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Building New Banjos for an Old-Time World$
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Richard Jones-Bamman

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780252041303

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.5622/illinois/9780252041303.001.0001

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A Brief History of the Banjo

A Brief History of the Banjo

(p.21) 1 A Brief History of the Banjo
Building New Banjos for an Old-Time World

Richard Jones-Bamman

University of Illinois Press

This chapter provides a short historical overview of the banjo, from its origins among enslaved populations up through the so-called golden era of its development and manufacture in the late 19th century. It begins with a definition of the instrument based on specific morphological features, taking into account various African antecedents that remain hallmarks of its design and distinctive tone production. This is followed by a discussion of the gradual emergence of mass produced banjos created for the burgeoning middle-class parlor market in the 1880s and 1890s, and the roll these same instruments have played in determining the design parameters commonly employed by contemporary makers creating open-back banjos for the old-time musical community.

Keywords:   banjo history, African antecedents, morphological features, mass production, middle-class parlor, open-back banjos, old-time music

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