The story

My uncle John was the funniest person I’ve ever known. And one of the kindest. When I was a kid, he sold a bunch of his things at an auction and I ended up with his 5-string banjo. I was thrilled! I already played guitar a bit but I wanted to learn banjo too. I was obsessed with The Monkees and Peter Tork played banjo on a few of their records. I had to learn how to do that! And so then I did!

John was always building new and creative things. He was an incredibly gifted carpenter and plumber. I’m actually surprised he didn’t build his own banjo. He built a trombone out of copper water pipes and that one will probably make for an interesting sampler instrument one day soon. John passed away in 2018. I can’t help but think that he would be really excited to see a virtual instrument made out of his banjo.

I sampled this by playing it with the flesh of my thumb. I don’t typically play with fingerpicks or my nails too much so this was the most sonically pleasing to me. There are five round-robins of each note. I also muffled the inside just a little with a hand towel which helps tame some harsh frequencies. The mic was just about 7-8 inches away from the drum head. I only made minimal level and EQ adjustments to the samples. The tone knob should help you tame it if it’s too harsh for you.

The typical range of a 5-string banjo like this should only go down to about C3. But the notes are stretched down to the entire length of the keyboard. Some of the most delicious bass sounds can be found down there. Likewise on the upper end of the range, D5 is the highest sample I recorded which is on the 12th fret of the first string. I stretched this higher as well and it sounds lovely when you take the tone down and add some delay and/or reverb.

I hope this instrument inspires your creativity and brings a smile to your face. That’s how the original banjo has treated me ever since I’ve owned it. And that’s how Uncle John deserves to have his memory honored: with joy, laughter, and creativity.

If you encounter any bugs or have any suggestions for improvements, please feel free to email me anytime: [email protected]

Tech specs:

Instrument: 1970s Hondo 5-string banjo, open back, no-knot tailpiece, Ernie Ball Earthwood 80/20 bronze loop-end frailing strings, Remo Fiberskyn head
Microphone: AKG Perception 420
USB Interface: Scarlett 2i2
Recording/editing software: Logic Pro X, Adobe Audition
Processing: Arturia Pre V76, Brainworx bx_console N
Number of samples: 35
Round-robins: 5

Arkansas Traveler as played by Uncle John's 5-String Banjo

Reviews for Uncle John’s 5-String Banjo

  • Sound
  • Character
  • Playability
  • Inspiration
  • GUI

Leave a review to let others know what you thought of the instrument!

  • good enough

    It's a very good sample considering it's free. If you want better sound or option, you should looking for paided instruments.

    jojotail04 January 2023
  • This is a great sound source and full range!

    I really like how the full range of pitches is available; this is fun!!!
    And a good departure from the normal...

    A very useful sound source within you projects...bravo.

    Matthew22 February 2024
  • Great free banjo!

    If you are in search of a warm, natural sounding babjo that is simple to use and comes in a small size, this might be the perfect fit for you. It sounds very good out of the box, and you don't really have to do any crazy tweaks to make it work.

    The 5 round robins make it sound closer to reality, and it sounds great across the entire range that covers the entire keybed. The GUI matches the aesthetic of a banjo, and it features a Chorus, a Reverb and a Delay knob that is pre-set at around 150bpm.

    As a small tip, if you are done installing the patch, you can just rease the ds file that sits outside the main folder, so you can nearly half the size of the instrument.

    Alex Raptakis31 August 2022
  • Awesome sound, but some suggestions

    The sound of the strings is quite good tho metal picks would be appropriate as another layers since that's how most of us do it. But still I commend you on the sound you achieved. These are just suggestions to make it sound more like a banjo being played and I don't know how to achieve it, but you might. Big time banjo nuances are hammer ons and pull offs along with slides from note to note. The sound of the banjo in and of itself is not what creates that "banjo sound". It's the combination of the sound as well as how it's played. But you're half way there for sure! Good job! Would love to hear it with the hammer ons and pulloffs and slides some how incorporated. It would go from being very good to "killer"!

    BirdLegs07 October 2022
  • A very significant banjo

    The work you did creating this pack is amazing. The sounds are very well recorded and the integrated controls make the instrument more usable.

    It is a lot of fun to play. The very wide range of notes allows you to create combinations that would not be possible with a regular banjo. The interface is nice, I like the background you chose. As Kyle says, it would have been great if you had added extra sounds, maybe a couple of loops or some percussive ones.

    I'm sure your Uncle John would have been very proud and more than happy if he had seen and heard this sample pack.

    GuilleDSamplist 22 September 2022
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