Have you ever seen a banjo and wondered how many types of banjos are there? Banjos come in all shapes and sizes and can be made from a variety of materials. There are five main types of banjos: the resonator, the open back, the hybrid, the plectrum, and the electric. Each type has its unique sound and playing style. Knowing which type of banjo is right for you is essential to get the most out of your instrument. So, what kind of banjo is best for you? Keep reading to find out!
How many Types of Banjos are there?
As of right now, there are mainly five different banjo types: resonator, open-back, hybrid, plectrum, and electric.
- Resonator Banjo
- Open Back Banjo
- Hybrid Banjo
- Plectrum Banjo
- Electric Banjo
1. Resonator Banjo:
A resonator banjo is where the head on a banjo is replaced with a large metal disk called a tone ring. This lessens unwanted noise and may increase volume and sustain. The result is one loud instrument! The tone ring gives this type of banjo its distinctive metallic sound while also making it easier to play than other banjos. Resonator model banjos are almost always strummed with a pick as the metallic tone rings make it difficult to get a good fingering sound. Resonators are most commonly used in Bluegrass music, and they come in four-, five- and six-string models.
Learn more about resonator vs open back banjo.
2. Open Back Banjo:
The open-back has a circular wood rim without the metal tone ring found on other types of banjos. This part aims to help support the tensioned head (more on that later), which gives this type its distinctive sound. These can be played both with fingers or with a flat pick, depending on preference. Depending on how tight the head is, depending on the tuning, this type can be loud and bright or mellow and soft. This is due to the fact that the banjo has a banjo sound hole in the back, which makes it easier for sound to escape. Open-back is most commonly used in traditional folk music such as Celtic and American music, although many artists use them nowadays.
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3. Hybrid Banjo:
A hybrid banjo combines elements of other banjo types into one instrument. Usually, these have two resonators: one at the top and one on the bottom next to where your knee goes while playing. These instruments tend to be louder than other open-backed models because two metal disks act as resonators rather than just one at the bottom. However, the playing style is usually the same as an open-back.
4. Plectrum Banjo:
A plectrum banjo is similar to the open-back in many ways. The main difference is the number of bass strings. Rather than having four or five strings, it has double that! One notable feature of this instrument is that it has a long neck to accommodate all those strings, making it more difficult for some people to learn to play than other types of banjos. It also features a metal disk which helps give the instrument its brighter sound due to added sustain. Plectrums are primarily used in traditional Irish and bluegrass music, but they can be heard in many genres nowadays.
5. Electric Banjo:
Banjos were originally acoustic instruments. However, once electric amplification was made available, that all changed! Electric banjos are usually played with a pick and sound similar to an acoustic banjo without an amp. The most significant difference is the absence of any resonators of this type- rather than amplifying the natural sound. It uses pickups located in the bridge and tailpiece to convert string vibrations into electrical signals transmitted through cables or wires to produce unique sounds! This common type can be used for pretty much anything because there’s no need for amps or additional equipment.
Types of Banjos in Terms of Strings:
There are four types of banjos with respect to the number of strings. These include four-string, five-string banjo, six-string banjo, twelve-string banjos, and tenor banjos.
A four-string banjo is the smallest type of instrument in this list. It consists of a head, neck, and resonator but no tone ring. This means that it does not produce as much volume or sustain as other types. Also, to play chords, you would need at least two people because four-string banjos usually do not have any frets (although some fretless versions are available). They are primarily used in traditional American music, like country music and blues.
5-String Banjo has five strings, as its name suggests! Just like four-string banjos, you can’t play chords with this one either because there are no frets. Also, like the four-string banjo, it has a head and neck but no resonator or tone ring making its volume much less than other types of the banjo. It is used in Celtic music styles such as folk and bluegrass due to its mellow tone, but it can be heard in many genres nowadays.
Like other six-string instruments such as bass guitars and basses, the six-string banjo has six strings stretched over a longer neck with more frets. This type of instrument is used in many kinds of folk music worldwide, including Celtic styles, just like its smaller counterparts! Thanks to the different number of strings and frets, you can also play chord tunes on this type of instrument. It’s an excellent choice for advanced players who want to play with others because you can pretty much substitute the six-string banjo for any other instrument in a chordal setting!
This type is based on a 12-string acoustic guitar and consists of the same number of strings. However, its tunings are not identical because it’s stretched over a shorter neck than that of a guitar. You can usually hear this type played in Celtic music alongside musical instruments such as the harp or fiddle! Usually tuned to DGDGBD, just like a twelve-string guitar, banjo players can experiment with other tunings such as CGDAE if you want to try something different!
This type usually has four strings stretching over a more extended fingerboard than the four and five-string banjos. This allows for more frets which means that you can play chords on this instrument! Unfortunately, there aren’t many Irish tenor banjos on the market because they’re not widely used in modern music. However, it is generally tuned GDAE, one octave below a mandolin, which means that Scottish and Irish musicians often use them!
Music That You Can Play With Each Banjo:
There are various types of banjos, and each one is best suited for a specific type of music. Here’s a list to help you figure out which banjo you should choose:
- 4-string banjo – bluegrass, folk music
- 5-string banjo – Celtic music, modern rock
- 6-string banjo – Irish music, similar to classical guitar chords
- 12-string banjo – Classical, Celtic folk
Banjo is very versatile in that you can play numerous popular types of music with just one banjo. The only difference would be the weight of the banjo, which could affect how you play.
Which banjo is easiest to play?
5-string banjo is the easiest type of banjo to play. It has a shorter neck and smaller fretboard, making it easier to reach the notes. It’s also the most popular type of banjo, making it easier to find teachers and instruction manuals.
Which banjo has the richest sound?
The resonator banjo has the richest and most mellow sound. This type of banjo is typically used in bluegrass music.
Which type of banjo is best for Celtic music?
The hybrid banjo is best for Celtic music. It has a resonator on the back of the instrument to give it a louder sound. This type of banjo is popular among Celtic music enthusiasts.
There are many different types of banjos with various strings and materials, and each type has its own specification. Hope this blog has helped you choose which type of banjo would suit you best.