c.1960 East German "Marma" Banjo Mandolin

This very European banjo mandolin was made in the 1960s in East Germany. Although it appears outwardly similar to German banjo mandolins from the 1920s (with the slotted headstock) it has a rim and resonator design more familiar to American instruments (as in, a normal banjo rim rather than a suspended-head zither style rim).

I picked this up in trade for some work I'm doing/have done on another banjo mandolin (also European, but French and 1920s) and my work on this one included a fret level/dress, new bone nut, cleaning, replacement tuner button plus tuner lube, and setup.

When leveling the frets I also leveled the zero fret at the same height as the others -- the way they're intended to be, but often aren't -- so in this case the zero fret is a real nice addition since it keeps tone similar up the neck and makes setup easier.

Nice rosewood board. The instrument otherwise appears to be made from dark-stained plain maple.

This has a 9" synthetic head which gives it some stability during wet weather.

New Grover maple/ebony bridge. I decided on the typical banjo-style bridge to make use of this instrument's smaller head size better. Typically I install a heavier mandolin-style bridge on banjo mandos to sweeten the tone.

Bound resonator.

Simple turns work well. I had to replace one missing button.

The resonator comes off with one bolt. "Under the hood" is a coordinator rod rather than a dowel which makes minor setup changes nice and easy.

I also had to replace a broken tailpiece. This is a simple new "A style" type from my parts bin.

Overall a nice and mellow but loud banjo mando with a 13" scale and great playability. With the bridge in the center of the head the instrument makes the most out of its smaller head and gets an overall warmer tone vs. many banjo mandos.


Unknown said…
I have got a 4 string banjo (?), probably a tenor banjo, I got it from my dad in 1981. He had had it for a while. I have seen only one that look the same on the internet, and wonder if it really is a mandolin...It is in very good shape, since it has allways, at least as long as I have had it, been hanging on a wall jist because it is cool and beatyfull. It is an interesting piece of instrument nonetheless :)
It has wooden case, and a skin tha spells "Marma", 4 strings and 21 frets. If I could show a pic, if you could tell me anything about it. Think it as a German made instrument. But I an not quite sure.
Arjan said…
My father has exactly the same as this one. When we took it out of the closet after not being used for 20 years. I cleaned it and wanted to put on new stings but the string pickup has a crack in it. The same problem you had.
Can you tell me what string pickup i can use?