Top 13 Best Female Banjo Players of all the Time

The Banjo is often thought of as a man’s instrument, but many talented female banjo players are breaking the mold and showing everyone that the banjo is not just for men. Instead, these women are proving that they can hold their own against the best male banjo players out there. They have mastered this unique instrument and developed their own style, which has earned them a place in the music world. Here in this blog, we have listed some of the best female banjo players out there.

13 Best Female Banjo Players

In our list, the top 13 Female Banjo Players are:

  1. Alison Brown
  2. Taylor Swift
  3. Mean Marry
  4. Mary Z. Cox
  5. Willow Osborne
  6. Rhiannon Giddens
  7. Beverly Dillard
  8. Pam Gadd
  9. Elizabeth von Trapp
  10. Abigail Washburn
  11. Janet Deering
  12. Linda Williams
  13. Alison Krauss

1-Alison Brown

Alison Brown

She was born in 1972 and is a five-time Grammy Award-winning banjo player and composer. She was the first female to win the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Instrumental Group of the Year award in 1997 for her work with Alison Brown Quartet. She has released 18 albums since 1991, many on the Sugar Hill Records label.

Brown made her professional debut playing with the all-female bluegrass band, Bluegrass Etc. When she was 17, Brown moved on to join the all-female newgrass group Women’s Bluegrass Alliance. Alison Brown is also one of the most celebrated contemporary banjo players today.

2-Taylor Swift

Taylor swift

She was born in 1989 and is an American country pop singer, songwriter, and actress. She became interested in musical instruments at a young age. Taylor Swift started learning bass guitar at the mere age of nine. Later on, she also learned banjo and ukulele. Taylor Swift is one of the best female banjo players of all time, who has established herself as a great singer, songwriter, and instrumentalist. Taylor Swift has won seven Grammy Awards to date and became the artist of the year in 2007.

3-Mean Marry

Mean Marry

She was born in 1963 and is one of the best female banjo players of all time. She lived most of her life outside Nashville, Tennessee, and has had an interest in music since she was a child. Her first performance on stage came at age twelve with bluegrass legend James Monroe. The group has released three albums since 2001.

Marry was ranked at No. 5 on Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine’s​ Female Vocalist chart in 2006. She’s also one of the best female banjo players in bluegrass music history.

4-Mary Z Cox

Mary Z Cox 2

She was born in 1958 and is best known as a banjo player, singer, and songwriter. She has shown her talent in different genres of music, including bluegrass, Americana, and folk. Mary Z Cox started playing the banjo at age fifteen after growing up listening to iconic singers like Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton. Her first paid performance was with Town Mountain, a bluegrass group based in Asheville, North Carolina.

5-Willow Osborne

Willow Osborne

She was born in 1988 and is an American country singer and songwriter. Willow Osborne started learning to play the electric guitar when she was just 13 years old after being inspired by her father, who was a classical guitarist. Her debut album “A Fine Line” was released in 2009, which featured many popular bluegrass songs like “Whiskey Girl,” “Shine (featuring Vince Gill),” “Miles to Go (Before I Sleep)” and “I am a Man of Constant Sorrow.”

6-Rhiannon Giddens

Rhiannon Giddens

She was born in 1985 and is an American singer, actress, and instrumentalist specializing in modern traditional old-time music. She was raised on a farm near Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where she became interested in music early and is best known for her contributions to the Grammy Award-winning album.

7-Beverly Dillard

She was born in 1960 and is a bluegrass musician who plays the banjo, among other instruments. Dillard began playing the banjo when she was 14 years old. She has been a teacher of bluegrass music and classical music for more than 25 years. Dillard’s first album was released in 1994, and many others followed up to 2016, where she is still actively recording albums

8-Pam Gadd

Pam Gadd

She was born in 1961 and is a bluegrass musician, songwriter, and producer. She plays fiddle, banjo, and acoustic guitar, among other things. Gadd began performing at 19 while attending Belmont College in Nashville. In 1989 she played for John Hartford’s memorial service held at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Gadd is one of the best female banjo player in bluegrass music history.

9-Elizabeth von Trapp

She was born in 2008 and is an American singer, musician, and songwriter. The von Trapp family lived in Austria, where Georg Ritter von Trapp started the Trapp Family Singers, who were featured on many successful albums.

10-Abigail Washburn

Abigail Washburn

She was born in 1981 and is an American banjo player, singer, and songwriter. She grew up on a farm near Troy, Ohio, where she learned to play the banjo early. Washburn started playing bluegrass music with her family when she was still very young, and her first solo album came out in 2009 after signing with Rounder Records.

11-Janet Deering

Janet Deering

She was born in 1953 and is an American fiddler, songwriter, vocalist, dance instructor, stained glass artist, and entrepreneur. She began playing the banjo at age six after growing up listening to her father plays the guitar. Her first album came out in 1979 when she was only 26 years old and has played on many recordings and has been a member of several country groups.

12-Linda Williams

Linda Williams

She was born in 1952 and is an American bluegrass musician who plays guitar, banjo, fiddle, and bass. She began playing music at age five after growing up listening to her father play the guitar. She became a full-time musician in 1975 when she got married and joined Jim & Jesse. Her first solo album came out in 1980 when she was 28 years old.

13-Alison Krauss

She was born in 1971 and is an American Grammy Award-winning singer, musician, and producer. Krauss began her career when she won a local contest at 14 after entering only because the prize was a new guitar. In 1989 she joined the bluegrass music band The Union Station for their album “Let Me Touch You.”

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With the banjo being a trademark sound of Appalachian music, it’s no wonder that some incredible female artist have picked up this instrument. There are so many talented women who have made their mark on the banjo world over time, but we had to stop at 13.

Learn more about How to Tune a Banjo.

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