Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Perhaps we should seek out some fiddle players to join our group. It would be most beneficial to hear them play these tunes, and listen to how they are treated. I'm sure that those which came before us spent a lot of time around fiddlers hearing this music. Maybe Chuck Krepley would be interested in adding to our genre? It would be a whole new dimension to our Friday Post Series. The more I play these tunes, the more I become aware of the close relationship of Minstrel banjo and fiddle.

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Chuck Krepley said
There are also several tunes written in the keys of F, Bb, Am and what appears to be A modal, and possibly a Bm tune.

So what do some of you banjoists think about the Emmett manuscript? (Are you listening, Greg Adams?) Is it written for the fiddle, banjo, or fife

All of them are possible, but not all are practical. Even the ones with 2 flats are okay. There is a great amount of crossover between Buckley's Banjo Book (1860), Emmett's manuscript, and Ryan's Mammoth...not always with the same title. The composer credits are a window of instrumental intent (maybe) as several tunes in the Emmett Manuscript are by fiddle players. Perhaps having these tunes written out was like we contemporary jazz players taking "The Real Book" to a gig. You know, it's just understood that you all play the tune.?? Chuck, did you ever play "Sliding Jenny Jig"? That one was a puzzle to me. Is there anything similar in the fiddle literature? I found nothing like it in any banjo book.
Tim Twiss wrote
Chuck, did you ever play "Sliding Jenny Jig"?

It's been a while, so of course I had to run and grab the fiddle to give it a go. It's a weird one all right. Those very quick bursts of 32nd notes at the beginning of the measures in the A part make me wonder if a "Sliding Jenny" wasn't part of some mechanical device that made a similar clatter. The B part has rhythmic elements that remind me of a Scottish Shetland Islands tune called Willafjord. That A part, though ... it's OUT there!
Do you have a handy dandy cross reference guide for the 'same tune with different name' group?

Tim Twiss said:
Chuck Krepley said
There are also several tunes written in the keys of F, Bb, Am and what appears to be A modal, and possibly a Bm tune.

So what do some of you banjoists think about the Emmett manuscript? (Are you listening, Greg Adams?) Is it written for the fiddle, banjo, or fife

All of them are possible, but not all are practical. Even the ones with 2 flats are okay. There is a great amount of crossover between Buckley's Banjo Book (1860), Emmett's manuscript, and Ryan's Mammoth...not always with the same title. The composer credits are a window of instrumental intent (maybe) as several tunes in the Emmett Manuscript are by fiddle players. Perhaps having these tunes written out was like we contemporary jazz players taking "The Real Book" to a gig. You know, it's just understood that you all play the tune.?? Chuck, did you ever play "Sliding Jenny Jig"? That one was a puzzle to me. Is there anything similar in the fiddle literature? I found nothing like it in any banjo book.
Hole In The Wall Jig- Ryan's Mammoth Collection / The Tycoon's Jig-Buckley 1860
Pea Patch Jig- Ryan's Mammoth Collection / Great Eastern Jig-Buckley 1860
Camp Meeting Jig- Ryan's Mammoth Collection / Pea Patch Jig-Buckley 1860
Little Diamond Jig- Ryan's Mammoth Collection / Fireman's Jig-Buckley 1860
Kiley's Reel-Ryan's Mammoth Collection / Jake Bacchus' Reel-Buckley 1860

Get Up In The Morning-Briggs / Carolina Reel-Converse Analytical
Oh, what's de matter Suse Ann-Rice / Bryant's Jig-Buckley 1860
Phil Rice's Excelsior Jig-Rice / Jim Crow Jig-Buckley 1860
The Lion-Converse With or Without 1865 / The Tycoon Jig-Buckley 1860
Hannah, Hannah, Where's You Going-Rice / Corn Husking Jig-Buckley 1860
Where's Dat Nigger-Rice / Bryant's Jig-Buckley 1860
Trovatore March-Converse Analytical / Operatic Jig-Converse 1865(Green)
Foster's Jig-Converse Analytical / General Burnside's Jig-Buckley 1868
Choctaw Reel - Converse Analytical / Darkies Jig -Rice


This is a quick list which is kind of old. I know I updated this at some point, but I can't find it right now. It does not include anything from Emmett, like "Peter Story Jig" (Emmett) / Fisher's Jig (Buckley 1860). There are also several in the Buckley Fiddle.

By the way, are there ANY thumb string indications (double stem) in any of the Emmett tunes?
Here is "Sliding Jenny Jig".
Attachments:
Regarding the publication of fiddle tunes - I hope you find this of some interest and use. I found this article with music from a collection of manuscript Georgian fiddle tunes.
Attachments:
Way cool, Elaine! My interests do back into the 18th century stuff, particularly the 1750-1760s, so this very useful. Many thanks!

Elaine Masciale said:
Regarding the publication of fiddle tunes - I hope you find this of some interest and use. I found this article with music from a collection of manuscript Georgian fiddle tunes.
Very nice interpretation, Tim! My rendering turns out just a wee bit differently with the syncopation in the 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th measures of the A part. This really gets me itchin' to post some of my own versions of tunes. I'll have to get the gear and get working on that pronto.

Tim Twiss said:
Here is "Sliding Jenny Jig".
Chuck,

Let's see, that would be about 25mb total, not too bad. I uploaded a 10mb file to the classic-banjo ning site a week or two ago with no problem...other than it is just too big for most systems. ;-)

Most ISPs give you a block of server space when you sign up...you can upload your files there (and then let me know where they are and I'll download, convert and return the .pdf to you). Alternatively, you could post them to any number of free pic hosting services. Another alternative is "Pando" which works well for large file transfers. Zip all the pix together and 'pando' them to me.

Lots of ways to skin that cat!

Chuck Krepley said:
Images of those tutor pages average about 250K each. There would be 96 of them for Buckley alone. What would be the best way to get them to you without attaching one or two each to a whole bunch of e-mails?

Trapdoor2 said:
Chuck,

I have Adobe Acrobat Pro and can convert your photos to a .pdf file w/no problem. Let me know if you want to do that...you would just need to send me the pix or put them out somewhere were I can access them.
Hi,
I'm a newbie to this group but I can speak as a fiddler. Most fiddlers can play in A,D, G,C and F. The hitch comes when they have to move up into the higher positions as the traditional style developed without the advantage of chin rest and shoulder rest which allows the fiddle to be held by the jaw and shoulder leaving the left hand free to change position. So if a tune pitched so that it goes into the higher positions it can be a challenge.
I am pasting a link to a lecture by Paul Roberts on Pre Victorian Fiddle Styles. Interestingly, what is now known as the "Nashville shuffle" was commonly played in the 17 and 1800's by fiddlers in America and the British Isles.

b>b>http://www.mustrad.org.uk/reviews/m_wilson.htm

Steven Hedgpeth said:
I have some questions for experienced minstrel fiddlers regarding these tunes, specifically related to the best key and tuning for tunes. When I'm trying to share the minstrel tunes I've learned with the fiddlers in the groups I play in, it's hard to decide what key to put the tune in.

Scenario: I learn "Alabama Joe." I don't know what key Briggs put it in, but let's say it's written in the key of A: Do I really want to record it for the fiddler in A? Wouldn't it play better in D on the fiddle?

Right now, I have to just get down the fiddle and try to play the tune on it and see if it seems harder to me in D or in A. It might even lay better in G tuning on the fiddle... So it's trial and error. Are there any principles one can follow?

A real example of this happened to me with "Dance, Boatman, Dance." The fiddler couldn't get it right for two years. Then one day for some reason, probably accidental, I played it tuned way low in D. The fiddler found that she could suddenly play it in D tuning. All that time, she was trying to play it in G--following me.

It seems like knowing what the open strings are and somehow relating that to the drone might help, but I'm in my infancy on thinking this issue through.... Has anyone else run across this and come up with a solution or rule of thumb?

My fiddlers have three basic tunings (which I don't have memorized) for G, A, and D. Is there any record of how minstrel fiddlers tuned their fiddles? Did they have A, G, and D tunings (and tunes) like a present-day old-time fiddler or did they have one standard tuning, like a present-day bluegrasser or a violinist?
Chuck Krepley said:
Couple o' thoughts ... I think you have to think about what key the tune fits best on the banjo, and then the fiddler can follow suit. Some tunes will drop off the bottom end of the banjo's range if you switch from G to D or visa versa, or get too high to play comfortably. I know you virtuosi out there can play way up the neck, but some tunes just won't lay as well on the banjo if you try a major key change. Any decent fiddler should be able to play the usual banjo keys of G, D, A, and E without too much trouble. Basically, I think that if the tune lays well on the banjo and/or the fiddle with a choice of keys, then go with the flow and pick whever one the group likes best. Of course, then there's the singer's best key to consider!

Regarding keys in general, I have (with Greg Adam's assistance) collected a fair number of minstrel era viloin/fiddle tutors. "Alabama Joe," for example, is in the key of Bb (!) in Gumbo Chaff's/Elias Howe's c.1848 "The Ethiopian Violin Instructor (Containing Full and Complete Instructions with all the Popular Negro Melodies of the Day including those of the CHRISTY MINSTRELS.)" "Boatman's Dance" is in G in that book. "Old Dan Tucker" is in D. The same tunes will be found in other books in different keys, so there is no "right key."

Regarding different fiddle tunings, I don't see much if any evidence of that in violin/fiddle books of the period that I'm focusing on (1830s - 1860s). I haven't combed through all of them looking specifically for that, so I'll take another look in the days ahead. Of course, maybe it just wasn't written down in the tutors which might be focusing on a more "standard" style. Still, that's our primary source material just as are the banjo tutors. There's also not much fiddle retuning that goes on in the Irish/Scottish/Brittish Isles fiddle traditon that American fiddling was just beginning to evolve from. That's where my background is (Scottish & Irish), and I play everyting in standard G-D-A-E violin tuning. I know cross tuning is common in "modern" Old Time fiddling, but I don't see it as much in the "ancestor" styles. (A lot less double stopping and droning, too.) Does anybody have more thoughts on fiddle tunings?
The cross tuning or scordatura (sp?) could have been used early on, as there was and is no set tuning for a fiddler as long as he/she can knock out the tune. I have run across it in arrangements based on some early recordings.
MelBay's Advanced Fiddling uses it for some old time tunes as does Alistair Hardie's Caledonian Companion. I believe the technique developed during the baroque era. It has the advantage of resonance from the 'twin' strings and a handy drone.


NIta M. Kinney said:
Chuck Krepley said:
Couple o' thoughts ... I think you have to think about what key the tune fits best on the banjo, and then the fiddler can follow suit. Some tunes will drop off the bottom end of the banjo's range if you switch from G to D or visa versa, or get too high to play comfortably. I know you virtuosi out there can play way up the neck, but some tunes just won't lay as well on the banjo if you try a major key change. Any decent fiddler should be able to play the usual banjo keys of G, D, A, and E without too much trouble. Basically, I think that if the tune lays well on the banjo and/or the fiddle with a choice of keys, then go with the flow and pick whever one the group likes best. Of course, then there's the singer's best key to consider!

Regarding keys in general, I have (with Greg Adam's assistance) collected a fair number of minstrel era viloin/fiddle tutors. "Alabama Joe," for example, is in the key of Bb (!) in Gumbo Chaff's/Elias Howe's c.1848 "The Ethiopian Violin Instructor (Containing Full and Complete Instructions with all the Popular Negro Melodies of the Day including those of the CHRISTY MINSTRELS.)" "Boatman's Dance" is in G in that book. "Old Dan Tucker" is in D. The same tunes will be found in other books in different keys, so there is no "right key."

Regarding different fiddle tunings, I don't see much if any evidence of that in violin/fiddle books of the period that I'm focusing on (1830s - 1860s). I haven't combed through all of them looking specifically for that, so I'll take another look in the days ahead. Of course, maybe it just wasn't written down in the tutors which might be focusing on a more "standard" style. Still, that's our primary source material just as are the banjo tutors. There's also not much fiddle retuning that goes on in the Irish/Scottish/Brittish Isles fiddle traditon that American fiddling was just beginning to evolve from. That's where my background is (Scottish & Irish), and I play everyting in standard G-D-A-E violin tuning. I know cross tuning is common in "modern" Old Time fiddling, but I don't see it as much in the "ancestor" styles. (A lot less double stopping and droning, too.) Does anybody have more thoughts on fiddle tunings?

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