How to Develop Your Unique Banjo Style

by David Bandrowski

Every banjo player dreams of a signature sound, a style that sets them apart and instantly captivates listeners. It's the difference between mimicking your heroes and leaving your own indelible mark on the music.But how do you break free from the shadows of giants and forge your own path?

Deering Banjos believes that every player has a unique voice waiting to be discovered.Here, we explore the journey of developing your own banjo style, a process fueled by exploration, experimentation, and a healthy dose of self-expression.

Beyond Imitation: Owning Your Influences

Great artists learn from the masters. We dissect their techniques, absorb their phrasing, and chase their sonic landscapes. But true mastery lies in taking those influences and weaving them into your own tapestry. Don't be afraid to emulate – it's the foundation for growth. However, at some point, you have to let go of the copycat mentality and commit to your own musical voice.

The Alchemist's Workshop: Experimentation is Key

Developing your style is like crafting a unique blend of spices. It involves exploring different elements and discovering how they interact. This can manifest in several ways:

  • Technique: Don't be afraid to break the mold. If a classic technique feels awkward, explore alternative fingerings or picking patterns. Your comfort and creativity are paramount.
  • Genre-Bending Exploration: Step outside the traditional bluegrass box. Learn music from other styles – jazz, blues, even classical – and see how you can incorporate those influences into your banjo playing.
  • Unconventional Inspiration: Think outside the instrument. Explore music not typically played on the banjo. How can elements of Indian sitar or African kora drumming influence your banjo approach?

The Power of Originality: Composition and Gear Exploration

Writing your own music is the ultimate expression of your unique voice. Craft melodies, experiment with chord progressions, and let your personality shine through the music.

Gear can also play a role in shaping your sound. Experiment with different banjos, explore various string gauges and tunings, and find picks that enhance your playing style. Remember, there's no single "right" setup – discover what works best for you.

Collaboration: A Catalyst for Growth

Surround yourself with diverse musicians. Jam with fellow banjo players, but also explore collaborative opportunities with musicians from other backgrounds. This cross-pollination of styles can spark new creative ideas and push you outside your comfort zone.

Active Listening: Fueling Inspiration

Immerse yourself in music, both recorded and live. Listen critically to artists you admire, but also actively seek out new sounds and genres. Pay attention to phrasing, improvisation, and overall musicality. The more diverse your musical diet, the richer your own sound will become.

Developing your unique banjo style is a lifelong journey. It requires dedication, exploration, and a willingness to embrace your individuality. By following these tips and letting your creativity flow, you'll be well on your way to forging a sound that's unmistakably you.


Kristin Scott Benson chooses the Deering Golden Series banjos
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