About this banjo
The new Julia Belle low banjo is a unique collaboration between Deering and banjo icon, Alison Brown. The 24-fret low tuned banjo features John Hartford’s hand drawn artwork on the fingerboard as well as design aesthetics and features customized by Alison herself. The result is an absolutely gorgeous and unique instrument that reaches across time and generations for its inspiration.
It all started with Greg and Janet Deering’s friendship with John Hartford, a friendship that began over 30 years ago when Greg worked with John to design and build his first signature Hartford Model banjo. John’s Deering low banjo was an iconic part of his sound for many years and was an inspiration for many banjo players. Alison was one of those inspired by John’s unique voice on the banjo. As a proud owner of John’s prototype Deering low banjo, a long time friend of the Hartford family, as well as a fellow San Diegan, it seemed fitting for Alison to reach out to the Deerings to collaborate on an updated version of John’s original low banjo.
The new Julia Belle Banjo is a testament not only to Alison’s friendship with John, but also to his music and his art. John actually attended art school and over the course of his life made countless sketches of the things that he loved including the riverboats which fascinated him. The Hartford family graciously gave Alison permission to peruse their personal collection of his sketches, allowing her to choose the images that spoke to her. As she poured over John’s drawings, the design concept for the new banjo took shape.
When Alison discovered John’s enigmatic sketch of a woman in a flowing dress she knew the new banjo needed to be called The Julia Belle. The mysterious, faceless lady fits perfectly on the peghead and has been brought to life with with flowing copper hair and an elegant blue dress. John’s sketch of Captain Trone, the captain of the famous Mississippi riverboat The Julia Belle Swain and the man who taught John to pilot the paddlewheeler, adorns the third fret and an inlay based on an original pattern from the now famous riverboat adorns the rear of the peghead and also frames Alison’s signature. One of John’s riverboat sketches is inlaid at the 12th fret and, at the 22nd fret, the name Julia Belle is immortalized in John’s own handwriting.
Tonally, The Julia Belle is specifically designed to shine when played in lower tunings such as E or D, though she does sound wonderful when played in standard G tuning. She is made of mahogany which brings out a beautiful warmth, and also boasts a radiused fingerboard and a brand new head design by Evans that recreates the fat, full tones of the original 5 Star heads. This head is a bit thicker than a standard head and that helps to bring out the deeper tones that Alison loves in a banjo.
“I love my banjos to sound as warm and full as possible. I think that tone tends to draw people in, particularly folks who are not that familiar with the banjo or are put off by the traditional bright, poppy bluegrass banjo sound,” Brown explains.
Underneath the head, a Deering -06- Tone Ring is fitted perfectly to the rim. The banjo is capped off with Alison’s preferred string gauges for The Julia Belle (12 14 20w 24w 12) all of which help to reveal a banjo with a brilliant tone that is complimented by an underlying depth and body that is irresistible. In a twist to John’s original banjo, Alison also opted for two extra frets with an overhanging fingerboard, giving the player two octaves and a whole new playing field!
“In my opinion, there’s nothing like a low banjo to open up a player’s creativity. The low resonance gives the banjo a solo voice that is so comfortable and inspiring to play that I find myself reaching for it often to play around the house. It’s a great tool in band settings and in the studio too, especially when you need to play in D, E or F but really want to hear the open sound of a G roll.”
Beautiful “Julia Belle” Inlay in Peghead
Alison Brown Signature Inlay in Rear of Peghead
John Hartford Inspired Pearloid Fingerboard Inlays
Radiused Ebony Fingerboard with 24 Fret Overhang
Slender Deering Neck Shape
24 Glued In Nickel Silver Frets
Adjustable Truss Rod
Deering Planetary Tuners with Black Tuner Buttons
Deering Geared 5th String Tuner with Black Tuner Buttons
5th String Capo Spikes at Frets 7 and 9
Vintage Satin Finish
Deering -06- Bell Bronze Tone Ring
Deering Premium Violin Grade 3-ply Maple Rim
Brass Notched Tension Hoop
11” Custom D’Addario Banjo Head
24 Round Hooks with Hex Nuts
One Piece Cast Zinc Flange
Nickel Plated Hardware
Deering True Tone Tailpiece
11/16” Radiused Deering Smile™ Bridge
Mahogany Back and Sides
Resonator Sides Are Specially Tapered On the Inside For Projection of Tone
Resonator Back Is Accented With Black Trim
Brown Mahogany Stained Resonator Interior
Vintage Satin Finish
Tuned to in standard E tuning (e,B,E,G#,B)
End Type: Loop
e,B,E,G#,B in standard E tuning Can easily be tuned in other tunings as well
Alison’s preferred string gauges for The Julia Belle (12 14 20w 24w 12) reveal a banjo with a brilliant tone that is complimented by an underlying depth and body that is irresistible.
Neck Width at the Nut 1 1/4″
Scale Length Nut to Bridge 26 1/4″
Resonator Diameter 13 7/8″
Rim Diameter 11″
Overall Instrument Length 38″
Weight Approximately 11.5lbs
The trust and pride we share in our product gives us the confidence to grant every owner of a Deering banjo a Lifetime Warranty ensuring the quality of our materials and workmanship.
Bonuses When You Buy From Banjo.com
FREE PROFESSIONAL SETUP
Every banjo is carefully setup before shipping saving you from the "some assembly required" hassle.
*FREE RAILROAD SPIKES
Also know as the 5th string capo, we recommend installing spikes on the 7th & 9th frets. This is a free service we include for all 5-string banjo purchases.
FREE STARTER PACK
Start pickin' the day your banjo arrives. We include: DVD, strap, tuner, and picks.
FREE EXPRESS SHIPPING
Every banjo shipped to the Continental U.S. / APO includes free USPS Priority Mail shipping.
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Prior to being shipped, we carefully inspect and test every banjo. If you have any issues with your banjo, call us and and we will help.
*We can add these as a free service when you purchase a banjo from us. When you add this banjo to your cart just select that you want the capos. What is this? When you use a standard capo on your banjo fretboard, fretting strings 1 through 4, you’ll need to capo the 5th string separately. The 5th string starts at the 5th fret. If your standard capo is on the 2nd fret, you also need to capo the 5th string two frets higher, at the 7th fret. We recommend installing railroad spike capos on frets 7 and 9 (A and B). We install them on the fretboard just under the 5th string, an idea that was developed and used by Earl Scruggs himself. We use them, and so do most of the professional players we know. When you’re playing, you don’t really notice the spikes because they’re out of the way, but they’re always there when you need them. Simply slide the 5th string under the spike. When you’re done, slide it out.