We often get customers wondering what a banjitar is and if this is a “real” instrument. What someone is refering to when they mention say banjitar is a 6 string banjo. This is also often referred to as a guitjo. The simple answer to this question is yes, it is a “real” instrument.
First off, what does someone really mean when they say a “real” instrument? If it produces sound and allows someone to express themselves through it, is seems like a real instrument to me.
People also say a banjitar (or guitjo, or 6 string banjo) isn’t a "real" banjo as well. People who say this believe the only "real" banjo is a five string banjo. The six string banjo has been around for over 100 years. Some of the most classic recordings in American music history have used 6 string banjos. Recordings such as Louis Armstrong's Hot Five and Hot Seven recordings with Johnny St. Cyr (pictured to the right) playing the six string banjo. This makes them pretty “real” to me.
I understand why some people may say this because the original refined American banjo had 5 strings including the short 5th string that is used as a drone string. But what about the original instrument that came from Africa which gave birth to the American instrument called the banjo? These instruments didn’t always have five strings.
A banjitar or six string banjo is used for many geners of music. Orginally it was mainly used by jazz and blues guitar players prior to amplification so they could be heard when playing with larger bands. When amplification came along in the 1930's, the six string banjo lost its popularity as guitar players would just play through an amp.
In the past 20 years or so, the banjitar or six string banjo has made a very big resurgence and can be found being played by players of all generes. Jazz, blues, rock, country, classical, you name it.. people are using a 6 string banjo for reasons.
The point is, there is nothing such as a “real” instrument of “real” banjo. A banjitar (or 6 string banjo as we like to call it) is a real instrument and real banjo that is capable of creating incredible music. It is up to the player to use it properly and create from it.