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Recording King Dirty 30s Open Back 5 String Banjo   

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The Dirty Thirties Series sits at the perfect crossroads of classic sound and historic design like the original Montgomery Ward mail order instrument...Read More

Available 10-11-2016

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Great for bluegrass and old-time music.

The Dirty Thirties Series sits at the perfect crossroads of classic sound and historic design like the original Montgomery Ward mail order instruments from the first half of the century, Dirty Thirties guitars and banjos are the ideal companion for singer-songwriters, folk stylists or traveling troubadours. The Recording King Dirty Thirties Open Back Banjo packs excellent playability and historic vibe into a retro-infused package that makes vintage style and traditional banjo sound accessible to every player. Case sold separately.

  • Multi-Ply Rim
  • Adjustable Coordinator Rod
  • Maple Neck with Adjustable 2-Way Truss Rod
  • REMO Recording King Head
  • Presto Tailpiece
  • Maple/Ebony Bridge
  • 16 Brackets
  • Ivory Tuning Key Buttons
  • Rosewood Fretboard
  • Inlaid Dot Fretboard Markers
  • Kluson-style tuners
  • Satin Finish
  • Case sold separately

Order now and get in touch with the American heritage.


Review Snapshot

by PowerReviews
Recording KingDirty 30s Open Back 5 String Banjo

(based on 2 reviews)

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Reviewed by 2 customers

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(8 of 8 customers found this review helpful)


Great for the money, but NO SET UP!

By Redneck Ron

from East Texas

About Me Experienced

Verified Buyer


  • Excellent Price
  • Good Tone
  • Solid Construction
  • Vintage Look


  • No Set Up

Best Uses

  • Around The House
  • Back Porch Plunkin'
  • String Band Jam

Comments about Recording King Dirty 30s Open Back 5 String Banjo:

Cheap banjos: You either love 'em or hate 'em. I personally love them, but then again, I enjoy working on them as much as playing almost...

First off, for the price this is an amazing banjo. I love the vintage "mail order" look of the instrument. Frets have accurate placement, and I don't feel the sharp edges that many cheaper "undressed" instruments have. I didn't think I'd care for the guitar-style tuners a whole lot, but they are actually pretty handy for switching in and out of all of the tunings you'll be using for modal and old-time tunes.

The pot is nice and deep, which I was really pleased about, and the instruments tone can be a good one if..... does a complete set-up.

I have never seen such a decent instrument so poorly set-up. No instructions, booklets or site from MF or Recording King, means you better get ready to do some work. As a banjo builder this doesn't bother me, but for those with little experience or tools, you better buckle down for a bit of work. First off, the co-ordinator rod. This is the rod that runs from the neck to the tailpiece. It was so loose as to be off by 15 degrees to the right, or so. You'll need to tighten the large rod nut up to the body, or pot, as much as possible. The small bolt beneath that connects the neck to the body will need to be snugged down as well. While working with the co-ordinator rod, keep a small nail in the rod hole to keep it from spinning. Most of the bracket shoes were loose (these are the nuts that hold the bracket hooks). Tighten those with a quick round with a phillips screwdriver. The pot itself was out of round: Measure across the body in a cross-formation (horizontally and vertically). If yours is within a millimeter or so, don't do anything. If it's as off as mine was, start either tightening or loosening the end nut inside the bottom of the pot at the tailpiece end. Once you do this, you can start tightening or loosening the tailpiece nut, outside of the pot, to reshape the body a bit.

The head was so loose that the bridge was sagging. This is a matter of choice, but you'll want the head pretty tight, so using a clock-face sequence (12, 6, 3, 9, etc.) start tightening the bracket screws a few turns at a time and get the head tight. You'll want to take a tape measure and measure from the top of the tension hoop to the bottom of the bracket shoe all the way around for eveness. The action of the instrument (the distance of the strings to the fretboard) may be adjusted by turning the co-ordinator rod with a small nail or tool. Luckilly, my neck needed no truss rod adjustment, so I was able to skip that part. Next, I noticed that the neck angle was off from the centerline of the banjo (3rd string to the the tailpiece). Speaking of the tailpiece, the "Presto" style is good looking, but the lousy "Elton" flap door that comes down to the strings buzzes sometimes while playing. Ditch the tailpiece and go with a "No Knot" clawhammer style one. The cheapest tailpiece you can buy, the "No Knot" is a classic design that I've always been able to count on. It looks better in my estimation anyhow. To fix the angle of the strings to the neck and body I cut a tiny piece of brass and wedged it between the tailpiece and the pot of the instrument opposite the angle that the strings were running off the fretboard. It straightened right up, and now I have a playable, good sounding banjo.

You'll need to research the methods above on the internet, but it isn't hard to do, just annoying that such a nice little banjo hasn't a chance without some work the minute it comes from the box, but you get what you pay for with a cheap banjo. Those with the know-how, however, will find themselves with a very playable, good sounding and solid banjo for very little money.

If I may be of assistance to anyone struggling with the set-up, I'm happy to help.

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(5 of 5 customers found this review helpful)


Solid first banjo

By rainyday

from Colorado

About Me Novice


  • Consistent
  • Good Tone
  • Strong


    Best Uses

    • Practicing

    Comments about Recording King Dirty 30s Open Back 5 String Banjo:

    I'll try to be fair and not gush, but I'm super proud to own this banjo. I am a novice player, and this is my first banjo. In terms of shipping, it arrived at my door within 3 days of order, completely all good there.

    Set up was easy. It came with the stings already strung in the tuners and only required loosening the strings, setting the bridge, and tuning. It holds its tune well. It is light and has a pleasing tone. The neck seems to be the perfect size for my small hands, but my S.O. has large hands and finds it more difficult to use than his own banjo. The wood and overall color are lovely.

    In contrast with the image show on the website, the head has a "vintage" look to it. I wasn't super happy about that at first because that wasn't the look I wanted. However, I am growing fond of it and think it actually looks more "marbled" than so-called "vintage."

    When I first tuned it, the 5th string popped out of the tuning peg...not broke...just popped out. Thankfully I was able to restring it without buying a new string.

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