Banjo Facts


The banjo is an iconic instrument of American folk music. Instantly recognizable, the banjo plays a large role in specific kinds of music, but it also plays a role in the larger music history of the United States.


  • The banjo was originally developed by African slaves in America. It was modeled after native instruments played in their homelands. It was first popularized in the early minstrel shows.


  • A banjo usually has either four or five strings and a body that is made similar to a drum head. This circular body is either left open in the back or has what is known as a resonator plate.

Five Strings

  • The five-string banjo is played most often in folk or bluegrass music. Folk music usually features an open-backed banjo played without picks, whereas bluegrass uses picks and a resonator.

Four Strings

  • The four-string banjo is also sometimes called a tenor banjo. It features prominently in the jazz styles known as Dixieland, and it is also played with a pick.

Fun Fact

  • The iconic "Dueling Banjos" piece in the 1972 movie "Deliverance" actually features a guitar and a banjo. It was the first recording of this traditional song, which is normally played with two banjos.

Famous Ties

  • A number of stylized banjo designs are named for the musicians who popularized them. Arguably the most mainstream of all banjoists is Pete Seeger, who played a slightly longer-necked version.

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