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Profile of the Banjo


Profile of the Banjo


Photo Courtesy of Dave Gilligan

Name of Instrument:




How to Play:

Banjos can be played in several ways:

  • By using a pick, the musician uses it to strum or pluck the strings. This is often used by Irish and jazz musicians.

  • Scruggs-style, also known as three-fingered picking style. Picks are placed on the index, middle and small finger often used in country, bluegrass, Irish and folk music.

  • The frailing style, also known as "clawhammer". The musician uses the nail of his middle finger and index finger. It's a playing technique especially used in the 1800's.


There are 2 main types:

  • 5-stringed banjos - Usually tuned to open chords and used in Irish and American music. As the name implies, it has 5 strings, 4 of these are used to play the melody.

  • Tenor banjo - Smaller than the 5-string banjo, it has 4 strings and used to play the jazz section.

Other banjos were also created like the piccolo banjo, guitar banjo and banjo ukulele. Some of these types are rarely used and usually a mix of two instruments. The banjolin, for example, is a combination of a banjo and a mandolin.

First Known Banjos:

The banjo originated from Africa and in the 19th century was brought into America by slaves. In its earliest form it had four gut strings.

Banjo Players:

Some notable banjo players are: Eddie Peabody, Perry Bechtel, Elmer Snowden, Harry Reser, Earl Scruggs, Béla Fleck, Ralph Stanley and Pete Seeger.

Additional Banjo Resource:

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