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Definition: banjo from Musical Terms, Symbols and Theory: An Illustrated Dictionary

an American stringed instrument used in pop and folk music. The body is a thin drum, and either five or six strings are divided into frets. It is plucked like the guitar. See also folk music; guitar; pop; string family.


Summary Article: banjo
From The Columbia Encyclopedia

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 Originally made from a gourd and animal skin, it was brought by slaves to the Caribbean, then to America (by 1688) from W Africa; similar instruments are also found in the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 Dubois, L. , The Banjo (2016).
The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2018

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