Banjo Synthesizer. It’s Been A Long Time Coming.

banjo-synthesizer

If you’re like me, you’ve probably noticed an extreme paucity of the banjo in modern electronic music.

Banjos in trance music?

Zilch.

Banjos in IDM?

Zilch.

Banjos in avant garde erotic electroactoustic music?

Again, Zilch.

Banjos in the work of Richard D. James?

The world may never know.

Number of dance music divas that make the banjo their instrument of choice?

Zilch.

Why no banjos in electronic music?

Maybe it’s because it’s hard to sound edgy and dangerous when your axe is a banjo.

Or maybe it’s just because nobody had the cajones to try it.

Until now.

banjo-processor

Gaze on the DIY glory of Electronic Peasant’s Banjo Processor Pitch-to-Voltage Convertor.

We call it the Banjo Synthesizer, cause it just sounds that much more awesome.

Here’s what the creator of the Banjo synth, Electronic Peasant, has to say about this beast:

The Peasant is a banjo player, and so thought that it would be very interesting to use a banjo to control the analogue synthesizer.

A number of years ago a pitch-to-voltage convertor circuit board, designed for guitar use, was purchased from fellow DIY enthusiast Harry Bissell. This pcb only used the bottom three guitar strings to extract the CV output, and so it was decided to expand the board to work with all five strings on the banjo. The board was designed to output CV, envelope, and triggers, and also included a built-in bass synthesizer. A special hex pickup was required to deliver individual string outputs to the circuitry.

During the design phase, “feature creep” reared it’s ugly head, and the final project ended up including a preamp/mixer section, using the hex pickup and an input for a regular banjo pickup. Some extra functions were added to the bass synth, and some quasi sawtooth outputs were added courtesy of another small pcb from Mr. Bissell.

Full story and extreme banjo gear porn at the Electronic Peasant site.

Think electronic music needs more banjos? Leave a comment with your thoughts!

via DeviantSynth

11 thoughts on “Banjo Synthesizer. It’s Been A Long Time Coming.

  1. Banjos do NOT belong in electronic music. Banjos belong in a flaming heap
    next to the charred remains of a meth lab/trailer park/cult compound.
    The funny thing about banjos is that you do not have to know how to play one to make it sound like you do- just pluck a few strings and people think you can play the banjo. Have you seen “Deliverance”? You’ll see many
    evolution-challenged beings playing banjos like maestros. You’ll also sleep with the lights on for a few weeks. Squeal!

    1. The only thing that actually keeps the barrelling wave that is 'electronic music' rolling is the fact that it can take influence from every culture's roots, for it has none of it's own — besides that concept. Of course when using that shitty, shitty term 'electronic music' i am referring to all forms of modern sample based stuff, not just 4/4trance like I'm guessing you are. If that is the case, open your fucking head up and good luck, besides if all those labs were burnt up where would you get ur ecstasy? (trust me thats the half of it). Challenge the imbalance, nub.

    2. The only thing that actually keeps the barrelling wave that is 'electronic music' rolling is the fact that it can take influence from every culture's roots, for it has none of it's own — besides that concept. Of course when using that shitty, shitty term 'electronic music' i am referring to all forms of modern sample based stuff, not just 4/4trance like I'm guessing you are. If that is the case, open your fucking head up and good luck, besides if all those labs were burnt up where would you get ur ecstasy? (trust me thats the half of it). Challenge the imbalance, nub.

  2. “just pluck a few strings and people think you can play the banjo.”

    Gosh, that sounds a lot like techno.
    Push a few buttons and people think you can play an instrument.

  3. I've actually been doing banjo/electronics for a bit now. Currently, using a banjo with Supercollider where the audio gets output back into a transducer inside the banjo. Controlling all of it via a Wiimote attached to the banjo (a good tip from STEIM). Would like to go this hardware direction, but the software is just so flexible.

    Also, the pickup pictured above would significantly effect the regular acoustic sound of the banjo. No big deal if you're just doing electro stuff, but if you want to interject some regular banjo, the sound will be duller. I'd recommend a pick up under the bridge.

  4. Thanks for doing this article, it’s the only thing I’ve seen like it online! I’m currently working on a very similar project called “Banjotronix”. We are trying to break the stereotypes of banjo in regards to “squealing like a pig”. We will release our first album titled “Banjotronica” this winter/spring. I’m having Tom Nechville from Nechville music custom make a polyphonic midi bridge w/ an RMC system attached to my fender banjo. I’m using roland’s gr-55 in combination w/ avid’s eleven rack. Check out what this sounds like at http://www.banjotronix.com Keep in touch as there are very few of us that believe!!
    Matt

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