So, What Do We Know About Banjos?

For beginners, the banjo is one of the easiest musical instruments to get started on. The banjo creates a snapping, popping sound. The thin membrane activated by the bridge and strings responds quickly to the player. The lightest of touches by the finger will produce the most beautiful, delicate, and melodic of sounds. A banjo, by definition, is a stringed instrument that has a thin membrane stretched over its frame or cavity to form a resonator. Typically, the membrane will be circular and more likely made from plastic. it is as versatile an instrument to play as the guitar.


The banjo is thought to have originated in the Caribbean and been played there since the 17th century. Joel Sweeney is known to be the first star performer of the banjo, playing it in the 1800s. He is alleged to have invented the modern-day banjo because he added frets to its neck and introduced the fifth string. The instrument was introduced to Britain by the American Virgin Minstrels and their travelling minstrel show. It became a very popular instrument in musical halls at that time.

The best banjo player of all time is thought to be Earl Scruggs (1924-2012). He was a pioneer for the bluegrass genre. Other famous banjo players of the past include Tony Trischka, Bela Fleck, Bill Keith, and Noam Pikelny. You might have heard, too, of George Formby, who played banjo ukulele in films.

Why not become famous yourself for playing the banjo? There are various companies on the internet promoting beginner banjo.

Different Types of Banjos

Banjos can be 4 strings or 5 strings. The 4 string, which is tenor and plectrum, is for strumming and used to play Dixieland, early Jazz, and Irish music. Whereas the 5 string is for frailing and finger picking with blue grass and old-time music. Frailing, or clawhammer, as it is also called, is a style of banjo playing that is distinctive and common to American old-time music. Your choice should be about the type of music that you want to play but modern tunes are possible on both types of instruments. The 5 string is now the most popular.

For more information on the types of banjos available and their origins, there is an article that you can read.

Is It Easy to Learn?

In terms of the beginner, the 4 string can be strummed and chords played just like on the guitar, while a 5 string is for playing bluegrass and will require more practise in terms of mastering the frailing or clawhammer technique. It will be well worth it, though, once mastered.

For those starting out, tunes such as American Pie, Blowing in the Wind, Hush Little Baby, and Ring of Fire, are suggested starting pieces. There are many tutorial books and books of tunes available for the banjo. It is becoming more and more popular as a first instrument to learn. Some songs featuring the banjo include Dueling Banjos by Arthur Smith, Foggy Mountain Breakdown by Earl Scruggs, Summertime by Pete Seeger, and Gallows Pole by Led Zeppelin.

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