Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

A common stumbling block in playing old banjo music ( from the mid 19th Century ) is reading notation. TAB is the accepted norm for hobbyists these days, as is understandable due to its easily understood layout and representation of the fingerboard. However, many still prefersource material, that being the original way it was written. These are easily available now, often at no cost, on various websites. But, for those seeking original notation, there is but one major difficulty, that being the confusing G/D notation and the E/A notation. It is often confusing for even a seasoned player to wrap his/her head around the concept that the reference to the fifth string in banjo notation has an additional upward stem on the note on the staff. In G/D notation, the D note is such, and in E/A notation the E note has the double flag. Although this is irrelevant to how you actually tune your instrument, it presents a lot of problems. Most Minstrel Hobbyists actually tune their instrument to G/D, although the Briggs' Banjo Instructor of 1855 is one of only a few that actually present the 5th string flagged as a D. All other books, from the Phil Rice Book of 1855 forward use the E note to reference the 5th string. This in effect, makes the banjo a transposing instrument. Much like a Bb Trumpet can play C flute music and sound fine, when it is referenced against a concert pitch, it will not blend. It is most unfortunate, because Briggs' is often the first book most people play. To make the shift to E/A is often a straw breaking a camel's back, and become unwilling to adapt another system of notation. The it is back to TAB.

So, long story short, I have transposed the Briggs' Book to E/A notation. I made a modest attempt to make it look like the original. I kept all markings, fingerings, and general quirkiness intact. The purpose is only to keep a congruous system to 19th Century Banjo notation. It is attached here for your use.

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So this is the reason I should tell my wife when I say I NEED another banjo?? Lol

I'm all seriousness, Tim, THANK YOU!! You've done awesome work through the years for those of us in this community. Just as relevant now as it was then. Your name and work always seems to come up when talking with others and learning the minstrel banjo. I know I watch your videos multiple times a week. Thanks again!!

Hey, thanks Rob. Let's all do our best to keep it alive.

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