It is a little-known fact that at the dawn of the banjo era, not all banjos had 5 strings (4 long strings and a short thumb string). One common variation was the 6-string banjo. Unlike banjo-guitars, these 6-stringers had an additional long bass string running next to the usual short thumb string. The first time we heard one, it was being played by Florida Banjo Champion, Chuck Levy and we were frankly astounded. By tuning the bass string down to G or an A, Chuck could match the fiddle tone-for-tone no matter where the tune led. No more thumping on a chord, waiting until the fiddle returned to the D string for Chuck. Next we watched as Chuck used the extra range of the 6-string to extend the melody into the lower octave creating whole new variations that we never knew were possible. Finally, Chuck showed us how the bass string could be used as low drone, adding amazing and unexpected punch to a tune. Well, we decided then and there to add a 6-Stringer to the Gold Tone catalog. Wayne and Chuck bounced ideas back and fourth for over a year to create the OT-6 LoJo. We started with a 14” diameter rim, 1/4” thick, with a Renaissance head to broadcast the bass strings while keeping the treble bright and lively. Then we decided on the neck angles and dimensions, string spacing and gauges to create a banjo with low action for effortless travel along the neck, and added an “S” scoop, to encourage a secure, confident strike to the strings. A banjo this cool had to have first class appointments, so we wrapped the fingerboard and the peg head in a textured ivoroid binding. To top it all off, we finished with inscribed mother of pearl inlays based on the best of the classical period. The result is the Gold Tone OT-6 LoJo, a banjo unlike any you have ever seen or heard, yet the instant you lay your hand on one, you know it is precisely what you have been looking for.
This model inspired by 6-string Old Time specialist Chuck Levy
See other videos of chuck:
Add an extra bass string to your clawhammer tunes to play octave melodies and fiddle arrangements. 14” pot “kicks” out the extra bass and it’s the loudest of all our open backs.
Be sure to check out some of the YouTube videos we have come across!
Peter Went a-Fishin’ (Georgia Railroad)
Susannah Gal (Fly Around Me Pretty Little Miss)
Holly Ding (Backstep Cindy)
OT-6 Banjo Newsletter Review by Jimmy McCowen
After spending seven days and nights at the 2008 Appalachian String Band Music Festival at
The OT-6 is not a guitar banjo. I think of it as a 5-string banjo with an extra bass string placed in between the fourth string and fifth string or thumb string. This allows the banjo to have the same melodic range as the fiddle.
The OT-6 also has a fourteen-inch pot, which makes the low notes jump out at you. I prefer to tune it to double A or E modal. The strings that came on it (1st is .010, 2nd is .013, 3rd is .016, 4th is .026, 6th is .036, 5th is .010. Ed. Note: This string order is correct per Jimmy’s comment that he considers the extra or 6th string to be the bass string and still considers the drone string to be the 5th) were meant to be tuned standard pitch and even with those strings, the power and tone are great on the low end. But I felt I could get a bit more so I experimented with different gauges and ended up changing the strings on mine to 1) .011, 2) .014, 3) .023w 4) .030w, 6) .039w, 5).010, which works well for the lower tunings. The six-string setup will allow you to tune one full octave low without much string rattle or buzz.
The quality and playability of the neck and fingerboard are excellent. The neck has seventeen frets and a scoop. I prefer a neck with all twenty-two frets and no scoop. I’ve been talking with Wayne Rogers at Gold Tone about manufacturing a OT-6 12” model with a full twenty-two fret neck (scoop optional), and he said they would be sending me the prototype.
So far I’ve done nothing but play, play, and play some more. I’ve placed the OT-6 in the hands of some of my students and fellow banjo friends. Everyone enjoys the low tones of the 14” pot and extra bass string. Everyone was surprised at the many different tunings possible as a result of the extra bass string.
The Gold Tone OT-6 is a fine affordable banjo. The finish on all the woodwork is beautifully stained and a high gloss finish that equal to instruments costing much more and darn near presentation grade. White binding has been inlaid on the peg head, the shell, and side binding on the fingerboard with side position markers. All the metal parts are excellent, with closed end bracket nuts. The (tuning) keys work well and have leather washers to keep the screws from backing out, nice touch! The coordinator rods are quite long and had unwanted over tones, but a piece of foam fixed that. The armrest does its job but is not the most comfortable one I have used, however a leather covering on the bare metal might fix that. The tailpiece is a straight-line pull across the bridge on each string and can use ball ends with a hole in it or the loop end strings. The string length from the bridge to the tailpiece is four inches; it would be six inches if you used a no know tailpiece. The long string lengths make lots of unwanted overtones that are not complimentary to the notes you are playing, worse if you are using the no know tail piece, which I tried myself, however a piece of Velcro placed on the strings near the tail piece will take care of them.
I think Gold Tone has hit a home run with this instrument. If the OT-6 twelve inch (with all the frets) is this quality, I think a lot of banjo players will want both of them. You can’t have too many banjos, just ask my wife!
One of my students Richard Mandell purchased one of the first OT-6’s. Here are his comments: “No matter how you look at it, Gold Tone’s OT-6 is an interesting banjo. The first commercially produced 6-string banjo is not strung like a guitar and its 14” pot provides the “growl” and sympathetic resonance that 6-string players favor. It also provides a lot of “sustain”. If an 11” banjo can be thought of as a soprano and a 12” banjo a tenor, the OT-6 is definitely a baritone. The designers and consultants seem to have chosen the best rim thickness, and tone ring combination to get a unique sound that has a lot of volume, ample clear high end, and wonderful low end sound.
The neck and set up came perfectly adjusted and the action was just about where it should be for clawhammer picking. The neck is wide and the strings are spaced further apart than most banjos. The scale is a little shorter than standard 26 ½” scale (about 25 ½”) and the string gauges are on the heavy side to drive the huge 14” head. Playing in the scooped area provides all the chime-y mellowness you could ask for and all the pops as well.
Banjo players being who they are, they are always searching for the banjo of their dreams; the one that answers every possible desire. This instrument will completely satisfy a 6-string player but is not the instrument to replace a Vega Whyte Laydie. The sound is too different but its availability will allow many folks to try playing on 6 strings, something that heretofore has only been available in a custom-made instrument.”
P.S. It’s Labor Day, the day after I finished the review on the OT-6. After breakfast I tuned the banjo to double G and after playing for two hours with visions of Dan Gellert and Reed Martin in my mind’s eye, combined with the deep tones of the CEB-6, I’ve found this low double G tuning to be the sweet spot for the fourteen inch pot tones of this fine banjo.
We have tabbed Ireland’s Green Shore (as seen in BNL October 2008) this month from Jimmy’s playing. An mp3 will be on the BNL website of Jimmy playing his Gold Tone OT-6.
Jim McCown grew up in a musical family on Pond Creek in
|Neck||Maple||Fingerboard||Ebony w/ "S" Shaped Fingerboard Scoop|
|Bridge||Maple w/ Ebony Cap; 5/8"|
|Wood Finish||Vintage Brown||Fingerboard Inlay||Engraved Inlays (Mother of Pearl)|
|Neck Binding||Crème Celuloid||Body Binding||Crème Celuloid|
Parts & Hardware
|Nut||Bone||Tuners||GT Master Plantetary Tuners|
|Tailpiece||6-String Straightline Tailpiece||Tone Ring||Rolled Brass Tone Ring|
|Strings||GGDGBD - .010, .013, .016, .026, .036, .010.||Rim||1/2" 3-Ply Maple|
|Plating||Nickel||Tension Hoop||Brass; Notched|
|Arm Rest||"Hot Dog" Armrest|
Other Features & Options
|Case Options||Includes Hardshell Deluxe Archtop Case; Optional HBCE Heavily Padded Gigbag||Other Options||Capo Spikes|
|Nut Width||1-9/16"||Frets||15/17 Medium|
|Head Size||14" Remo Renaissance; High Crown|
Suggested Retail Price: $1,600.00