Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Ome “Celtic” Tenor Banjo

My ongoing Banjo Acquisition Obsession has been at least been temporarily nullified with the recent acquisition of a left-handed Ome tenor banjo! Mine is an 11” openback with a rolled brass tonering and Ome’s “Celtic” inlay design. The neck and rim are made of claro walnut with a handrubbed finish. It has 19-frets and a scale length just over 22”. The Ome tenor has a Sweetone tailpiece and Renaissance head, wooden armrest, double coordinator rods, amber colored tuners and aged brass hardware. I use the Irish tuning of GDAE - one octave lower than a mandolin.  A new Bart Veerman bridge is on order.

I chose openback over resonator. I prefer the lighter weight of an openback and the way it sits in the lap. I also like how openbacks look and sound, and don’t have a need for any extra volume that a resonator might offer. I chose the 11” rim (as opposed to a 12” rim) for a more focused sound and also out of a concern that a 12” might be less comfortable and place the bridge in a somewhat unusual position. Since 95% of my playing is done at home for my own enjoyment, I basically wanted a banjo that I would always want to play and never want to put down. The headstock design is fancier than I might have selected had that been an option, but I think I can get used to those classic contours.

Tanya at Ome strongly recommended their rolled brass tonering instead of something with a more “metallic” sound even though I do a lot of Irish playing. I trusted her Ome expertise and went with that suggestion. I am pleased with the choice as the banjo has plenty of volume and sustain as it is. I wouldn’t want anything louder or brighter.

The 19-fret neck and 22.125” scale length is an interesting combination. In the past I have experienced some shoulder pain from playing a resonator tenor with a 23” scale, but that has not been an issue thanks to the ergonomics of this Ome. The 19-fret neck does probably give it a more nuanced, cleaner tone than a 17-fret banjo. I also find triplets to be easier on a 19-fret neck than on a 17-fretter, so that is a plus, and the Ome's neck is not chunky; another plus.

In an increasingly crowded market of high-end banjos, I'm glad I chose Ome - which are hand made in Boulder, Colorado (since 1960).  I cannot think of any other banjo that would have been a better choice for me!  Order yours today!  Hastily recorded one-take sound samples below.  Cheers.


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