Queens Bush

Varieties of banjos

Banjos come in all shapes and sizes according to the type of music they were designed for and the price range to suit your budget. There are right and left-handed banjos. About one in a thousand is a leftie, so make sure you get one that is pointed in the right direction for you. Four string banjos have at least three different neck lengths. A short neck or three quarter size, a standard neck for jazz or Dixieland, and a long neck plectrum for dance bands. Five string banjos are also made in three common sizes. A three quarters size, a standard size for folk and bluegrass, and a long neck for folk music. Other banjos are for special uses or someone’s idea of trying to combine other instrument necks on a banjo head to get a different sound. There are six string banjo-guitars, eight string banjo-mandolins, four string banjo-ukes, plus many other unusual combinations including electric pickups. Banjo have been made with wooden drum heads, tin cans, or even a bass violin neck on a bass drum.

If you are going to get a banjo for yourself, be careful to choose the right one for the type of music you are going to play. Seek advice from your friends, other musicians, music stores, music teachers, pictures, books, etc. Don’t buy a banjo until you know what it is like, how it sounds, and is the right one for the music you want to hear and play. My first advice is to borrow one, or rent one until you decide. More accurate history can be found on the www.mugwumps.com website or the www.bluegrassbanjo.org website.

I always like to imagine some primitive hominoids sitting around a campfire banging their drums, plucking bowstrings and having a few sips of a favourite fermented beverage. Add a couple of them chanting in harmony and you got it…. a Jam session.

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