Saturday, May 12, 2012


I'd never heard of, or laid eyes on, a banjolele until my friend Carlton Gill-Blyth and I traded a couple weeks ago (you probably read about the trade in an earlier post).

Isn't this a beauty?!

After I received it, I Googled it on the web, and got the surprise of my life, and a history lesson to boot.

The banjolele (sometimes called banjo ukulele or banjo uke) is a four-stringed musical instrument with a small banjo-type body and fretted ukulele neck.  "Banjolele", sometimes also called 'banjelele' or 'banjulele', is a generic nickname given to the instrument, which was derived from the 'banjulele-banjo', introduced by Alvin Keech in 1917.  Keech was an American living in Hawaii and later relocated to England.

This is the real deal -- An Alvin Keech Banjolele signature instrument, that's damn near a hundred years old.

The instrument achieved its greatest popularity in the 1920s and '30s, and combines the small scale, tuning, and playing style of a ukulele with the construction and distinctive tone of a banjo, hence the name.

The banjolele parallels banjo construction, on a smaller scale, in terms of overall construction.  They are always fretted.  Most are built of wood with metal accoutrement.  The neck typically has 17 frets and is the same scale length as a soprano ukulele.  They may be open-backed, or may incorporate a resonator.  The heads were traditionally made of calf skin, which some players preferred for the tone.  They were originally outfitted with gut strings, but nylon strings are now typically used.  It is commonly tuned G-C-E-A (C Tuning), or A-D-F#-B (D Tuning).

 Another really cool instrument to add to my collection.   Thanks again Carl.

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