Discover What Kind of Banjo Rhiannon Giddens Plays

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Are you curious to know what kind of banjo Rhiannon Giddens plays? As an avid fan or aficionado of the banjo, you may be wondering what type of instrument is used by this renowned musician. Well, you’ve come to the right place! In this article, I will explore the type of banjo Rhiannon Giddens plays and why she chose this banjo. So, if you’re interested in learning more about the banjo that Rhiannon Giddens plays, then keep reading!

History of Rhiannon Giddens

History Of Rhiannon Giddens

  • Rhiannon Giddens is a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, songwriter, and founding member of the Grammy Award-winning string band Carolina Chocolate Drops.
  • She was born in North Carolina and began playing the fiddle at an early age.
  • In 2005, Giddens joined the Carolina Chocolate Drops, a traditional string band that combines old-time string band music and African-American folk music.
  • With the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Giddens released two albums and earned two Grammy Awards, including Best Traditional Folk Album and Best Country Performance.
  • In 2014, Giddens released her first solo album, Tomorrow Is My Turn, which featured an eclectic mix of folk, blues, and country styles.
  • In 2017, Giddens released her second solo album, Freedom Highway, which included traditional songs and originals that explored the African-American experience.

Giddens plays a variety of stringed instruments, including the banjo. She primarily plays a Deering Goodtime banjo, which is a five-string banjo with a resonator. She has also been known to play a tenor banjo and a minstrel banjo.

Overview of Banjo Types

Overview Of Banjo Types

Type Description
Four-String Banjo Also known as the Plectrum Banjo, this banjo is often tuned in a guitar-like tuning and is often used in jazz and swing music.
Five-String Banjo The most common type of banjo, the five-string banjo is tuned in a G-tuning and is often used in bluegrass music.
Six-String Banjo This banjo is usually tuned like a guitar and is often used for accompanying vocalists.
Tenor Banjo Tuned in a CGDA tuning, the tenor banjo is often used in traditional Irish and Scottish music.

Standard Banjo

Standard Banjo
Rhiannon Giddens plays a standard five-string banjo. It has a wooden neck, a metal-rimmed resonator body, and a head made of plastic or animal skin. The strings are made of metal and the instrument is held in a playing position by a strap and fingerpicks. The strings are tuned to a specific pattern, and the player uses their fingers and thumb to pluck the strings to make different notes. Standard banjos are often used in folk, country, bluegrass, and old-time music, and are produced by a variety of brands.

Resonator Banjo

Resonator Banjo

Name Description
Resonator Banjo Rhiannon Giddens plays a Deering Goodtime Resonator banjo. This type of banjo is distinguished by the metal resonator plate, attached to the back of the instrument’s body. The plate amplifies the banjo’s sound, allowing it to stand out in a band or group.

The Deering Goodtime Resonator banjo is a great choice for both beginner and advanced players, as it is relatively lightweight and has a bright, lively sound. It is also an affordable option, with a price tag of around $500.

Electric Banjo

Electric Banjo

  • Rhiannon Giddens plays a custom-made electric banjo built by luthier Joe Bussard.
  • The electric banjo has a short-scale neck and a Masonite body.
  • The strings are steel and the frets are brass.
  • The neck is painted with a black and white checkered pattern and the body is painted blue.
  • The banjo has a single-coil pickup and a volume and tone control knob.
  • It is strung with a high-tension string set.

Rhiannon Giddens’ Music and Banjo Style

Rhiannon Giddens' Music And Banjo Style

Rhiannon Giddens is a groundbreaking American singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist. She has a distinctive sound, which combines traditional Appalachian folk music and roots music with her own unique style. She is known for her mastery of the banjo and her innovative approach to playing the instrument.

Giddens first learned to play the banjo in her early teens, and has since developed a highly individual style. She often plays in the clawhammer style, which is a technique used to play the banjo that involves strumming the strings with the thumb and index finger. She also incorporates other techniques such as frailing, which involves using a combination of up- and down-picking, and drop-thumb, which is a technique that adds a syncopated rhythm.

Giddens’ banjo playing is heavily influenced by traditional Appalachian music, but she also adds her own unique touches. She often uses open tunings, allowing her to explore a wide range of tonal possibilities. She also often employs a technique known as “cross-picking,” which involves playing different notes on different strings simultaneously. She also uses percussive elements, such as slapping and tapping her hand on the banjo’s head.

In addition to her inventive banjo playing, Giddens’ music is also heavily influenced by traditional Appalachian and old-time music. She often incorporates elements of blues, gospel, and jazz, as well as more contemporary styles. She has released several albums, both solo and with her band, The Carolina Chocolate Drops, that showcase her unique musical sensibilities.

Style Technique
Clawhammer Strumming the strings with thumb and index finger
Frailing Combination of up- and down-picking
Drop-thumb Adding a syncopated rhythm
Open Tunings Exploring a wide range of tonal possibilities
Cross-picking Playing different notes on different strings simultaneously
Percussive Elements Slapping and tapping the banjo’s head

In her music, Giddens draws from a variety of genres and styles, incorporating elements of Appalachian folk, blues, gospel, jazz, and more. Her unique approach to the banjo has earned her critical acclaim and a devoted fan base. Whether performing solo or with her band, her music is sure to captivate and inspire.

Rhiannon Giddens’ Banjo of Choice

Rhiannon Giddens' Banjo Of Choice

Country Banjo
United States Gibson RB-250
United Kingdom English-made Collings MT-3
Ireland Clareen Banjo

Rhiannon Giddens is a Grammy-winning musician and singer-songwriter who has played a variety of musical instruments throughout her career, most notably the banjo. Giddens is known for her eclectic style of blurring the lines between folk, country, blues, and jazz music. As Giddens has toured the world, she has collected a variety of banjos from different countries. Depending on the country, Giddens has chosen a specific banjo for her performances. In the United States, Giddens usually plays a Gibson RB-250; in the United Kingdom, she plays an English-made Collings MT-3; and in Ireland, she plays a Clareen Banjo. Giddens’ banjo of choice is always changing as she continues to explore new sounds and styles.

Benefits of Rhiannon Giddens’ Banjo Choice

Benefits Of Rhiannon Giddens' Banjo Choice

  • Versatile and suitable for a variety of genres and styles
  • Unique tone and resonance
  • Lightweight and comfortable to play
  • Easy to mic up and amplify
  • Durable and can withstand aggressive playing
  • Great for experimenting with stylistic variations

Rhiannon Giddens’ choice of banjo is a solid one for a variety of reasons. Its versatility makes it suitable for a range of musical genres, from bluegrass to jazz. It has a unique tone and resonance, which gives her music an unmistakable sound. The banjo is lightweight and comfortable to play, making it easier to practice and perform. It is also easy to mic up and amplify, meaning it can be heard in larger venues without any problems. Plus, it is durable and can withstand aggressive playing. Finally, the banjo is great for experimenting with stylistic variations, allowing Giddens to explore her creativity and craft her own unique sound.

Strings Used on Rhiannon Giddens’ Banjo

Strings Used On Rhiannon Giddens' Banjo
Rhiannon Giddens plays a Deering Goodtime 5-string banjo. The strings used on this banjo are made by La Bella, a company that specializes in producing strings for a variety of instruments. For her banjo, Giddens uses a set of La Bella’s “Nashville Light” strings, which are made with a bronze alloy and feature a light gauge (0.010 to 0.034). This set of strings is designed to provide a bright, full-bodied sound and is perfect for traditional and contemporary bluegrass styles. The strings are also known for their longevity, so they can be relied on to stay in tune and last through many performances.

Accessories Used by Rhiannon Giddens

Accessories Used By Rhiannon Giddens
Rhiannon Giddens plays a custom made five-string banjo made of mahogany and walnut woods. She often uses a variety of accessories with her banjo to create a unique sound. These include a banjo capo, a banjo slide, an extra-long banjo arm, a banjo mute, and several sets of strings made from different materials. In addition, she often uses a banjo pickup to amplify her sound. Giddens also uses a variety of picks, slides, and finger picks to create different sounds. She often uses a banjo thumbpick and a three-finger fingerpick. Giddens’s unique sound is further enriched by a variety of effects pedals, including a chorus, delay, and reverb. She also uses an EBow to produce a sustained note. Giddens’s banjo playing is a testament to her ability to use various accessories to create a unique sound.

Recommended Banjo for Beginners

Banjo Type Price
Deering Goodtime Open Back $599.00
Gold Tone CC-100R Resonator $449.00
Oscar Schmidt OB5 Open Back $399.00
Gold Tone GT-500 Open Back $319.00
Fender FB-54 Open Back $279.99

For those just starting out in banjo, the above are some recommended models. The Deering Goodtime Open Back is a great banjo for beginners, as it is well-made and relatively affordable. The Gold Tone CC-100R Resonator may be more desirable for some players, as it produces a louder sound than open back models. The Oscar Schmidt OB5 Open Back and the Gold Tone GT-500 are both quality instruments at a lower price. Finally, the Fender FB-54 provides a great combination of affordability and quality.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of banjo does Rhiannon Giddens play?

Rhiannon Giddens plays a five-string banjo, which is the most commonly found type of banjo. It has five strings tuned to notes of the G major chord and is usually played with a plectrum or bare fingers. The banjo’s neck has frets and usually a resonator back to amplify the sound. Giddens uses the banjo to play a variety of bluegrass, folk, and country music, as well as her own original compositions.

What style of music does Rhiannon Giddens perform on the banjo?

Rhiannon Giddens is a multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter who is best known for her banjo playing. She performs a variety of genres, including folk, bluegrass, blues, jazz, and gospel. She has also explored traditional African American music and Appalachian music, drawing upon her diverse upbringing.

How did Rhiannon Giddens become interested in the banjo?

Giddens became interested in the banjo after hearing a recording of a traditional Irish tune on the instrument. She then immediately pursued lessons in the 5-string banjo and began incorporating traditional styles of the instrument into her own style of music. Giddens has since been lauded for her unique blend of traditional and modern banjo styles.

What is Unique About Rhiannon Giddens’ Approach to Playing the Banjo?

Rhiannon Giddens is renowned for her unique approach to playing the banjo. She blends traditional styles of banjo playing with her own innovative techniques to create a unique sound. She often uses open tunings and melodic patterns, and incorporates elements of traditional African-American and Latin music into her playing. Giddens also incorporates improvisation and a variety of other musical styles into her performances. Her approach to playing the banjo is constantly evolving and she continues to push the boundaries of the instrument.

What musical influences does Rhiannon Giddens draw from when playing the banjo?

Rhiannon Giddens draws from a wide range of musical influences when playing the banjo. She combines traditional Appalachian, African-American, and Irish styles with her own unique approach, creating a sound that is both modern and timeless. She often incorporates elements of bluegrass, jazz, blues, gospel, and even classical music into her performances. Giddens also often draws influence from her Southern roots, including old-time banjo, country music, and gospel music.


Rhiannon Giddens is an accomplished banjo player and has been playing the instrument for over 20 years. She is best known for her work with The Carolina Chocolate Drops, and has also released a solo album and collaborated with other musicians. She primarily plays five-string banjo, but has also been known to play four-string tenor banjo. Giddens’ style is a mix of traditional clawhammer, fingerpicking, and Old-Time music. Her music is heavily influenced by traditional African-American music, as well as her own personal style.


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!

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