The banjo and the ukulele are both akin to revisited versions of the guitar. At first glance, the two stringed instruments are quite easy to tell apart. However, we can very quickly fall into confusion when we do not know the specific characteristics of each instrument. Some might even believe that the two pieces of equipment are quite similar in that they can be combined to form a single instrument: the “banjo-ukulele” or “banjolele”. But then, what really differentiates the banjo from the ukulele?
Ukulele and banjo: different origins
To differentiate them, it is first important to know their history. You should know that the ukulele and the banjo do not have the same origins at all. The ukulele is a musical instrument of Hawaiian origin. It was introduced to the island in the late 1800s by Portuguese immigrants from Madeira Island. According to the annals, it is a re-adapted version of the Portuguese braguinha. The ukulele is originally equipped with four nylon strings and can be of different sizes (baritone, tenor, concert or soprano).
As for the banjo, its history goes back to the time of the slave trade in the countries of Uncle Sam. It would have been brought to the United States from the West Indies, in the years 1830-1840, by deported Africans . Black musicians subsequently decided to exploit its rhythmic aspect to such an extent that the instrument very quickly seduced white people. The banjo became particularly well known in the world of Jazz, especially after the Second World War. The instrument consists of 4 or 5 steel strings mounted on a tunable drum. Like the ukulele, it also comes in several sizes.
Banjo and ukulele: a big difference in terms of operation (tuning, tuning, tone, etc.)
The two instruments work differently both in terms of tuning and tuning. The difference can be seen above all in the sound produced.
The ukulele is usually tuned in the GCEA (Sol-Do-Mi-La) or AD-Fis-B (La-Ré-Fa#-Si) scale. The G string is tuned higher than the C string. This explains the fact that the instrument produces a fresh sound very different from that of the guitar. In the case of the banjo, the tenor models, which have four strings, have a tuning similar to that of a violin with a lower octave. Bluegrass banjos, on the other hand, have five strings and are tuned gDGBd (G-D-G-B-D) in Open G. The fifth string, the one that sounds open, is shorter than the others and is located directly on the fretboard. In any case, banjos have the specificity of producing a powerful, lively and crystalline sound.
The pick can be used with both ukulele and banjo. The only difference being that the use of a thumb pick and two finger picks may be necessary in the case of the latter.