The banjo is a stringed instrument with, typically, four or five strings, which vibrate a membrane of plastic material or animal hide stretched over a circular frame. Early forms of the instrument were primarily developed by enslaved Africans in Colonial America, adapted from several African instruments. The modern banjo comes in a variety of forms, including four- and five-string versions. A six-string version, tuned and played similar to a guitar, has been gaining popularity.
In almost all of its forms, the banjo's playing is characterized by a fast arpeggiated plucking, although there are many different playing styles. The body, or "pot", of a modern banjo typically consists of a circular rim (generally made of wood), a metal tone ring, and a tensioned head, similar to a drum head. Traditionally the head was made from animal skin, but is often made of various synthetic materials today. Some banjos have a separate resonator plate on the back of the pot, while others have an open back. There are also electric banjos.
Today, the banjo is commonly associated with Dixieland, country, folk and bluegrass music. Recently, the banjo has enjoyed inclusion in a wide variety of musical genres, including pop crossover music, indie rock and Celtic punk.