What is the difference between a banjo and a ukulele?

banjo vs ukulele
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 distinguish one from the other. However, you can quickly get confused when you don't 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”. So what is it that really differentiates the banjo from the ukulele?


Ukulele and banjo: different origins

To properly 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 the island of Madeira. According to records, this is a re-adapted version of Portuguese braguinha. The ukulele is originally equipped with four nylon strings and can be of different sizes (baritone, tenor, concert or soprano).

Regarding the banjo, its history dates back to the time of the slave trade in the countries of Uncle Sam. It was brought to the United States from the West Indies, in the years 1830-1840, by deported Africans. . Black musicians later decided to exploit its rhythmic aspect to such an extent that the instrument very quickly seduced whites. The banjo became particularly well known in the world of Jazz, especially after World War II. 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 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 G-C-E-A (Sol-Do-Mi-La) or A-D-Fis-B (La-Ré-Fa # -Si) scale. The G string is tuned higher than the C string. This is why the instrument produces a very different fresh sound than the guitar. In the case of the banjo, tenor models, which have four strings, have a chord similar to that of a violin with a lower octave. Bluegrass banjos, on the other hand, have five strings and are tuned in G-D-G-B-d (G-Re-G-B-D) in open G. The fifth string, the one that sounds empty, is shorter than the others and is located directly on the neck. In all cases, the specificity of banjos is to produce a powerful, lively and crystalline sound.

The pick can be used with both the ukulele and the banjo. The only difference is that the use of a thumb pick and two finger picks may be necessary with the latter.