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My Response to the Acoustic Magazine review of the Islander

Last week, here at Brighton Banjos, we got a first look at the review of the Islander Banjo in Acoustic Magazine. It was written by Leon Hunt, who I really respect and admire.

Below you can see images that link to the review.

I felt that Leon raised some interesting points which I wanted to answer, so I’ve written a response to the magazine which you can read below the review.

What do you think?

The Review

Click the image to enlarge

Click the image to enlarge

Click the image to enlarge

Click the image to enlarge

And my response:

As builder and designer of the islander banjo, I’m really pleased acoustic took the time to review the banjo in issue 75. I’m especially pleased it was reviewed by our own Leon Hunt whose playing and teaching I’ve enjoyed and benefited from over many years.There are a few points I would challenge. Leon mentions this is “a proper British banjo, as quirky and different from its American counterparts as British banjos ever were.” It is a British banjo but the parts he points to as quirky i.e. wooden dowel stick, carbon truss rod and block rim are all alive and well-tested among American open back builders and players. The block rim is slightly more unusual but not that hard to find. In fact, Bluegrass banjo builder Geoff Stelling has used block rims exclusively on all his banjos since 76.As pointed out this banjo is aimed squarely at the old time player. It won’t suit everyone. I think it needs mentioning that Gibson patents (as much as I personally love them) don’t have that much influence over the old time banjo design. Their banjos tend to be far more influenced by the likes of Vega, Bacon, Dobson etc.I’ve taken Leon’s point about the fret buzz. It certainly shouldn’t be there and I’ll be looking into how this could have happened. Rectifying this would not mean “breaking out any chisels” or fitting a lower bridge it would just need a very light fret dress. I think it was unfair to discuss warping when discussing the carbon fibre / graphite truss rod. Another builder I respect, Kevin Enoch has been using these truss rods successfully for a very long time.For the tone I was after in this banjo, there was never any question of fitting co-ordinator rods. Wooden dowel stick was the only way to go. Although early Gibson brochures suggested co-ordinator rods could be used to adjust action, this method is frowned upon in some circles today. It can often compromise the banjo’s tone. You are effectively distorting the rim into a more oval shape and disrupting the tone-ring’s fit.I very much appreciate Leon’s review and wanted to share with your readers the reasons behind the design choices I made. I’m always happy and accessible to anyone who wants to talk banjo!Roll on, buddy,Malcolm McLeod  
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