Banjo Uke Questions


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Jul 25, 2022
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I’m considering ordering a baritone banjo uke from Magic Fluke early next year. The biggest thing holding me back is the role it would play.

Do people just play it like traditional ukes and play music they already know? Is it primarily only used for folk music? Have people learned clawhammer or Scruggs style picking for their banjo uke?

Thanks for the input!
I just use a slightly sub-soprano length one (converted from mandolin banjo) to play louder when others have amp systems in a group... and I feel hard done by.
I mostly use mine for strumming older jazzy stuff and clawhammer. Fingerstyle Celtic music also sounds great, and I’m working on some tunes from Fred Sokolow’s fingerstyle Ragtime book which sound great on banjo uke, imo.
I play one in my all ukulele band part time. Mostly because of its different voice from the other tenor ukulele’s. When I play it about half the time I just drum cords the other half of the time I finger pick similar to a banjo roll. Period. I rarely take it to the Uke jam as it over powers and everything else. Mine is a custom tenor with pick up.
Why not try a vintage tenor banjo? Two popular set ups would be dgbe with steel strings or gcea with nylons. Most have a scale between 19.5 and 21 inches.
The banjo sound is traditional for early jazz, vaudeville, English music hall, American folk music and celtic music (well, not exactly traditional for celtic but widely played in sessions nowadays). It translates very easily to related genres like the Great American Songbook, southern rock and country/western.

Of course, nothing says you have to abide by tradition! Play it anywhere you like. You can strum it like other ukes. Clawhammer, Scruggs style or other fingerpicking patterns are great. Since the banjo has quick attack and little sustain, every note is clear and distinct which suits fingerpicking especially well.

I play my concert Firefly anywhere, on any style of music. I have honestly not found a song it can't play and sound good. It helps that a Firefly is easier to tame than many other banjo ukes. Some banjo ukes have the limited dynamic range of VERY LOUD to VERY VERY LOUD. Those ukes are of limited use, although you can often tame them by removing the resonator (if it has one), muting it with a towel or something stuffed under the head, or tuning it down a few steps.

The one thing I would caution against is the habit some people have of HARD incessant strumming. This is annoying enough on a regular uke. It's deafening on a banjo uke. Learn to control your volume and don't feel compelled to strum on every beat.
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