- Jay Scott Odell
- and Robert B. Winans
A plucked string instrument with a long guitar-like neck and a circular soundtable, usually called the “head,” of tautly stretched parchment or skin (now usually plastic), against which the bridge is pressed by the strings. The banjo and its variants, classified as plucked lute chordophones, have had long and widespread popularity as folk, parlor, and professional entertainers’ instruments. It used to be speculated that the name of the instrument probably derived from the Portuguese or Spanish bandore, but another possibility, at least as likely, comes out of recent research into West African plucked lute traditions, which has identified at least six traditional plucked lutes whose necks are made from a thick stalk of papyrus, known throughout the Senegambian region by the Mande term “bang” (also “bangoe,” “bangjolo,” “bangjulo,” “bung,” “bungo”).
The modern five-string banjo is normally fitted with raised frets and strung with steel wire strings. It is tuned g...