Listen carefully, you’ll start to hear more tracks that feature a banjo
The banjo is making a comeback! Many modern artists and bands play the banjo in their hit songs.
The banjo is commonly associated with Dixieland jazz, bluegrass, and folk music, but it’s been used in other genres, including pop and rock, for many years. From Led Zeppelin’s “Gallows Pole” and The Eagles’ “Take It Easy” to more recent songs, the banjo has been hitting the airwaves.
These are some of the modern artists and bands who use the banjo:
Taylor Swift. The country/pop star plays the banjo in her Grammy Award Winning song, “Mean”. She can be seen playing her Deering Boston 6-string Acoustic/Electric Banjo in the “Mean” music video. Since the 6-string banjo is tuned like a guitar it was a likely choice for Swift to achieve the tone and feel that a banjo adds to a song without straying too far from her guitar roots. There’s also the catchy tune “Jump Then Fall,” which appeared on her re-release of the album “Fearless.” The plucky banjo sound fits well with the song’s upbeat, optimistic lyrics about falling head over heels in love.
Mumford and Sons. The British folk-rock band includes the banjo in their hit songs “I Will Wait” “Lover of the Light”, “Little Lion Man” and “Awake My Soul”. Winston Marshall, the banjoist and leading guitarist of the Grammy-Award winning band even has a banjo named after him, the Deering Winston Marshall Signature Model.
Avett Brothers. This influential folk-rock band incorporates the banjo on their songs: “Live and Die”, “Laundry Room”, and “January Wedding”. Scott Avett, one of the bands founding members primarily plays the 5-string banjo. Scott Avett has played the Deering Sierra Mahogany, Vega Senator, and Tenbrooks Legacy.
Elle King. An American singer-songwriter, with a musical style encompassing soul, rock, and blues. Elle played the classic Goodtime 2 for years before she upgraded to her Eagle II Acoustic/electric and then her Custom Black and Gold “Goldie” Eagle II that she plays now. Hear her talk about her realization that banjo is more than just a country or bluegrass instrument here.
Rascal Flatts. This country pop/rock band devoted an entire song to the banjo, instead of just using it to play music on. “Banjo” was the band’s first single from their 2012 album “Changed.”
Matchbox Twenty. This alternative rock band included the banjo in their hit song “Unwell.” The 2003 song about loneliness was one of the most-played songs of that year in the US, and the video for it reached number one on VH1’s Top 40 Videos of 2003.
Nelly Furtado. Banjos and soccer don’t normally go together, but pop star Furtado managed to combine them with her hit song “Forca.” The song, which is from her album “Folklore,” features the banjoist Bela Fleck and ended up being used as the 2004 European Football Championship anthem.
In addition to these modern artists and bands who use the banjo, the metal genre has also been experimenting with this versatile instrument. For example, Steve’n’Seagulls has managed to replace electric guitars with the banjo on classic metal songs, including “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC, “Holy Diver” by Dio, and “The Trooper” by Iron Maiden.
These examples illustrate how musicians can use the banjo in a wide range of genres. Once you’ve learned how to play it, you’ll be able to come up with your own take on this instrument, too.
Last updated: September 25, 2020
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The owner of Banjo.com is professional musician Barry Waldrep. Barry has toured professionally for the past 30 years. Raised on traditional Bluegrass, and a forerunner on the Jam Band circuit. He has toured and recorded with many artists such as The Zac Brown Band, Randy Travis, Joey & Rory and also has performed with bluegrass greats like John Cowan, Tony Trischka, Scott Vestal & Tony Rice. Read more.