What Type of Banjo Does Steve Martin Play? Find Out Here!

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As a fan of Steve Martin, I’ve always been curious as to what type of banjo he plays. After all, he’s been a banjo virtuoso since he began his career in the 1970s. In this article, I’ll be exploring what type of banjo Steve Martin has been known to play, as well as giving a brief overview of his influence on the banjo. So, if you’re wondering “What type of banjo does Steve Martin play?”, keep reading to find out!

History of the Banjo

History Of The Banjo

Year Description
1500’s The earliest banjos were developed in Africa and brought to the Americas by slaves.
1800’s The banjo was popularized in the 19th century as a parlor instrument and became a staple of minstrel shows.
1900’s In the early 20th century, the banjo evolved into the 5-string bluegrass instrument and was popularized by artists such as Earl Scruggs.
1960’s-present In the 1960s, the banjo was embraced by folk artists such as Pete Seeger, while in the 1970s and 80s, the instrument became popular in country, rock, and pop music.

The banjo has a rich history that has seen it evolve from an instrument used by slaves in Africa to a popular instrument played by performers such as Steve Martin. Today, the banjo is used in a variety of genres, from bluegrass to folk to rock and pop.

Types of Banjos

Types Of Banjos

Type Description
Four String Open Back The traditional type of banjo that has four strings and an open back. Usually used for clawhammer and old-time music.
Five String Open Back Similar to the four string banjo but with an extra string (the fifth string) which is usually a drone string. This type of banjo is used for old-time music, bluegrass, and more.
Five String Resonator This type of banjo has a resonator attached to the back of the banjo, which gives it a louder, brighter sound. It is used mainly for bluegrass music.
Tenor Banjo This type of banjo is smaller than the five-string banjo and has four strings tuned in fifths. It is usually used for Irish and Celtic music.
Banjo Ukulele (Banjolele) This is a small banjo with four strings that is tuned like a ukulele. It is often used in pop and jazz music.

Banjos come in a variety of different sizes and styles, and each type has its own unique sound. Depending on the type of music you are playing, you will want to choose the right type of banjo. Steve Martin plays a five string open back banjo, which is the traditional type of banjo used for bluegrass, old-time and folk music.

Steve Martin’s Musical Career

Steve Martin'S Musical Career

Steve Martin began his musical career in the 1960s as a folk singer and banjo player, performing at clubs and coffee houses in California. In the 1970s, he moved to Nashville, Tennessee, to pursue a career in country music and began touring as a stand-up comedian and musician. He released several albums, including Let’s Get Small, A Wild and Crazy Guy, and The Steve Martin Brothers, which featured his trademark banjo playing. In the 1980s, Martin began to focus more on his stand-up comedy and film career, although he still performed concerts with his banjo and bluegrass band, The Steep Canyon Rangers. He performed at the Grand Old Opry in Nashville, and at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles. In 2009, Martin won the Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album for his collaboration with The Steep Canyon Rangers, The Crow.

Martin plays a Deering Goodtime banjo, which is a five-string acoustic banjo with a resonator. He is known for his unique style of combining bluegrass, folk, and rock music. He has cited Earl Scruggs and Doc Watson as major influences on his banjo playing.

Steve Martin’s Banjo of Choice

Steve Martin'S Banjo Of Choice

Name Type Builder
Deering Calico 5-string open-back banjo Deering Banjos

Steve Martin’s instrument of choice is the Deering Calico, a 5-string open-back banjo. Deering Banjos are one of the leading manufacturers of banjo instruments, and the Calico is one of the company’s signature products. It features a thin maple neck, a rosewood fingerboard and a rolled brass tone ring for a bright and powerful sound. The Deering Calico also has a unique design with a Calico-patterned inlay in the peghead.

Steve Martin’s Banjo Playing Style

Steve Martin'S Banjo Playing Style

Steve Martin has been an avid banjo player since his childhood and has developed a unique style of playing. His playing style is characterized by an emphasis on syncopation and a unique picking technique. He often uses a three-finger picking style, which involves plucking the strings with the index, middle, and ring fingers of the right hand. This style of playing gives Martin a light, fast, and nimble sound.

Martin also uses a variety of picking patterns that give his music a unique and sophisticated sound. He often combines syncopation and melodic playing, as well as a mix of fingerpicking and strumming. Martin often combines traditional clawhammer techniques with a modern picking style, resulting in a unique sound.

Martin is also known for his innovative use of banjo techniques, including hybrid picking, which involves the use of both a pick and the fingers. This allows Martin to create complex and unique sounds. He also utilizes the use of harmonics, which adds a unique and intricate sound to his banjo playing.

Technique Description
Three-finger picking style Plucking the strings with the index, middle, and ring fingers of the right hand
Picking patterns Combines syncopation and melodic playing
Clawhammer/modern picking style Combines traditional clawhammer techniques with a modern picking style
Hybrid picking Uses a pick and the fingers to create complex and unique sounds
Harmonics Adds a unique and intricate sound to his banjo playing

Martin’s unique style of playing captures the nuances of traditional bluegrass while incorporating modern elements and techniques. This combination of modern and traditional styles has made Martin a highly influential banjo player.

Musical Influences

Musical Influences
Steve Martin’s musical influences are diverse and varied. He has been influenced by bluegrass and folk music, as well as jazz and classical. Martin has said that he was influenced by Old Time and Bluegrass musicians like Earl Scruggs and Doc Watson. He has also been influenced by jazz legends like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. Additionally, Martin was inspired by the classical music of Johann Sebastian Bach and Claude Debussy. These various musical influences have helped shape Martin’s unique style of banjo playing. Martin plays an open back banjo with a resonator on the back, which is a common style for folk and bluegrass banjo players.

Other Musicians Who Play the Banjo

  • Bela Fleck
  • Earl Scruggs
  • Alison Brown
  • Noam Pikelny
  • Tony Trischka
  • Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn
  • Sam Bush
  • Bryan Sutton
  • Dave Evans
  • Jens Kruger

The banjo is an instrument with a long and distinguished history in American music. From bluegrass to folk to jazz, many musicians have taken up the instrument and created new music with it. Steve Martin is one of the most famous banjo players, but he is far from the only one. Here are some other notable banjo players: Bela Fleck, Earl Scruggs, Alison Brown, Noam Pikelny, Tony Trischka, Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn, Sam Bush, Bryan Sutton, Dave Evans, and Jens Kruger.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of banjo does Steve Martin play?

Steve Martin plays a Deering Goodtime banjo. He plays it with a three-finger picking style and is known for his unique blend of bluegrass, folk, and comedy. He has been playing the banjo since the early 70s and has released several albums featuring his banjo playing. His banjo playing has been praised by many in the bluegrass and folk music communities.

When did Steve Martin start playing the banjo?

Steve Martin picked up the banjo in 1969, when he was 17 years old. He developed an interest in the instrument after seeing Earl Scruggs perform the song “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” on the television program The Beverly Hillbillies. He went on to become a master of the five-string banjo, performing traditional bluegrass, country and folk songs for over four decades.

What songs has Steve Martin written using the banjo?

Steve Martin has written several songs using the banjo, including “Pretty Flowers,” “Big Country,” and “Late for School.” He also wrote the score for the Broadway musical “Bright Star,” which features several banjo solos. Additionally, he wrote and performed the song “Atheists Don’t Have No Songs,” which was written for his comedy album “The Crow: New Songs for the Five-String Banjo.”

Are there any videos of Steve Martin playing the banjo?

Yes, there are many videos of Steve Martin playing the banjo. He is an avid banjo player, having started playing the instrument in the 1960s. He has released several banjo albums throughout his career, including his Grammy Award-winning album The Crow, which features him playing the banjo. Videos of him playing the banjo can be seen on YouTube, as well as other video streaming platforms.

Does Steve Martin have any tips for learning to play the banjo?

Steve Martin has long been associated with the banjo, having released a Grammy-winning album of bluegrass and folk songs in 2009. In interviews, Martin has stated that one of the keys to learning to play the banjo is practice and patience. He also recommends learning the basic chords and picking patterns before attempting more complex pieces. Martin has also said that he has learned the most through playing live with other musicians.


Steve Martin plays a five-string banjo, which is one of the most common types of banjo. It has a short neck and is tuned in the open G tuning. He also plays a six-string banjo, which has a longer neck and is tuned in the open D tuning. Steve Martin’s skill as a banjo player has earned him many accolades, and he continues to be an influence on banjo players around the world.


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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