The Banjo in Jazz

Written by on October 13, 2015

When you listen to a number of early Jazz recordings of the late 1910s and the early-to-mid 1920s, you don’t hear a rhythm guitar; rather, you hear a banjo.

The banjo, often in counterpoint with a tuba’s bass lines, provided a high amount of volume in bands, and could be picked up by early recording technology. As the music moved from small ensembles to big bands, however, the banjo began to disappear in favor of the acoustic archtop guitar.

If you’re playing early repertoire of New Orleans, or even early pieces of Duke Ellington, you may want to sub out your guitar for a banjo. This can be a bit jarring if you’re used to guitar, but check out the below video–featuring banjo master Don Vappie–for insight into how to integrate the banjo into an ensemble.

You can learn more from Don about the banjo here.