PRESS: FAQ

Photo by sgpond.com

8 THINGS YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT THE BANJO:

  • The banjo is an indigenous American instrument.
  • The banjo was wildly popular in jazz until about 1934, when the guitar came into fashion.   
  • The banjo evolved from gourd instruments brought over by Africans who were captured for slavery. 
  • It was once commonplace for white women to play banjo as parlor entertainment for their guests.    
  • In the late 1800s, there was an effort to “elevate” the lowly image of the banjo by playing classical music on it.
  • Early banjo strings were often made from catgut – i.e. sheep or goat intestines, not kitties.
  • There are huge bass banjos, standing as tall as a string bass, overgrown-looking cello banjos, and even tiny piccolo banjos.
  • If you played in a banjo orchestra or banjo club in 1890, then you were extremely cool. 
ALL ABOUT MY BANJO:

My main banjo is an Ome Juggernaut Standard Jazz model, with engraved black chrome, made from curly maple. It is a 4-string plectrum banjo (a different creature from a 5-string or tenor banjo).

The beautiful armrest on my banjo was made for me in Germany by Norbert Pietsch.

I also have another Ome Juggernaut Standard Jazz plectrum, made from mahogany. It came with nickel plating, but I added gold hooks and a gold armrest so now it has a nice two-tone look. 

Tuning:
I use standard plectrum tuning:  C-G-B-D (low to high)

Resonator: 



Though my banjos look like open back models, they’re not -- each has a clear plexiglass resonator.  They originally had wood resonators and metal flanges, which I removed to make them a bit lighter and smaller, a better fit for me.  The plexiglass resonator sits on 4 small plexiglass legs that keep it about ½” from the rim. 

Strings:
I use ball-end strings because I find them faster to change than loop-ends if I break one while performing.  My banjo tailpiece accepts both ball-end and loop-end strings, as is common.

My gages are: .012, .015, .020w, .028w.  w = wound.  I prefer to order bunches of strings by the gages, not by the pack, since I don’t use them up evenly.  
    
Pick:
I use Blue Chip picks, the TD 40 with a “speed bevel.”  I think they are fabulous.  I used to use Tortex 1mm picks (the blue ones) – also good.    

Pick-up:

I finally found a pickup that has the natural acoustic sound and response that I want – The Realist by David Gage.  This is the best banjo pickup I have ever heard on my banjo.  I’m not saying this because they asked me to endorse … I would use it no matter what.