banjo in american folk music

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Post on 16-May-2015




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This is a class project for an American Music class at Portland State University. We are discussing the history and music of the banjo in the United States.


  • 1. The Banjo in American Folk Music

2. Resonator is circular with a parchment-like head stretched over it
Has five metal strings stretched over a long fretted fingerboard
Strings are played with fingers or plucked, often with metal plectra (picks)
Vibrating strings are what make the sound
The Modern Banjo
Bluegrass Roots of Folk Music
3. Enslaved Africans in America fashioned gourd instruments with long necks & strings
Africans in America used drums, gourds, mouth harps and banjos to create music for dancing and storytelling
C. 1830-1910 Blackface minstrel performances popular in America
Early 20th century country music embraced string instruments including the banjo
In the 1940s bluegrass musicians played the banjo with a virtuoso technique
Beginning in the 1940s the banjo also becomes a popular instrument in Folk Music
The History of Banjo in America
Pictured above is a xalam, and pictured to the right is a nkoni.
4. African American Influences
Use of the Banjo

  • Rhythmic sound

5. Two-finger picking 6. Thumb-lead playingVideo: West African Traditional String Music
Patterns of the Banjo
1855- African American use of two-finger picking style is heard by white Anglo Americans
1865- two-finger picking style is adopted by white Anglo Americans
7. Banjo Traditions
Declining use of the Banjo
Widespread across upland south
Continued patterns found in:
Early African
Influenced mountain string bands
Foundation upon which the blues developed
Black banjo declined after 1920 mostly because access to guitars was made easiermail order guitar
However, African American use of the banjo continued to have considerable influence across the country
8. Blackface Minstrel Performance

  • The one shameful chapter in the history of American musical is the minstrel show.

9. Minstrel shows in blackface were the first kind of musical theater that was 100% American-born. 10. Developed in the 1840s, peaked after the Civil War and remained popular into the early 1900s.