Bela Fleck was born in New York City
on July 10, 1958. He started playing folk guitar
and at 15 got his first banjo
. He amazed his banjo teacher with the rate at his progress.
He went to the New York City High School of Music where he learned French Horn and then sang in the choir as the banjo was not an acceptable instrument. He enrolled at the Juliard Extension School, but that didn't work out. He quit and started playing in a band called Tasty Licks in Boston.
He played through a string of bands from Tasty Licks to Newgrass Revival to Strength in Numbers.
He started Bela Fleck and the Flecktones with Victor and Roy (Futureman) Wooten and Howard Levy (who is the most amazing harp player this world has ever known). They played their first gig on Bela's Lonesome Pine Show and were immediately signed by Warner Brothers and voilla.
a bit on Bela's instruments taken mostly verbatim from http://www.flecktones.com
Béla's main instrument is his pre-war Gibson Banjo. It has the original metal ring and wood back. The neck is a custom arched neck made by John Monteleone. The banjo is amplified with a combination of a Jones Pick-up and a Shure SM-98 microphone. He uses a custom internal pre-amp to boost the low level from the Jones pick-up. This takes place before connecting with the SM-98, cutting down on the crosstalk created by combining the mic and pick-up in the same cable.
His acoustic setup is a Chard Stuff AcH-104. This pre-amp is designed by house engineer Richard Battaglia. Also included in the acoustic rack is a Klark Teknik DN 410 parametric equalizer in line with the pick-up. The G Force made by t c electronics is also in line to provide reverb and other effects with the pick-up.
The pick-up and mic are combined in the house mix to get the acoustic sound.
Béla's electric banjo is a Deering Crossfire. He has modified it by changing to EMG pick-ups and pre-amp. It is currently outfitted with a Yamaha midi pick-up. This pick-up is connected to a Roland VG-8 and a Roland GI-10 midi interface.
Béla uses a variety of units for the electric sounds. One unit is the Digitech GSP 2101. He sometimes uses a Roland JV-2080. Recently, he's been experimenting with two new stompboxes called moogerfooger AnalogEffectsModules by Bob Moog.
The electric banjo is connected to the Digitech / Roland through a Samson UR-5D wireless.
Béla's Paradise Stereo Guitar (Béla's six string guitar) is a Swiss-made Paradise. It is connected to a unit called the Polysubbass Controller. This unit is connected with a special cable to translate the six piezo pick-up on the guitar into a stereo signal. Each string is independent. (Sorry, the company has stopped making the guitar and now makes home stereo consumer units !)
A Lexicon PCM-80 provides reverb for the guitar signal.
Both the acoustic and electric banjos are monitored on stage with a Trace Elliot TA 2000S amplifier. Synths and guitar are only heard through his 'In the Ear' monitors.
Béla also uses a Nechville banjo for special tunings, a fretless banjo, and a version with a sitar-style bridge which he uses on tunes like "Shanti".