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Showing posts from February, 2021

Rule #1: It's Not a Guitar

Just because the banjitar is tuned like a guitar, it doesn't mean you can play it like a guitar. YouTube is full of people demonstrating their new banjitars and they sound like crap. It's a wonder anyone would every buy one after seeing one of those videos. The player will often strum away like he's banging on his big acoustic dreadnought, pounding on the deep bass notes. Almost always, the instrument hasn't been set up and often, it's not even tuned properly. Banjitars need to have the head adjusted properly to optimize tone, especially when a change of string gauge is involved. It's good to have some internal dampening of some kind in the banjo. If you watch five-string banjo players, they keep a couple of picking hand fingers rooted to the top of the head to dampen unwanted resonances. If you don't do this, then you should consider putting a little piece of foam or a cloth between the head and the coordinator rod, somewhere near the bridge, to dampen the

G.D. West: Banjitar Improvisation No. 1

  I saw a guy on Reddit doing some banjo improvisations in a non-Bluegrass style, which I thought was pretty interesting. Most of my practice sessions are spent exploring what the instrument does, not working on other people's material. As a player, I'm more interested in exploring and creating, not necessarily reproducing works by other players. In some cases, I might take music from a different instrument or style and try to adapt it. After watching the guy's improvisation video, I thought I would start occasionally recording my own improvisations and sharing them out. Some of them turn out pretty good and they may end up solidifying into a more structured composition over time. Enjoy.

Gustavo Santaolalla: Main Theme, The Last of Us Part 2

I'm not a gamer, mainly because of my age. I was already an adult when the first Nintendo games appeared. I spent a couple of weeks trying to beat level one and two of the original Mario Brothers. When I realized that, at the end of each level, there was just going to be another dragon who was harder to beat than the last one, it seemed rather pointless. I didn't go any farther than that in playing the games. Over the years, I watched my kids (who are now adults) play various games and I respect how they have become more story-oriented. The popular "The Last of Us" game has a pretty cool soundtrack, some of which features music from Gustavo Santaolalla. This video of him playing the main theme from Part 2 has a nice sense of drama. I love the tone of the instrument and the performance is good. It's an easy piece to learn as well.

Beautiful Recording King Custom Shop Banjitar

One of the things I love about visiting the American Banjo Museum in Oklahoma City is the plethora of art-deco banjos. This video presents a custom Recording King banjitar that resembles the glorious past banjos that you find in the museum. This is a modern instrument with an exquisite vintage vibe. I'll have to keep this in mind and get a custom banjitar made one day. This thing is beautiful!

Lesson: Basic Fingerpicking for Banjitar (or Guitar)

 An instructional video I made for beginning fingerpickers on banjitar. 

Keith Scott Francis: Snow Patrol Cover

An enjoyable cover song. Keith Scott Francis plays well and he has a great voice. Very enjoyable!

Danielle M. Playing Cover of ‘Mr. Tambourine Man

Danielle M. plays a folky cover of Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man." Nothing fancy, just some basing strumming and a nice voice. We typically know the most famous version of the song recorded by the Byrds, which is a full band arrangement featuring Roger McGuinn's 12-string guitar. The story goes that they Byrds happened to be in the studio and Dylan was in the building, recording in another room in the studio. They invited him in to hear their cover of his song. When they played it for him, he remarked, "That's cool man. What song is it?" He didn't even recognize his own song!

Banjo Bill: Alternative Tuning for Banjitar

  Banjo Bill shares a brief account of his musical origins and how he got started playing on banjitar. He has an interesting idea for tuning to get a more banjo-like sound on the six-string banjo that involves using different string gauges. I tried this out myself and made a video on it with the string gauges that I found worked best for me, but I got the idea from Banjo Bill. Nowadays I have settled on Nashville tuning for one of my banjitars instead of Bill's, but if you are looking to try his idea out, you'll find it works great.

Soul Effective: Banjitar Jamz

A multi-tracked performance that sounds pretty cool. I don't know why five-string banjoists always think we're trying to horn in on their turf? There is a whole lot of banjo innovation going on that has nothing to do with Bluegrass. The instrument seems to attract really creative people who want to do something different with it.

Brother Danny Picking Some Tunes

 Some fine Chet Atkins alternate-bass style picking happening in this video. Is that "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" in the melody? Good control of tempo and feel throughout.

Acoustic Labs: Banjitar Instrumental

An instrumental from Acoustic Labs. I love the sound of fingerstyle banjitar drenched with reverb. It has a unique quality. There is some great arpeggio picking in the middle of this piece. Make sure you listen to the end! You don't want to miss anything here.

Why the Banjitar (Six-String Banjo) Exists and Why You Should Play One

As I have mentioned before, when you surf around the Internet and ask questions about the banjitar, as certain as the force of gravity, someone on some banjo forum will respond to your sincere inquiry, "Why don't you learn to play a REAL banjo." That's really not very helpful. Finding people who know about banjitars is difficult. Most guitar players don't have one and most banjo players are biased against the instrument to begin with. I live not far from Oklahoma City, where is located a wonderful banjo museum. When you visit this wonderful place, you will see a plethora of banjos of all kinds. Most of what you will find, however, is tenor banjos. The tenor or plectrum banjo is associated with "classical" banjo, Dixieland, Swing, Jazz, and Irish music predominantly. It was the dominant type of banjo for the Twentieth Century. There were community banjo orchestras all over America. They played the plectrum (pick) style of banjo. There were mandolin-banjos

Keni Lee Burgess: 'I Can't Be Satisfied' (Muddy Waters Cover)

Keni Lee Burgess favors us with a cool example of slide banjitar. He plays a great arrangement of a Muddy Waters classic. Great voice and feel. The zing of that slide goes right to the heart, doesn't it! It's a tone reminiscent of a resonator guitar.

Setting Up Your New Banjitar

When you buy any stringed instrument, most of the time it requires some setup work to personalize it to your touch and technique. The banjitar is no different. If you buy a budget instrument, you'll seriously need to do the setup to get it playing the way you want. Yours truly discusses some of the tweaks you'll want to make when you get a new instrument. Believe me, you'll enjoy playing a lot more if you just do a few essential things to make the instrument play its best.

Nashville-Tuned Banjitar Demo

  Nashville tuning is actually a guitar tuning used by many studio musicians in Nashville. To get an acoustic six-string to really ring through in a dense mix, the studio guitarists often string one up with the octave strings from a twelve-string set. The result is a tuning that has a narrow bandwidth that really cuts through without hogging up the midrange frequencies. The tuning works great on six-string banjo. On my banjitars, the scale length is 26.5 inches, which is kind of long for stringing up that octave G on the third string. I tune mine down one whole step and it works great. I don't break strings and to play with other instruments, I just capo up two frets. This video shows you the details of the tuning.

Elderly Instruments Demo of Several Brands of Banjitars

This product demo by Eldon Kelly is one of my favorite banjitar videos. He is an excellent musician and he makes the banjitar sound its best. He demos several brands of banjitars and he makes all of them sound great. 

Buying a Banjitar (6-String Banjo)

If you are here, reading this, you are considering the purchase of a banjitar. This article will give you some information about some of the considerations you'll need before you take the plunge and hand over your plastic for one.  As you look around the Internet, you'll find various articles that tell you about the banjitar and, inevitably, you'll end up on a snooty banjo forum where some bluegrass purist will say something like "Why don't you just learn to play a real banjo." Don't mind him. He's a dumb-ass.  Chances are you are already a guitarist and you're looking for a different sound for a track on a song. Maybe you like the sound of the banjo and you don't want to take time to learn a whole new tuning. Maybe you want to play some styles of music like Dixieland Jazz that will be in keys that horns like to play in, like F, Bb, Eb, Ab, etc. In that case, a five-string banjo just isn't going to do it for you. The banjo was around a long

G.D. West: 'Three Pieces for Six-String Banjo'

A recorded performance of three pieces adapted for banjitar by your host, G.D. West. I used my open-back Caraya banjo to record this performance.  

G.D. West: Cover of 'Norwegian Wood'

  This Beatles' classic lays out nicely on the banjitar and has a nice tone. This is my Caraya open-back. When I'm recording a solo banjitar, I tend to gravitate toward the open back model. I use my resonator-back models more often when I am recording or playing with other instruments. This is because they project more. The open-back model has a softer voice and a mellower tone when played by itself. 

G.D. West: Cover of John Fahey's 'When the Springtime Comes Again'

John Fahey was the "inventor" of what has become known as American Primitive Guitar as a genre. His guitar compositions lay out nicely on the banjitar. If you're looking for material to play, his tunes are a good choice to add to your repertoire.

John Rankin Deering Goodtime Solana 6 Interview

 John Ranking plays a wide variety of music and he is a product-endorser for the Deering Solano. This video is a good demo of the Solana banjo and he is one heck of a player. Very enjoyable!

The New Deering Phoenix 6 String Banjo with David Holt

An official Deering demo from Merlefest 2012. Some nice plugged-in picking here!

Dean 6 String Banjo // Guitjo // Ganjo // Banjitar // Review and Mods

 Product review of a Dean Backwoods banjitar and some modifications. It's a testimonial to the need for a good setup when you first buy a banjitar. The video talks about pickup installation, strings, etc.

Dean Backwoods Banjitar Setup

This video goes into some detail on how to set up a new instrument, including how to tighten the lugs, tap tuning, adjusting the coordinator rod, truss rod, nut slots, bridge placement, intonation, etc.

Sam Stephen Music: 6-String Banjo With Effects

Here's a kindred spirit! I love the sound of banjitar played with reverb and modulation effects. This looks like he's playing a Deering goodtime with a resonator back. Short and sweet. Leaves you wanting more.

Donovan Weaver: Leaving Home (performed on a Gibson Banjitar)

Donovan Weaver plays an old Gibson banjitar on this cut. Man, the rim on that thing is huge! Interesting tone! Sounds like he's got flatwounds on it.

Rogue Banjitar Demo

The Rogue banjitar from Musician's Friend occupies the bargain basement of banjitars in the market, but it has a respectable tone. It probably requires some setup work when you get one, but it sounds good! Nicely played.

Gregg Daly: Wagon Wheel

A nice cover of the Old Crow Medicine Show tune. Nicely performed with guitar and banjitar. Love those vocal harmonies. 

Josh West (no relation!) plays 'Trouble' by Taylor Swift

I cool cover played in the kitchen. I think I like this guy's version better than Taylor Swift's!  

I'll See You In My Dreams Electric Banjitar and Guitar

 This is the same duet as in the previous video, doing a live performance on stage at a festival or a college. The banjitar does a great job chonking away four-to-the-bar in a swing context. The chord solo is awesome and I love how he does the walking bass thing.

Dixieland Duo, Banjitar and Guitar

The banjitar can fit into the context that would normally be occupied by tenor guitar, but the added bass strings can add a little more presence in a duet or small group. 

Travis Boudreau: 1922 Blues, Charlie Parr Cover

I love this version of this song. Well-played and sung!  

CraigRison: Folsom Prison Blues

  And now, from Balinese gamelan music to an old country classic. Banjitar is an instrument that can fit in to a lot of contexts. Sounds like the audience has been partaking in some adult beverages.

QiSonix: Solo Banjitar Improv #1

This is a very modern-style improvisation reminiscent of music by Steven Reich. Some of this reminds me of Balinese gamelan music. I like this because too many people think we are just trying to copy five-string bluegrass banjo without taking time to learn a new instrument and tuning. This innovative improv shows a banjoist exploring some new sonic terrain. It inspired me to do some improvisations and to record them as well.

G.D. West: Bach on Banjitar

Here's my arrangment of the Bach classic. I learned this from a book many years ago and the few classical pieces I learned really helped me with fingerstyle guitar technique. I capo up just because the tone goes straight to the heart in that range. I'm using a Caraya open-back banjitar with Ernie Ball electric strings (.009-.042).

Demo: Luna Moonbird Banjitar

  Luna Guitars is a relatively new brand of stringed instruments. This banjitar, like many of the guitars, offers some interesting features, like the twilight-fade graphic on the head, moon-shaped pearloid inlays, a built-in pickup, and the black walnut fingerboard.

Jordan Sheppard: She Talks to Angels (Black Crowes) cover on a six string banjo

This guy's voice is crazy-good and the performance is heartfelt and authentic. Enjoy!  

Ortega Guitars | Julian Scarcella plays the OBJ350/6-SBK

This young hotshot blazes on this Ortega Guitars banjitar. He's got some good hybrid picking chops, using a flat pick and the right-hand fingers for fingerpicking.

Keni Lee Burgess: 'You Are My Sunshine'

This one is kind of historical in nature. Keni Lee Burgess plays here on a "bantar" built by John Dopera, who happens to be the inventer of the National Resonator Guitar. This is in open D tuning with some nice fingerstyle chops.

Blueridge Banjitar Demo

When I used to run a music store many years ago, I loved Blueridge instruments. Their traditional styling and quality at a moderate price point made them favorites of my customers. Here is a Blueridge banjitar shopping comparison.

Jack Marti: Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring

An arrangement of a Bach classical piece performed on banjitar in standard tuning. I play this one myself, but I do it in open-G tuning. You can find my arrangement on the blog.

Gold Tone Electric Banjitar Demo

A cool-looking banjitar in a Telecaster-inspired body. Some fancy chickin' pickin' and you're ready to go! I wonder what it would sound like through some distortion?

Ueli's Six-String Banjo

Interesting video showing the construction of a banjitar. I wish they had put banjitar music with the video, but it's cool to see the build happening.  

Eighth-Note Reverse Rolls on Banjitar

 Another short instruction video. Same thing as before, only backwards!

Lesson: Forward Rolls on Banjitar

A short instructional video I put together for beginners.

Acoustic Music Works - Chuck Lee Banjitar, 6 String Banjo, Los Brazos de Dios, Nylon Banjo

Chuck Lee's banjitar demonstration makes use of the banjitar's ability to sound somewhat like a Renaissance lute. This instrument uses nylon strings which enhances that particular tone quality. Note that the instrument he is playing has traditional friction tuners instead of geared tuning machines. I love at the end, he plays Sting's "How Fragile We Are."

Gold Tone BT-14 Cello Banjitar

Scott Cockerham demonstrates a Gold Tone cello banjitar. This instrument is tuned low almost like a baritone guitar. The nylon strings and larger rim allow for a deep, low end. I love the selections of tune he plays to show off the instrument's strengths.

Gold Tone CEO Wayne Rogers' Signature Seven-String Banjitar

Boy, this thing looks like a lot of fun! Seven strings. The top strings are paired like a 12-string so you can either get a high drone or a low bass note. It also has the scoop characteristic of banjos set up for clawhammer technique. Interesting idea. 

G.D. West: Review of Caraya Open-Back Banjitar

Here is a review on one of my banjitars. The Caraya brand is sold out of Australia. I first found them on eBay. Since I bought this instrument, I also bought one of their guitars for my wife. I have been impressed with their construction and tone.

Harvey Reid: 'O Death!'

I think this is my favorite Harvey Reid tune on banjitar. He plays it with such a great feel. His Deering banjo sounds amazing, too. You might remember Ralph Stanley singing this tune in "O Brother, Where Art Thou."

G.D. West: Cover of John Fahey's 'Take a Look at That Baby'

I have played John Fahey's songs on six-string guitar for decades. Many of them translate over to banjitar very nicely. I use a capo on this one because one stretch on an A chord is a little wide on the banjitar with a 26.5" scale.

G.D. West: 'Freight Train/Ask Me If I Care'

Again, this is your Banjitars site admin sharing a fun little medley. I used to perform "Freight Train" on guitar and I'd kind of do a short improv in the middle between verses. That little ditty morphed into a short tune called "Ask Me If I Care," which ended up staying blended with "Freight Train." This is my Caraya open-back banjo in standard tuning.

Harley Benton Banjitar Review and Demo

  A customer video of a Harley Benton banjitar. Harley Benton manufactures and sells many guitar models that are generally pretty amazing quality instruments in their price range. This banjitar features some nice inlays that give a little more cachet than most at this price point.

Recording King 'Madison' Banjitar Review

  A company product video showing off the details of an attractive instrument. Snappy tone and nice visuals.

Jazzy Banjitar: Blues for Wes

 Jazz soloist on a Dean banjitar swings "Blues for Wes."

Rod Stewart: Mandolin Wind on Banjitar

  A live performance from Rod Stewart, where he gets to strum his banjitar for us! Doesn't need much more introduction than that.

Karl Golden: 100 Riffs Goes Banjo!

This is just a fun video. Karl Golden takes us through 100 iconic rock riffs, translated onto the banjitar. Reminds me of the old "Hee-Haw" show line, "That silly! Nope, merely foolish." It'll put a smile on your face.

Gretsch Dixie 6 Demonsration

  This video gives you a good idea of the tone characteristics of one of the less-expensive name-brand banjos, the Gretsch Dixie 6. This model has a 25" scale length and a closed back, without using a resonator. Lightweight and easily portable!

Deering Solana Demonstration from Summer NAMM 2014

The Deering Solana banjitars have a cool, old-timey sound due to the use of nylon strings. The maple fingerboard and rim, flat fingerboard radius, 2" wide neck, bridge plate, and built-in pickup give the instrument a unique feel and tone. This video goes into the specs of the instrument moreso than a sound demonstration. At the end it does give you an idea what the plugged-in pickup sounds like.

Fingerpicking Demonstration Video

  A demonstration of fingerpicking on banjitar n open tuning. The banjoist uses a capo as well, which seems to be pretty common way to moderate the occasionally overwhelming bass notes and balance out the tone. 

Jens Kruger Demos the Boston 6-String Banjo from Deering

This is a wonderful demonstration of the Deering Boston 6. Kruger focuses on the plugged in sound and the head-mounted magnetic pickup. It has a very natural sound for a mag pickup. He has great technique and a very recognizable "voice" on the instrument.

Brian Brewer: Modified Gold Tone

Brian Brewer demonstrates an interesting modification he had done to his Gold Tone banjitar. This is a slick idea where he uses railroad spikes (used for capoing the fifth string on a five-string mandolin) and he changes his top string to an unwound high E. This allows him to set a root/tonic note on the top for the key. This gives him high drone sound of a five-string, but he can easily change to different keys. Very innovative--and he is a great player!

Gretsch Dixie 6 Banjitar Review

The Dixie 6 is Gretsch's offering in the banjitar market. Gretsch has put out a collection of "roots" instruments like mandolins, resonator guitars, Irish tenor banjos, and the 6-string banjo. The Dixie 6 has a 25 inch scale length, which is a very comfortably reach for most guitar players, in that it lies between the 25 1/2 inch scale length of Gibson and the 25 1/2 inch scale of a Fender Strat-style guitar. (Note: scale length is the playable length of string between the nut and the bridge.) The guitar is a closed-back design without a resonator. The instrument is thus quieter than one with a resonator, but has a bit more projection than one with an open back.  The Dixie 6 has a maple neck and fingerboard, which is an attractive feature that will feel familiar to many electric guitarists who want a change of sound on a track. The rim is laminated maple with a curly maple veneer. The hardware includes 24 brackets to tension the head, a chrome armrest, and vintage-looking

Harvey Reid - St. Anne's Reel

Another one of Harvey Reid's tricks, on guitar, as well as banjitar, is the use of partial capos. This headstock-down-the-neck view gives an excellent view of his faux-frailing technique also. I love anything Harvey Reid plays! This instrument looks like it's probably a Deering Solana with nylon strings.

Keith Urban Demonstrates His Ganjo

Keith Urban is probably the most popular musician who really plays the "ganjo" as he calls it. True, Taylor Swift plays one, too, but she just kind of strums at it while posturing on stage. Keith has the chops to make this thing talk!

G.D. West - Scarborough Fair

 This is yours truly demonstrating Scarborough Fair on an open-back Caraya banjitar. One of the things I like to do is to run my banjo pickup through an effects unit for some reverb and digital delay. In my pedalboard, I also have an Electro-Harmonix MEL-9 pedal, which emulates the sound of the old Mellotron keyboards. It's very subtle here, but you can hear the effects enhancing the sound.

Jeff Patzke: Blowin' in the Wind

 Jeff Patzke has several YouTube videos of songs played on banjitar. Here, he uses the Deering Solana, a nylon-strng instrument to play a Bob Dylan classic using the Carter picking style.

Harvey Reid: Simple Gifts

HarveyReid is a legendary folk musician who has great instrumental prowess on several instruments, including guitar, autoharp, and the six-string banjo. He is particularly known for his inventive use of partial capos.

1910 Weymann Banjitar

  A cool demo of a 1910 Weymann banjitar. The neck on this one is more of a guitar scale length, probably around 24.75 inches or thereabouts. It has a nice sound and, as you can hear, sounds great played plectrum style or finger style.   

History: Johnny St. Cyr

The banjitar has been around for more than a century, but Johnny St. Cyr holds the historical place of being the first person to be recorded playing one. Here is a great article about him. St. Cyr also played guitar and tenor banjo, but he often played banjitar with Louis Armstrong's band. The extended range often allowed him to comp bass lines in the absence of a bass player. Video below shows him in the background. I love how fluid his playing is and how natural he is at voice leading when doing chords. 

Obligatory Standard First Post

Welcome to the site. This the obligatory standard first post, just to get things started. If you are here, you must have been Googling the term "banjitar" or "6-string banjo." This means that you are one of those creative individuals who flouts peer pressure and walks the beat of different drummer, or perhaps strummer. The banjitar is the bastard child of the unnatural union of guitar and banjo. It is an instrument with a history, not just a new fad that someone concocted to sell more product for a music instrument manufacturer. Guitarists find it a novelty because their chords work on it. They don't have to learn to play in a different tuning. Bluegrass five-string banjo players almost universally disrespect it. It's not a "real" banjo to them. Never mind that that it pre-dates the invention of bluegrass as a style by half a century. People who play tenor banjos, which are usually tuned in fifths like a mandolin don't pay us no mind. They have