Learn something new every day
More Info... by email
There are many different banjo parts that make up this popular stringed instrument. The banjo’s body, called a pot, is typically made of a rim, tone ring, tension hoop, and head. This is connected to the neck with coordinator rods or a dowel stick. The banjo contains between four and six strings running down the length of the neck which are all connected to planetary gear turners, or tuning pegs.
The majority of banjo parts are will be found in the pot of the instrument. A wood or metal rim, a tone ring, a tension hoop, and a head are held together by hooks and nuts. In banjos made before 1950, the head is typically made from an animal skin, such as calf skin, but most heads made since the 1950s are made from plastic.
Some banjos have a resonator plate on the back side of the pot to amplify the sound. Almost all bluegrass music calls for a five string resonator banjo, so this detail can be extremely important to some musicians. Instruments without a resonator plate are known as open-back banjos.
The neck is the largest of all banjo parts. One to two coordinator rods or a dowel stick within the pot hold the neck in place. The part of the neck where the banjoist presses the strings is known as a fingerboard. Most fingerboards have frets, small metal pieces on the neck, so that the player can see and feel the proper place to push down.
Metal, nylon, or gut strings are connected at the top of the neck, or peghead, with tuning pegs or planetary gear turners, and at the bottom of the pot with a tailpiece. In between, the strings rest on the bridge, which itself rests on the head. This bridge transfers the vibration in the strings to the head, amplifying the sound. A metal or wood armrest keeps the player’s arm from touching the head as he picks the strings.
Banjos can have four to six strings, depending on the player and music genre the instrument is intended for. The four string tenor banjo is used frequently for playing both Irish music and Dixieland jazz. Both bluegrass and old time American music feature the five string banjo. Less common are various six string banjos, such as the banjitar, played in some jazz, blues, and country bands.
Although not connected to the instrument itself, banjo parts such as picks and capos are important for most banjoists. Some players use regular picks, like those used on a guitar, while others use finger picks, which are clipped on to the thumb and first two fingers. A capo is used to play in a different key. Since the last string on a five string guitar is shorter than the others, a specially made fifth string capo is necessary.