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Can this marriage be saved? Banjo and Ukulele

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Mar 7, 2020 - 7:05:42 PM
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104 posts since 9/3/2018

I have been unsuccessful in talking my husband into taking up the guitar so he could play with me. He loves his uke. I love my banjo. Anyone combine these two instruments? I play clawhammer, he does whatever he does on a concert uke. I upgraded him to a lovely Lo Prinzi from his $50 one so I could stand to--I mean ENJOY--listening to it. :) Actually I do enjoy it, it's quite a step up.  I just wish we could play together. 

Mar 7, 2020 - 7:12:46 PM

156 posts since 3/16/2008

I don't see why not, but I don't know of any duos using those two instruments. Give it a try!

Edited by - rooksbay on 03/07/2020 19:17:22

Mar 7, 2020 - 7:33:25 PM

930 posts since 1/9/2012

Good choice on the LoPrinzi! Maybe he could be tempted into trying some clawhammer uke. (It's not that uncommon. A Web search will yield lots of examples.)

Mar 7, 2020 - 8:05:30 PM
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54456 posts since 12/14/2005

If THEY can do it, YOU can do it!

Banjo & Ukulele Duet:

Yet another banjo & Ukulele duet:

Remember what Frank Zappa said:
"Music is just a bunch of notes"

Mar 7, 2020 - 8:58:34 PM
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1198 posts since 2/9/2007

Clawhammer banjo and ukulele is a terrific combination. Listen to some of the 1920's recordings of Al Hopkins and His Bucklebusters (AKA the Hill Billies). There's a couple of fiddles, a guitar, a piano, and another banjo in there, too, but every now and then you'll hear a banjo-and-uke duet break, and it cooks real good!

Mar 7, 2020 - 9:20:13 PM



808 posts since 11/26/2012

I'll occasionally play the uke during my weekly jam when our multi-instrumentalist, mandolin player wants to play banjo. Of course one big problem is that the uke is so quiet compared to every other instrument in a typical jam. A banjo uke can really help with this as it is much louder than a regular uke. Also, no using a low g string. The high g, re-entrant tuning stands out in a crowd much better. Finally, a simple, classic uke strumming pattern is actually pretty good at holding down the beat (if it can be heard).

Mar 8, 2020 - 1:26:40 AM
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3402 posts since 1/2/2004

brad leftwich & linda higginbotham!

Mar 8, 2020 - 6:58:25 AM
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40407 posts since 3/7/2006

Here is a nice mix with banjo uke, fiddle and OT finger picking banjo:

Mar 8, 2020 - 7:36:15 AM

59 posts since 5/11/2006

Originally posted by Brooklynbanjoboy

brad leftwich & linda higginbotham!

 That !

Mar 8, 2020 - 9:43:33 AM

185 posts since 4/10/2018

A couple of uke players show up at our monthly jam, as well as a couple of banjo uke players. Check out the banjo uke player in the Horseflies. Solid!

Mar 8, 2020 - 1:12:38 PM
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Paul R


12696 posts since 1/28/2010

Why do you (not you personally, but everyone/anyone) "have to" or why is it that you "must not"? Back in the day folks played whatever was at hand. Now you'll see, for example, the cello in an Old Time context, just like it was "back then". Don't expect people to be something other than what they are just because it doesn't fit the stereotypical Old Time image. Hey, if "you" wanted that, get the other person to play fiddle.

BTW, at a house concert this past Thursday, Tom Power's guitar wouldn't tune properly. While he was getting another guitar, Alison DeGroot filled in on banjo. I guess if someone had filled in on uke, it would have been fine, too.

Mar 8, 2020 - 3:45:10 PM

71 posts since 10/26/2018

I will add, banjo uke is LOUD and can easily dominate even a large jam. I recall a Clifftop jam that was very large, two circles of players, lots of fiddles, several banjos etc. and ONE banjo uke. I was in the inner circle and wound up leaving the jam because all I could hear was banjo uke on the outskirts of the jam being played not very subtly and very tastefully over all the other players.

That said, unless your husband isn’t into OT, there’s no reason not to play together.

Edited by - WVDreamin on 03/08/2020 15:46:31

Mar 9, 2020 - 6:12:24 AM

827 posts since 3/23/2006

Terri McMurray often plays fine banjo-uke with her husband, Paul Brown and others. As noted above, it's usually banjo-uke rather than a wooden uke to get the needed volume. Also, Nora Brown, the young banjo player and singer started on banjo uke and was a pleasure to play with in old time jams. You two will sound great!

Mar 9, 2020 - 6:38:14 AM
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8736 posts since 10/5/2006
Online Now

Originally posted by Paul R

>Why do you (not you personally, but everyone/anyone) "have to" or why is it that you "must not"? Back in the day folks played whatever was at hand. Now you'll see, for example, the cello in an Old Time context, just like it was "back then". Don't expect people to be something other than what they are just because it doesn't fit the stereotypical Old Time image<

Vernacular 1 Homegeneity 0

Our modern connectivity (hey look at me in rural Somerset hearing and replying to your idea expressed 3000 miles away in Ontario, Paul) has many positives but there are downsides too; that connectivity has the cultural effect of edging out diversity of behaviour and forming generic ‘rules’.

Homespun music has traditionally always been created with what is to hand. Need a drum? Use the grain sieve hanging on the wall.

Instead of dangling a guitar in front of your husband why don’t you make your own sound together with your existing and loved banjo and uke? Adapt and adjust; give and take and discover. The passion you both have for your instruments will communicate through the music that you make. And that sound will be uniquely yours - creatively expressive of who you both really are. That to me is far more intimate and characterful, and interesting, than forcing creativity into a generic - and predictable - form

Many vernacular musicians now long gone would no doubt have given their eye teeth to have two such fine instruments in their cottage or cabin. smiley

Edited by - m06 on 03/09/2020 06:54:03

Mar 9, 2020 - 7:27:29 AM



4214 posts since 10/7/2007

I'm hoping there is some tongue in cheek going on here. If my biggest marital problem was my Hubby played the uke, I'd be dancing in the streets! :-)

Mar 9, 2020 - 7:32:30 AM

16 posts since 9/1/2017

Josh Turknett uses ukulele backups fo the Clawhammer Banjo Jam player and podcast. Sounds fine to me!

Heck, he could even keep his uke and come over to the dark side and play clawhammer ukulele! The high g works great as a drone string, so you could each trade off breaks and playing rhythm. (I know this video is guitar and uke, but it would sounds just as good with banjo: )


Mar 9, 2020 - 11:23:22 AM
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116 posts since 7/14/2017

You should embark on the (fun) search for what works for your combination.

My musical partner and I came from different places - me, uke and 30s/40s jazz; she guitar and 60s-now Americana.

We tried out lots of songs to see what might work, and where we ended up is in a third place which is musically rather good.

BTW, that search told me I needed to add a different instrument, which is why I bought a tenor banjo.

However, if you just want him to play the music you like to play on the banjo, that probably won't work. Hammering out chords in the standard banjo tune keys gets dull quite quickly on the uke, and there is little chance for the fun stuff that ukes shine at (e.g. lots of passing chords, 7ths, 9ths, diminisheds etc). The same applies the other way round - one of my favourite uke songs is in Bb, with 100 chord changes in about 2.30 mins, and it would just sound muddy and horrible on banjo.

Mar 9, 2020 - 10:57:58 PM



104 posts since 9/3/2018

Wow thank you everyone for your input!

I was thinking more about logistically does it work, and does anybody do it, that’s all. Were both pretty green, so it’s not obvious to us how to go about fitting them together.

Appreciate your thoughts and videos, as always.

Mar 10, 2020 - 4:54:53 AM
Players Union Member



10981 posts since 6/30/2015

Where there's love, there's always hope.

Mar 10, 2020 - 10:52:27 AM
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104 posts since 9/3/2018

Originally posted by mander

I'm hoping there is some tongue in cheek going on here. If my biggest marital problem was my Hubby played the uke, I'd be dancing in the streets! :-)

Totally kidding.  I meant more the marriage between banjo and uke! Our marriage is just fine, almost 20 years. This guy is even taking square dance lessons with me. All I had to do was say, Honey, please show up at 6:30 at this location, we're taking lessons (kiss). It wasn't until after the first lesson that he thought to ask how exactly we came to be doing this?

 I might get him to show up for square dancing lessons easily enough, but that only works for some things. No he's not going to play guitar and no I don't think I'll leave him over it.  wink

The husband of an older friend of mine recently had a scare that landed him in the emergency room.  His heart stopped for just a little bit.  When he came back she told him, "Don't leave me now, darling, it's taken me this long to get you all trained up and it's too late to train another one." 


Mar 26, 2020 - 11:53:28 PM
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19 posts since 2/4/2017

Listen to the Light and Hitch String Band. In addition to having some killer fretless clawhammer banjo, a lot of the tracks have what sound to me like a uke or banjolele, and no guitar, and they really groove. On the slower songs they pull out the guitar and put away the uke. I could be mistaken and just hearing a mandolin, but it's the same principal, just strumming up and down constantly, nothing fancy

Edited by - banjobard on 03/26/2020 23:53:51

Mar 26, 2020 - 11:59:16 PM
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19 posts since 2/4/2017

Of course, you could always look into playing Hawaiian music on the banjo. I've never heard it done but the banjo is similar enough in tonality to a resonator guitar, which were built for Hawaiian music... And the open tuning is like Hawaiian slack key guitar tunings...

Mar 28, 2020 - 9:18:29 AM
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1129 posts since 8/7/2017

I tune my guitar to banjo tunings, per Steve Baughman. Then I play it clawhammer style, per Steve. A guitar can be tuned to many different tunings besides the regular one :-) Maybe, if you need the extra volume, your husband could try uke tunings on guitar.

So, my guitar, for banjo doubleC, is tuned CGCGCD. I don't know uke tunings, but repeating the uke tuning on 5th & 6th might work for your husband. Swapping strings to get the thin ones where he wishes is also possible. For example, for some songs, Steve replaces the low thick (6th) string with a thinner one, and swaps pitch on 5&6, =gCCGCD; I tried that, but did not like it as much, myself. I found my ear just wants the big string to sound big and low, not high pitch.

Note: the guitar must have an adjustable neck rod. Standard guitars are made for standard guitar tuning string tensions; after about a month in a new tuning, the neck will bow one way or the other (I've seen same with my 1987 Stelling Bellflower). The bow is easily corrected with the neck tension rod adjustment. This adjustment procedure has worked for me with Taylor's GSmini, and Martin's D-28 (the D-28 is vintage, so I had my luthier add a tension rod when he refurbished the guitar). The GSmini, and most modern builds, have a tension rod already installed. can just retune guitar back to factory standard pitches after your gig, that works just fine.

Steve has lots of youtube videos, and an instructional frailing guitar DVD "Power of Claw" (which was out of stock last month). He also has responded to my emails very nicely (he's a member of BHO, you can send him an email through BHO, which is how I contacted him). Nice guy and great musician.
When I tried uke at a friend's house, I noticed right away the high string at the top. I bet you could learn to frail your husband's uke...not trying to break up your marriage, though.

Edited by - BrooksMT on 03/28/2020 09:21:27

Mar 28, 2020 - 1:24:05 PM
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116 posts since 7/14/2017

My friend Matt Hicks plays clawhammer style on the ukulele - video here:

This works really nicely for solo performances.

But my suggestion is that you should work with the differences between the two instruments, to find that musical place where they both work. If you're both playing clawhammer you're just duplicating each other, with slightly different voices.

Maybe have a listen to some Western Swing songs? That's a fusion of cowboy music (good for banjo) and jazz (excellent on uke).

Search for Hot Club of Cowtown to find stripped down (bass, guitar and violin) versions of the best Western Swing standards. Or Bob Wills for the full band versions (usually guitar, bass, tenor banjo, fiddles and often with trumpet and piano as well).

Edited by - Profchris on 03/28/2020 13:25:58

Apr 2, 2020 - 8:32:27 AM
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3874 posts since 5/12/2010

There was a band I listened to once in Georgia which included stringed instruments, a harmonica, and a Tuba.

Listened to another band in the same town which combined electric guitar and a Cello for "Rockabilly" and they really rocked.

With old time music it is okay, even traditional, to play whatever instrument you have, so go for it. It might be really interesting.

A ukulele isn't that far off from the old fasion four string "Palor" Gutitars once very popular.

Edited by - OldPappy on 04/02/2020 08:35:13

Apr 3, 2020 - 10:02:21 AM

263 posts since 4/13/2006

ABsolutely! Clawhammer and Uke work really well together! D0 it!

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