Adding To The Flock

Gretsch Clarophone AdI got a new banjolele. WooHoo!  It’s a fairly new product, a Gretsch G9740 “Clarophone”.  It came Monday, I’ve got a only few hours playing on it, not as much as I wanted, but some previous appointments, tendonitus and few days sick ate up my time.  Anyway, now I have time and I am feeling great.

I’ve wanted a banjolele for a little while. I’d been researching them and was it kind of a toss up between this one, the Luna 8″ Banjo Uke and the Eddy Finn EF-BU2.  Now, I have never seen any in person nor played one.  The local music shops around here don’t carry them.  So I read about them on forums or reviews on the vendor websites.

Searching YouTube I saw this video and it has the sound I wanted and Ed Roland was playing it the way I try to play (or want to play). I sounded good with Ed playing it.

So the search went on, until last week. This Clarophone, as I will new henceforth ever refer to it, is a neat little banjolele.  I bought the Clarotone from Amazon.  The price was what everyone else was asking, and the shipping was free.  I liked the looks and I liked the fact it was a Gretsch.

The Clarophone… It’s an 8″ concert size old timey inspired banjolele.  The sound is kind of old sound, I gretschheadstockguess that from the uke strings on it.  The sound is not particularly bright. It can get loud, especially if you use a pick and hammer away with it.  Factory action is not bad and with a movable bridge, intonation is not an issue.

I do have a problem with the factory strings.  The high G is a little over weighted compared to the CEA gretschheadsidestrings. So when you strum, you hear this high string pinging just a little over the top.  So sooner or later I need to find the right set. Here’s my take on the problem:  The Clarotone is concert scale, but being long at 15 1/2″, the strings are tense and I think that make that G ping like it does.  I’m leaving the factory strings on for a little while. I have two tenors sitting that has the same but much worse G problem, caused by my obsessive need to change strings on everything.

It’s stained an old looking orange color, perhaps a bit too orange. The finish is matte. It’s got a nice looking gretschfretsdotsRemo 8″ FiberSkyn head, and the nickel hardware looks real old time.  The neck is U shaped and slippery enough, frets are jumbo and the woodwork is maple.  Amber fret dots really look cool. The back is a maple disk with a little space between it and the drum, that helps the sound get out.

Tuners are friction and were a little loose out of the box. An application of the included banjo wrench/screwdriver tightened the tuners up nicely.  Tuning is interesting with friction tuners as a little gretschdrumbridgeturn goes a long way. I hope the strings are still stretching as I have to tune it every time I pick it up. It sounds really lousy if not in tune; in tune – it sounds great. Like it was 1922 again.

It does not come with a case.  There is an optional gig bag, but I do not like gig bags. For now I’ll use a gretschbottombanjo case I have. Later, I’ll find me a proper banjolele case. I wish they had a nice tweed or tolex case with Clarotone or Gretsch splashed across the side.

Would I recommend the Clarophone? Maybe.  I think it’s possibly the same as the Luna with different trimmings.  I’d love to try an Eddy Finn or a Gold Tone, but I don’t know where I could try one. I like to play old time music strum-style.  The Clarophone sounds great for that.  Just fix that G problem and get a proper case and I’ll be set.


5 thoughts on “Adding To The Flock

  1. Great review! I sure hope different strings solve that G string problem. I agree- padded gig bags just aren’t the same as a nice hard case. I’ve been yearning for a banjolele, too… (Might you bring your Clarophone to the uke group?)

  2. Nice review!!!!

    I just bought one and I’m waitin for delivery. I wanted to buy a hard case but needed to know the exact lenght. would you be so kind to tell it to me? I think it must be around 23″ but needed to be sure..

  3. I’m really enjoying the theme/design of your
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    • Not seen any probs. with Chrome, IE or Safari. Small font diffs, etc.

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