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Playing Banjos at Events: What You Need to Know

Seems like you can always find a banjo player at any event these days, but the thing is, there’s almost always more than one person playing at any event. A few weeks ago, I was out at a wedding dancing with my banjo, and there were two other banjo players out there as well. That’s not to say I was outmatched by my playing, mind you, but I was out-musicked by my friends.

Why would I want to play a banjo at an event?

The thing is, I’ve got a banjo, and I want to play it, but I don’t want to sound like a jackass when I do. Here are a few tips to help me make sure that I don’t sound like a jackass when I do. Pick a really nice guitar Nowadays, most of the banjo players out there seem to be using a Guild banjo, which is great, because I love the sound of a Guild banjo. But it’s a bit more than just a guitar, because a banjo player needs something to fill the bottom end and high end in their playing, and a guitar really isn’t made for that, but a guitar that is. A 6 string guitar will sound very dry and dull on a banjo, but a 7 string or an 18 string will do wonders for any banjo player’s playing. A 6 string banjo will sound dry and dull, because it’s only playing the strings.

What kind of events can I play banjos at?

Obviously you can play any event that has a banjo being played, but there are just some that are better suited to banjo players than others. Most banjo events have a smaller live band that includes a guitar player, or sometimes three. This is where the banjo player comes in. He or she is often called upon to improvise lines for the band. They don’t have to follow any chords, just improvise their own line. There are other people on the band that may be in tune to begin with, but usually everyone is playing out of tune to begin with. They may start a song and I can play in at any point in the tune. They won’t notice my playing, so I am free to take my time. Sometimes they do notice, and will let me finish the song.

What do I need to know before playing my banjo at an event?

First off, you need to ask yourself if you’re going to play on a professional-level stage, or a family reunion venue. Either situation is going to give you a whole different set of challenges. They will be particularly challenging because there will be a lot more people to keep track of than what you may be used to at a wedding. Make sure that you know how to safely keep track of all the people, especially the kids and the ones who may not be so fond of people staring at them. Before you actually head out to the event, I recommend packing a case of Red Bull for all the energy that you will need. You need to stay hydrated and ready to take on anything that is thrown your way. This could range from you being mic-ed up, to someone having the idea to turn the banjo into a lighting device.

What should I wear when playing the banjo?

For the most part, you should dress according to the style of event you’ll be attending. Wedding banjo sessions will generally be suited to formal attire, but get in the spirit and wear some of your most memorable party outfits if you have them, and throw on some overalls if you’re in the land of cowboys. Do I need a banjo? Absolutely. In fact, most venues are happy to let you borrow a banjo, particularly if it’s one you have some connection to. You can always take it back, though, if you get too cocky about your playing. Most likely, they’re going to assign the jam sessions to someone else as soon as you arrive, but if you’re in the way of a jam, make sure you politely move aside so they can do their thing. What if I can’t borrow a banjo?

How do I make sure my sound is heard over other banjos?

A banjo has a tone range that’s not only about 20 notes, but also about 4 octaves. A bluegrass band will play tunes that span an octave in each key (four notes on the neck). That means that even if all 4 players are playing different sized banjos, you’ll still hear the same tune playing because all 4 will have the same notes. What makes a banjo good for acoustic dances? Acoustic dancing generally has a lower acoustics than a band (there are exceptions, but they’re usually among the best-known acts). Why are there so many banjo players in the world? One of the biggest reasons why there are so many banjo players is because banjos are good to play. Banjos have excellent tonal response, and they’re the “least difficult” instrument to play (sorry violins).

Conclusion

What I’m getting at is this: these days, you’re bound to find other banjo players at any event. But that doesn’t mean you need to stress out about it. You can learn how to play your instrument, and perform at the same time. Just play the banjo with your friends, like I did, and everyone’s having a good time. Plus, it’s great practice.