Ornamental African Banjo

This pack endeavours to create a musical instrument out of a decorative ornamental piece that purports to be an instrument....

The story

After my brother died a year or so ago, I found this ornamental African banjo hidden away in the corner of a room while clearing out his house. I don’t believe it is actually meant to be played – it seems a purely ornamental piece. The body is wooden, with a metal cap, and I was intrigued by the authentic rural sound. However, there are only six strings, which are more like strands of building wire than those of a typical instrument, and there is no fret board or means of varying the pitch while playing. So a one-chord wonder.

I’ve sampled each of the six strings, and physically tuned the higher string up a few extra steps to expand the ‘natural’ range a bit further. There are four round-robins and two velocities of each note, spread mainly downwards to fill in the gaps over two octaves. This is my first sample pack, so it has been quite a learning experience for me as well.

An ornamental African banjo in a storm


Reviews for Ornamental African Banjo

  • Sound
  • Character
  • Playability
  • Inspiration
  • GUI

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  • Not ornamental, but still beautiful

    This is a fantastic sounding banjo, probably one of the best I've heard. It sounds amazingly good, with pristine sampling and nice action.

    My problem lies in the title, because in music, we use the term "ornamental" as a technique that separates the normal stroke from a more delicate and usually more complex one, that you can't really create by pressing just a key. On a banjo, I expected some kind of string bending or hammering, or maybe some trills.

    Sadly there are no ornamented notes at all, though everything about the actual instrument is very, very good.

    Alex Raptakis26 December 2021
  • Another PianoBook GEM!

    Well, judging from the story Mark certainly didn't pick an easy first instrument to sample. Lucky he smashed it out of the park then... Never heard one of these in "real life" and never likely to I guess, but Mark's turned six "strands of building wire" into a playable instrument that sounds completely authentic. Great job demonstrating, yet again exactly what PianoBook is about.

    Mark Lord28 December 2021
  • A nice, well-sampled folk instrument

    Making sample instruments out of unplayable ornamental pieces, especially rarer folk instruments, is something very close to my heart! This is a very well-sampled instrument with RRs and velocity layers to make it easily playable and natural. The sound is much closer to a banjo than your average gourd harp, lacking the shimmer of a Kora and with more of the tinny / metallic twang characteristic of Western styles. The overall tone is a bit thin for my tastes, but this is probably to be expected from an ornamental piece that wasn't designed for peak resonance and musicality.
    The addition of an attack knob means you can also get a nice sitar-like metallic pad/drone by turning the attack up.

    Probably won't be replacing the Kontakt Library Kora, but I can see prospective uses for when I'm looking for something with a bit more bite without going 'full banjo'. And definitely a usable substitute for those without the Kontakt Library.

    Eamon26 December 2021
  • Thin but interesting tone

    This i definitely an interesting sampling project. Ive also seen these weird little ornamental guitars that aren't really meant to be played. As a guitar player i find it extremely hard to use libraries like this because they always use sound like midi guitar to me no matter how good the recording is. I even feel this way about premium guitar libraries so this isn't a critique of you personally. I think there is just a-lot of subtle nuance in the articulation of really playing guitar thats almost impossible to capture in sampling.
    The tone of this instrument is thin but characterful and unique. I suspect it could be cool for layering on-top of real guitar. Others might find this useful but for me personally as i said, i would find it extremely hard to use. Good job anyway though

    septemberwalk25 December 2021