Banjo has been part of popular music for quite a while. From Elle King to Taylor Swift, many professional musicians use banjos in their music. Despite the guitar’s popularity, many significant artists use banjos for their unique tone and music quality.
Many people still misidentify banjos with guitars. But Banjos still have a solid follower community. They want their favorite musicians and banjo players to develop new banjo numbers.
The section below discusses what a banjo is, the famous banjo brand Fender, and the popularity of the Fender 5-string banjo. The article also mentions the famous musicians who have used and are still using the Fender 5-String Banjo in their music.
What is a Banjo?
Banjo is a popular stringed instrument which believes to have an African origin. By the 19th century, banjos started to become famous worldwide. It is a part of the guitar family.
A banjo has a circular frame on which a membrane is wrapped. The rest of the parts are similar to a guitar. Banjo supports all kinds of music genres, from country to folk music.
It is majorly helpful in folk and country music. But hip-hop and pop musicians also use them. This broad appeal of banjos makes it more unique than a guitar.
Some of the most popular variations of banjos are:
- Five-string banjos
- Four-string banjos
- Six-string banjos
- Tenor banjos
- Low banjos
- Hybrid banjos
Due to the high popularity gained by the banjos, many instrument producers came up with different model banjos. One of the popular Banjos brands trusted worldwide is the Fender Banjos.
Fender is a famous American brand that used to be popular for its guitar models. They are known for their high-quality, long-lasting guitars from the 1950s onwards. Afterward, they expanded their business into manufacturing banjos too.
Within a short period, the Fender Banjos gained great popularity. Now, they make banjos for both beginner and professional banjo players. The highlight of Fender Banjos is that they provide a lifetime warranty for all their banjo models.
Features of Fender Banjos
The various features of Fender banjos are:
- Creates a bright tone
- It mostly features an open-back body design.
- Ideal for various music genres like folk, jazz, bluegrass, country, etc.
- Rosewood is the fingerboard material.
- Maple wood
- is the neck part material of the banjo.
- Multiple designs like standard, deluxe, and professional
- Feature a unique V-shaped headstock.
- The hardware is mainly chrome-plated
- Maintains a glossy finish throughout the instrument
- Premium models have a lacquer finish and gold-plated hardware
Types of Fender Banjos
Some of the famous Fender Banjo models include
- Fender Standard
- Fender Deluxe
- Fender Artist
- Fender Concert
- Fender Professional
The section below explores how some of these bestseller Fender banjo designs differ.
- Basic banjo series from Fender
- Includes four models: FB-58, FB-59, FB-60, and FB-65
- FB-58 is primarily made of maple wood. Mahogany is the building material of the rest of the models.
- It has a chrome-plated tailpiece and armrest
- It has a neck made of maple wood.
- The fingerboard features a block inlay pattern.
- Fingerboard is made of rosewood.
- Launched in the 1960s
- It is five-stringed
- Features a rosewood fingerboard with a chrome-plated armrest
- It comes with an “Artist” peghead inlay
- Most premium and expensive Fender banjo model
- Mahogany is the neck and resonator material.
- It produces a bit more complicated sound than the rest of the models.
- The tailpiece is exclusive to this model.
Five-String Fender Banjos
Although the Fender brand empowered the banjo musicians and the industry, the five-string banjos from Fender gained significant momentum. Even now, it is one of the bestselling models from Fender.
The five-string Fender banjos feature a short fifth string to the four-string banjos. This fifth string produces the highest pitch in the instrument and enables the professional musicians of the banjo world to give unique music.
The five-string, open-back Fender banjos represent vintage American music. But even contemporary musicians appreciate the unique tone of the Fender 5-string banjos and widely use them in their performances.
Some of the famous musicians who include the five-string banjos in their performances are:
- Jerry Garcia
- The Avett Brothers
- Kurt Weill
- Todd Taylor
- Ralph Stanley
Why is the Five-String Banjo Popular?
- Unique Tone: The unique tone of five-string banjos makes them ideal for many musical genres. It is perfect for traditional folk music and modern jazz music alike.
- Affordable Price: The five-string banjo is much cheaper than a four-string banjo. The beginner-level five-string banjos are some of the least expensive banjo models.
- Smaller Size: The five-string banjos are much easier to carry around and handle due to their relatively smaller size.
- Easy to Learn: The five-string banjo features an effortless playing technique. Even beginners can learn the instrument in lesser time.
Musicians Who Popularised the 5-String Banjo
Five-string banjos have left a great legacy in global music, especially American folk music. From the introduction of the banjos in the 1960s onwards, musicians have been keen on mastering the instrument.
Some other musicians who excelled in other instruments also tried to learn and master the banjo then. The section below identifies legendary musicians who used five-string banjos in their works and performances.
Luke Kelly is a legendary folk musician from Ireland. He shifted to England in his twenties and pursued folk music right away. He is a member of The Dubliners music band. He joined the band during their foundation in 1962 itself.
Luke Kelly widely popularised the five-string banjo at that time. He used the banjo in several famous albums like ‘Working Class Hero,’ ‘The Performer,’ ‘The Definitive Collection,’ etc.
Bela Fleck is a famous American musician who popularised the five-string banjo. Till his time, the banjo was primarily helpful in bluegrass performances. But he introduced the five-string banjo to genres like jazz, hip-hop, etc.
His famous works are ‘Drive,’ ‘Flight of the Cosmic Hippo,’ etc.
Earl Scruggs is an iconic American banjo player credited for popularising the three-finger playing style in the banjo. As a tribute to him, the three-finger playing technique is now known as the Scruggs Style.
Earl Scruggs is a legend in bluegrass music. His famous works ‘I still miss someone,’ ‘Foggy Mountain Breakdown,’ etc. feature the Scruggs style of banjo playing.
Jimmy Page was the critical banjo player of the popular band Led Zeppelin. He was also the founder of the Led Zeppelin rock band. The single named ‘Gallows Pole’ by Led Zeppelin contains an iconic banjo session by Jimmy Page.
He played a significant role in popularising the early days of the five-string banjo.
The American social justice activist turned folk musician Pete Seeger is known for his banjo-playing style. In the early 1960s, Pete Seeger caused hype around the banjos and caused a high demand in sales for the instruments.
His famous works are ‘God Bless the Grass,’ ‘Dangerous Songs,’ ‘Rainbow Race,’ etc.
Other musicians like Tony Trischka, Noam Pikelny, Alison Brown, etc., and many different bands also used to play banjo and popularise it in the years earlier to the twentieth century.
The many hours spent by these legends made the fifth string of the banjo and the five-string banjo famous worldwide. They earned a position for banjo music when playing banjo was not the coolest thing.
Scope of Five-String Fender Banjos
In the beginning, banjo was used by the guitar player or the band’s lead guitarist. A guitar player playing lead guitar or bass guitar is also expected to be good with a banjo.
But the fact that a banjo is similar to a guitar in part of its design, like the guitar neck, nylon strings, tone ring, etc., does not mean they can be played alike. No mandolin player or lead guitarist can excel at playing the banjo.
A dedicated banjo player can only sound good with a professional banjo. So, slowly, rock bands started using the service of a banjo player alongside an electric guitar player or a bass guitar player.
The popularity gained by banjo players gradually motivated music store branches to promote banjo singles. Many rock bands and other bands these days started playing banjo along with other instruments like electric guitars. Nowadays, many bands have a dedicated banjo player with them.
Banjo is one of the key instruments used in many popular bands, shows, and performances. Banjo music has even appeared in the popular American sitcom Andy Griffith Show. This appearance in the Andy Griffith Show also familiarised banjo with the homely audience.
Five-string banjo, especially the ones from the Fender brand, exhibits excellent scope for growth. The number of variations available for the Fender 5-string banjo makes it ideal for professionals and beginners.
Many legendary musicians in the industry have used them and have proven significant in efficiency. As they are affordable, any banjo enthusiast can purchase a quality five-string Fender banjo.
1. Why is a five-string banjo important for American music?
Five-string banjo has been a crucial part of American music for centuries. These banjos played a significant role in developing American country music, jazz, folk music, etc.
2. Who invented the five-string banjo?
An African-American performer named Joel Walker Sweeney invented the five-string banjo.