Appreciate your response, Greg.
Firstly, we only have an acoustic guitar & the keyboard. I thought this additional instrument would give us a whole different sound & a little more variety. I recall the harmonica being used on The Happy Song & New Every Morning, not to mention some strange instruments used on Morningstar songs so I thought the banjo might also fit in & be accepted in our contemporary settings, granted it's used in the correct songs.
Instruments are a question of culture and for the culture in most congregations I 've known is no. However, I don't see that it can't be used if done right. It's the same as any instrument, I've heard organ playing in a Cathedral service that was over the top and not appropriate to worship.
The Who used a Banjo in some rock songs. One of the best examples of Banjo sounding not so country is to quote Wikipedia:
If you like Rend Collective Experiment* songs for worship then sure. Not my taste, but in the context of what you have then it won't sound out of place.
*If you've not heard of them then I strongly recommend them - musically not at all my thing, but great hearts for worship and a sense of humour.
When I saw the thread title, Rend Collective Experiment were the first group which came to my mind so I'll second the recommendation. They are to my taste although the best recordings I've found of them are on the 2012 Soul Survivor album (three tracks). That captures what I loved about their worship leading at Soul Survivor this year and last year whereas the album I recently picked up (Homemade Worship by Handmade People) contains a much wider range of instrumentation and, for me, doesn't have the same folktastic energy.
One thing I did observe at Soul Survivor is that they use banjo as what I call an "icing instrument"; in that setting the "banjo guy" switched to mandolin for other songs and wasn't playing all the time, whereas everything included acoustic guitar, drums and bass (which, in this metaphor, would be "cake instruments"!).
ps. if you want to hear some advance banjo playing, look out for Bela Fleck, particularly playing as part of the Flecktones. Not worship music but it definitely shows the possibility of the instrument.
Sensitive Newage Cowpersons: Still Haven't found what I'm looking for!: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K4-jM6i1RnQ
Can't find their take on Purple Haze which is so funny.
Agree about HMWBHMP - it's quirky and very over-produced, but the heart behind it can still be heard.
Hi! I just enjoyed googletubing the Rend Collective. Very pleasant retro-acoustic sound of Commonwealthish flavor. That sound could take in a banjo with no problem.
A banjo is at home in any bright-flavored atmosphere, especially if there is tempo involved. You pretty much have to have some action on a banjo, balalaika or any "plectro"-type instrument, or it will sound miscellaneous or silly. By the way, do any of you have balalaika in your ensembles?
I can agree with Wulf whole heartedly. I played banjo in the 90's in a a very contemporary church setting; but only because the pastor allowed it. Since then I took up mandolin because the next pastor would allow that ( now play bass). But, playing in a secular setting for the church, like a street outreach, the banjo attracted more people that the old guitars. It all depends on place and setting, not to mention 'don't over do it' attitude.
To be honest, it is good to lessen the electric guitars hold over worship at church and allow other peoples giftings to shine through. Including instruments like clarinets and pedal steels as well as harps and brass, which in my area are still not 'encouraged' as they are not considered contemporary or they are boxed into the old cliche, of the genre they came out of, or that people label them into.
But as Wulf mentioned, use them like 'icing' on the top and sometimes the banjo gives a great feel to an upbeat song. But, I for one have played worship songs with a muted banjo and it is just awesome - but again not all the time and not in every service.
If it is done tastefully, and has the intent of adding to -not dominating or distracting- the message of the song, I would go for it. I don't think there is Biblical formula for instrumentation, only (as has been said) a cultural one. I remember the same questions being asked of drums, electric guitar, Rhodes organ, etc. I like pushing the bubble a little.
I know a banjo player who plays in another church, but most of the time he plays guitar. I'm all for adding anything that will fit in. I started playing worship as a sax player and have brought in a clarinet and flute at times to compliment it. Now I need to play acoustic guitar and really miss the sax sound, but the new violinist is taking up the role I used to on sax. A decent sound team can get it all to blend well.
IMO it could work but usually not on all songs. If the banjo player also plays some other instrument and able to switch off between songs that would be good.
Banjo is not just for country and blue grass. Stephen Stills used it for folk blues on "Know You Gotta Run" on Stephen Stills 2. Recently some classical composers have been writing concertos for it. So it is available and as useful as who ever does your arrangements can make it.
The banjo deffinately won't be used on all songs because I'm playing it & I lead worship with my guitar. I will only use it sparingly on a song or two.