Customer testimonials

I spent a long time looking for a banjo with a tone ring, to supplement my other open backs.

I decided on a Dobson tone ring, having played a Tubaphone, a Whyte Lady and a few other lesser-known ones.

In the end, the choice came down to 2 - one from Will and one from a well-known US manufacturer, offering the same tone ring. Having played both, the decision to buy the banjo from Will was easy. Attention to detail, great support, British made and above all - the sound. Far superior!

The neck feels great under the hand - the varnish isn’t too sticky or slick - just the right balance to allow the hand to slide nicely. The 5th string is brilliantly positioned to make it very playable, being very slightly lower than others I own, with a brass nut to hold it in place at exactly the right place on the neck ,unlike other models who place the nut 'behind' the fret'. It's a great feature.

The hardware is lovely quality. The woods selected are beautiful. The stained maple has lots of natural beauty and the ebony fretboard has lovely orange streaks through it.

The wren inlay is gorgeous and when I collected the Banjo, Will's mum told me they had wrens nesting in their cottage.....The banjo has a warm sound, with a nice base undertone, while still maintaining plenty of mid-range. Great for frailing, but equally brilliant with melodic styles.

Unlike many banjos I’ve played, it maintains clarity all the way up the neck.I've now owned it for a few months and would say this is now my favourite banjo, and I'm lucky enough to own some really nice ones from other well-known builders.

Dealing with Will was a pleasure.If the house was on fire and I could save one banjo, this would be the one!

Tom Philips

I was absolutely delighted with my banjo. It is most beautifully crafted. I love the hare inlay.

I am an absolute beginner, but I have found it easy and comfortable to play and it stays in tune well.

It makes a beautiful sound even from a beginner.

Tamara Butterworth

The Ebony tone ring is crisp, bright and sweet in tone. I didn’t know how to express the banjo I was looking for, but with a bit of conversation Will produced exactly the instrument I was imagining. It brings great joy!

Kevin Booth

A thoroughly great experience!

As I was nearing a ‘big’ birthday my partner gave me an open wallet to go and find my dream banjo.

I chose Will after looking at several other makers and not quite finding what I was looking for. I sent an email and Will called me.

We had a really good conversation about what was available, what the choices were and of course, the cost.

I chose a maple and ebony option with paddle headstock, s-shaped scoop, Dobson tone ring, brass fittings and a goat skin head.

I was smitten from the moment Will handed it over.

The craftsmanship is awesome and the sound just gets better and better.

Fabulous projection without a hint of harshness, just a well balanced tone across the range and up the neck.

And it’s plenty loud enough to be heard in my local Old Time session where it has been the target of some serious admiration.

If you are looking for a work of art at a very acceptable price point, Will’s your man. You won’t regret it!!

Sue Woollard

I knew Will was taking orders for the first batch of new banjo models and put my name down immediately.

With a few tweaks to the standard models discussed and agreed, Will has produced a fantastic open-back banjo in Cherry with a 12" Renaissance head and Dobson Tonering.

Excellent tone, lightweight and easy to play.

Why pay 000$ for overrated US imports when we have some talented luthiers in the UK?

Highly recommended.

John Charnock

When I was first looking for a craftsman built banjo, I came across reviews for Will Howson that described his instruments as works of art.

As the now proud owner of one of his 2024 small batch banjos I have to say I'm in full agreement.

Beautifully figured woods and quality hardware with a range of options come together perfectly in Will's expert hands to produce instruments with wonderful tone and effortless playability.

Every aspect of my banjo continues to delight me whenever I pick it up to play, which is at least once a day.

As seems par for the course with banjo players, over the years I've acquired a number of banjos and all of them have something to offer, but Will's is the one I go to most often as it is the complete package.

I cannot recommend Will highly enough. If you choose him to build you a banjo, I promise you, you won't be disappointed.

Iain Summers

Will built a 12" banjo for me. We spent some time discussing the details of sound and playability before the build and the result was outstanding. It is absolutely amazing. It is everything I could ever want and more. The set up is perfect and has helped improve my playing. It sounds great. Will is also a thoroughly nice chap!

George McLeod

I took delivery of my banjo from Will in early January of this year, 2024. I chose as follows from Will’s impressive choice of options:-Five string, style one headstock, maple and ebony, ebony tone ring, brass hardware, goatskin head and frailer’s scoop. I wanted a sound for Americana and Scottish, Irish and English traditional music, played mainly in melodic style with occasional clawhammer. Will’s excellent craftsmanship and knowledge of his craft delivered this sound spot on. The aesthetics of his instruments also capture the spirit of the banjo and his personal service completes the package for this delighted customer.

Tom O’Leary

"I found Will Howson on line in 2018, when I was looking for a banjo luthier to build a custom five string. I'd never done this before, like most people I guess. You'll probably do this once in a lifetime or not much more than that, so it can be a bit daunting. I had been playing on and off for about 30 years, but with a big gap, so was definitely no kind of expert.
Working with Will is easy though, he listens brilliantly to what you want, but offers alternatives too. He has such deep knowledge of the build process and how options will impact tone, playability and personal style. He also has the craft and skill to build superbly put together instruments.
If you can manage it, a visit to Howson HQ work shop in the Severn Valley will help. I did this, played some banjos, and just chatted through options. Will changed my mind about a Whyte Laydie tone ring, I was adamant I wanted one when I first planned the banjo. But playing a series of banjos with wood tone rings was a real revelation. I heard beautiful ringing tones and sustain with Will's ebony tone rings and they were much cheaper too, so that's what I went for.
Will is great with inlay too, and produced my edelweiss headstock inlay from a few conversations and images shared.
I'm delighted with my Howson, it's my go to, everyday banjo. 12" cherry pot, ebony tone ring, goat hide head, brass hardware. I have a few others, including antique banjos from some of the best American makers. It's the Howson that I reach for most. Check out my videos on YouTube at Cerddoriaeth Fynyddig / Mountain Music. Most of those include my Howson."

Andy Taylor

I often think that looking at a banjo is like looking at food because firstly it has to appeal to the eye and that is how I felt the first time I saw the fretless banjo I bought from WGF Howson Instruments. Not only does it sound great but when I’m not playing it, it stands in my room like a piece of art.

I bought the banjo after visit a Wills workshop in March 2019 in search of a fretless but not really having any specifics in mind. Will showed me a number of examples recently built and played each one. I had never played fretless and Will is very good indeed. In no time at all I made my choice.

I came away with a 12” Sepele Banjo with a rosewood fretboard and an oval scoop. It sounds fantastic with its Rosewood tone ring and the Planetary tuners suit it down to the ground. One of my favourite features is that the fretboard has flush inlayed frets from the 7th fret, meaning it’s easier to maintain position. The stained head looks cool as well.

Overall this is a fantastic banjo, looks great and sound great but whatever your tastes I’m sure Will can build something that will suit your needs

Tat Taylor

As a fiddle player I asked Will to make me a 17 fret short scale open back tenor banjo so I could play using my fiddle fingering. The result is a stunning instrument with a wooden tone ring and understated brass fittings which plays beautifully with a loud but mellow tone. My wife loves the look and sound of it which is a further plus point! Will is a pleasure to deal with and a true craftsman to boot. Get in quick and order one now and I promise you will not be disappointed.

Phil Jackson

I have two of Will's banjos and both are works of art in terms of craftsmanship and tone. When you consider the potential for custom options (I love super-chunky necks) and Will's own finely honed sense of aesthetics, ordering a banjo from Will becomes a no-brainer! He is a very easy person to deal with and is passionate about what he does, something which shows the minute you pluck that first glorious note!

Martin Back

At the time I settled in my mind to commission an instrument from Will Howson, I was really interested in the Boucher minstrel banjos with the scroll head and ougi. I was impressed at how Will took on these requests and was fully behind the project from day one. After a few conversations about my concepts, he transformed what was a vague picture in my mind into a beautiful reality. His inlay work really sets this instrument apart, and now I have it hanging on my wall so I can grab it at any time and to show it off when people come over.

Daniel Wheeldon