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Sep 22, 2023 - 6:06:52 AM



220 posts since 10/30/2019

A mystery instrument appears in all of Weird Al Yankovic's polka medleys. I cannot figure out what it is. It sounds like some form of banjo, possibly a banjo uke, but it sounds incredibly tinny. Not in a bad way, it's clearly meant to sound like that. But what is it? Does anyone have a guess? It is first heard in a cover of Smoke on the Water in "Polkas On 45" starting at round 0:42 in the video.

Sep 22, 2023 - 6:31:40 AM
Players Union Member



1191 posts since 1/15/2009

The chords, tuning and playing style make it sound like a tenor banjo, capoed way up.

Sep 22, 2023 - 6:44:33 AM



3923 posts since 11/8/2010

The credits to the recording mention a Steve Jay on banjo. I would also assume it is a four-string banjo played in its higher registers.

Sep 22, 2023 - 6:58:11 AM

594 posts since 4/14/2014

Likely a plectrum. While there are tenor players in the Cleveland Style (American Polka Music/ AKA Slovenian Style) the plectrum is by far more common. Most polka groups have a plectrum player. The Vegavox is "the standard". The earliest Cleveland Style groups, like the Hoyer Trio had a tenor to Americanize the sound. Some old players explained to me that, in the immediate wake of WWII, the plectrum gained more ground as the intervals in its tuning were sweeter. 

Edited by - Nic Pennsylvania on 09/22/2023 07:02:18

Sep 22, 2023 - 7:14:43 AM

1346 posts since 11/10/2022

Jim West is Weird Als banjo player and a deering player of a uke banjo and 6 string banjitar. He also shreds electric guitar as a regular band member. This was his uke banjo.

Sep 22, 2023 - 1:21:40 PM



220 posts since 10/30/2019

Interesting. But what makes it sound like that? I'd like to replicate it.

Sep 22, 2023 - 2:39:04 PM



220 posts since 10/30/2019

Update: I don't know why I didn't think of looking up a live performance. It seems to indeed be a plectrum banjo, although in at least one video it was a 6 string banjo.

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