Banjo Guitar (or Django Banjo)

cbwimcbwim ✭✭✭
edited November 2013 in Archtop Eddy's Corner Posts: 191
I just got a Gold Tone Banjo Guitar (6 string banjo with the same tuning as a guitar) off eBay. An excellent deal for $329 including Saturday FedEx delivery all the way from Florida to Seattle, and a hard shell case. The instrument is in perfect condition, doesn't smell (I've had this problem with quite a few eBay instrument purchases), and has hardly been used and is basically new. The same instrument with a gig bag runs over $500 usually new.

I know that Django played some Parisian Cafe Musette music on this instrument and have the recordings on my Integrale disks. There is an excellent player of that particular style in Seattle, WB Reid, who has performed with piano Accordion master Danny Newton ("Daddy Squeeze" of Prairie Home Companion fame) and Djangofest should really consider having these two on stage some year, to show that early Django Cafe Musette sound live. Its really quite something!

But as an instrument for soloing in Django Jazz it has some interesting qualities. One thing is that the action is real easy and forgiving and in many ways easier than my expensive and lovely Park guitar, especially since a really soft gauge of strings is used. Bending is no problem even low on the neck near the peghead. WB told me that the best guitar he has action-wise is his old Vega Whyte Lady Banjo Guitar and I now see what he means. Tonally I like the banjo-y plunkiness. Nuages is quite fun to play on it!

I am curious if anyone here has ever tried this instrument in the Django music concept - or if there are any modern recordings out there of people playing such a thing in Django jazz. The closest in sound that I could find was John Jorgensen's "One Stolen Night" which he plays on a Greek Bouzouki actually. At the beginning though its very similar in tone to a Banjo Guitar, to my ears.

I suppose the purists might rise up in protest (its a BANJO for gosh sakes!!!!!) but then remember - it is such an instrument that Django cut his musical teeth on before his guitar greatness took hold!

Casey Burns


  • CuimeanCuimean Los AngelesProdigy
    Posts: 271
    I think Serge Camps has played six-string banjo with his band Opus 4.

    There's also Denécheau Jâse Musette:

    And slightly off-topic, but Johnny St. Cyr played a six-string banjo with Louis Armstrong on some of his recordings.
  • Lango-DjangoLango-Django Niagara-On-The-Lake, ONModerator
    Posts: 1,858
    Speaking as someone who doubles on four string banjo, I have no aesthetic objections to the six string version. The only problem with the instrument is that due to the laws of physics, you ain't gonna get much bass response from a banjo head that is roughly 11 inches or so in diameter, so most of these instruments sound pretty muddy and/or flabby in the lower register... though perhaps this is no biggie for most GJ players who don't dip down into that area all that much anyway.

    As I've posted previously in other threads, playing a four string banjo tuned DGBE actually sounds pretty good and might be a good double for making a few bucks if there is a Dixie/swing scene in your area... Plus playing in this kind of band is a good way to learn a whole bunch of jazz standards that you might not have encountered in playing with other GJ players... And yes, you can still play single string solos even though you don't get quite as many strings to work with...or just bring along your guitar to the gig!
    Paul Cezanne: "I could paint for a thousand years without stopping and I would still feel as though I knew nothing."

    Edgar Degas: "Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things.... To draw, you must close your eyes and sing."

    Georges Braque: "In art there is only one thing that counts: the bit that can’t be explained."
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