How to Tell What Kind of Banjo You Have: A Simple Guide to Identifying Your Instrument

Photo of author

If you’ve recently acquired a banjo and are wondering “how to tell what kind of banjo I have?”, then you’ve come to the right place. In this article, I’m going to provide a simple guide to identifying the type of banjo you have. We’ll look at the different types of banjos, the features that distinguish them, and the steps you can take to determine which type of banjo you have. With this information, you’ll be able to easily identify the type of banjo you have and get the most out of your instrument.

Overview of Banjos

Overview Of Banjos
Banjos are stringed instruments with a cylindrical body, a long neck and a drum-like head that is typically made of animal skin. They are often used in folk, bluegrass and country music.

Types of Banjos

Types Of Banjos
There are several different types of banjos, each with its own characteristics. The four main types are four-string, five-string, six-string, and tenor banjos. Four-string banjos are the most common and are typically used for folk and bluegrass music. Five-string banjos are the most popular for bluegrass and are often used for solos. Six-string banjos are tuned like a guitar and are used to play chords. Tenor banjos are typically used in Irish, Scottish and other traditional music.

Discover Top 3 Banjo Bestsellers

Bestseller No. 1
Deering Goodtime 5-String Banjo
  • Low-profile, 22-fret rock maple neck with hardwood bow tie inlays
  • Sealed, geared tuning machines, including fifth string
  • 5/8-Inch maple/ebony Goodtime bridge with adjustable Deering tailpiece
  • Six-year warranty
  • Three-ply, 11-inch maple rim with steel tension hoop and high crown head
SaleBestseller No. 2
Banjo Brothers 05009 Canvas Commuter Backpack, Medium
  • Classic heavy-duty 20 ounce cotton canvas exterior with a large, open interior that is 100 percent waterproof
  • Designed for bike commuters, so a change of clothes, lunch, shoes and laptop will fit just fine
  • Pockets under the flap; one large zippered pocket, a medium sized flapped pouch and pencil pockets complete the bag
  • 1500 cubic inches with dimensions are 11.5 by 8 by 16 inches
  • Water-repellent dry-wax finish
SaleBestseller No. 3
Deering Artisan Goodtime II 5-String Resonator Banjo
  • Artisan Goodtime II 5-String Resonator Banjo
  • With a Bluegrass resonator back for projection, the Artisan Goodtime Two banjo has a 3-ply violin grade maple rim and produces a bright and clear tone that projects well and is louder than its open back counterpart
  • The Artisan Two is enhanced with a Rich Brown stain, white detailing and spikes at 7, 9, and 10
  • The use of spikes enables you to expand your playing from the key of G to easily play in the keys of A, B and C
  • Here is a banjo you can have right there by your easy chair or take out an play in a jam

History of Banjos

History Of Banjos
Banjos have a long history, with the earliest known instrument dating back to 1620. They were originally developed by African slaves in the United States, who used them to accompany their songs and dance. Over time, the banjo became popular in many different genres of music, such as folk, bluegrass, country, and jazz. Today, banjos are still widely used in many genres of music.

Identifying Your Banjo

Physical Characteristics

Look at the number of strings, the shape of the head, the number of frets, the rim, and the bridge of the banjo to get an idea of what type of banjo it is. Banjos can have anywhere from 4 to 6 strings and the head shape can be round, oval, or square. The number of frets varies, but most banjos have 22 to 24 frets. The rim is usually made of wood, but may also be metal or plastic. The bridge should be able to be easily adjusted for sound quality.

Sound Characteristics

Listen to the sound of the banjo to determine the type. Banjos have a distinct sound that is different from other stringed instruments. The sound can range from mellow to bright depending on the type of banjo. Listen to the sound of the instrument to get an idea of what kind it is.

Markings

Look for any markings on the banjo that will give an indication of what kind it is. Most banjos will have a label or logo that will indicate the type. Check the neck, head, and body of the banjo for any markings that can help you identify it.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the characteristics of different types of banjos?

Banjos come in a variety of types, each with its own unique characteristics. The four main types of banjos are the four-string banjo, five-string banjo, six-string banjo, and the tenor banjo. The four-string banjo is the most traditional type of banjo and is typically used in bluegrass music. It has four strings, a fretted neck, and a round, open-back body. The five-string banjo is the most popular type of banjo and is used to play a variety of styles, including bluegrass, folk, and jazz. It has five strings, a fretted neck, and a round, open-back body. The six-string banjo is the least common type of banjo and is typically used in Irish traditional music. It has six strings, a fretless neck, and a round, open-back body. The tenor banjo is the smallest type of banjo and is used in a variety of styles, including jazz and swing. It has four strings, a fretted neck, and a small, almost guitar-shaped body.

How can I identify what type of banjo I have?

The type of banjo can be identified by the number of strings, the shape of the neck, and the type of drum head. Five-string banjos have a short fifth string, while four-string banjos have a longer fourth string. The shape of the neck can help distinguish between types – open-back banjos have a round neck, while resonator banjos have a flat neck. The type of drum head can also identify the type of banjo – open-back banjos have a skin drum head, while resonator banjos have a metal drum head.

What are the distinguishing features of each type of banjo?

Four-String Banjo: Four-string banjos have a shorter neck, typically with a scale length of 22 to 24 frets and a pot diameter (the width of the rim) of 11 to 12 inches. They use a standard tuning of G, B, D, G, and are usually associated with bluegrass and old-time music.

Five-String Banjo: Five-string banjos have a longer neck, typically with a scale length of 25 to 26 frets and a pot diameter of 11 to 12 inches. They use a standard tuning of G, B, D, G, and B, and are usually associated with bluegrass, old-time, and folk music.

Six-String Banjo: Six-string banjos have the same neck length and pot diameter as five-string banjos, but they use a standard tuning of G, B, D, G, B, and E, and are usually associated with country, folk, and jazz music.

Eight-String Banjo: Eight-string banjos have the same neck length and pot diameter as four-string banjos, but they use a standard tuning of G, B, D, G, B, D, G, and B, and are usually associated with traditional Irish and Scottish folk music.

What specific components can be used to determine the type of banjo I have?

The main components that can be used to determine the type of banjo are the number of strings, the type of head, the type of neck, the type of bridge, the number of frets and the shape of the pot. The number of strings is a key factor in distinguishing between a four-string banjo and a five-string banjo. The type of head refers to the material used for the top of the banjo, which can be either plastic or animal skin. The type of neck can vary from slotted to solid and the type of bridge can vary from a traditional wooden bridge to a modern adjustable bridge. The number of frets on the banjo can also be used to distinguish between different types, with most banjos having either 17 or 19 frets. Finally, the shape of the pot refers to the shape of the banjo body, which can be either round or open-back.

Are there any particular signs I should look for to determine my banjo’s type?

Check the number of strings on the banjo – five-string banjos are the most common. Also look for a resonator, which is a metal plate attached to the back of the banjo, as this indicates a bluegrass banjo. Banjos with a wooden back are typically folk-style or minstrel banjos. The shape of the headstock can also indicate the type of banjo – a flared headstock is indicative of a bluegrass banjo, while a more traditional shape suggests a folk or minstrel banjo.

Conclusion

To determine the type of banjo you have, consider the shape of the banjo, the number of strings it has, and the type of material used to make the neck and head. Open-back banjos are typically made with a wooden neck and head, while other types of banjos may have a metal or composite neck and head. 5-string banjos typically have a longer neck and a resonator, while 4-string banjos are more commonly used for different types of music. Finally, consider the type of tuning pegs and tailpiece, as these can be helpful clues in determining the type of banjo you have.

References

About the author

Hi there! I’m Jack Little – an avid country music fan with tons of live country performances in the past. I used to play banjo in a country band with my best friend John Peters, who’s a true country harmonica master. Those were great years and I’m still mastering new banjo playing techniques, writing my own country songs and lyrics, and collecting banjos!

Leave a Comment