Interview with Marcy Marxer - Cello Banjo Pioneer (cont.)


Marcy Marxer Article page 2                      

Interview with Marcy Marxer - Cello Banjo Pioneer - Page 2   (back to page 1)
How do the new Gold Tone cello banjos compare to your old Gibson?

“The Gold Tone pot is more like the old Clifford Essex pots. The Gibson pots were hollow - two thin rims with spacers delicately placed in between. The Gibson is wonderful; it doesn’t weigh very much. But Wayne’s design is very sturdy and it really makes no difference in the sound. These banjos sound almost identical.

What are some of the differences?

On Wayne’s banjo, the frets are bigger; so things like triplets speak, whereas they don’t speak on the Gibson. Chords are kind of muddy on the Gibson because the frets are tiny. I still love the tone of the Gibson - I love that banjo. But the Gold Tone is a much more practical instrument for me. It really does more: it chords better, the sound is just great and it’s very comfortable.”

“I also like the nylon strings on Gold Tone; I think they really work. Still, people will experiment; they may tune them differently or do other things with them, and that’s their choice. I like the nylon sound. I’ve tried metal strings on them, but I really prefer the nylon. But that’s a personal preference.”

How’s the neck on the Gold Tone?

“I was very surprised at how comfortable it was. It really feels the same as playing the old banjo except the neck on the Gold Tone is a little bit narrower, front to back, so it feels a little more comfortable.”

What’s the difference between playing a cello banjo and an Irish bouzouki or tenor banjo?

“I think the biggest challenge for musicians - like tenor banjo players who will gravitate to this banjo - is the right hand, which requires a slightly different touch. It’s a bit like an acoustic guitar player switching to electric. The strings are much lighter, so the touch is very different with the right hand. The left hand feels like a big mandolin or a bouzouki, bigger than a tenor banjo.”

What’s your opinion about the gold plating option on these banjos?

“It’s beautiful. When they first asked me about the gold, I said I didn’t care. I said, ‘just make whatever you want to make, I’m fine with nickle.’ Then they sent me a gold one and I said, ‘ok, that’s why they wanted to do this. It’s beautiful!’ They actually look fabulous.”

Marcy thanks so much for rounding out the perspective on these wonderful instruments. Is there anything else you can think to add?

“I’d like to express my appreciation about Gold Tone. They have been so great to work with. I have to tell you, they’ve treated me great from the very first second and it’s so wonderful to meet with such enthusiasm from that company. I had approached other banjo makers and no one was interested in making a banjo that big. The folks at Gold Tone were so excited and they’ve done a beautiful job. I couldn’t be happier.”

And so, the banjo cello is once again alive and well - opening doors for creative musical possibilities. It will be fun to hear what music people come up as this somewhat mysterious instrument from antiquity wakes up, yawns, dusts off the cobwebs, and calls forth with its deep, warm, pleasing voice.

the end



Paul RobertsPaul Roberts is a multi-instrumentalist, performer, composer, writer, music therapist
and arts-in-education specialist, whose articles and interviews are featured on and the Blog at

all articles ©2008 by Paul Roberts all rights reserved



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Marcy Marxer - Banjo Marcy Marxer , Cello Banjo

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