History of the Canjo
Playing music on the Front Porch, with handmade instruments made from discarded items, has a long history in the United States. According to the authors of “Handmade Music Factory”, plantation slaves began singing on their front porches with instruments fashioned with cast off parts and many were variations of instruments from their African homelands. One of those instruments was the one string fiddle – related to the diddlebow.
The Canjo or Can-Jo appears to be a more modern variation of these earlier single stringed instruments and is attributed to an old time instrument maker, Herschal R. Brown of Jacksonville, NC. While the diddlebow is fretless, played with a slide, and has any fashion of a tin sound box, Brown’s Canjo design is fretted, played by fingering and uses discarded food cans for the resonator.
Brown freely shared his design with anyone who was interested in building Canjos and is said to have made thousands of then for children everywhere – recouping his costs only. Mr. Brown loved the idea of making an instrument that anyone could learn to play and refused to copyright his Canjo design. His son has continued the tradition and has sent Canjo’s to the soldiers serving in Iraq.
Care of Your Canjo Instrument
Like any other instrument, you will want to avoid exposing your Canjo to extreme heat or cold and keep it dry. Moisture and extreme temperatures can warp your fretboard. Strings will sometimes break but can be easily replaced with similar gauge guitar or dulcimer string. New strings stretch so it will need re-tuned more until you break it in.
We tune the canjo to a D but you can tune it to any note, if you are playing with someone in a different key. Use a guitar tuner, tuner app on your smartphone or on-line tuner.
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