed tactilely as I played, and then visually observed upon closer inspection)....the shaping and etching of the dowel, the multi-layered intricately carved peghead, and of course the amazing inlay work on the top AND bottom of the neck, heel and pot of the banjo....one might say some of these efforts represented unnecessary work hours but the class they add to the finished product is immeasurable. The grain on the fingerboard is killer...it is almost hypnotizing to look at....I could just go on and on but I think you get the idea of how much I appreciate the work you did.....Of course looks don't mean that much if the sound one is looking for is not there....Since I am a clawhammer beginner I had several excellent (and critical) musicians play this instrument at Wintergrass Jason. To a person they were very very impressed. A music shop owner in Missoula, Montana I believe who always has a shop at Wintergrass, was gushing about this instrument with regard to both the sound and workmanship. Several players also mentioned that they liked the deeper pot that you use as well. Even I can achieve a whole range of tonal colors from this instrument, from bright and loud to woody rounded notes that bring amazing warmth to more delicate songs....and I am just getting started. The sounds coming from this banjo as I listened to really skilled people play it were amazing...in the hands of my friend who plays rather hard this banjo was as loud as other banjos with metal tone rings.....and in the hands of others who played less aggressive styles it sounded as deep-bodied, sweet and pure as I could ever hope.....this provides me with even more desire to learn to play this instrument really well.....The last installment of what I owe you is in the mail with a little extra so you can relax with a few beers that I wish I could be there to buy you myself!! Thanks again Jason....I will be aggressively promoting your wares whenever I find someone interested in purchasing a fine banjo.....hopefully one day I will get to meet you and shake your hand.