African slaves introduced the banjo to America by using strings and gourds to create an instrument similar to those they had used in their home countries. The instruments that were first made in this way are called “gourd bajos”. The modern 4 string banjo is classified by its number of strings, such as ‘four’, five’ or even six’. They are also further divided into banjos with and without detachable backs (or resonators): these are called “resonator” banjos. George Formby popularized a 4 string banjo hybrid called the ukulele, which he used to sing many ballads (at the time considered highly risque) and ditties.
The banjo: Buying one
For a beginner’s banjo, expect to spend around PS150. However, if you want a professional performance-standard instrument that will last for years to come, it could cost several thousand pounds. On sites such as eBay, you can often find them used.
How to play a banjo
This method is similar to what guitar buskers do. The left hand is used to hold down the frets and form a chord on the banjo, while the hand of the right side brushes the strings near the bridge. You can also play by picking up individual strings using your right hand while holding the string down with your left. This is similar to playing arpeggios or Spanish Guitar. It is the convention to play very quickly, regardless of which method is chosen.
How To Take Care Of Your Banjo
- Trim your nails and wash your hands before you play – long, untrimmed nails will easily damage your fingerboard.
- Always clean the 4 string banjo after each playing session with a damp cloth. Make sure to remove all marks and fingerprints before putting the banjo back into its case.
- You should be especially careful with a five string banjo. Its fifth peg, which is attached to the neck side, can easily get damaged while storing the instrument.
- The banjo should be stored in a case that is made of hard plastic.
- You should remove the capo when you do not plan on playing the instrument. This will prevent the wood from tarnishing.
- Polish the metal and wood surfaces with an exclusive cleaner every few months and apply oil to the wood surface using a clean and soft cloth.