A mandolin-banjo that almost sounds good
Gibson MB-3

© Frank Ford, 1999; Photos by FF

Here's my nomination for the all time best mandolin-banjo. It's a Gibson MB-3 from 1923. It has the best combination of tone and playability, in my opinion. The neck is much longer than the average mandolin-banjo because the head is only nine inches in diameter. The small head diameter means it's naturally predisposed to provide good high register notes. It has a 1/2" diameter tubular brass tone ring, which you can see in "inside" photo. With a nice, tight skin head, this mandolin-banjo has a resonant, clear, percussive tone, with a good balance.

These early Gibson banjos had a wooden cover that sealed the back of the shell. To increase volume, you'd simply clip the trap door open, so the sound could get out the back and around out front.

Look below at the way the hooks are attached to the shell. Instead of being held by individual "shoes" bolted through to the inside, the tension is held by a structural tube fitted below a turned ridge on the outside of the shell.

This particular instrument is fitted with all the factory accessories, including an armrest and a ivoroid fingerrest.

Please click the small image

The trap door banjos have a relatively shallow peghead angle.

The tailpiece simply clips onto the tension hoop.

Back to Museum Main Page

Back to Index Page