The original name of the Banjo Uke is Banjo Ukulele, with uke being an abbreviation of the Ukulele. This instrument traces its origin from the middle of the second decade of the twentieth century. It is a hybrid, combining the banjo type of body with the neck of a ukulele, hence the term banjo uke.
A Short History of the Banjo Uke
It has been given many nicknames over the years, such as “Banjolele”, “Banjulele”etc. It’s been a popular musical instrument in American music for about a century. It was soon after its invention somewhere between 1914 and 1917 that this instrument came to be known outside America. However, it became most famous in America and England, particularly, for its unique sound and shape.
Historically the banjo uke is known to be invented by Alvin D. Keech in 1917. However, this may not be essentially true. There are evidences that John A. Bolander patented a banjo uke in California in 1916. There is also a book named “A Practical Method for Self Instruction of the Ukulele and Banjo Ukulele” which has a copyright date of 1914. The first version, however, did not include banjo ukulele in its title and it was later somewhere around 1917 to 1918 that this was included in the title. Nonetheless, there is no doubt about the fact that Alvin D. Keech was the one who popularized this instrument in America and later in England when he moved there.
Listen to a review of one here: http://youtu.be/qVoDeK8eZHs
What Sets the Banjo Uke Apart?
This baby is not only popular due to its unique and beautiful sound, but it also attracts many due to its distinct shape. The shape results from the combination of a banjo-like body fitted with a fretted ukulele neck. It was originally made out of calf skins but was later replaced by other materials like wood. Many enthusiasts still prefer to have theirs made out of original calf skin to get a conventional sound from it. The instrument comes in two major designs or variations today. They may be an open back or a closed back version fitted with a resonator. These two produce different sounds and are used for different purposes.
The banjo uke was invented because people loved ukuleles but wanted to have a louder sound. Therefore, they combined the banjo body with ukulele neck to produce the desired results. The sound is not exactly the same as that of either ‘parents’. It has developed its own unique sound, which is louder and loved by many. It resembles the guitar in the sense that it has string and a fretted neck. However, it has only four strings in contrast to six strings on the standard guitar. The neck has sixteen frets and it is about the same size as a concert-sized uke. There are a very limited number of companies that manufacture them in America or other parts of the world today. This means that they are not available commonly and those available are relatively very expensive to buy. The instrument is also available as a collector item made in very exotic materials and design.
Some Popular Examples of Banjo Ukulele
Gold Tone BUC Concert Banjo Ukulele (Vintage Brown)..the Gold Tone brand offers beautiful, high quality instruments at an affordable price. Mahalo UB-30SB Solid Top Banjo shaped Ukulele with Sunburst finish.. mahalo offers a popular range of banjo-shaped ukuleles at a budget price. These represent a quirky yet good quality option into the instrument.