The Best Deering Goodtime Banjo Models Big Review

Banjos might not be the most popular musical instruments on planet Earth, but they do have their loyal fan bases all across the world. Furthermore, the 21st century saw a significant rise in demand, even though most critics used to say that banjos belonged to the 20th century and had no place in the modern-day musical world.

Today we’ll talk about Deering Goodtime, one of the most respected and loved series to ever see the light of day. This company – Deering – has been around for more than 4 decades: it was founded back in 1975 in California and is known as one of the leaders in the industry. True, it’s not nearly as famous as, say, Fender, simply because banjos are not guitars.

ModelRatingWeightRim diameterOur topCheck
1Deering Goodtime 5-string banjo 4lbs12 inches1 Check

Deering Goodtime 5-string banjo
Rim diameter12 inches
Our top1
Check Check

At the same time, if this is your favorite instrument and your dad/granddad taught you how to appreciate a truly American instrument (banjos were introduced to the world by the black communities in the States), then the Deering Goodtime banjo will, without a doubt, be on top of your list of must-haves. Let me tell you right from the start that for a beginner, this bad-boy is exactly what the doc ordered. It is user-friendly, intuitive, easy to play, easy to master, and quite affordable. What else is there to wish for, right? In this review, we’ll focus on the original DG banjo but also talk about the other famous models in the series (including the award-winning Deering Classic Goodtime Special banjos) so that you can get a full picture in your head.

One Of The Best Banjos For The Beginners

Again, this is one of the most respected households when it comes to banjos. They position themselves as the manufacturers of high-quality instruments. At first, Deering was just another tiny office somewhere in Cali. But today, the Goodtime series is the most popular one – has been for nearly 20 years.

As for the Deering Goodtime 5-string banjo, it’s their “golden pony” and will be perfect for a beginner. It’s worth mentioning that while this is, without a doubt, an entry-level instrument, it is on par with the more expensive models, even with the lack of some fancy treats and features. They used top-notch materials; build quality is worth a round of applause.

Without getting too technical, let me just say real quick that the Goodtime family comes with a 3-ply shell made from high-quality maple, which allows it to generate incredibly beautiful tones. And despite the fact that you might not appreciate this right from the start, the metal coordinator rod inside the instrument still lets you fine-tune it to fit your genre, playing style, and personal preferences.

Easy to play
Thanks to unique Goodtime design, it is easy to replace the strings.
No case or gig bag; must purchase separately.

Usually, the banjos in this price range feature 1-piece bridges. But that’s not the case with this fine instrument: it’s got an ebony top and a maple bass. Furthermore, you’ll be pleased to learn that thanks to a unique Goodtime design, it’s incredibly easy to replace the strings.

Getting To Know The Deering Goodtime Banjo Better

See the nut right under the tailpiece? Loosen it up a bit to work on the string tension. Increase it, and you’ll get a snappy, bright sound, full of attack. Decrease it if you’re going for that warm, calming sound. With 22 frets and 9 fingerboard inlays, this instrument is very smooth, flexible, and “attractive” – you just want to play it as soon as you enter the room. This Deering Goodtime open-back banjo comes with geared tuners, which makes it so much easier to fine-tune it (plus, it stays in tune longer than most rivals). While the four main tuners sit on the headstock like on a guitar, the fifth one sticks out from the side of the fretboard.

If you’d like some spikes and/or a capo to make life easier, you’ll have to spend some additional dollars on them (don’t worry, that stuff is cheap). The thing is – when you hook the 5th string under a solid spike, that allows you to transpose it right there and then. With that setup, it’s much easier and more enjoyable to jam in the keys of B, C, and A. By the way, if you’re an experienced guitar player who loves the Open G tuning and can’t imagine life without sliding, you’ll be happy to learn that the transition will be pretty smooth. Tunings are almost the same. As a “backup” instrument for some inspiration, the Deering Goodtime will be practically ideal.

How Does The Instrument Sound In Real Life?

Ok, we’re down to the meat and potatoes, dear friends! First of all, let me say that it feels absolutely amazing when you hold the Goodtime Banjo in your hands. The neck is perfectly shaped: it’s smooth, fast, and looks like a million bucks. This model is great for the old-school genres of music. What you need to understand is that this banjo is all about that big, open, all-conquering sound, even though it is open-back. Sometimes, it’s hard to make a banjo cut through all the other instruments, especially the drums, but that is not the case with this baby. The tone is nice and even, with enough “sweetness” and “bite” to suit a huge range of styles.

As far as banjos go, the sound of this model is surprisingly warm. And while you might get a better tone on the more expensive options, there’s no denying the fact that Deering Goodtime is capable of achieving great things, especially when you know what you’re doing with it. The bottom line is – you won’t feel like you wasted your money on this instrument. It will serve you for many years, and you won’t outgrow it after a year or two. For a traveling musician, the fact that it’s light, open-back, comes with a lovely sound and is easy to play, turns it into a must-have. For 550 dollars, this is probably the best bang for your buck.

What’s The Difference Between Deering Goodtime Banjo One And Two?

Deering Goodtime Banjo One

The shorter answer is this: DR Banjo Two comes with a resonator, while the original instrument is open-back. Many beginners think that it’s easier to start out with an open-back and then gradually move to the “elder brother” with a resonator, but that’s not really how this works. It all depends on what is it exactly that you want to play. Say, for bluegrass, a resonator is a must. For that classic banjo sound, Banjo One is the way to go.

Lightweight at 4 pounds
Top-notch materials used
Unconventional wooden inlays combine visibility and style
No truss rod, so the neck is not adjustable

For frailing and jamming on the road the much lighter and sturdier DR Banjo One is also the best choice. Deering Goodtime 2, in turn, is a bit bigger and has a more full, open, warm and rich sound. How is that achieved? The resonator sends the notes you play forward (as opposed to the open-back scenario when the sound is being sent backwards). The so-called 3-finger picking style that is at the heart of Bluegrass is ideal to practice on the Deering Goodtime 2 banjo.

Deering Goodtime Banjo Two

And despite the difference in weight, this instrument is still awesome for taking with you on the road. Apart from what I just mentioned, these two models are identical. Deering Banjo Goodtime 2 will cost you 760 dollars, though; so, make sure you’re happy with saying goodbye to additional 210 bucks for the resonator!

To make everything clearer for you, I want to say that both instruments are made from the same exact materials. Furthermore, even though I did just claim that DR Two is netter for Bluegrass, you’ll still be able to play it on DR One. For the beginners, either model will be just fine. Still, for frailing, One is best, while for fingerpicking, Two prevails. Alright, that’s pretty much it for the Deering Goodtime 2 review.

It is still awesome for taking with you on the road
Top-notch materials used
Well-defined tone by adding a resonator to the already solid Goodtime sound
Does not have a tone ring, which would be beneficial to its tone
Two models are identical. Say goodbye to additional 210 bucks for the resonator

Checking Out Other Banjos From Deering Goodtime

If you go to the official website, you’ll see that there are enough banjos to choose from, and while they’re basically the same instrument, they do have their unique features. For example, the Deering Goodtime Classic open back banjo comes with the company’s trademark tone ring which makes it sound bigger, brighter, and with more “kick.” They will charge you 900 dollars for that. If you love the original sound but still want more power and a resonator for the Bluegrass flavor, go with the Deering Classic Goodtime Special – you won’t be disappointed! It will cost you $1060, but for that amazing tone, this is more than a fair deal.

According to the official numbers, the Deering Goodtime Special Classic is one of the most popular instruments among intermediate players, as it gives them more “umph” that’s vital during live performances. Can’t imagine your life without some big, fat, round bass? Then make sure to check out the Deering Goodtime Americana model. Thanks to the wider rim (12”), you’ll get a much stronger bass response. This is great for creating just the right creative atmosphere and for more bass-heavy styles. The price-tag is affordable: $650. It comes with a rock maple neck, hardwood inlays, and more top-class features.

What Else Does The Company Have To Offer?

The fans of high-pitched instruments will definitely fall in love with the Deering Goodtime Tenor banjo. It’s available in four configurations:

  • 17-fret One;
  • 19-fret One;
  • 17-fret Two;
  • 19 fret-Two.

The price-tags are the same as on the original models: 550 and 760 dollars respectively. The company’s line-up offers 6-string banjos, a banjo that is perfect for the little ones, and even a fretless model. By the way, Goodtime also makes great banjo ukuleles for that classic American sound. AKA a banjolele, this instrument is incredibly easy to play: just strum a couple of chords and let the music take you away!

As you can see, there’s enough to choose from. Even if you’re on a budget, try to find a Deering Goodtime banjo for sale and enjoy the incredible level of finesse that these guys are internationally known for. Once you master it, feel free to move on and purchase something more professional. However, as mentioned in the beginning, these instruments last for decades (the official warranty is 6 years). Summing up, I want to say that you won’t go wrong with any of the available instruments from Deering Goodtime, but the classic banjo is the most affordable and popular one, and that makes it a safe pick.

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