The Banjo

The banjo is a member of the Plucked string family. It originates from the Caribbean and was invented by African communities and their descendants in the 17th century. It is sometimes referred to as Bangie and Banza,

The instrument became increasingly available commercially from around the second quarter of the 19th century due to minstrel performances. Its earliest recorded use was in 1678 in the Caribbean by enslaved Africans. 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. In the antebellum South, many enslaved Africans played the banjo, spreading it to the rest of the population. In his memoir With Sabre and Scalpel: The Autobiography of a Soldier and Surgeon, the Confederate veteran and surgeon John Allan Wyeth recalls learning to play the banjo as a child from an enslaved person on his family plantation. Another man who learned to play from African-Americans, probably in the 1820s, was Joel Walker Sweeney, a minstrel performer from Appomattox Court House, Virginia.

The modern banjo is made by carving a block wood into a circular rim which is fitted with a metal tone ring. The banjo’s neck is carved from another block of wood. The finger board is glued to the neck and trimmed down. Tuning pegs and strings are attached. Strings are tightened. This completes the major the steps in banjo manufacturing. 

Wood, metal, plastic are used to make it

Folk, bluegrass and country music are some of the genres of music played with it.

The classic banjo is often played solo. But the instrument can also be played as part of a band or ensemble.

How do I play the instrument?

Tune the banjo. Hold the neck and use thumb, index and middle fingers to pluck at the strings. Use a backstrap to secure the banjo as they are generally heavy.

Are there any instrument silimar to this one?

Guitar and sitar are similar to the banjo

How long does it take to learn?

It takes about 6 months of regular practice to be able to play the banjo. It can take many years to master the instrument.

Is there special equipment needed for the instrument?

No special equipment needed to play the banjo. Finger picks can be helpful for some styles of music, but they are optional.

Rock with a Star!

Let’s enjoy the sound of this instrument through this wonderful performance by Earl Scruggs

Earl Scruggs playing Foggy Mountain Breakdown with a group of festival banjo players at Camp Springs Bluegrass Festival in 1971. Earl Scruggs is one of the most renowned banjo players.