The Banjo Glossary Project 2018  
Monday, December 10, 2018

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Glossary Term
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Back Strap A backstrap is a decorative feature used on fancier banjos where a contrasting piece of wood such as ebony or dyed pearwood covers the back of the peghead and runs down the back of the neck, often... read more
Back Strip

A Back Strip is a decorative inlay in the center of the back of a stringed instrument, especially an acoustic guitar. The backs of classical and steel string guitars are usually made of two matched... read more
Ball Bearing Ball Bearing tone ring supports were introduced by Gibson around 1919. Their construction consisted of a perforated tubular tone ring sitting on ball bearings that rested in cavities in the top of the... read more
Ball End String

A "Ball End String" usually refers to a steel guitar string. It's called a "ball end" even though the ball is actually a small hollow cylinder, and resembles a small ball... There are three ways Ball... read more
Banjeaurine A banjeaurine (Banjorine) is a short-necked five string banjo with a scale in the 20" to 22" range that was used at the turn of the century as the tenor voice in banjo orchestras. These sometimes have... read more
Bear Claw Tailpiece

Bear Claw style tailpieces have individual finger-like extensions that curl at the ends to hold the strings. The Bear Claw design that actually claims this name was made by The Liberty Banjo Company... read more
Bear Claw Woodgrain

Bear Claw Woodgrain is a natural grain irregularity, or "figure," in spruce top wood that's thought to resemble bear claws. While some luthiers will spend a great deal of time and energy looking for... read more
Belly Bridge

In about 1930, shortly after steel strings had become standard, Martin designed a new bridge to handle the higher tension of the steel strings. The belly bridge is about 1-1/2 inches wide at the... read more

Fingerboards, pegheads and resonators of acoustic instruments are often decorated at the edges by a durable material called "Binding." Binding is the inlaid trim around the parts of an instrument.... read more
Birdseye Maple

Birdseye Maple is a term used to describe maple wood which has tiny, round spots of figure, pockets of knotted curly grain which are thought to resemble the small eyes of birds. Of all the hardwoods,... read more

The classic blues guitar is the resophonic instrument developed around 1930 by the National Reso-Phonic Guitar Company. These instruments are powered by an aluminum cone surmounted by a wooden bridge... read more
Blind Saddle

Most steel string guitars are made with a "blind" saddle. That means the saddle sits in a groove that is routed in the bridge, leaving solid wood at both ends for extra support. This type of bridge... read more
Block Construction Banjo rims are usually built by one of two methods. Laminated rims use wooden plys up to 1/8th" in thickness. Block constructed rims use blocks that are cut to fit together to make a circle of wood... read more
Block Inlay

"Block Inlay" refers to a pattern of inlaid fret position markers popularized by Gibson starting around 1930. The blocks are large rectangular inlays of mother of pearl or celluloid. A number of... read more
Bluegrass Banjo Banjos used in playing bluegrass music tend to have some distinct features in common. They have a resonator on the back and a heavy brass or bronze tone ring across which the head is stretched. Both... read more
Book Matched Grain

The tops and backs of stringed instruments are usually made of two pieces cut from the same board, and joined so they show symmetrical matching of the grain. If you take a thick piece of wood and cut... read more
Boomalacka An onomatopoeic term describing one of the common clawhammer rhythms. Unlike the Bump-ditty rhythm that consists of a quarter note followed by two eighth notes, the boomalaka rhythm uses four eighth... read more

A "Bottleneck" is a cylindrical slide used primarily by blues guitarists. Analogous to the "steel" of the steel guitar, it's used to slide along the strings to change the pitch while playing. The... read more

"Bouts" are the upper or lower outside curve of a guitar or other instrument body, specifically the "upper bout" and "lower bout." The bout is distinct from the waist, which curves inward near the... read more
Bow Bow is a banjo neck condition caused by long term string pressure curving the neck so that the neck curves upward as you approach the nut. Most old banjos have some bow in the neck. Slight bow can be... read more
Bowl Back

"Bowl Back" is a term that refers to a fretted instrument back, usually of a mandolin, in the rounded shape of a bowl or melon. It's made in the rounded "bowl" form of lutes and other ancient... read more
Bracket Shoe Band Open back banjos use bracket shoes to hold the tension hooks that pull down the tension hoop. These bracket shoes are usually attached by a machine screw that passes through the rim and is secured by... read more
Bracket Shoes Bracket shoes are metal pieces that are secured to the side of the banjo rim. The tension hooks pass vertically through a hole in the shoe head, hooking over the top of tension hoop. The tension hooks... read more
Break Angle

On a stringed instrument, the angle of a string as it passes over a bridge, saddle, or nut is referred to as the Break Angle." Generally, a high, good or "strong" break angle over a nut or saddle is... read more
Bridge The bridge is the part of the banjo that transfers the vibration of the strings to the head, which vibrates in turn, amplifying the sound produced. It usually consists of a maple body with thin piece... read more
Bridge Pins

Bridge Pins are small tapered pegs made of plastic, wood, bone, ivory or other hard, tough material which are used to anchor the strings in the bridge. They are used primarily on Guitar Family... read more
Bridge Plate

A "Bridge Plate" is added hardwood reinforcement under the top plate, just beneath the bridge of a flat top guitar or similar instrument. This reinforcement is designed to protect the top from damage... read more
Bump-Ditty The basic rhythm of clawhammer banjo is often described as Bump-Ditty, bum-diddy or other similar sounding words. Notationally speaking, in common 4/4 time the rhythm consists of a strong first beat,... read more
Buttons The part of the tuning peg that you grasp when you tune the string is referred to as the button. On early instruments the button is part of the entire tuner and is made of wood, Ivory, Celluloid or... read more