Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

I play standard clawhammer banjo but I'm interested in exploring the roots of banjo - ie: minstrel banjo.  But, the thought of a fretless, partial fretless or even fretless with markers scares me.  Does a banjo HAVE to be fretless to be considered a true "Minstrel" banjo?

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Thanks, Joel, for BOTH answers!

Hi Steve, FWIW mandolins did not become popular or even widely known in the US until after the Spanish Students toured in 1880 causing the popularity of an instrument that they did not even play (it is worth a little googleing).  Mandolins would have been nearly entirely unknown by solders during the ACW.

Mandolins at reenactments (esp Gibson flat pattern) are as anachronistic as arch top guitars or 1911 Colt .45s.

For some reason living historians turn a blind eye to music and instruments accepting "old time string bands" in place of documented music. Something I never understood (even when I was a "reenactor" of the 1880s).

Sorry for the drift. 

Steve Stroot said:

I, too, was unsure about when banjos became fretted.  It seems to me that if guitars and mandolins were fretted during the Minstrel era then at least some banjos would have been fretted as well.  Strumelia is correct in saying that a 1900 Fairbanks would not properly represent a Civil War era instrument.  However, if Minstrelsy continued into the early 1900's (as indicated by the Encyclopedia Britanica), then it seems reasonable to believe that fretted banjos could well have been utilized in minstrel music.  

Since you are tossing out dates, Joel, I'm interested in the transition between citterns/English guitars and the guitars as we know them.  I'm thinking it may have started around 1820 and became more complete within 15-20 years(?)  Any insights on that?  I liked the two dates you offered on fretted banjos.....if you (or anyone else) have any for the above question.

That is a good question Al, I don't know much about guitars (German or Spanish) other then the two books I have read on Martin Guitars and attempting to work through Carcassi about 10 years ago.

Well, you can't know everything but thanks for responding!

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