Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

If a new Minstrel Banjo book were to come out, what would be the ideal format? Notes, Tabs, or both? Are fingerings helpful?

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Tim,

 

Like others have mentioned, both notes and tab would be helpful. I've never used tab much, since I grew up reading musical notation. But it can be helpful to figure out some things. Fingerings can also be helpful. I play more by ear than anything else, but I'd probably invest in a new minstrel banjo book if you were to write one.

 

Vince

 

A Minstrel book with Tab , Notation,History, Lyrics,  that would be great and I would certainly buy one.
I like TABS,my fiddler reads music notation,relative guitar chords can be very helpful,as well as the words to the tune 'if applicable' containing all original "vulgarisms"......personally,I prefer the book idea,with or without included disc 

Thanks for all the helpful and thoughtful feedback. In terms of skill level and difficulty, how easy or hard should a collection as a whole be? Perhaps you could use specific tunes you know, or have seen, that sum up what is enjoyable to play. Is it good to have those in there that seem (in terms of difficulty)  "out of reach" or is it a waste of space? Please use specifics to gauge your opinion... 

I also get the feeling that vocal selections and lyrics are valued??

I'm not home...so I can't get too specific about the tunes. I could never remember tune names anyway...

I guess if I were starting out I would prefer a graduated 'book o' tunes', easy stuff at the start and a few finger-twisters at the end (I think they're a waste of space unless they're really tuneful and/or commonly played by advanced players). One thing I think would be good is to somehow mark 'common jam tunes', such as Briggs Jig, Cornshucking, Circus, etc. (if they are to be included). Might even be best to include them as a section of their own. I certainly get practiced up on about 20 of the most commonly played tunes before attending AEBG and having a core group of jam tunes makes it a lot more fun when two or more players get together.

Personally, I'd prefer a seperate volume for vocal selections. They take up a lot of space and the techniques for backing up vocals are different enough to warrant a whole tutor on its own. Watching Carl play and sing last time made me really look hard at my backup skills (which were non-existant). 

Okay, another question. Should anything already published be included, or would you want to see all new material from period sources? Is there enough Briggs and Converse out there already?
More Rice please.

Let's not kid ourselves, if one wants to see notation, they will just look at the originals.  Having notation is redundant, a complete wast of time in a new book.  

 

Just show an example of the archaic  system with description in the typical "brief historical introduction" common in the modern banjo tutor format, then move on to the improved simplified system of play by numbers.

 

I know, I am being tongue-in-cheek, but really...  One can download most of the original copy for free, and they would if they wanted to apply scientific principles to music.  Let's face it, the industry has gone simplified- that's just how it is.  

 

I say, avoid all of the modern terms...  "low Bass" should be standard tuning- or rather not noted a the top of a piece as it goes with out saying.  Since "Bass to "D," "B," or "G" does not apply as we are replacing the letter names with numbers, "Bass Elevated" should be used.  Or perhaps keeping with the simplified system... "4th up 2."

 

"Pulling off" is something that one should do in private.  My favorite is "Snap," a much clearer description.  "Hammer -on," thats just a slur.

 

The term "Drop Thumb" should not be in the book at all.  This is unnecessary, as it is not some special advance technique, but the standard modus operandi taught from the very first combination or movement.

 

"Nail Glide,"  well thats just a glide why use add "nail?"  Or better yet use "Roll."

 

There should also be a section devoted to the thimble... its mention in Briggs' as well as Converse's description of Pic Butler using one early on.  The Converse homemade style, and the more suitable manufactured ones.  It should also be noted that adopting a Hawaiian guitar pick worn backwards may work somewhat, it is anachronistic....

 

...O.K., that last part was really just shameless self promotion.  But I am serious about the rest.

 

-Joel

I think the advantage of including notation is that it makes an easy comparison to the tab, should the fingering be disagreeable and an alternative sought. It also might help tab readers to begin to see the simple relationship to the notes.

 

An another note, the music I was thinking about is not in any other the tutors...it is sourced from fiddle books, Levy's, and other sheet music sources. Totally new repertoire, from the same great sources the tutors were drawn from. Notation would have value here because it is not already in a banjo book.  I'm not sure if anything that has been done already needs doing again, especially with the shared resources we have.

 

I don't know if the terms will ever be standardized. I think you have to roll with whatever the author chooses. Re: the "pull off" or "snap"...I would go with "pull" or "P". Rice most fully utilized that move, and that is what he called it. It is easy to mark a "P" in music fingerings, and folks will know what to do.  

Why would there be fingering concerns if the source is violin music?


I completely see your point.  But as a former simple method user, I completely ignored the notation shown in books.  If I understood what all those obsolete and scary dots meant, I'd just play from the notation.  


On the rare occasion that someone asks to be taught the banjo and I throw up the  scale of A, eyes glaze over, and sometimes slight panic sets in.  We've been conditioned to think that notation is only for egghead musicians and takes huge amounts of effort to study.  This myth is constantly perpetuated on the BHO as well as here.


Why frighten people?


On the other hand, it might have the opposite affect.  It could make people feel empowered, like they are really connecting with the score.  


As an option to wasting paper and ink perhaps the first run could include a link where folks could download the original score if they choose.  Then you could set up a download counter and see just how many actually do that compared to number of books sold.


The main reason for play by numbers is that it seems easier, though its really not.  As we know, note duration and rhythm are the key to reading any form of music.  Once that is understood, numbers, dots, it really makes no difference.


There is another point to consider.  When trying to get a book published, one must play the game.  Copyright exclusivity, and the ability to defend that, is very important to publishers.


Circular 14 clearly states that you would only be able to claim rights to the new work, not images of the original score.  In order to get that protection, you would have to reset the notation, thus negating the original intent.


"Pull" is perfect.

Circular 14, US Copyright office.
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deuceswilde said:

Why would there be fingering concerns if the source is violin music?

 

Because there are several ways to finger notation, especially to create a playable banjo arrangement. 

I completely see your point.  But as a former simple method user, I completely ignored the notation shown in books.  If I understood what all those obsolete and scary dots meant, I'd just play from the notation.  

But you did start with tab, right? Milk to meat? 

On the rare occasion that someone asks to be taught the banjo and I throw up the  scale of A, eyes glaze over, and sometimes slight panic sets in.  We've been conditioned to think that notation is only for egghead musicians and takes huge amounts of effort to study.  This myth is constantly perpetuated on the BHO as well as here.

 

Why frighten people?

 

 

On the other hand, it might have the opposite affect.  It could make people feel empowered, like they are really connecting with the score.  

 

As an option to wasting paper and ink perhaps the first run could include a link where folks could download the original score if they choose.  Then you could set up a download counter and see just how many actually do that compared to number of books sold.

 The main reason for play by numbers is that it seems easier, though its really not.  As we know, note duration and rhythm are the key to reading any form of music.  Once that is understood, numbers, dots, it really makes no difference.

 

Just because you did it does not mean that others will. Most folks are casual part timers. Although I read noatation and prefer that, I respect the tab player.

 

There is another point to consider.  When trying to get a book published, one must play the game.  Copyright exclusivity, and the ability to defend that, is very important to publishers.

 

Circular 14 clearly states that you would only be able to claim rights to the new work, not images of the original score.  In order to get that protection, you would have to reset the notation, thus negating the original intent.

You can secure permissions for use. Or redo it in your own software. I speak of public domain music.

 

"Pull" is perfect.

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