c.1965 Japanese-made Tempo Resonator 5-String Banjo

This vaguely-bluegrassy 5-string banjo seems to be the same mold that countless import banjos followed from the mid to late 60s through the 80s and, with a few changes, right into these days. It's definitely Japanese-made, probably late 60s, and bears the "Tempo" brand at the headstock. The rim is one piece of aluminum and the simple (but useful) hardware is the same stuff one finds on bargain brands today.

I worked on this for a customer and basically just did a setup on it. The frets could probably use a bit of a level and dressing but I still managed to wiggle the setup to about 1/16" at the 12th fret to keep the fingers happy. I didn't take it all apart to clean it fully, so please don't mind a bit of dust here and there on the body.

This has a (very worn-in) Remo frosted-top head.

The scale length on this guy is pretty long -- 27 1/4" -- which puts good tension on even the set of 9s I have on here.

Rosewood board with (amazingly) pearl dots. The frets are medium-sized. Note that I had to move the 5th-string "pip" over just a little bit as the original spacing had it crowding the middle of the board.

The bridge is the only unoriginal bit and came off of the same customer's Framus 5-string banjo that was also in for a setup.

I loathe this style of resonator attachment... who wants to have to undo 12 screws just to get the resonator off? Ugh. At least it works, though!

Surprisingly, aluminum-rimmed banjos don't sound all that bad when they're properly setup. This one has a sweet, poppy, clean sort of tone. It's not as rich and sustained as a big old bluegrass tonering, but it sure is easy on the back and pretty loud!

Red-to-black "burst" on the back.

Geared tuners at the headstock make tuning up way easier for the beginner. This still has a friction 5th peg, though.

Adjustable tailpiece and a peek at that rosewood arm-rest (comfy).


Anonymous said…
Thank you very much for this post. I picked one of these up at a second hand store recently, and wanted to know as much as I could before doing the tear down and cleaning. Thanks again for your time and effort!

G said…
Yes, thank you for this post. Been searching & searching the Internet and saw this blog. Found one similar (or perhaps exactly) to this on eBay for $80 usd. The peghead was missing the TEMPO logo on the front but a partial gold/black sticker on the rear that said MADE IN (the rest was torn off, I assume it said JAPAN). As your other post, I removed the resonator (without it, makes the banjo much lighter) & made it into an open back. Removed the steel strings & used mono saltwater leader fishing line in 20, 30 & 40 lb test instead. Love the plucky sounds it makes). Also cut a length of 5/8" clear plastic tubing the diameter of the pot to cover up the hook nuts (so it would not dig into my leg while playing seated). I bring the banjo with me everywhere & it rides with me daily in the pickup truck.
Unknown said…
I have one like this one but with an open back. Have no idea what its worth.