Greatest Musicians – Do Polls Only Go So Far?

banjopollOver the course of a year or so, I added polls to my website, for readers to vote on who they believe is the best banjo, guitar or mandolin player of all-time.  Of course, some of these polls had to be categorized according to a particular genre of music (jazz, blues, bluegrass) and style (fingerstyle, flatpicking).  I also added a category, entitled “Other”, because despite all the thought that went into the process, I may have left someone significant out of each poll.

Sure enough, I noticed that banjoist Jens Kruger, was inadvertently left out of the banjo poll.  That was quite an oversight on my part, since I have to consider Jens Kruger one of the best banjo players in the world today. This is especially true after seeing his latest performance (see an earlier blog  “Kruger Brothers Come to Palm Beach”).  Sorry Jens.

mandopollThe problem with polls is that a participant (voter) does not have an opportunity to clarify why he or she voted a specific way.  If you are a mandolin player, for instance, you have to consider Bill Monroe one of the greatest of all-time.  However, maybe today you have three other mandolin players who are at the top of your list.  In any event, that shouldn’t diminish your prior admiration of Mr. Monroe.

guitarpoll2Another problem with polls is that a voter may forget about the great contributors and innovators of the past.  Many of you know who Eric Clapton or BB King are today but fewer may be familiar with Robert Johnson or Muddy Waters, the pioneers who may have influenced such modern artists. So people tend to vote for the performer for which they are most familiar.  This is one reason why my website continues to expand on a historical overview of some of these great performers.  Music has a history that is not only relevant but essential to developing current and future performers of these instruments.

guitar1pollSo, here is an opportunity for you to not only vote but to also express who your favorite banjo, guitar and mandolin players are and why?  I encourage you to add your comments to this blog.  You can reference the history and polls listed at and vote in these polls if you haven’t already done so.  Most importantly, give us your comments and help to engage others to share their opinions and thoughts as well .

I have my list of favorite banjo, guitar and mandolin players.

Who are yours and why?


About fretmentor

Born in Detroit, Michigan, David F. Jakubiak has been involved in music since the age of 7, beginning as a clarinet player and then at 9 turning his attention to stringed instruments. He earned trophies in group talent competitions while a student at the University of Michigan. The instructor earned a BA degree in Organizational Psychology from the University of Michigan and a Masters in Public Administration at the University of Kansas. At college, he also studied classical music and music history. His passion is teaching music and in performing as a musician. In addition to on-stage performances, David has played in various venues from outdoor festivals to small nightclubs. He plays, performs and teaches various styles of music, including rock, pop, blues, jazz, classical, country and bluegrass styles. He performs and teaches acoustic and electric guitar, five-string banjo, and mandolin. His styles range from Scruggs, melodic, Reno and old-time style on banjo, to finger-style and flat-picking technique on guitar, to various styles of mandolin. For over 45 years, Mr. Jakubiak has taught all age groups, taking a personal interest in each student to ensure that they receive the attention and lesson plans that meet their needs and interests. His lessons and instructional materials place a strong emphasis on the practical use or music theory to ensure that the student understands the instrument and learns how to improvise to develop their own style. Mr Jakubiak teaches group and studio classes, webcam lessons over the internet, and individual private lessons to students of various ages. He has compiled and produced eight instructional books on CD as well as numerous instrumental arrangements. David has written for Banjo Newsletter, a monthly publication for the banjo enthusiast and has published an article in Issue #37 of the Fretboard Journal. He is the founder of To contact David Jakubiak, please feel free to e-mail him at david AT (substitute the @ sign for the word AT)
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4 Responses to Greatest Musicians – Do Polls Only Go So Far?

  1. avatar Tigerpaws says:

    I don’t place much value on polls as they are just individual’s preferences…..however, I do use them to find out who the different artists are and what instrument and type of music they play. I find the polls on Fretmentor “educational” as I’m not familiar with most of these musicians but having the names I can look them up and decide which ones I like.

  2. avatar Brilind says:

    A poll of the best of anything is useful only to stimulate conversation. The best of anything is hard to define and measure usually because individuals are so different. Who was the best classical composer? Bach, Beethoven, Mozart. Makes no sense. For banjo players surely all listed are great and surely Jens merits his own list and not just an “other.”

    The value of polls is to furnish a starting point to discover new performers and enjoy their music.

  3. avatar axelhead says:

    There is the value of a player for technical merit and there is the value of a performer to make a personal connection. You Tube is filled with technical wizards who are not using stage presence and have no emotional connection with a viewer. My favorites have an emotional connection with me that outweighs technical skills.

    So for banjo its John Hartford playing a solo banjo, singing a song that means something.

    For mando, I like grissman, sam bush, and ricky skaggs.

    For guitar… there are just too many.

  4. avatar pinky57 says:

    I just saw Adam Steffey for the first time a couple of weeks ago, he is the best mandolin player I have ever seen. Check him out if you get the chance.

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