Who Invented the Banjo?

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The banjo is a stringed instrument that is part of the lute family. A banjo's body is made with a wooden hoop. A vellum is stretched over the hoop leaving an open back. Banjos have long, narrow, fretted necks with five strings. The banjo's written history begins in the 1600s.

First Record

  • The first written record of a banjo is credited to Richard Johnson. Johnson wrote of banjos in his diary starting in 1620 while exploring in Africa.

First Banjos

  • Early banjos had gourds for bodies. A varying number of strings were used in the first banjos.

Banjos in America

  • Banjos were first seen in American in the 17th century. Africans, who were brought to America as slaves, created the first banjos.

Other Names

  • The banjo has been called many different names over the centuries. Early musicians called the banjo by names like banjar, banjil, bangoe and bangie.

Popular Instrument

  • Throughout the 1700s and early 1800s, the banjo was seen as an instrument for the lower classes. In the mid-1800s, the banjo gained popularity. S.S. Stewart began mass producing banjos in the mid-1800s that were popular and affordable for all economic classes.

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