The banjo is a four-, five- or six-stringed instrument with a thin
membrane stretched over a frame or cavity as a resonator, called the
head. The membrane, or head, is typically made of plastic, although
animal skin is still occasionally but rarely used, and the frame is
typically circular. Early forms of the instrument were fashioned by
Africans in America, adapted from African instruments of similar
design. The banjo is frequently associated with folk, Irish
traditional, and country music. Historically, the banjo occupied a
central place in
African American traditional music, before becoming
popular in the minstrel shows of the 19th century. The banjo,
with the fiddle, is a mainstay of American old-time music. It is also
very frequently used in Traditional ("Trad") Jazz.
3 Modern banjo
3.1 Open-back and resonator
4 Five-string banjo
4.1 Classical and modern
5 Four-string banjos
5.2 Tenor banjo
5.3 Low banjos
5.3.1 Cello banjo
5.3.2 Bass and contrabass banjo
6 Six-string banjos
Banjo hybrids and variants
8 Notable banjoists
9 See also
11 Further reading
12 External links
Note: This article uses
Helmholtz pitch notation
Helmholtz pitch notation to define banjo
The Old Plantation, ca. 1785 - 1795. Earliest known American painting
to picture a banjo-like instrument. Thought to depict a plantation in
Beaufort County, South Carolina
The Buffalo Rag
Tom Turpin's 1904 composition The Buffalo Rag, in a 1906 performance
by Vess Ossman.
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The modern banjo derives from instruments that had been used in the
Caribbean since the 17th century by enslaved people taken from West
Africa. Written references to the banjo in North America appear in the
18th century, and the instrument became increasingly available
commercially from around the second quarter of the 19th century.
Several claims as to the etymology of the name banjo have been made.
It may derive from the
Kimbundu word mbanza. The Oxford English
Dictionary states that it comes from a dialectal pronunciation of the
Portuguese "bandore" or from an early anglicisation of the Spanish
word bandurria."banjo, n.".  A Banza: a five double string courses
Portuguese vihuela with two short strings. Mbanza is a string African
instrument that has been built after the Portuguese Banza.
A Portuguese Vihuela called Banza, 10 strings + two shorts.
Various instruments in Africa, chief among them the kora, feature a
skin head and gourd (or similar shell) body. The African
instruments differ from early
African American banjos in that the
necks do not possess a Western-style fingerboard and tuning pegs,
instead having stick necks, with strings attached to the neck with
loops for tuning. Banjos with fingerboards and tuning pegs are
known from the
Caribbean as early as the 17th century. 18th- and
early 19th-century writers transcribed the name of these instruments
variously as bangie, banza, bonjaw, banjer and banjar.
Instruments similar to the banjo (e.g., the Japanese shamisen, Persian
tar, and Moroccan sintir) have been played in many countries. Another
likely relative of the banjo is the akonting, a spike folk lute played
by the Jola tribe of Senegambia, and the ubaw-akwala of the Igbo.
Similar instruments include the xalam of Senegal and the ngoni of
Wassoulou region including parts of Mali, Guinea, and Ivory Coast,
as well as a larger variation of the ngoni developed in
sub-Saharan Africans known as the gimbri.
Early, African-influenced banjos were built around a gourd body and a
wooden stick neck. These instruments had varying numbers of strings,
though often including some form of drone. The five-string banjo was
popularized by Joel Walker Sweeney, an American minstrel performer
from Appomattox Court House, Virginia.
In the 1830s Sweeney became the first white performer to play the
banjo on stage. His version of the instrument replaced the gourd
with a drum-like sound box and included four full-length strings
alongside a short fifth string. This new banjo was at first tuned
d'Gdf♯a, though by the 1890s this had been transposed up to g'cgbd'.
Banjos were introduced in Britain by Sweeney's group, the American
Virginia Minstrels, in the 1840s and became very popular in music
In the Antebellum South, many black slaves played the banjo and taught
their masters how to play. For example, in his memoir titled With
Sabre and Scalpel: The Autobiography of a Soldier and Surgeon,
Confederate veteran and surgeon
John Allan Wyeth
John Allan Wyeth recalls learning it
from a slave as a child on his family plantation.
Forward roll Play (help·info).
Melody to Yankee Doodle, on the banjo, without and with drone
notes Play without (help·info) and with
Two techniques closely associated with the five-string banjo are rolls
and drones. Rolls are right hand accompanimental fingering pattern[s]
that consist of eight (eighth) notes that subdivide each measure.
Drone notes are quick little notes [typically eighth notes], usually
played on the 5th (short) string to fill in around the melody notes
[typically eighth notes]. These techniques are both idiomatic to
the banjo in all styles, and their sound is characteristic of
Historically, the banjo was played in the clawhammer style by the
Africans who brought their version of the banjo with them. Several
other styles of play were developed from this.
Clawhammer consists of
downward striking of one or more of the four main strings with the
index, middle or both finger(s)while the drone or fifth string is
played with a 'lifting' (as opposed to downward pluck) motion of the
thumb. The notes typically sounded by the thumb in this fashion are,
usually, on the off beat. Melodies can be quite intricate adding
techniques such as double thumbing and drop thumb. In old time
Appalachian Mountain music, there is also a style called two finger
up-pick, and a three finger version that
Earl Scruggs developed into
the famous "Scruggs" style picking, nationally aired in 1945 on the
Grand Ole Opry.
While five-string banjos are traditionally played with either
fingerpicks or the fingers themselves, tenor banjos and plectrum
banjos are played with a pick, either to strum full chords or, most
commonly in Irish Traditional Music, play single note melodies.
The modern banjo comes in a variety of forms, including four- and
five-string versions. A six-string version, tuned and played similarly
to a guitar, has gained popularity. In almost all of its forms, banjo
playing is characterized by a fast arpeggiated plucking, though there
are many different playing styles.
The body, or pot, of a modern banjo typically consists of a circular
rim (generally made of wood, though metal was also common on older
banjos) and a tensioned head, similar to a drum head. Traditionally
the head was made from animal skin, but today is often made of various
synthetic materials. Most modern banjos also have a metal "tone ring"
assembly that helps further clarify and project the sound, however
many older banjos do not include a tone ring.
The banjo is usually tuned with friction tuning pegs or planetary gear
tuners, rather than the worm gear machine head used on guitars. Frets
have become standard since the late 19th century, though fretless
banjos are still manufactured and played by those wishing to execute
glissando, play quarter tones, or otherwise achieve the sound and
feeling of early playing styles.
Modern banjos are typically strung with metal strings. Usually the
fourth string is wound with either steel or bronze-phosphor alloy.
Some players may string their banjos with nylon or gut strings to
achieve a more mellow, old-time tone.
Open-back and resonator
Some banjos have a separate resonator plate on the back of the pot to
project the sound forward and give the instrument more volume. This
type of banjo is usually used in bluegrass music, though resonator
banjos are played by players of all styles, and are also used in
old-time, sometimes as a substitute for electric amplification when
playing in large venues.
Open-back banjos generally have a mellower tone and weigh less than
resonator banjos. They usually have a different setup than a resonator
banjo, often with a higher string action.
The modern five-string banjo is a variation on Sweeney's original
design. The fifth string is usually the same gauge as the first, but
starts from the fifth fret, three quarters the length of the other
strings. This lets the string be tuned to a higher open pitch than
possible for the full-length strings. Because of the short fifth
string, the five-string banjo uses a reentrant tuning—the string
pitches don't proceed lowest to highest across the fingerboard.
Instead, the fourth string is lowest, then third, second, first, and
the fifth string is highest.
The short fifth string presents special problems for a capo. For small
changes (going up or down one or two semitones, for example) it is
possible simply to re-tune the fifth string. Otherwise, various
devices called fifth string capos effectively shorten the vibrating
part of the string. Many banjo players use model railroad spikes or
titanium spikes (usually installed at the seventh fret and sometimes
at others), that they hook the string under to press it down on the
Five-string banjo players use many tunings. Probably the most common,
particularly in bluegrass, is the Open-G tuning G4 D3 G3 B3 D4. In
earlier times, the tuning G4 C3 G3 B3 D4 was commonly used instead,
and this is still the preferred tuning for some types of folk music
and for classic banjo. Other tunings found in old-time music include
double C (G4 C3 G3 C4 D4), "sawmill" (G4 D3 G3 C4 D4) also called
"mountain modal" and open D (F#4D3 F#3 A3 D4). These tunings are often
taken up a tone, either by tuning up or using a capo. For example,
"double-D" tuning (A4 D3 A3 D4 E4) – commonly reached by tuning up
from double C – is often played to accompany fiddle tunes in the key
of D and Open-A (A4 E3 A3 C#4 E4) is usually used for playing tunes in
the key of A. There are dozens of other banjo tunings, used mostly in
old-time music. These tunings are used to make it easier to play
specific, usually, fiddle tunes, or groups of fiddle tunes.
The size of the five-string banjo is largely standardized—but
smaller and larger sizes exist, including the long-neck or Seeger neck
variation designed by Pete Seeger. Petite variations on the
five-string banjo have been available since the 1890s. S.S. Stewart
introduced the banjeaurine, tuned one fourth above a standard
five-string. Piccolo banjos are smaller, and tuned one octave above a
standard banjo. Between these sizes and standard lies the A-scale
banjo, which is two frets shorter and usually tuned one full step
above standard tunings. Many makers have produced banjos of other
scale lengths, and with various innovations.
A five-string banjo.
American old-time music typically uses the five-string open back
banjo. It is played in a number of different styles, the most common
being clawhammer or frailing, characterized by the use of a downward
rather than upward stroke when striking the strings with a fingernail.
Frailing techniques use the thumb to catch the fifth string for a
drone after most strums or after each stroke ("double thumbing"), or
to pick out additional melody notes in what is known as drop-thumb.
Pete Seeger popularised a folk style by combining clawhammer with up
picking, usually without the use of fingerpicks. Another common style
of old-time banjo playing is Fingerpicking banjo or classic banjo.
This style is based upon parlor-style guitar.
Bluegrass music, which uses the five-string resonator banjo almost
exclusively, is played in several common styles. These include Scruggs
style, named after Earl Scruggs; melodic, or Keith style, named for
Bill Keith; and three-finger style with single string work, also
called Reno style after Don Reno. In these styles the emphasis is on
arpeggiated figures played in a continuous eighth-note rhythm, known
as rolls. All of these styles are typically played with fingerpicks.
The first five-string electric solid-body banjo was developed by
Charles (Buck) Wilburn Trent, Harold "Shot" Jackson, and David Jackson
Classical and modern
The five-string banjo has been used in classical music since before
the turn of the 20th century. Contemporary and modern works have been
written or arranged for the instrument by Jerry Garcia, Buck Trent,
Béla Fleck, Tony Trischka, Ralph Stanley, Steve Martin, George Crumb,
Modest Mouse, Jo Kondo, Paul Elwood,
Hans Werner Henze
Hans Werner Henze (notably in his
Sixth Symphony), Daniel Mason of Hank Williams III's Damn Band, Beck,
the Water Tower Bucket Boys, Todd Taylor, J.P. Pickens, Peggy
Honeywell, Norfolk & Western, Putnam Smith, Iron & Wine, The
Punch Brothers and Sufjan Stevens.
Frederick Delius wrote for a banjo in his opera Koanga.
Ernst Krenek includes two banjos in his Kleine Symphonie (Little
Kurt Weill has a banjo in his opera The Rise and Fall of the City of
Viktor Ullmann included a tenor banjo part in his Piano Concerto (op.
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Plectrum banjo from Gold Tone
See also: Four-String
Banjo Hall of Fame Members
Four-string banjos, both plectrum and tenor, can be used for chordal
accompaniment (as in early jazz), for single string melody playing (as
in Irish traditional music), in "chord melody" style (a succession of
chords in which the highest notes carry the melody), in tremolo style
(both on chords and single strings), and a mixed technique called duo
style that combines single string tremolo and rhythm chords.
The plectrum banjo is a standard banjo without the short drone string.
It usually has 22 frets on the neck and a scale length of 26 to
28 inches, and was originally tuned C3 G3 B3 D4. It can also be
tuned like the top four strings of a guitar, which is known as
"Chicago tuning." As the name suggests, it is usually played with a
guitar-style pick (that is, a single one held between thumb and
forefinger), unlike the five-string banjo, which is either played with
a thumbpick and two fingerpicks, or with bare fingers. The plectrum
banjo evolved out of the five-string banjo, to cater to styles of
music involving strummed chords. The plectrum is also featured in many
early jazz recordings and arrangements.
The four-string banjo is used from time to time in musical theater.
Examples include: Hello, Dolly!, Mame, Chicago, Cabaret, Oklahoma!,
Half a Sixpence, Annie, Barnum, The Threepenny Opera, Monty Python's
Spamalot, and countless others.
Joe Raposo had used it variably in the
imaginative 7-piece orchestration for the long-running TV show Sesame
Street, and has sometimes had it overdubbed with itself or an electric
guitar. The banjo is still (albeit rarely) in use in the show's
Four-string banjo in Austria
Irish tenor banjo from Gold Tone
The shorter-necked, tenor banjo, with 17 ("short scale") or 19 frets,
is also typically played with a plectrum. It became a popular
instrument after about 1910. Early models used for melodic picking
typically had 17 frets on the neck and a scale length of 19½ to
21½ inches. By the mid-1920s, when the instrument was used
primarily for strummed chordal accompaniment, 19-fret necks with a
scale length of 21¾ to 23 inches became standard. The usual
tuning is the all-fifths tuning C3 G3 D4 A4, in which there are
exactly seven semitones (a perfect fifth) between the open notes of
consecutive strings. Other players (particularly in Irish traditional
music) tune the banjo G2 D3 A3 E4 like an octave mandolin, which lets
the banjoist duplicate fiddle and mandolin fingering. The
popularisation of this tuning was usually attributed to the late
Barney McKenna, banjoist with The Dubliners. Fingerstyle on tenor
banjo retuned to open G tuning dgd'g' or lower open D tuning Adad'
(three finger picking, frailing) have been explored by Mirek
The tenor banjo was a common rhythm-instrument in early 20th-century
dance-bands. Its volume and timbre suited early jazz (and
jazz-influenced popular music styles) and could both compete with
other instruments (such as brass instruments and saxophones) and be
heard clearly on acoustic recordings. George Gershwin's Rhapsody in
Blue, in Ferde Grofe's original jazz orchestra arrangement, includes
tenor banjo, with widely spaced chords not easily playable on plectrum
banjo in its conventional tuning(s). With development of the archtop
and electric guitar, the tenor banjo largely disappeared from jazz and
popular music, though keeping its place in traditional "Dixieland"
Some 1920s Irish banjo players picked out the melodies of jigs, reels
and hornpipes on tenor banjos, decorating the tunes with snappy
triplet ornaments. The most important Irish banjo player of this era
was Mike Flanagan of the New York-based Flanagan Brothers, one of the
most popular Irish-American groups of the day. Other pre-WW2 Irish
banjo players included Neil Nolan, who recorded with Dan Sullivan's
Shamrock Band in Boston, and Jimmy McDade, who recorded with the Four
Provinces Orchestra in Philadelphia. Meanwhile, in Ireland the rise of
"ceili" bands provided a new market for a loud instrument like the
tenor banjo. Use of the tenor banjo in Irish music has increased
greatly since the folk revival of the 1960s.
Cello banjo from Gold Tone
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries there was a vogue in
plucked-string instrument ensembles—guitar orchestras, mandolin
orchestras, banjo orchestras—in which the instrumentation was made
to parallel that of the string section in symphony orchestras. Thus
"violin, viola, 'cello, bass" became "mandolin, mandola, mandocello,
mandobass", or in the case of banjos, "banjolin, banjola, banjo cello,
bass banjo". Because the range of pluck stringed instrument generally
isn't as great as that of comparably-size bowed string instruments,
other instruments were often added to these plucked orchestras to
extend the range of the ensemble upwards and downwards.
Rarer than either the tenor or plectrum banjo is the cello banjo (also
"banjo cello"). It's normally tuned C2-G2-D3-A3, one octave below the
tenor banjo like the cello and mandocello. It played a role in banjo
orchestras in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. A
five-string cello banjo, set up like a bluegrass banjo (with the short
5th string), but tuned one octave lower, has been produced by the
Bass and contrabass banjo
Bass banjos have been produced in both upright bass formats and with
standard, horizontally carried banjo bodies. Contrabass banjos with
either three or four strings have also been made; some of these had
headstocks similar to those of bass violins. Tuning varies on these
large instruments, with four-string models sometimes being tuned in
4ths like a bass violin—E1-A1-D2-G2, and sometimes in 5ths, like a
four-string cello banjo, one octave lower—C1-G1-D2-A2. Other
variants are also used.
Old six-string zither banjo
The six-string banjo began as a British innovation by William Temlet,
one of England's earliest banjo makers. He opened a shop in London in
1846, and sold banjos with closed backs and up to seven strings. He
marketed these as "zither" Banjos from his 1869 patent. American
Alfred Davis Cammeyer (1862–1949), a young violinist-turned banjo
concert player, devised the five or six-string zither banjo around
1880. It had a wood resonator and metal "wire" strings (the 1st and
2nd melody strings and 5th "thumb" string. The 3rd melody string was
gut and the 4th was silk covered) as well as frets and guitar-style
A zither banjo usually has a closed back and sides with the drum body
(usually metal) and skin tensioning system suspended inside the wooden
rim/back, the neck and string tailpiece was mounted on the wooden
outer rim, the short string usually led through a tube in the neck so
that the tuning peg could be mounted on the peg head. They were often
made by builders who used guitar tuners that came in banks of three
and so if 5 stringed had a redundant tuner. The banjos could also be
somewhat easily converted over to a six-string banjo. British opera
Adelina Patti advised Cammeyer that the zither-banjo might be
popular with English audiences (it was invented there), and Cammeyer
went to London in 1888. With his virtuoso playing, he helped show that
banjos could make sophisticated music than normally played by
blackface minstrels. He was soon performing for London society, where
he met Sir Arthur Sullivan, who recommended that Cammeyer progress
from arranging the music of others for banjo to composing his own
music. (Supposedly unknown to Cammeyer, William Temlett had patented a
seven-string closed back banjo in 1869, and was already marketing it
as a "zither-banjo.") 1
In the late 1890s
Banjo maker F.C Wilkes developed a six-string
version of the banjo, with the 6th string "tunnelled" through the
neck. It is arguable that Arthur O. Windsor influenced development and
perfection of the zither banjo and created the open-back banjo
along with other modifications to the banjo type instruments, such as
the modern non-solid attached resonator. (Gibson claims credit for
this modification on the American Continent.) Windsor claimed he
created the hollow neck banjo with a truss rod, and buried the 5th
string in the neck after the 5th fret so to put the tuning peg on the
peg-head rather than in the neck. Gibson claims credit for perfecting
the tone ring.
Modern six-string bluegrass banjos have been made. These add a bass
string between the lowest string and the drone string on a five-string
banjo, and are usually tuned G4 G2 D3 G3 B3 D4.
Sonny Osborne played
one of these instruments for several years. It was modified by luthier
Rual Yarbrough from a Vega five-string model. A picture of Sonny with
this banjo appears in Pete Wernick's Bluegrass
Banjo method book.
Six-string banjos having a guitar neck and a banjo body have become
quite popular since the mid-1990s. See under
Banjo Hybrids and
Banjo hybrids and variants
A number of hybrid instruments exist, crossing the banjo with other
stringed instruments. Most of these use the body of a banjo, often
with a resonator, and the neck of the other instrument. Examples
include the banjo mandolin (first patented in 1882) and the banjo
ukulele or banjolele, most famously played by the English comedian
George Formby. These were especially popular in the early decades
of the twentieth century, and were probably a result of a desire
either to allow players of other instruments to jump on the banjo
bandwagon at the height of its popularity, or to get the natural
amplification benefits of the banjo resonator in an age before
The six-string banjo guitar basically consists of a six-string guitar
neck attached to a bluegrass or plectrum banjo body. This was the
instrument of the early jazz great Johnny St. Cyr, jazzmen Django
Reinhardt, Danny Barker,
Papa Charlie Jackson and Clancy Hayes, as
well as the blues and gospel singer The Reverend Gary Davis. Nowadays,
it appears under various names such as guitanjo, guitjoe, ganjo,
banjitar, or bantar. Today, musicians as diverse as Keith Urban, Rod
Stewart, Taj Mahal, Joe Satriani, David Hidalgo,
Larry Lalonde and Doc
Watson play the six-string guitar banjo. Rhythm guitarist
Dave Day of
The Monks replaced his guitar with a six-string,
gut-strung guitar banjo on which he played guitar chords. This
instrument sounds much more metallic, scratchy and wiry than a
standard electric guitar, due to its amplification via a small
microphone stuck inside the banjo's body.
Instruments that have a five-string banjo neck on a wooden body (for
example, a guitar, bouzouki, or dobro body) have also been made, such
as the banjola. A 20th-Century Turkish instrument similar to the banjo
is called the cümbüş—which has been made into eight different
hybrid instruments, including guitar, mandolin, ukulele, and oud. At
the end of the twentieth century, a development of the five-string
banjo was the BanSitar. This features a bone bridge, giving the
instrument a sitar-like resonance. A recent innovation is the patented
Banjo-Tam, invented by Frank Abrams of Asheville North Carolina
combining a traditional five string banjo neck with a tambourine as a
rim or pot.
Main article: List of banjo players
Vess Ossman (1868–1923) was a leading five-string banjoist whose
career spanned the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Vess started
playing banjo at the age of twelve. He was a popular recording artist,
and, in fact, one of the first recording artists ever, when audio
recording first became commercially available. He formed various
recording groups, his most popular being the Ossman-Dudley
Fred Van Eps
Fred Van Eps (1878–1960) was a noted five-string player and banjo
maker who learned to play from listening to cylinder recordings of
Vess Ossman. He recorded for Edison's company, producing some of the
earliest disk recordings, and also the earliest ragtime recordings in
any medium other than player piano.
Eddie Peabody (1902–1970) was a great proponent of the plectrum
banjo who performed for nearly five decades (1920–1968) and left a
considerable legacy of recordings. An early reviewer dubbed him
"King of the Banjo", and his was a household name for decades. He went
on to develop new instruments, produce records, and appear in movies.
Frank Lawes (1894–1970), of the United Kingdom, developed a unique
fingerstyle technique on the four-string plectrum instrument, and was
a prolific composer of four string banjo music, much of which is still
performed and recorded today.
Harry Reser (1896–1965), plectrum and tenor banjo, and was regarded
by some as the best tenor banjoist of the 1920s. He wrote a large
number of works for tenor banjo as well as instructional material,
authoring numerous banjo method books, over a dozen other
instrumental method books (for guitar; ukulele; mandolin; etc.), and
was well known in the banjo community. Reser's accomplished single
string and "chord melody" technique set a "high mark" that many
subsequent tenor players endeavored – and still endeavor – to
Other important four-string performers were Mike Pingitore, who played
tenor for the
Paul Whiteman Orchestra
Paul Whiteman Orchestra through 1948, and Roy Smeck,
early radio and recording pioneer, author of many instructional books,
and whose influential performances on many fretted instruments earned
him the nickname "Wizard of the Strings", during his active years
(1922–1950). Prominent tenor players of more recent vintage include
Narvin Kimball (d. 2006) (left-handed banjoist of Preservation Hall
Jazz Band fame),
Barney McKenna (d. 2012) (one of the founding members
of The Dubliners).
Notable four-string players currently active include ragtime and
Charlie Tagawa (b. 1935) and Bill Lowrey (b. 1963).
Howard Alden (b. 1958) began his career on tenor banjo
and still plays it at traditional jazz events.
Cynthia Sayer (b. 1962)
is regarded as one of the top jazz plectrum banjoists. Rock and
Winston Marshall (b. 1988) plays banjo (among other
instruments) for the British folk rock group Mumford and Sons, a band
that won the 2013
Grammy Award for "Best Album of the Year".
Earl Scruggs (1924–2012), whose career ranged from the end of World
War II into the 21st century, is widely regarded as the father of the
bluegrass style of banjo playing. The three-finger style of
playing he developed while playing with Bill Monroe's band is known by
his name: Scruggs Style.
Dave Hum (-2012) Dave played a banjo and a classical guitar and he was
a member of jazz band Street Level, and more recently Irish Celtic and
bluegrass folk band The Huckleberries. He was one of the foremost
Banjo musicians outside the USA and is credited with helping grow the
banjo's popularity in the UK during the last 10-15 years
Pete Seeger (1919–2014), although perhaps most widely known as a
singer-songwriter with folk group The Weavers, included five-string
banjo among his instruments. His 1948 method book How to Play the
Banjo has been credited by thousands of banjoists,
including prominent professionals, with sparking their interest in the
instrument. He is also credited with inventing the long-neck banjo
(also known as the "Seeger Banjo"), which adds three lower frets to
the five-string banjo's neck, and tunes the four main strings down by
a minor third, to facilitate playing in singing keys more comfortable
for some folk guitarists.
Among a long list of prominent five-string banjo pickers are Roy Clark
Ben Eldridge (b. 1938);
John Hartford (d. 2001); Bill Keith
Sonny Osborne (b. 1937);
Tony Trischka (b. 1949); Pete
Wernick (b. 1946);
Rual Yarbrough (d. 2010). Most of these musicians
play (or played) bluegrass music, though some crossed over into other
styles, and some are/were multi-instrumentalists.
Béla Fleck (b. 1958) is widely acknowledged as one of the world's
most innovative and technically proficient banjo players. His work
spans many styles and genres, including jazz, bluegrass, classical,
R&B, avant garde, and "world music", and he has produced a
substantial discography and videography. He works extensively in both
acoustic and electric media. Fleck has been nominated for Grammy
Awards in more categories than any other artist, and has received 13
as of 2015.
Clifford Essex, (b. 1869 – c.1946) a famous banjoist in Britain, who
was also a musical instrument manufacturer
David Gilmour, (b. 1946), best known as a guitarist for the British
band Pink Floyd. He plays a variety of stringed instruments, as well
as the banjo.
Prewar Gibson banjo
Stringed instrument tunings
^ "Bluegrass Music: The Roots". IBMA. Archived from the original on 22
August 2006. Retrieved 2006-08-25.
^ a b Odell, Jay Scott. "Banjo". Grove Music Online. Oxford Music
Online. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 23 February
2015. (subscription required)
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Banjo in the Nineteenth Century. The University of North Carolina
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