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banjo, stringed musical instrument, with a body resembling a tambourine. The banjo consists of a hoop over which a skin membrane is stretched; it has a long, often fretted neck and four to nine strings, which are plucked with a pick or the fingers. Originally made from a gourd and animal skin, it was brought by slaves to the Caribbean, then to America (by 1688) from W Africa; similar instruments are also found in the Middle East and Far East. Frets, a metal ring, and other additions changed the instrument until it reached its modern appearance and characteristic sound. It was played in minstrel shows in the 19th cent. It is used in Southern folk music, in country and western music, and, because of its incisive, percussive quality, as a rhythm or a solo instrument in Dixieland bands.


See L. Dubois, The Banjo (2016).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



pizzicato string instrument akin to the guitar. The body is in the shape of a flat tambourine with a skin diaphragm. It has four to nine strings. The sharp, harsh, quickly fading sound is produced with a plectrum. Around the 17th century it was brought from Western Africa to the USA, where it was widely used by Negroes for accompaniment to singing and for solo playing. In the 19th century it was improved: the five-string banjo appeared, and stops on the neck came into use. Varieties of banjos of different sizes and pitches are used in jazz.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


a stringed musical instrument with a long neck (usually fretted) and a circular drumlike body overlaid with parchment, plucked with the fingers or a plectrum
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
He started building banjos after watching a YouTube video and thinking: "I could do that."
A military site explains: "It becomes a banjo when the yolk and sauce dribble down your front.
The audience sometimes sings along, clapping in time with the strumming banjos. The music is enriched by a variety of horns, guitars, an accordion, usually a violin, and drums.
It's a family-style touring situation for banjo players Bla Fleck and Abigail Washburn.
But it wasn't the whimsical folky tale of a hapless soul named Charlie trapped on Boston's subway system that captured Trischka's young imagination; it was the intricate, finger-picking stylings of banjo player Dave Guard.
the main cabin, where I could hear some banjos tuning up, I saw a man I
Throw Down Your Heart documents a journey through Uganda, Tanzania, Gambia, and Mali that began when banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck decided to take his instrument back to its roots.
Green has made approximately 300 banjos. He makes six different types of banjos: pro banjos, pen back banjos, student banjos, Civil War banjos and gourd banjos.
The banjos are being sold by collector Bob Norton, one of which used to belong to the ex-Beatle who died in 2001.
"His valet was in charge of looking after his ukulele banjos and would have noticed when he checked George's equipment on leaving the theatre.
Unlike bluegrass, this tradition is biracial; the Mississippi Sheiks areas important as Appalachian banjo basher Uncle Dave Macon.
Jakonczuk said he plans to target the Arkansas market during his first year of operation and then "go national on a limited basis." The production of banjos involves a focus on quality over quantity; therefore, assembly line production is not expected.