The Banjo has a special place in my heart!  I love both it and the pedal steel equally, but I did learn to play the banjo first!  The only poem I’ve ever written was about the banjo (see below)!  I also chose to write a paper in college about the history of the banjo.

There are two main types of banjos and I ignored the wisdom of my grandfather when he told me to get a 5-string instead of a 4-string banjo.  He didn’t play either one of them, but he knew!  After a few years of trying to play bluegrass on a tenor banjo (4-string), a family friend put a 5-string in my hand.  Oh, what a Cadillac, compared to the tenor banjo!

The 4-string banjo was used a lot in barber shop quartets and dixieland jazz bands.  It was usually strummed, and there I was trying to play bluegrass on it with finger picks!

The 5-string banjo is usually tuned to an open G chord, as is the dobro.  This fact has made it easy for me to play banjo tunes on the dobro, although the degree of difficulty goes up a little!  There are different styles of playing the banjo and some of those styles involve different tunings and different strumming techniques (claw-hammer, drop-thumb, frailing, etc).  I focus more on the bluegrass style, using a thumb pick and two finger picks.

Click Below to hear the five-string banjo

The Banjo
a poem by Boyd Hudgens

A Banjo is an odd thing,
Four longs and one short string.
It matches the fingers on my hand,
I guess that’s natural, made by man.

But when I pluck it,
Now there’s a word…
A beautiful sound
Is immediately heard.

The notes run together,
Lickity split.
Eighth and sixteenth notes,
They never quit.

My mind switches gear,
As a banjo I near.
I can’t let it sit,
I have to pick it a bit!

As long as my fingers
Will move and bend,
I’ll keep on picking
The Banjo, my friend.

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