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Thread: Banjo & Mandolin

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2007

    Default Banjo & Mandolin

    We have been incorporating mandolin into our worship off and on for a while. One of our electric players is getting quite good. We have toyed with the idea of incorporating more of a bluegrass feel into things, and so I think it is time for me to look for a banjo. I confess that I have absolutely no experience with banjos and would like to learn from others here. A couple of questions are:

    1) Have you had experience leading vocally from banjo? It seems like it might be difficult/cumbersome doing the rolls/picking, etc.

    2) What is decent price/brand for one that I could plug in? (I know decent is rather subjective, but I'd like to hear options.)

    3) I'd also like the hear the same questions answered for mandolin, because I might just learn mandolin, and have my electric player learn banjo. (Which he wants to do first. We're kind of in a friendly competition to see who can buy one first.)

    Anyway, any help/insight is very welcome.
    Can I get a little more talent in the monitors?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Melrose FL

    Default banjo

    We have a string band in our church that plays bluegrass gospel, sometimes one song on a Sunday, sometimes playing a whole service. I'm the music director, when I took the job in 2006 I brought my meager banjo skills into the group and have learned a lot. The other members are all now in their 70s and 80s, a couple of them are novices, others of them toured as professional musicians. They grew up playing this music (we're in Florida), I came to it with my yankee sensibilities and music school degree (I'm from Oregon).

    Anyway, it's easy to sing lead and play the banjo on the type of music we do, once the rolls become automatic. Even though they usually have some degree of syncopation, it all just naturally flows. If you're taking a solo you try fancier things, but if you or someone else is singing you just play in a groove.

    I can't speak for Mumford & Sons type songs, which is probably where you are heading, but all those bands seem fairly rooted anyway, so the groove is probably similar, just some different chord progressions than typical gospel songs.

    They make banjos that are 6-string and tuned like guitars, for guitar players who want to pretend that they are banjo players, and probably no one in your church will know the difference. But God will be more pleased with you if you buy a real 5-string, tune it like a real banjo, and put in the effort to learn how to play in a real banjo style.

    Also, at my beginner level, I only play in G and C, and capo around to whatever key we need for the lead singer's range. To do that, you need either a 5th string capo that is built into the banjo, or one of the various 5th string capos that are on the market.

    Whatever you do, have fun!

    Here's a video when I was goofing around at practice:

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Dunedin, FL


    We have a couple of songs in which we use banjo, but we use a banjitar (6 string banjo tuned like a guitar). It sounds pretty close with the right setup. We don't sing with it but I wouldn't imagine it would be much of a problem if you're used to singing and playing guitar. After doing some research on the subject with some folks that use them we were directed toward Gold Tone as being the one used by most people in the bluegrass or country business. The GT-500 was what we were told was the one to get. Here's a link to it.

    Here's a live recording of one of the songs we use it on to get an idea of what it sounds like:
    Last edited by DunedinDragon; 05-02-2014 at 04:17 PM.
    The Posse Band live performance tracks can be heard by CLICKING HERE

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