If you are a product of North American culture, it’s very likely you recognize the sound of a banjo. Banjos are a staple of American culture, being prevalent in the southern states where it’s been a mainstay of traditional musical Americana, such as country and bluegrass; however, electric banjos have been making their way into other genres in recent years, in bands like Mumford & Sons, Porcupine Tree, and The Avett Brothers, to name a few.
A banjo’s sound makes it distinct from other plucked stringed instruments in that the body is usually largely open, giving the strings a tinny, percussive, resonant soundthat rings prominently on its own. However, the simple variation of adding an electronic pickup can open the possibility of patching the banjo’s sound through amplifiers, direct inputs, and effects pedals to modify, distort, or enhance the banjo’s sound. So if this tickles your fancy and you want to take that southern-fried electric banjo sound into the twenty-first century, here is a guide to finding the electric banjo you want.
1) Choose Your Style.
What’s your style of playing? What type of banjo music are you seeking to emulate? Do you want four strings? Five? Six? Are you a beginner looking for a training instrument, or are you a pro looking to take your electric banjo playing up a notch? These will all be deciding factors that will come into play when picking out your electric banjo.
An electric banjo will have different characteristics in shape, body type, number of strings, and space between strings, depending on what music style you prefer. For the traditional, old-time, sitting on the porch in the evening sound, go for clawhammer or frailing electric banjo. Clawhammer banjos have five strings and an open back, and frailing banjos have a higher action (space between strings and fretboard) and greater width between the strings, making them ideal for fingerpicking. There are also bluegrass banjos, which are slightly heavier, and plectrum banjos, if you want to use picks exclusively.
Buying an electric banjo can be a costly and long-term option, so you want to make sure that you have not only the best quality you can afford, but also a banjo that is comfortable and makes the right sound. The best way to find your perfect electric banjo is to try out as many as you can. Try different makes and styles. No two manufacturers make their banjos the same, and even the subtle differences can make all the difference to your playing in the world.
3) Determine Your Price Range.
Musical instruments are made with precision and are notorious for being expensive purchases, and electric banjos are no different. So knowing what purpose you wish to use your electric banjo for most will help you a lot in the long term. For instance, are you still learning and want to upgrade to an electric banjo to plug into a practice amp? Then you may not have to go for a high-end Deering banjo. However, if you are a touring or professional musician who has ample experience and you’re looking to take your existing sound and augment or experiment with it using treatments and effects, it may be worth your while to look at the premium brands.
4) Check Your Sound.
You’re thinking of buying an electric banjo over an acoustic banjo for a reason: you want to transcend the limitations of an acoustic banjo and electrically project the sound. Well, before you plunk down the cash for your new toy, it’s best to ask the music store clerk if you can plug it into an amplifier or a mixer first to make sure that the sound you hear in your head is the same that you’ll get out of plugging in your new electric banjo. Music stores usually have demo effects pedals on hand that you can plug into a direct-input mixer or an amplifier onsite to ensure that it will make the sound you want. Often, acoustic instruments outfitted with pickups will cause feedback through distortions as the sound of the distortion vibrates the strings and feeds into the pickup. If you do decide to add a pickup, we recommend the Kavanjo Pickup System.
Conclusion. So now you’re ready to do some picking and have some fun! With an electric banjo, your potential for creating a bold take on a banjo sound is limitless, and you can take your sound from a circle around a fire to a crowd in an amphitheater. If you’re looking for the widest selection of electric banjos for all music types, visit Banjo.com. Contact us to know more details.
Not sure where to begin? We covered the basics in this short guide to buying your first banjo. Still not sure? Send us a note or give us a call and we'll help you make the best decision.
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Fantastic banjos sold by fantastic people. I have bought two banjos from Banjo.com and about to buy my third from them. These guys are just great people to go business with; knowledge, banjo players themselves, and just super nice. I do business with them because they are not just looking to sell my any banjo. They provide great input based upon what I want and need; not just what cost the most. I would recommend them to anyone and everyone interested in getting a banjo.
Highly recommend them to others
Barry at Banjo.com helped me make a great choice on purchasing a new banjo. He answered my emails and phone calls promptly. After a few conversations I went with his newly designed Bish Line Coal Dust. I ordered it and he kept me updated on its progress. It arrived in perfect condition and it's even nicer than he described. I will keep Banjo.com at the top of my list for any future purchases and would highly recommend them to others. Thank you again to Barry and his staff.
I couldn't be more pleased with this lovely instrument and the customer service
I recently purchased a Deering Sierra mahogany open back banjo from Banjo.com. Since I live in north Georgia, only two and one-half hours from the home of Banjo.com, I was able to visit the Banjo Barn where Barry give me the opportunity to "test drive" several banjos and he assisted me in narrowing down to my final choice. I must say, I couldn't be more pleased with this lovely instrument and the customer service I received from Barry and Banjo.com. Thank you!