There is no doubt about the fact that a Banjo is one of the most popular and loved stringed instruments all over the world. There has always been a lot of curiosity about this instrument amongst professional musicians and music enthusiasts. But, do you know, what were Banjos originally made out of? Let us read further and find out everything about it.
Origin And History Of Banjos
Banjos have a very interesting history. There are very few instruments with which Americans connect very deeply and one of them happens to be the Banjo. The references to this musical instrument come way back from the early 1600s. It is believed that the African slaves belonging to the Caribbean island had created it. This instrument is very intertwined with West African and African American heritage. It was mostly a part of the slave labor camps and the descendants of the colonial North Americans and Caribbean islands. It also extended further to the urban and rural settings as well.
The Earliest Banjo
Since Banjo blends the European and West African forms, a trace of both cultures is found in its structure. The first Banjo was made out of a Calabash gourd with a sheepskin soundboard, connected to a wooden neck. The neck would accommodate four strings. There were there full-length strings and a short string halfway. The drum-like body of the instrument with its four strings came from African traditions. The flat fingerboard along with the pegs for tuning is very much European.
The Modification Of The Banjo With Different Eras
Banjos have come across different eras and various modifications have been given to them.
- Ministerial Era: This era was from the 1830s to 1870s. During the 1830s it was Sweeney who first played the Banjo on stage. It took a more modern style then so that it could be sold.
- The Classic Era: It was from the 1880s till the 1910s. During this time it was given a more guitar-styled appearance and method of playing. Here the fingerstyle was first introduced. Even for improving the sound exotic wood, metal parts, tone ring, and metal frets were the new additions too.
- Ragtime Era: In this era which lasted from 1885 to 1919 and later the Jazz Era from the 1910s to the 1930s Banjo had become widely known all around. Modifications were also given to this instrument. Four strings were added and plectrum was introduced too. The neck was also made much shorter, and a method for tuning the instrument got developed.
- The Modern Era: It began after the World War. By now Banjo has already become a popular instrument. Multiple rock, jazz, and world music artists have started playing it along with Irish and Celtic artists too. Five string got introduced and different picking techniques such as two-finger and three-finger came into practice too. In fact, the sound of the instrument itself has gradually become a separate genre of music. Multiple upgrades to this instrument along with playing techniques are being made from here on to date.
I own a music instruments shop. My go to instrument is a banjo. My business makes it easier for me to access the instruments from various brands and of various types. I will give my honest opinion here to help out others in choosing the right instrument for them.