Customers of the Deering Banjo Co. have long been clamoring for an affordable banjo-ukulele that is a healthy step up from the usual entry-level fare. Those folks can now rest easy: By popular demand, the renowned banjo maker has unleashed the Goodtime Banjo-ukulele.
For the most part, the new American-made, concert-scale instrument features the same high-quality woods and construction for which Deering is known, at a price point that won’t break the bank. It boasts an 11-inch, violin-grade maple rim, three-piece rock maple neck inlaid with walnut position markers, and the company’s patented floating bridge and bridge plate. It also makes use of Deering’s “quiet metal” technology for the tailpiece and coordinator rod—no small consideration when trying to maintain the ukulele’s traditional warmth.
As you might expect, the open-back Goodtime Banjo-ukulele shines brightest when fingerpicked. The instrument is impressively well balanced and displays excellent projection, particularly when engaging in single-string runs or chord-melody configurations. In general, it rewards a lighter touch; aggressive strumming is not its forte. The floating bridge and bridge plate design help to round off the sound and boost sustain. The standard guitar-sized frets leave ample room to maneuver smoothly up and down the neck, although articulation seems to suffer a bit the higher you go.
This banjo uke uses sealed guitar-style tuners, which are helpful for those who are predisposed to alternate tunings. That said, it isn’t particularly easy to keep in tune, but, hey, it wouldn’t be a banjo otherwise. The extended fingerboard, with a 1 3/8-inch nut width, floats over the head and offers access to 17 frets. Weighing in at about three pounds and at less than 24 inches long, the banjo uke feels substantial, yet is easy to take with you wherever you might be headed. Though the instrument is well-crafted throughout, and the fretwork appears solid, the nut could use a little work. Only two of the four strings seem to sit comfortably in the nut, which has edges sharp enough to open your mail. Nothing major, but certainly not ideal.
Still, if you’re looking for a blend of zippy banjo tone with ukulele sweetness, this will definitely fit the bill.
Though it may fall just shy of “professional-grade” status, the Goodtime Banjo-uke is a boon to any uke players looking to expand their sonic palette—and, of course, loads of fun.
Goodtime Banjo-ukulele by Deering
- Concert scale (about 15 inches)
- Three-ply, 11-inch violin-grade maple rim
- 11-inch Remo Renaissance head
- Three-piece rock maple neck
- 17 frets; 16 hooks
- Aquila Super Nylgut Strings
- Sealed guitar-style tuners
- $499 list; $399 street
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of Ukulele magazine.