The banjo is a four-, five-, or six-stringed instrument with a thin membrane stretched over a frame or cavity as a resonator, called the head, which is typically circular. The membrane is typically made of plastic, although animal skin is still occasionally used. Early forms of the instrument were fashioned by Africans in the United States, adapted from African instruments of similar design. The banjo is frequently associated with folk, Irish traditional, and country music. Banjo can also be used in some rock songs. Many rock bands, such as The Eagles, Led Zeppelin, and The Allman Brothers, have used the five-string banjo in some of their songs. Historically, the banjo occupied a central place in African-American traditional music and the folk culture of rural whites before entering the mainstream via the minstrel shows of the 19th century. The banjo, along with the fiddle, is a mainstay of American old-time music. It is also very frequently used in traditional ("trad") jazz.
The modern banjo derives from instruments that had been used in the Caribbean since the 17th century by enslaved people taken from West Africa. Written references to the banjo in North America appear in the 18th century, and the instrument became increasingly available commercially from around the second quarter of the 19th century.
Several claims as to the etymology of the name "banjo" have been made. It may derive from the Kimbundu word mbanza, which is an African string instrument modeled after the Portuguese banza: a vihuela with five two-string courses and a further two short strings. The Oxford English Dictionary states that it comes from a dialectal pronunciation of Portuguese bandore or from an early anglicisation of Spanish bandurria. The name may also derive from a traditional Afro-Caribbean folk dance called "banya", which incorporates several cultural elements found throughout the African diaspora.
Various instruments in Africa, chief among them the kora, feature a skin head and gourd (or similar shell) body. The African instruments differ from early African American banjos in that the necks do not possess a Western-style fingerboard and tuning pegs, instead having stick necks, with strings attached to the neck with loops for tuning. Banjos with fingerboards and tuning pegs are known from the Caribbean as early as the 17th century. Some 18th- and early 19th-century writers transcribed the name of these instruments variously as bangie, banza, bonjaw, banjer and banjar. Instruments similar to the banjo (e.g., the Japanese shamisen, Persian tar, and Moroccan sintir) have been played in many countries. Another likely relative of the banjo is the akonting, a spike folk lute played by the Jola tribe of Senegambia, and the ubaw-akwala of the Igbo. Similar instruments include the xalam of Senegal and the ngoni of the Wassoulou region including parts of Mali, Guinea, and Ivory Coast, as well as a larger variation of the ngoni developed in Morocco by sub-Saharan Africans known as the gimbri.
Early, African-influenced banjos were built around a gourd body and a wooden stick neck. These instruments had varying numbers of strings, though often including some form of drone. The five-string banjo was popularized by Joel Walker Sweeney, an American minstrel performer from Appomattox Court House, Virginia.
Although Robert McAlpin Williamson is the first documented white banjoist, in the 1830s, Sweeney became the first white performer to play the banjo on stage. His version of the instrument replaced the gourd with a drum-like sound box and included four full-length strings alongside a short fifth string. This new banjo was at first tuned d'Gdf♯a, though by the 1890s, this had been transposed up to g'cgbd'. Banjos were introduced in Britain by Sweeney's group, the American Virginia Minstrels, in the 1840s, and became very popular in music halls.
In the antebellum South, many black slaves played the banjo and taught their masters how to play. For example, in his memoir With Sabre and Scalpel: The Autobiography of a Soldier and Surgeon, the Confederate veteran and surgeon John Allan Wyeth recalls learning to play the banjo as a child from a slave on his family plantation.
Two techniques closely associated with the five-string banjo are rolls and drones. Rolls are right hand accompanimental fingering pattern[s] that consist of eight (eighth) notes that subdivide each measure. Drone notes are quick little notes [typically eighth notes], usually played on the 5th (short) string to fill in around the melody notes [typically eighth notes]. These techniques are both idiomatic to the banjo in all styles, and their sound is characteristic of bluegrass.
Historically, the banjo was played in the clawhammer style by the Africans who brought their version of the banjo with them. Several other styles of play were developed from this. Clawhammer consists of downward striking of one or more of the four main strings with the index, middle or both finger(s)while the drone or fifth string is played with a 'lifting' (as opposed to downward pluck) motion of the thumb. The notes typically sounded by the thumb in this fashion are, usually, on the off beat. Melodies can be quite intricate adding techniques such as double thumbing and drop thumb. In old time Appalachian Mountain music, a style called two-finger up-pick is also used, and a three-finger version that Earl Scruggs developed into the famous "Scruggs" style picking was nationally aired in 1945 on the Grand Ole Opry.
While five-string banjos are traditionally played with either fingerpicks or the fingers themselves, tenor banjos and plectrum banjos are played with a pick, either to strum full chords, or most commonly in Irish traditional music, play single-note melodies.
The modern banjo comes in a variety of forms, including four- and five-string versions. A six-string version, tuned and played similarly to a guitar, has gained popularity. In almost all of its forms, banjo playing is characterized by a fast arpeggiated plucking, though many different playing styles exist.
The body, or "pot", of a modern banjo typically consists of a circular rim (generally made of wood, though metal was also common on older banjos) and a tensioned head, similar to a drum head. Traditionally, the head was made from animal skin, but today is often made of various synthetic materials. Most modern banjos also have a metal "tone ring" assembly that helps further clarify and project the sound, but many older banjos do not include a tone ring.
The banjo is usually tuned with friction tuning pegs or planetary gear tuners, rather than the worm gear machine head used on guitars. Frets have become standard since the late 19th century, though fretless banjos are still manufactured and played by those wishing to execute glissando, play quarter tones, or otherwise achieve the sound and feeling of early playing styles.
Modern banjos are typically strung with metal strings. Usually, the fourth string is wound with either steel or bronze-phosphor alloy. Some players may string their banjos with nylon or gut strings to achieve a more mellow, old-time tone.
Some banjos have a separate resonator plate on the back of the pot to project the sound forward and give the instrument more volume. This type of banjo is usually used in bluegrass music, though resonator banjos are played by players of all styles, and are also used in old-time, sometimes as a substitute for electric amplification when playing in large venues.
The modern five-string banjo is a variation on Sweeney's original design. The fifth string is usually the same gauge as the first, but starts from the fifth fret, three-quarters the length of the other strings. This lets the string be tuned to a higher open pitch than possible for the full-length strings. Because of the short fifth string, the five-string banjo uses a reentrant tuning—the string pitches do not proceed lowest to highest across the fingerboard. Instead, the fourth string is lowest, then third, second, first, and the fifth string is highest.
The short fifth string presents special problems for a capo. For small changes (going up or down one or two semitones, for example), retuning the fifth string simply is possible. Otherwise, various devices called "fifth-string capos" effectively shorten the vibrating part of the string. Many banjo players use model-railroad spikes or titanium spikes (usually installed at the seventh fret and sometimes at others), under which they hook the string to press it down on the fret.
Five-string banjo players use many tunings. (Tunings are given in left-to-right order, as viewed from the front of the instrument with the neck pointing up.) Probably the most common, particularly in bluegrass, is the Open-G tuning G4 D3 G3 B3 D4. In earlier times, the tuning G4 C3 G3 B3 D4 was commonly used, instead, and this is still the preferred tuning for some types of folk music and for classic banjo. Other tunings found in old-time music include double C (G4 C3 G3 C4 D4), "sawmill" (G4 D3 G3 C4 D4) also called "mountain modal" and open D (F#4D3 F#3 A3 D4). These tunings are often taken up a tone, either by tuning up or using a capo. For example, "double-D" tuning (A4 D3 A3 D4 E4) – commonly reached by tuning up from double C – is often played to accompany fiddle tunes in the key of D and Open-A (A4 E3 A3 C#4 E4) is usually used for playing tunes in the key of A. Dozens of other banjo tunings are used, mostly in old-time music. These tunings are used to make playing specific tunes easier, usually fiddle tunes or groups of fiddle tunes.
The size of the five-string banjo is largely standardized, but smaller and larger sizes exist, including the long-neck or "Seeger neck" variation designed by Pete Seeger. Petite variations on the five-string banjo have been available since the 1890s. S.S. Stewart introduced the banjeaurine, tuned one fourth above a standard five-string. Piccolo banjos are smaller, and tuned one octave above a standard banjo. Between these sizes and standard lies the A-scale banjo, which is two frets shorter and usually tuned one full step above standard tunings. Many makers have produced banjos of other scale lengths, and with various innovations.
American old-time music typically uses the five-string, open-back banjo. It is played in a number of different styles, the most common being clawhammer or frailing, characterized by the use of a downward rather than upward stroke when striking the strings with a fingernail. Frailing techniques use the thumb to catch the fifth string for a drone after most strums or after each stroke ("double thumbing"), or to pick out additional melody notes in what is known as drop-thumb. Pete Seeger popularized a folk style by combining clawhammer with up picking, usually without the use of fingerpicks. Another common style of old-time banjo playing is fingerpicking banjo or classic banjo. This style is based upon parlor-style guitar.
Bluegrass music, which uses the five-string resonator banjo almost exclusively, is played in several common styles. These include Scruggs style, named after Earl Scruggs; melodic, or Keith style, named for Bill Keith; and three-finger style with single-string work, also called Reno style after Don Reno. In these styles, the emphasis is on arpeggiated figures played in a continuous eighth-note rhythm, known as rolls. All of these styles are typically played with fingerpicks.
The first five-string, electric, solid-body banjo was developed by Charles Wilburn (Buck) Trent, Harold "Shot" Jackson, and David Jackson in 1960.
The five-string banjo has been used in classical music since before the turn of the 20th century. Contemporary and modern works have been written or arranged for the instrument by Jerry Garcia, Buck Trent, Béla Fleck, Tony Trischka, Ralph Stanley, Steve Martin, George Crumb, Modest Mouse, Jo Kondo, Paul Elwood, Hans Werner Henze (notably in his Sixth Symphony), Daniel Mason of Hank Williams III's Damn Band, Beck, the Water Tower Bucket Boys, Todd Taylor, J.P. Pickens, Peggy Honeywell, Norfolk & Western, Putnam Smith, Iron & Wine, The Avett Brothers, The Well Pennies, Punch Brothers, Julian Koster, and Sufjan Stevens.
Ernst Krenek includes two banjos in his Kleine Symphonie (Little Symphony).
Viktor Ullmann included a tenor banjo part in his Piano Concerto (op. 25).
Four-string banjos, both plectrum and tenor, can be used for chordal accompaniment (as in early jazz), for single-string melody playing (as in Irish traditional music), in "chord melody" style (a succession of chords in which the highest notes carry the melody), in tremolo style (both on chords and single strings), and a mixed technique called duo style that combines single-string tremolo and rhythm chords.
The plectrum banjo is a standard banjo without the short drone string. It usually has 22 frets on the neck and a scale length of 26 to 28 inches, and was originally tuned C3 G3 B3 D4. It can also be tuned like the top four strings of a guitar, which is known as "Chicago tuning". As the name suggests, it is usually played with a guitar-style pick (that is, a single one held between thumb and forefinger), unlike the five-string banjo, which is either played with a thumbpick and two fingerpicks, or with bare fingers. The plectrum banjo evolved out of the five-string banjo, to cater to styles of music involving strummed chords. The plectrum is also featured in many early jazz recordings and arrangements.
The four-string banjo is used from time to time in musical theater. Examples include: Hello, Dolly!, Mame, Chicago, Cabaret, Oklahoma!, Half a Sixpence, Annie, Barnum, The Threepenny Opera, Monty Python's Spamalot, and countless others. Joe Raposo had used it variably in the imaginative seven-piece orchestration for the long-running TV show Sesame Street, and has sometimes had it overdubbed with itself or an electric guitar. The banjo is still (albeit rarely) in use in the show's arrangement currently.
The shorter-necked, tenor banjo, with 17 ("short scale") or 19 frets, is also typically played with a plectrum. It became a popular instrument after about 1910. Early models used for melodic picking typically had 17 frets on the neck and a scale length of 191⁄2 to 211⁄2 inches. By the mid-1920s, when the instrument was used primarily for strummed chordal accompaniment, 19-fret necks with a scale length of 213⁄4 to 23 inches became standard. The usual tuning is the all-fifths tuning C3 G3 D4 A4, in which exactly seven semitones (a perfect fifth) occur between the open notes of consecutive strings. Other players (particularly in Irish traditional music) tune the banjo G2 D3 A3 E4 like an octave mandolin, which lets the banjoist duplicate fiddle and mandolin fingering. The popularization of this tuning is usually attributed to the late Barney McKenna, banjoist with The Dubliners. Fingerstyle on tenor banjo retuned to open G tuning dgd'g' or lower open D tuning Adad' (three finger picking, frailing) have been explored by Mirek Patek.
The tenor banjo was a common rhythm-instrument in early 20th-century dance bands. Its volume and timbre suited early jazz (and jazz-influenced popular music styles) and could both compete with other instruments (such as brass instruments and saxophones) and be heard clearly on acoustic recordings. George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, in Ferde Grofe's original jazz-orchestra arrangement, includes tenor banjo, with widely spaced chords not easily playable on plectrum banjo in its conventional tuning(s). With development of the archtop and electric guitar, the tenor banjo largely disappeared from jazz and popular music, though keeping its place in traditional "Dixieland" jazz.
Some 1920s Irish banjo players picked out the melodies of jigs, reels, and hornpipes on tenor banjos, decorating the tunes with snappy triplet ornaments. The most important Irish banjo player of this era was Mike Flanagan of the New York-based Flanagan Brothers, one of the most popular Irish-American groups of the day. Other pre-WWII Irish banjo players included Neil Nolan, who recorded with Dan Sullivan's Shamrock Band in Boston, and Jimmy McDade, who recorded with the Four Provinces Orchestra in Philadelphia. Meanwhile, in Ireland, the rise of ceili bands provided a new market for a loud instrument like the tenor banjo. Use of the tenor banjo in Irish music has increased greatly since the folk revival of the 1960s.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, in vogue in plucked-string instrument ensembles—guitar orchestras, mandolin orchestras, banjo orchestras—was when the instrumentation was made to parallel that of the string section in symphony orchestras. Thus, "violin, viola, 'cello, bass" became "mandolin, mandola, mandocello, mandobass", or in the case of banjos, "banjolin, banjola, banjo cello, bass banjo". Because the range of pluck-stringed instrument generally is not as great as that of comparably sized bowed-string instruments, other instruments were often added to these plucked orchestras to extend the range of the ensemble upwards and downwards.
Rarer than either the tenor or plectrum banjo is the cello banjo (also "banjo cello"). It is normally tuned C2-G2-D3-A3, one octave below the tenor banjo like the cello and mandocello. It played a role in banjo orchestras in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A five-string cello banjo, set up like a bluegrass banjo (with the short fifth string), but tuned one octave lower, has been produced by the Goldtone company.
Bass banjos have been produced in both upright bass formats and with standard, horizontally carried banjo bodies. Contrabass banjos with either three or four strings have also been made; some of these had headstocks similar to those of bass violins. Tuning varies on these large instruments, with four-string models sometimes being tuned in 4ths like a bass violin—E1-A1-D2-G2, and sometimes in 5ths, like a four-string cello banjo, one octave lower—C1-G1-D2-A2. Other variants are also used.
The six-string banjo began as a British innovation by William Temlet, one of England's earliest banjo makers. He opened a shop in London in 1846, and sold banjos with closed backs and up to seven strings. He marketed these as "zither" banjos from his 1869 patent. American Alfred Davis Cammeyer (1862–1949), a young violinist-turned banjo concert player, devised the five- or six-string zither banjo around 1880. It had a wood resonator and metal "wire" strings (the first and second melody strings and fifth "thumb" string. The third melody string was gut, and the fourth was silk covered), as well as frets and guitar-style tuning machines.
A zither banjo usually has a closed back and sides with the drum body (usually metal) and skin tensioning system suspended inside the wooden rim/back, the neck and string tailpiece was mounted on the wooden outer rim, the short string usually led through a tube in the neck so that the tuning peg could be mounted on the peg head. They were often made by builders who used guitar tuners that came in banks of three, so if five-stringed had a redundant tuner. The banjos could also be somewhat easily converted over to a six-string banjo. British opera diva Adelina Patti advised Cammeyer that the zither banjo might be popular with English audiences (it was invented there), and Cammeyer went to London in 1888. With his virtuoso playing, he helped show that banjos could make more sophisticated music than normally played by blackface minstrels. He was soon performing for London society, where he met Sir Arthur Sullivan, who recommended that Cammeyer progress from arranging the music of others for banjo to composing his own music. (Supposedly unknown to Cammeyer, William Temlett had patented a seven-string closed-back banjo in 1869, and was already marketing it as a "zither-banjo".)
In the late 1890s, banjo maker F.C Wilkes developed a six-string version of the banjo, with the sixth string "tunnelled" through the neck. Arguably, Arthur O. Windsor influenced development and perfection of the zither banjo and created the open-back banjo along with other modifications to the banjo-type instruments, such as the modern nonsolid attached resonator. (Gibson claims credit for this modification on the American Continent.) Windsor claimed he created the hollow-neck banjo with a truss rod, and buried the fifth string in the neck after the fifth fret so to put the tuning peg on the peg head rather than in the neck. Gibson claims credit for perfecting the tone ring.
Modern six-string bluegrass banjos have been made. These add a bass string between the lowest string and the drone string on a five-string banjo, and are usually tuned G4 G2 D3 G3 B3 D4. Sonny Osborne played one of these instruments for several years. It was modified by luthier Rual Yarbrough from a Vega five-string model. A picture of Sonny with this banjo appears in Pete Wernick's Bluegrass Banjo method book.
Six-string banjos having a guitar neck and a banjo body have become quite popular since the mid-1990s.
A number of hybrid instruments exist, crossing the banjo with other stringed instruments. Most of these use the body of a banjo, often with a resonator, and the neck of the other instrument. Examples include the banjo mandolin (first patented in 1882) and the banjo ukulele or banjolele, most famously played by the English comedian George Formby. These were especially popular in the early decades of the 20th century, and were probably a result of a desire either to allow players of other instruments to jump on the banjo bandwagon at the height of its popularity, or to get the natural amplification benefits of the banjo resonator in an age before electric amplification.
The six-string banjo guitar basically consists of a six-string guitar neck attached to a bluegrass or plectrum banjo body. This was the instrument of the early jazz great Johnny St. Cyr, jazzmen Django Reinhardt, Danny Barker, Papa Charlie Jackson and Clancy Hayes, as well as the blues and gospel singer The Reverend Gary Davis. Nowadays, it appears under various names such as guitanjo, guitjoe, ganjo, banjitar, or bantar. Today, musicians as diverse as Keith Urban, Rod Stewart, Taj Mahal, Joe Satriani, David Hidalgo, Larry Lalonde and Doc Watson play the six-string guitar banjo. Rhythm guitarist Dave Day of 1960s proto-punks The Monks replaced his guitar with a six-string, gut-strung guitar banjo on which he played guitar chords. This instrument sounds much more metallic, scratchy and wiry than a standard electric guitar, due to its amplification by a small microphone stuck inside the banjo's body.
Instruments that have a five-string banjo neck on a wooden body (for example, a guitar, bouzouki, or dobro body) have also been made, such as the banjola. A 20th-century Turkish instrument similar to the banjo is called the cümbüş. At the end of the 20th century, a development of the five-string banjo was the BanSitar. This features a bone bridge, giving the instrument a sitar-like resonance. A recent innovation is the patented Banjo-Tam, invented by Frank Abrams of Asheville, North Carolina, combining a traditional five-string banjo neck with a tambourine as a rim or pot.
Ashley Modurotolu Banjo (born 4 October 1988), is an English street dancer, choreographer and actor. He is leader of dance troupe Diversity, who won the third series of Britain's Got Talent. Banjo was a judge on the Sky1 talent show Got to Dance and co-presenter of the Saturday night BBC game show Can't Touch This.
Ashley has been a judge on the ITV show Dancing on Ice since January 2018.Banjo-Kazooie
Banjo-Kazooie is a platform video game developed by Rare and originally released for the Nintendo 64 video game console in 1998. It is the first game in the Banjo-Kazooie series and follows the story of a bear, Banjo, and a bird, Kazooie, as they try to stop the plans of the witch Gruntilda, who intends to switch her beauty with Banjo's sister, Tooty. The game features nine nonlinear levels where the player must use Banjo and Kazooie's wide range of abilities to gather jigsaw pieces. It features challenges like solving puzzles, jumping over obstacles, collecting items, and defeating opponents.
Originally conceived as an adventure game named Dream for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Banjo-Kazooie was designed to appeal to players of all ages in a similar vein to Walt Disney Animation Studios films. The game was a critical and commercial success, selling nearly two million copies in the United States. It was praised for its detailed graphics, immersive sound, and intricate level design. In 1999, it received two awards from the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences: Console Action Game of the Year and Outstanding Achievement in Art/Graphics. The game was remastered for the Xbox 360 in 2008 and included in the Rare Replay video game compilation for the Xbox One in 2015. A sequel, Banjo-Tooie, was released in 2000.Banjo-Kazooie (series)
Banjo-Kazooie is a series of video games developed by Rare. The games feature a bear named Banjo and his friend, a large female red bird called Kazooie, who are both controlled by the player. Throughout the various games, they are tasked with thwarting the various evil schemes of a witch named Gruntilda. The first game Banjo-Kazooie was released on the Nintendo 64 in 1998. Subsequent entries in the series have appeared on different platforms.Banjo-Tooie
Banjo-Tooie is a platform video game developed by Rare and published by Nintendo. It was originally released for the Nintendo 64 console in November 2000 in North America and April 2001 in Europe, and later re-released as an Xbox Live Arcade game for the Xbox 360 in 2009. Banjo-Tooie is the second game in the Banjo-Kazooie series and a sequel to the original Banjo-Kazooie. The game follows series protagonists Banjo and Kazooie as they attempt to stop the plans of antagonist Gruntilda and her two sisters from vapourising the inhabitants of the game's world.
Development of the game started in June 1998, directly after the release of its predecessor. Several new features were cut from the game due to time constraints and limitations of the Nintendo 64 hardware. Banjo-Tooie features levels that are significantly larger than those of its predecessor and requires the player to complete various challenges such as solving puzzles, collecting items, and defeating bosses. It also includes a multiplayer mode where up to four players can compete in several minigames. Upon release, the game sold more than three million copies and received critical acclaim from video game critics. The game is also included in the Rare Replay video game compilation, released for the Xbox One in 2015.Banjo Paterson
Andrew Barton "Banjo" Paterson, (17 February 1864 – 5 February 1941) was an Australian bush poet, journalist and author. He wrote many ballads and poems about Australian life, focusing particularly on the rural and outback areas, including the district around Binalong, New South Wales, where he spent much of his childhood. Paterson's more notable poems include "Clancy of the Overflow" (1889), "The Man from Snowy River" (1890) and "Waltzing Matilda" (1895), regarded widely as Australia's unofficial national anthem.Banjō Ginga
Banjō Ginga (銀河 万丈, Ginga Banjō, born November 12, 1948), sometimes credited as his real name Takashi Tanaka (田中 崇, Tanaka Takashi), is a Japanese voice actor who was born in Kofu, Yamanashi. Ginga is affiliated with Aoni Production. He is married to voice actress Gara Takashima.
Known for his deep baritone voice, his most well-known roles includes Gihren Zabi (Mobile Suit Gundam), Crocodine (Dragon Quest: Dai no Daibōken), Jean Paul Rocchina (Armored Trooper Votoms), Shōhei Harada (Touch), Souther (Fist of the North Star, original 1980s series), Babbo (MÄR), Heihachi Mishima and the various models of Jack in the Tekken series, and Liquid Snake and Zero in the Metal Gear series.
His hobbies include painting, salsa dance, riding horses and playing music.Bluegrass music
Bluegrass music is a genre of American roots music that developed in the 1940s in the United States Appalachian region. The genre derives its name from the band Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys. Bluegrass has roots in traditional English, Irish, and Scottish ballads and dance tunes, and by traditional African-American blues and jazz. The Blue Grass Boys played a Mountain Music style that Bill learned in Asheville, North Carolina from bands like Wade Mainer's and other popular acts on radio station WWNC. It was further developed by musicians who played with him, including 5-string banjo player Earl Scruggs and guitarist Lester Flatt. Bluegrass pioneer Bill Monroe characterized the genre as: "Scottish bagpipes and ole-time fiddlin'. It's Methodist and Holiness and Baptist. It's blues and jazz, and it has a high lonesome sound."Bluegrass features acoustic string instruments and emphasizes the offbeat. Notes are anticipated in contrast to laid back blues where notes are behind the beat, which creates the higher energy characteristic of bluegrass. In bluegrass, as in some forms of jazz, one or more instruments each takes its turn playing the melody and improvising around it, while the others perform accompaniment; this is especially typified in tunes called breakdowns. This is in contrast to old-time music, in which all instruments play the melody together or one instrument carries the lead throughout while the others provide accompaniment. Breakdowns are often characterized by rapid tempos and unusual instrumental dexterity and sometimes by complex chord changes.There are three major subgenres of bluegrass. Traditional bluegrass has musicians playing folk songs, tunes with traditional chord progressions, and using only acoustic instruments, with an example being Bill Monroe. Progressive bluegrass groups may use electric instruments and import songs from other genres, particularly rock & roll. Examples include Punch Brothers, Cadillac Sky and Bearfoot. Another subgenre, bluegrass gospel, uses Christian lyrics, soulful three- or four-part harmony singing, and sometimes the playing of instrumentals. A newer development in the bluegrass world is Neo-traditional bluegrass; exemplified by bands such as The Grascals and Mountain Heart; bands from this subgenre typically have more than one lead singer. Bluegrass music has attracted a diverse following worldwide.Béla Fleck
Béla Anton Leoš Fleck (born July 10, 1958) is an American banjo player. An innovative and technically proficient banjo player, he is best known for his work with the bands New Grass Revival and Béla Fleck and the Flecktones.Clawhammer
Clawhammer, sometimes called frailing, is a distinctive banjo playing style and a common component of American old-time music.
The principal difference between clawhammer style and other styles is the picking direction. Traditional picking styles (classic banjo), including those for folk, bluegrass, and classical guitar, consist of an up-picking motion by the fingers and a down-picking motion by the thumb; this is also the technique used in the Scruggs style for the banjo. Clawhammer picking, by contrast, is primarily a down-picking style. The hand assumes a claw-like shape and the strumming finger is kept fairly stiff, striking the strings by the motion of the hand at the wrist and/or elbow, rather than a flicking motion by the finger. In its most common form on the banjo, only the thumb and middle or index finger are used and the finger always downpicks, hitting the string with the back of the fingernail. By contrast, the thumb rests on the fifth string with the downpick motion, and is often released in a lighter up-pick to create the distinctive clawhammer sound.
Although much traditional clawhammer banjo playing is highly rhythmic, it typically includes elements of melody, harmony, rhythm and percussion. The varied playing styles emphasize these elements to different degrees, sometimes changing the emphasis during the performance of a single tune. The possibilities include sounding individual melodic notes, strumming harmonic chords, strumming and picking to produce rhythmic and percussive effects on the strings, as well as making percussive effects by brushing or thumping the thumb or fingers upon the banjo head or skin. This diverse range of musical sounds and effects gives clawhammer banjo its artistic solo potential in addition to its traditional role as a rhythmic accompaniment to other musicians. In particular, the duo of a fiddler playing melody alongside a driving clawhammer accompanist once served as a basic Appalachian dance band, as recalled by Ralph Stanley in his autobiography, "Man of Constant Sorrow."
Musicians who use or who have used the clawhammer style of picking include Mark Johnson, Ola Belle Reed, Hank 3, Doc Watson, Barbecue Bob, Lee Sexton, J.D. Wilkes, Old Man Luedecke, Ralph Stanley, Hobart Smith, Neil Young, Bob Carlin, Dwight Diller, Dick Kimmel, Walt Koken, Brad Leftwich, Dan Levenson, Michael J. Miles, Ken Perlman, Leroy Troy, Abigail Washburn, Emily Robison, Julie Duggan, Riley Baugus, Jim Connor and many others. Actor/comedian Steve Martin played clawhammer banjo as part of his stage act in the 1970s and on his 2009 musical debut CD The Crow: New Songs for the 5-String Banjo. Scottish comedian Billy Connolly is also an accomplished clawhammer banjo player who was filmed playing his banjo at the North Pole in a BBC travelogue programme "A Scot in the Arctic". Early practitioners include Clarence Ashley, Fred Cockerham, Tommy Jarrell, Uncle Dave Macon, Grandpa Jones, Kyle Creed, David Akeman ("Stringbean"), Kirk McGee, Wade Ward, and Bashful Brother Oswald.Earl Scruggs
Earl Eugene Scruggs (January 6, 1924 – March 28, 2012) was an American musician noted for popularizing a three-finger banjo picking style, now called "Scruggs style," which is a defining characteristic of bluegrass music. His three-finger style of playing was radically different from the traditional way the five-string banjo had previously been played. This new style of playing became popular and elevated the banjo from its previous role as a background rhythm instrument (or a comedian's prop) to featured solo status. He popularized the instrument across several genres of music.
Scruggs' career began at age 21 when he was hired to play in Bill Monroe's band, The Blue Grass Boys. The name "bluegrass" eventually became the eponym for the entire genre of country music now known by that title. Despite considerable success with Monroe, performing on the Grand Ole Opry and recording classic hits like "Blue Moon of Kentucky," Scruggs resigned from the group in 1946 due to their exhausting touring schedule. Fellow band member Lester Flatt resigned as well, and he and Scruggs later paired up in a new group they called Flatt and Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys. Scruggs' banjo instrumental called "Foggy Mountain Breakdown," released in 1949, became an enduring hit, and had a rebirth of popularity to a younger generation when it was featured in the 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde. The song won two Grammy Awards and, in 2005, was selected for the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry of works of unusual merit.
Flatt and Scruggs brought bluegrass music into mainstream popularity in the early 1960s with their country hit, "The Ballad of Jed Clampett" — the theme music for the television sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies — the first Scruggs recording to reach number one on the Billboard charts. Over their 20-year association, Flatt and Scruggs recorded over 50 albums and 75 singles. The duo broke up in 1969, chiefly because, where Scruggs wanted to switch styles to fit a more modern sound, Flatt was a traditionalist who opposed the change, and believed doing so would alienate a fan base of bluegrass purists. Although each of them formed a new band to match their visions, neither of them ever regained the success they had achieved as a team.
Scruggs received four Grammy awards, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and a National Medal of Arts. He became a member of the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 1985, Flatt and Scruggs were inducted together into the Country Music Hall of Fame and named, as a duo, number 24 on CMT's 40 Greatest Men of Country Music. Scruggs was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts, the highest honor in the folk and traditional arts in the United States. Four works by Scruggs have been placed in the Grammy Hall of Fame. After Scruggs' death in 2012 at age 88, the Earl Scruggs Center was founded near his birthplace in Shelby, North Carolina, with the aid of a federal grant and corporate donors. The center is a $5.5 million facility that features the musical contributions of Scruggs and serves as an educational center providing classes and field trips for students.Jack Thompson (actor)
Jack Thompson, AM (born 31 August 1940) is an Australian actor and one of the major figures of Australian cinema. He was educated at University of Queensland, before embarking on his acting career. In 2002, he was made an honorary member of the Australian Cinematographers Society (ACS). He is best known as a lead actor in several acclaimed Australian films, including such classics as The Club (1980), Sunday Too Far Away (1975), The Man from Snowy River (1982) and Breaker Morant (1980). He won Cannes and AFI acting awards for the latter film. He was the recipient of a Living Legend Award at the 2005 Inside Film Awards.Oh! Susanna
"Oh! Susanna" is a minstrel song by Stephen Foster (1826–1864), first published in 1848. It is among the most popular American songs ever written. Members of the Western Writers of America chose it as one of the Top 100 Western songs of all time.Rare (company)
Rare Limited is a British video game developer and a subsidiary of Microsoft Studios based in Twycross, England. Rare is known for its platform games, which include the Donkey Kong Country, Banjo-Kazooie, and Conker series, although the studio does not adhere to specific genres and has developed games in the first-person shooter, action-adventure, fighting, and racing genres.
The company was established in 1985 by the Stamper brothers, Tim and Chris, who also founded Ultimate Play the Game. During its early years, Rare was backed by an unlimited budget from Nintendo, primarily concentrated on Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) games. During this time they created successful titles such as Wizards & Warriors, Battletoads, and R.C. Pro-Am. Rare became a prominent second-party developer for Nintendo, who came to own a large minority stake of the company. During this period, Rare received international recognition and critical acclaim for games such as Donkey Kong Country, GoldenEye 007, Banjo-Kazooie, Perfect Dark, and Conker's Bad Fur Day.
In 2002, Microsoft acquired Rare, who retained their original brand, logo, and most intellectual properties. It has since focused on developing games exclusively for Microsoft's video game consoles. Their releases include Kameo: Elements of Power, Perfect Dark Zero and Viva Piñata. In 2007, founders Tim and Chris Stamper left the company to pursue "other opportunities" and, in 2010, the company's focus shifted to the Xbox Live Avatar and Kinect, releasing three different Kinect Sports games. In 2015, Rare released Rare Replay, a compilation of 30 games produced by the company to celebrate their 30th anniversary which was made exclusively for Xbox One. Rare developed Sea of Thieves, a multiplayer adventure game released in 2018.
Several key employees left Rare to form their own companies, such as Free Radical Design and Playtonic Games. Rare is widely recognised by the gaming industry and has received numerous accolades from critics and journalists. The company has often been described as secretive and seclusive.Shamisen
The shamisen or samisen (三味線), also sangen (三絃, both words mean "three strings"), is a three-stringed traditional Japanese musical instrument derived from the Chinese instrument sanxian. It is played with a plectrum called a bachi.
The Japanese pronunciation is usually shamisen but sometimes jamisen when used as a suffix, according to regular sound change (e.g. tsugaru-jamisen). It is samisen in western Japan and in several Edo-period sources.
The construction of the shamisen varies in shape, depending on the genre in which it is used. The instrument used to accompany kabuki has a thin neck, facilitating the agile and virtuosic requirements of that genre. The one used to accompany puppet plays and folk songs has a longer and thicker neck instead, to match the more robust music of those genres.Steering wheel
A steering wheel (also called a driving wheel or a hand wheel) is a type of steering control in vehicles and vessels (ships and boats).
Steering wheels are used in most modern land vehicles, including all mass-production automobiles, as well as buses, light and heavy trucks, and tractors. The steering wheel is the part of the steering system that is manipulated by the driver; the rest of the steering system responds to such driver inputs. This can be through direct mechanical contact as in recirculating ball or rack and pinion steering gears, without or with the assistance of hydraulic power steering, HPS, or as in some modern production cars with the assistance of computer-controlled motors, known as Electric Power Steering.Steve Martin
Stephen Glenn Martin (born August 14, 1945) is an American actor, comedian, writer, producer, and musician. Martin came to public notice in the 1960s as a writer for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, and later as a frequent guest on The Tonight Show. In the 1970s, Martin performed his offbeat, absurdist comedy routines before packed houses on national tours. Since the 1980s, having branched away from comedy, Martin has become a successful actor, as well as an author, playwright, pianist, and banjo player, eventually earning him Emmy, Grammy, and American Comedy awards, among other honors.
In 2004, Comedy Central ranked Martin at sixth place in a list of the 100 greatest stand-up comics. He was awarded an Honorary Academy Award at the Academy's 5th Annual Governors Awards in 2013.While he has played banjo since an early age, and included music in his comedy routines from the beginning of his professional career, he has increasingly dedicated his career to music since the 2000s, acting less and spending much of his professional life playing banjo, recording, and touring with various bluegrass acts, including Earl Scruggs, with whom he won a Grammy for Best Country Instrumental Performance in 2002. He released his first solo music album, The Crow: New Songs for the 5-String Banjo, in 2009, for which he won the Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album.Strawbs
Strawbs (or The Strawbs) are an English rock band founded in 1964. Although the band started out as a bluegrass group they eventually moved on to other styles such as folk rock, progressive rock, and (briefly) glam rock.
They are best known for their hit, "Part of the Union", which reached number two in the UK charts in February 1973, as well as for "Lay Down" a popular progressive rock hit from the same LP. The Strawbs also toured with Supertramp in their "Crime of the Century" tour, doing their own "Hero and Heroine" tour, which drew musical similarities and themes.The Dubliners
The Dubliners were an Irish folk band founded in Dublin in 1962 as The Ronnie Drew Ballad Group after its founding member; they subsequently renamed themselves The Dubliners. The line-up saw many changes over their fifty-year career, but the group's success was centred on lead singers Luke Kelly and Ronnie Drew. The band garnered international success with their lively Irish folk songs, traditional street ballads and instrumentals. The band were regulars on the folk scenes in both Dublin and London in the early 1960s, and were signed to the Major Minor label in 1965 after backing from Dominic Behan. They went on to receive extensive airplay on Radio Caroline, and eventually appeared on Top of the Pops in 1967 with hits "Seven Drunken Nights" (which sold over 250,000 copies in the UK) and "The Black Velvet Band". Often performing political songs considered controversial at the time, they drew criticism from some folk purists and Ireland's national broadcaster RTÉ had placed an unofficial ban on their music from 1967 to 1971. During this time the band's popularity began to spread across mainland Europe and they appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in the United States. The group's success remained steady right through the 1970s and a number of collaborations with The Pogues in 1987 saw them enter the UK Singles Chart on another two occasions.The Dubliners were instrumental in popularising Irish folk music in Europe, though they did not quite attain the popularity of The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem in the United States. They influenced many generations of Irish bands, and their legacy can to this day be heard in the music of artists such as The Pogues, Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly. Much adored in their native country, covers of Irish ballads by Ronnie Drew and Luke Kelly tend to be regarded as definitive versions. One of the most influential Irish acts of the 20th century, they celebrated 50 years together in 2012, making them Ireland's longest surviving musical act. Also in 2012, the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards bestowed them with a Lifetime Achievement Award. The Dubliners announced their retirement in the autumn of 2012, after 50 years of playing, following the death of the last of the founding members, Barney McKenna. However, the surviving members of the group, with the exception of John Sheahan, continued touring under the name of "The Dublin Legends". As of 2019, Seán Cannon is the only former member still in this group, following Eamonn Campbell's death in October 2017.
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