Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Ladies and Gentlemen,


Just wanted to drop a brief note and some pictures of our (Terry Bell and myself) gourd banjo build yesterday.  After meeting Terry at the Michigan banjo gathering back in February, where I attended as a mere enthusiast (and broke, banjoless, student), he gave me the generous offer that if I got a couple of gourds he would help me make my first banjo.  Well yesterday was finally banjo day, and we set out to make a gourd banjo in ONE DAY (it is all we had as my schedule for the rest of the semester is full, and the 6 hr round trip drive for me to get to his place is a bit prohibitive with gas prices where they are).  That's right, a gourd banjo in one day. 

While originally we were going to do an 18th century style banjo as I do more colonial stuff these days, the gourd spoke to us, and instead we opted to do an 1830s Sweeney gourd....just before he switched to the wooden rims.  Due to most of the early historical accounts mentioning nails instead of tacks, we used small nails appropriate for the era.  The neck is made from 60+ year old pine that came from an old house that was torn down.  Amish gourds in Pennsylvania supplied the gourd....almost perfectly round, walls 3/8" thick all over, and 9.5" if I remember right on the diameter.  The fates smiled on us, as it was a sunshine filled day, so we harnessed solar power to dry everything as we went along.....and at the end of the day, she was ready to be strung up and played.  We have a video of Terry giving her a whirl since I only played for the first time right after she got finished, and will get it posted soon so you all can hear the tone. 

I just want to take a brief moment in closing to publicly say THANK YOU to Terry.  If it wasn't for his generousity, I would still probably be banjoless and merely a lurker here in the minstrel community.  He also taught me a LOT about banjos and banjo construction through the day, some of the information also being applicable to other instrument building projects I hope to pursue as well.  It was absolutely amazing to watch Terry while helping out on the banjo, as he truly is a master at his craft. 

Anyway, here are some pictures of our one day gourd banjo....video to come soon....

Adam C. 

Views: 480

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

That's a great story. Thanks for sharing it. What a great start. You have a great instrument and the satisfaction of having created it. Good luck.

what a day!!     kudos to both of you.  

Thanks gentlemen!  Here is a link to the banjo being played: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_3YJDuCOYs


Fantastic!  Sounds great!

sure does sound good,   come on in ,the waters fine;)

Very fine indeed.  The playing isn't the greatest (then again I have only sat down and tried to play a banjo about 30 minutes total in my life at this point, and still trying to get a handle on playing stroke style)....but here's my first stab at "Pompey Ran Away".... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGEaC_FzoEE&feature=youtu.be .  Eventually I'll get the hang of it I think. 


Looks great! Now you know some trade secrets hahaha!

 Adam,  sounds like a good start,,, why dont you try Juba first.  Search for " not sugar coated" and you will find  Tims Harpers Ferry Workbook and vids.  Juba is the first thing I worked on.

Adam, you are doing just wonderfully.  Great banjo, lovely first tune.  I'm very impressed.   :)

Adam, congratulations!  We are so happy you are up and going!

Very nice indeed!

Looks and sounds good.Now the fun begins. Take it slow, speed will come all by itself.


Reply to Discussion



John Masciale created this Ning Network.

© 2023   Created by John Masciale.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service