Gold Tone - ML-1 Bela Fleck Baritone Banjo "The Missing Link"

5.00/5 - 7 reviews

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Gold Tone ML-1 Bela Fleck Baritone Banjo

"The Missing Link"

The Gold Tone ML-1 Missing Link Baritone Octave Banjo designed by Bela Fleck and Gold Tone. It's a unique banjo that is tuned to an open C tuning in the lower octave. The tuning is 5th C, 4th G, 3rd C, 2nd E, 1st G. It's half way between a Cello Banjo tuning and normal bluegrass 5 string G-tuning. It's an awesome new innovation. 

All Ml-1's are hand autographed by Bela Fleck on the inside rim.
Free Hard Shell Case - Free Shipping and Other Free items Included

ML-1 Video Playlist!

Three new songs added the playlist in the video player below.
The Missing Link is tuned to Open C tuning
. Technically that could be described as 4 whole steps lower down from Open G Tuning. I think the best way to describe the tuning is, its the same notes as your banjo in G tuning with a capo on the 5th fret, but then lowered a whole octave. You play it exactly the same way as in Open G tuning but what comes out is a low gravely new sound that makes this banjo hard to put down. The lower tuning is also much more forgiving than a normal banjo. It truly is hard to get a bad tone out of this banjo.

In the playlist I have a video where I demonstrated a few songs on the ML1, Keep on the Sunny Side of Life, a low neck break and an up the neck break. I also played some common banjo songs like Cripple Creek and Boil the Cabbage Down so you could hear the life this banjo can pump into common bluegrass banjo songs. I have the most fun making up my own songs with the ML-1. I have two other songs I made up while playing at the Florida Folk Festival, Wahoo Banjo and a Banjo Blues Jam. The Folk Festival was at Stephen Foster Park next to the Suwanee River so I had to learn Way Down Upon the Suwanee River too. I have more original songs and some Gospel songs in the playlist too and adding more as I go along.

Notes from Wayne Rogers owner of Gold Tone Banjos: Bela, currently touring with Abigail Washburn, wanted a 5-string tuned 4 steps lower to C tuning. To our knowledge this tuning on The Missing Link Lojo is completely unique and is the perfect accompaniment to his wife’s normal tuned banjo. We met at their recent Gainesville, FL show and he played it on many tunes. In fact 2 of the 4 banjos on stage were Gone Tones including Abigail’s CEB -5 cello banjo. 

It features a 12" pot, all wound strings (Bela’s idea), a wider neck profile, brass tone ring and resonator.  The ML-1 makes all kinds of new musical things possible that you cannot accomplish with a normal 5-string banjo.

Comments from Ross Nickerson: I love this banjo, the ML-1 Missing Link that Gold Tone and Bela Fleck designed. Its tuned to open C, but an octave lower. All of the strings are wound. It has such a pleasing tone, it feels like you can't miss on it and I could play it for hours. It's a great alternative for pros to have a different sound in their show as well as novices who can play some of the simplest banjo songs and sound full, mellow and pleasing.  Really can't say enough about the ML-1, ingenious idea and it's super fun to play.

Happy Holidays! 2022 - Greensleeves

More Information on the Bela Fleck Bariton Banjo
Béla Fleck, surely today's best-known banjoist, has his own heroes. One of these, John Hartford, made extensive use of a low-tuned five-string banjo (a twelve-inch Farland from the 1920s) in his music. While Béla had already been playing a Gold Tone CEB-5 Cello Banjo, he felt that there should be a banjo to fill the gap between the cello banjo (tuned to G, an octave below the standard banjo) and the standard five-string. Béla collaborated with Gold Tone president Wayne Rogers over many months and after overcoming many challenges and the building of several prototypes, the ML-1 "Missing Link" came into being. Tuned to open C (in a G configuration, i.e. an octave below the fifth fret of a standard five-string) the ML-1 features a twelve-inch, three-ply maple rim supporting a bronze tone ring. A specially-made Remo Black Suede head carries a custom 7/8" bridge and an all-wound custom string set hooks up to a Gold Tone Terminator tailpiece. The hard rock Canadian maple neck is topped by a rich black ebony fretboard, honed to a compound radius (5" to 9") and fitted with jumbo frets. The gorgeous art nouveau inlay pattern (of Béla's own design) travels the length of the neck all the way to the peghead, interrupted only by a Zero Glide nut (for super-accurate intonation and low-friction tuning). Black bindings and black buttons on the Master Planetary tuners complete the elegant look.

Use this chord transposition chart to see how the baritone chords translate to traditional banjo chords.

Gold Tone ML-1 Missing Link Bela Fleck Model - BanjTeacher.commissingLink210-banjoteacher-com.jpg

Bela also officially endorsed the Zero Glide nut system which he uses on his vintage Gibson and the Missing Link banjo. The Zero Glide nut system is free with the Missing Link Banjo. We also include capo spikes free with this model.

The missing link is better with spikes on 7 and 9 for keys of D and E We will install those free unless you request no capo spikes. You can do that in the comment section when checking out, or call or email us.

List of FREE Items Included with this Banjo

  • Best Beginner BanjoFREE Professional Banjo Set up
  • Free Banjo Lessons Online with Banjo Purchase Free LIFETIME Platinum Online Banjo Lesson Access ($129 value) - details below
  • Professional Banjo Set Up FREE Zero Glide Nut Installation ($75 value)
  • Professional Banjo Set Up FREE 5th String Capo Spikes
  • Free Banjo Case and Gig Bags with Banjo Purchase FREE Official Gold Tone Hard Case
  • Free US Banjo Shipping FREE Shipping - Lower 48 US States
  • Shipping a Banjo Overseas from the US $30 Shipping Credit for International, AK, HI
  • Best Banjo Prices, Price Matching and Serivce Price Matching or Questions 1-866-322-6567

FREE ITEMS don't add to our normal discount price which is the lowest price we are allowed to advertise by the Manufacturer.

Your Free LIFETIME Platinum Membership includes exclusive Digital Access to view or download ALL of these Ross Nickerson Books, DVDs and Online lessons and more.

  • Fundamentals of 5-String Banjo - 52 Page Digital Banjo Book with Video and Audio,
  • 5 Ross Nickerson Online DVDs,
  • 7-Full Length E-Books with CD Tracks
  • 25 Bluegrass Songs with Video Demonstrations at 3-speeds
  • 14 Advanced Performance Videos with Tab and Two CD Tab Transcription Books
  • 100 "Must Know" Essential Banjo Licks
  • Dueling Banjos note for note transcription, Eagles "Take it Easy" Tab Transcription, Ross Nickerson Stairway to Heaven Tab
  • Banjo Chords and Chord Forms Video Lesson
  • 48 archived Monthly Lesson Videos
  • Member Discounts on Instruction Books and DVDs
  • Many other Lessons videos and Tabs

Some of the Online Banjo DVDs, E-Books and Online Lessons you can access Free

Banjos come set up and ready to play
Each banjo is played before it leaves the shop!
Along with the strict quality control that Gold Tone is known for and the banjos being checked very carefully before being shipped, each banjo is given a 12 point inspection, full head tuning, setup and will arrive tuned and ready to play.

Call us with questions or for unadvertised special prices anytime
10AM to 10PM at 1-866-322-6567 or contact-us

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Zero Glide Nut Installed FREE
All Gold Tone Banjos from now come with the Zero Glide Nut installed FREE
The Zero Glide makes the banjo action easier to play, increases the sound clarity and is a significant improvement for any banjo. Installation by a professional is normally done at a cost of $75 or more. It's now installed FREE on all Gold Tone Banjos.
Read more about the Zero Glide

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Zero Glide Nut

Rolled Brass Tone Ring

3-Ply Canadian Maple Rim

Planetary Tuners

Mar 26, 2023
Love the ML1
Ross, I love the ML1 I cant put it down.Great doing business with you as usual.Bill

Jul 3, 2022
Gold tone ML-1
I got my ML-1 And unpacked it what a great job they did in packing first of all. The banjo exceeded my expectations in every way ROSS you out did yourself GoldTone should be proud to have you as a representative thank you for the extras you sent I’m recommending you to all my banjo family you truly are the best around Don!

Dec 30, 2021
Ml-1 order
I am glad I ordered my ml-1 from Ross! Banjo came ready to play. The instructional DVD’s are fantastic! Thank you Ross

Dec 22, 2020
Martin from Ireland
Hi Ross, I just thought I'd let you know the baritone banjo arrived safely today. Very well packed up and virtually ready to play straight from the box. Thanks for your help, and all the best for whatever is your seasonal holiday! ;) I think I'll spend the holiday in the land of "D" fiddle tunes..... M

Dec 16, 2020
ML-1 quick review
Bought one of these banjos a couple of years ago at a clearance price from a shop that deals primarily in high level guitars. The ML-1 has great tone and playability, plus is built very well and looks a little different than anything else out there. Comes with a very nice case too.When you consider the free add-ons Ross gives you it makes sense to purchase from him.

Dec 20, 2019
ML-1 Banjo
Hello I received the books and banjo I’ve played it till my fingers hurt it’s pretty cool thank u for everything ????

Oct 17, 2019
It truly IS the missing link!
I got my Missing Link Banjo about four years ago, and it is #4. It is a wonderful banjo and feels that nook of having a bit lower Banjo sound, instead of going all the way down to Chelo Banjo, which I also own and love it is a wonderful banjo and feels that nook of having a bit lower Banjo sound, instead of going all the way down to cello Banjo, which I also own and love very much.

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