Because if you’re going to buy a banjo, it might as well be locally sourced.
Good music depends on more than the talent of the people creating it. Everything about the instruments themselves—the wood they’re made from, the way they’re put together—affects sound quality. The pieces featured this month have never met an assembly line, and the price tags reflect that. With music so ingrained in Texas culture, it’s only fitting that such instruments, as artful as the tunes they can beget, come from our own backyard.
1. Full-time musicians in Austin (when they’re not making drums), Philip Ellis and Casey Needham constructed this snare drum with an eight-ply maple shell and reinforcement rings, which produce warm notes and help eliminate overtones. $499; pellisdrums.com
2. Instead of using a kiln to cure the wood for his guitars, Gainesville’s Vince Pawless lets it sit outside in the rain and sunshine for twelve months. This guitar, one of only a dozen he makes each year (all on his father’s cattle ranch, where he lives), was crafted using mesquite from Rio Grande City. $5,000; pawless.com
3. Mansfield veterinarian Chris Jenkins and his Austin-based son Jeremy, the duo behind Lame Horse Instruments, collaborate on each of their pieces. In this frailing-style open-back banjo, 72 solid-wood blocks form the circular rim, which results in a more sustained, complex sound. $2,000; cjenkinsluthier.com