Friday, August 3, 2012

Bach on the Banjo: Cello Suite no. 1 – Prelude

Happy Banjo Friday, friends! Another short but sweet edition this week.

Today’s featured performance is not something I’d planned—indeed, I just stumbled across it on YouTube.  As we’ve seen (& heard) in the past, Bach on the banjo is not that unusual; after all, the banjo can sound a good deal like a harpsichord due to the crisp attack & lack of sustain (of course, the Fleck example involves violin music, but why let facts get in the way?)

This crispness, however, is characteristic of your standard garden variety 5-string banjo. If you’re talking instead about the cello banjo—which is a bit of the rage these days, thanks to the fine models being produced by Gold Tone—then you have a completely different sound. & what better to play on a cello banjo than a bit of Bach’s cello music?

The artist here, Robby Faverey, is a classical guitarist who also takes an interest in the banjo &, from what I can find out (not a lot of online info), specifically the cello banjo. It’s worth noting that Faverey, who is from Suriname, is not playing a Gold Tone, but what he describes as a “self-made cello banjo.” In any case, this banjo has a gorgeous tone; part of its distinctive tone is that Faverey is playing with gut strings, which is typical of the small but passionate group of classical banjoists. For more about the banjo as a “classical” instrument (& yes, Bach isn’t “classical,” I know!), you can check out the website, & even take a look at a number of early 20th century banjo method books—& tho I was a bit disappointed not to find more pdf or Tabledit arrangements from the classical repertoire, you can, for instance, find a banjo arrangement of Gounod’s “Funeral March of a Marionette”!

& in the meantime, hope you enjoy this beautiful performance!

1898 advertisement for an S.S. Stewart 5-string cello banjo ($35!) is from Wiki Commons, & is in the public domain


  1. Cool! That sounds very much like a lute, and I've heard lute transcriptions of Bach's cello concerti before; it's always been a great sound.

    1. Hi Roy: Yes, it is lute-like in many respects. I think the cello banjo is such a beautiful instrument!

  2. What a super sound. Many classical music buffs would blanch at the thought of Bach on the banjo. They've not heard this instrument.

    1. Hi Dominic: It's really quite striking, isn't it? Of course, the player seems quite good!


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