I Bought A Canjo

I recently bought a canjo which isn’t exactly a ukulele but I figured it might be of interest to the ukulele go readers.

What’s a canjo?

I’m pretty sure the name canjo came from banjo + can. The canjo is a simple stringed instrument which uses a can for the body. Due to the nature of it being a bit of a DIY instrument they tend to vary. Some are fretted, others are fretless and require a slide to play.

Here’s mine…

It’s all about the blues

The thing about the canjo is, it’s incredibly bluesy and I am partial to playing the blues (or at least attempting it). Due to a combination of the tuning, the slide and the metal body you can’t help but play the blues on it. It’s just got that vibe about it.

You can’t help but play the blues on a canjo

I bought mine because frankly, I’m really bad at making things. Mine is a fretless, two stringed canjo which I purchased from the rather excellent Salvage Sounds here in the UK. Andrew, the man behind the family business was really helpful answering my questions and I liked the story too. Salvage Sounds’ instruments are largely built from recycled materials which feels pretty good.

The package from Salvage was really good, I got the canjo itself, a bottleneck slide, and a pick. I didn’t need to grab anything else to get up and playing.

Pick it up and play

Let me start by saying I’m no expert but it is so easy to play. There’s no learning chord shapes, no intricate finger picking patterns. It really is a case of pick it up and play. Give it a strum, move the slide around and you’re away. It’s a pretty good instrument for anyone starting their musical journey because you can’t really do it wrong.

The canjo is bags of fun to play

Ever since I saw Seasick Steve playing a guitar with barely any strings I’ve been interested in a kind of raw homemade blues sound and the canjo fits the bill perfectly. It’s amazing what people are capable of when you put restrictions on them.

The tuning

My canjo is tuned to DG (lowest string being the D) which is pretty similar to Cigar Box Guitars. Generally Cigar Box Guitars are tuned GDG. The canjo is essentially that without the low G. What this means is that without fretting at all, you’re playing a G5, also known as the G power chord.

This means that you can position your slide over the 2 strings at any fret and you’ll have a power chord. Very easy, and great for kids to start making music without too much effort.

You can of course go deeper than just playing power chords and start to isolate the strings and slide into positions and it’s a lot of fun doing this. I can spend hours just messing around on it (and I have).

Final thoughts

Although this isn’t really a review, I just thought it would be interesting to some of the ukulele players out there – I thought it was worth noting my final thoughts down.

I’m really pleased that I bought the canjo and I’ve had a lot of fun playing it. I am planning on having a go at making a few at some point.

If you’re interested in a canjo and you’re in the UK then check out Salvage Sounds.


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