Tuesday, February 7, 2023

The Different Types of Banjos to Choose Between.

February 8, 2022 by  
Filed under Entertainment, Music, Weekly Columns

(Akiit.com) The beauty of learning the banjo is that you will have diverse types of banjos to choose from. For instance, you could choose a 5-string or 4-string instrument to play. A beginner would be advised to choose a 5-string banjo to start on, but a musician already experienced in playing other stringed instruments may look for a 4-string banjo to add to their collection of musical instruments.

If you look online, there are some great banjos for your money and ones to cater to all abilities and curiosities.

4-String Banjos

A banjo that has just 4 strings is called a “plectrum” banjo. This is because its strings will be picked using a flat pick. This name distinguishes it from the 5-string banjo that would be played with fingertips, a player’s nails, or fingerpicks.

From the 4th to the 1st string, the notes on this type of banjo will be C, G, B, and D. The banjo is termed as being tuned to Chicago tuning because the fourth string is raised from C to D and the first string from D to E. You will see below how this compares to the 5-string banjo in terms of tuning.

5-String Banjos

The 5-string banjo will be used for playing Bluegrass music. This is because you will play in the “Three Finger Scruggs style”. That is, with two fingerpicks that are metal and a plastic thumb pick.

The five strings on this type of banjo are G, D, G, B, and D and tuned to a G-chord. This means that without fingering you would be playing a G-chord as the instrument is strummed.

The modern 5-string banjo is considered a variation of Sweeney’s original design. The fifth string will typically be of the same gauge as the first string but will be from the fifth fret, which is three-quarters of the length of the other strings. This allows the string to be tuned to its higher open pitch than is possible with full-length strings. These are technicalities but have influence on the playing experience and what is produced.

In terms of identifying a 5-string banjo by name, it will ordinarily just be referred to as a banjo. It is only when other names are added that you can suspect it is a different variation of a banjo. Beginners will want to know that they are looking at a 5-string banjo whether online or in a physical store. In other words, you should see it specified if a banjo is anything different or has more than 5 strings. A 5-string banjo is considered the easiest to learn on, and easier than many stringed or other kinds of instruments. We all must learn something as future musicians and banjos are proving a popular choice in that respect.

6-String Banjos

Banjos with 6 strings are tuned just like guitars. From a playing point of view, the 6th string acts as a bass string that is added between the lowest of the strings and the drone string of the 5-string banjo.

You will note that six-string banjos can be known as “banjo guitars”. This is because they have a six-string guitar neck that has been attached to their plectrum or bluegrass body.

Tenor Banjos

Tenor banjos have 4 strings and a shorter neck. They are available in two distinct types. You can choose between the 17 or 19 fret variety. These types of banjos will usually be used in Irish or traditional jazz music and played with a flat pick.

It is an interesting story to check out the origins of the banjo.

It is good to know that the selection of banjos is there for the budding or professional musician. Beginners have the choice of the 5-string banjo that would be recommended for them to start on. Professionals can opt for a 4-string, or a 6-string to be more like a guitar. Then there are two types of tenor banjos to consider in terms of the number of frets that they offer.

Staff Writer; Terry Jackson


One Response to “The Different Types of Banjos to Choose Between.”
  1. joe Bruschetti says:

    I have played the banjo for many years.
    When I would give a recital, before I played, I would always tell the story of the banjo in America.
    The original Banjo was a one stringed instrument brought over from Africa by slaves.
    It was the main instrument used by itinerant black ministers that would go from plantation to plantation with little more than their banjo and a bible.
    It progressed from there to the 4 and 5 string banjos.

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