What Is the Most Important Part Of the Banjo?

by Carolina Bridges

So much is written about the materials and precision needed to craft a beautiful sounding banjo that we often forget to remind ourselves what the most important part is! What’s your guess?

We have talked about the importance of great tone woods, precise fret placement, balanced metal composition for tone rings, tight tuning machines, quality craftsmanship and all of these are very critical to having not only a banjo that looks lovely but sounds beautiful. But the most important part of the banjo is you! Without you, it is just a beautiful piece of art to hang on the wall. Without you, it cannot inspire. Without you, it just cannot make music, right?

We all have musical heroes…and we should. They inspire us! This motivates us to try and make music ourselves. Oftentimes I hear customers say “I want a banjo that sounds like Earl.” Or “I want a banjo just like Jens Kruger’s.” The key in both these sentences is the name of the man playing the banjo. Even if I gave you Earl Scruggs banjo, would you “sound like Earl?” Or “sound like Jens” if you had his banjo? Logically we all know the answer is “No.”

Jens Kruger said, and I paraphrase, “The more you play the banjo, the more you sound like you.” Isn’t that just the best advice from a master? Because no matter what, you really want to sound like you. I have a very dear friend who is inspired by the music of Tony Ellis…but when he plays Tony’s music…he does not want to recreate Tony, he wants to interpret Tony’s lovely melodies with a fresh voice!

This is just a gentle reminder to all of us to play because we love the banjo. Truthfully, I love strumming the banjo and singing along. I know…it’s not the standard way to play it but I like it and I sound like me. I also like to learn how to pick new tunes that are slow…because I can play slowly. Does this mean I don’t like fast melodies? No…I admire those who can play fast, but it’s just not what I can do right now.

We have written many articles to try and help folks understand the beauty of playing music. All of these articles are meant to inspire you to play but always remember, just as Jens Kruger said, you want to “sound like you” because you really are the most important part of a banjo.

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