(pl. -jos or -joes)
a stringed musical instrument with a long neck and a round open-backed body consisting of parchment stretched over a metal hoop like a tambourine, played by plucking or with a plectrum. It is used esp. in American folk music.
an object resembling this in shape:
a banjo clock.
/ -ist/ n.
ORIGIN: mid 18th cent.: originally a black American alteration of earlier bandore; probably based on Greek pandoura ‘three-stringed lute.’ Compare with bandora.
Instr. of the same general type as the guitar
, but the resonating body is of parchment strained over a metal hoop and it has an open back. There are from 4 to 9 str. (usually 5 or 6), passing over a low bridge and ‘stopped’ against a fingerboard, which is often without frets
; one is a melody string
(thumb string, or chanterelle
), the others providing a simple chordal acc. Some examples have gut str. (played with the finger-tips) and others wire str. (played with a plectrum). Used by Gershwin in Porgy and Bess
and by Delius in Koanga
. The origin of this instr. is supposed to be Africa, and it was in use among the slaves of S. USA; then, in the 19th cent., it became the accepted instr. of ‘Negro Minstrels
’ and in the 20th found a place in jazz bands. These last sometimes used a Tenor Banjo
, with a different scheme of tuning (resembling that of the vn. family). The Zither Banjo
is of small size and has wire str.
Musical instrument with four to nine strings, a body of stretched parchment on a metal hoop, and a long, fretted neck. It is played with a plectrum or the fingers. Probably of African origin, it was taken to the USA by slaves. It is most often used in Dixieland jazz and folk-music.
). of uncert. Orig.; perh. Negro slave pronunc. banj⊙