Banjo is a stringed instrument like a guitar, which has a membrane to resonate with its sound.
The thin membrane sits on a frame or structure that forms a resonator and makes the perfect sound.
This musical instrument mainly originated from North America in the 18th century. But the earlier form of this instrument came from the Caribbean in the 17th century through the enslaved people from Africa.
The banjo became very popular in the 18th century in America. After its exposure in America, banjo became quite popular all over Europe for its soothing and party-like vibe. There is some familiarity with the banjo in Africa named bania or the banju.
Playing banjo can be similar to playing guitar. Although there are also some major differences.
But can you play banjo with a guitar pick?
If we want to answer in just one sentence, then yes!
You can certainly play banjo with a guitar pick.
There are many variables associated with it.
Depending on the situation, the answer can change.
- The Structure of a Banjo
- Can You Play Banjo With a Guitar Pick?
- Do You Need a Pick To Play The Banjo?
- Picking Style
- Fingerpicking (Playing Banjo With a Pick)
- Flatpicking (Playing banjo without a pick)
- Which Picking Style Should You Go For?
- Final Thoughts
The Structure of a Banjo
Banjo has a tambourine-shaped body. A hoop and screw tights the belly with the frame so that it resonates.
The parts of a banjo are briefly described below:
The neck of a banjo is an important part to dictate the sound and the rhythm of a tune.
The neck of a banjo is comprised of several parts.
These are –
Peg’s head is at the top of a banjo’s neck. Peg’s head consists of the four tuning pegs.
Generally, the peghead is the most width part of the neck.
Tuning pegs are the keys that are used to change the pitch of a string. It’s done by tightening or losing the string. If you turn the tuning peg clockwise, it’ll tighten the string and change the pitch. There are four tuning pegs in the peghead. You can find the peg of the fifth string on the top side of the fifth fret.
The nut is the part from where the peghead starts. It’s a platform from where all the four-string extends to the tuning pegs. It can be made of bone, wood, or plastic.
Frets are used to change the pitch of a string. There are some thin metal bars located at the neck to divide it into different parts. These metal bars are called fret bars and the space between two fret bars is known as frets. When you change your hand’s position in different frets, it’ll sound different because the frets decide the pitch.
The fretboard is like the neck of your guitar, and it has frets on it to hold music notes. The surface under that left-hand fingerspells out all those zesty chords! A thin, flat wooden strip glued onto the neck holds each fret in place and is what allows your left hand to press down on it for making music.
The heel of a banjo is the connecting point of its neck and the pot.
The pot has also many different parts like the rim, banjo head, tension loop, resonator, armrest, etc.
Can You Play Banjo With a Guitar Pick?
A guitar pick can be used to play the banjo.
But it depends on many things to answer in just a simple sentence. You can use guitar picks, banjo picks, or use your bare fingers to play the banjo. It’s all a matter of preference. There is no strict rule for you to follow to play such a cheerful instrument.
If you prefer to play banjo with a guitar pick you can certainly do so.
You can also play banjo without a pick or a thumb pick.
Here we’ll explain to you the differences between choosing a pick and not choosing a pick.
Do You Need a Pick To Play The Banjo?
Picks are the little helping hands to play instruments like guitar and banjo.
These are usually made of materials like plastic or metal. The advantage of playing banjo with a pick is that you’ll get more power and better sound while playing. But you can also choose not to use a pick.
It depends on which method is more comfortable for you as a musician. Sometimes players who have low confidence, tend to play the banjo a bit quietly. Using a pick helps him to play louder.
Some people prefer the softer sound in their banjos. If you enjoy playing banjo without a pick, then don’t be shy and play as you like. It’s the comfort zone of the player that matters the most.
Picking style is a term you’ll hear regularly in your banjo playing journey.
So, what does it mean and why is it so important?
Picking style is the formation or the way you stroke your banjo. The two most renowned banjo playing styles are the clawhammer and the bluegrass style.
Clawhammer playing style is a downward picking style to play the banjo. In this style, the strokes are always downward. It’s an ancient style of playing the banjo. Clawhammer was firstly seen in the African region as it’s an older playing style than the bluegrass.
Bluegrass banjo playing style is an upward playing style where the strokes are always in the upward motion. When you strike the strings, your right hand’s index finger hits the banjo upwards and the thumb hits downward.
Fingerpicking (Playing Banjo With a Pick)
Bluegrass players use fingerpicks or thumb picks. This allows them to play with more volume, more power, and a greater sound. Many banjo players use pick to save their fingers from excessive pain they have to endure while performing for a long time.
Sometimes we have to strum difficult chords. These chords take a bit more effort.
That’s when the fingerpicks help us. Picks help you from the pressure you are getting on your fingertip and help you to play banjo for a long time.
Flatpicking (Playing banjo without a pick)
Some banjo playing styles do not need a pick to play. Mainly the folk ones are the one that doesn’t need a pick. If you follow the clawhammer picking style you wouldn’t need a pick to play.
If you practice playing without a pick, after a while your contacts will have a stronger impact and the sound will be much more powerful.
Which Picking Style Should You Go For?
Banjo is one of the easiest instruments to play. There are normally 5 strings in a banjo and you can easily master the art of playing. Firstly, you have to understand no style of playing the banjo is easy or hard.
They are just different from each other.
That being said, what you should look at is in which style you are comfortable. Lets, suppose you like the clawhammer. But that doesn’t mean bluegrass is tough or it isn’t soothing to the ears.
If you are a beginner and exploring the incredible sounds of a banjo, we suggest you take some time to pick a playing style. Try different kinds of playing styles, play them all over again. Play them to make your heart melt. Flat picking, fingerpicking, bluegrass, clawhammer, etc. Try them all.
Also, don’t forget to see our post on best banjo for beginners.
You may feel that the fingerpicking is much more relaxing and easy to go.
After a while, you can tell which style suits you the best.
Some styles do not encourage you to use a pick, but you can use a pick if you want. Most folks say they find it more amusing to play their banjo without a pick. But, it doesn’t matter that everyone agrees with that. Many folks, also suggest to you use a pick to avoid pain in the finger.
As long as you’re okay with it, the choice doesn’t matter to dive into the amazing journey of a banjo.
So just go practice and figure out what’s suitable for your style.