(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.
banjo, stringed musical instrument, with a body resembling a tambourine. The banjo consists of a hoop over which a skin membrane is stretched; it has a long, often fretted neck and four to nine strings, which are plucked with a pick or the fingers. Slaves brought it to America (by 1688) from W Africa, to which it may have come from Europe or Asia. It was played in minstrel shows in the 19th cent. It is used frequently in hillbilly and Southern folk music. Because of an incisive, percussive quality, it is often used as a rhythm or a solo instrument in Dixieland bands.
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⊙