Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Hi all, just finished my first handmade banjo, made for reenacting as a civil war soldier. So now that I have the banjo I want to learn to play it like they did in that era, so that leads to my question, what was the most common playing style used then and where can I look to learn it? I kinda have started learning how people do clawhammer nowadays but is that the same style? Also are there any kind of "picks" I can get and use for said style, I know you use the back of the nail but having barley any I find it a bit hard?

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Amazon has a couple of beginning books: Minstrel Banjo and More Minstrel Banjo, which is Briggs and yellow Converse all tab. timtwiss.com has free downloads most in musical notation and a few tab. I basically worked out of the two books and used YouTube to hear the songs. I don't read music (trying to learn), so YouTube is valuable. 

I have heard of some people using a pick backwards or maybe a nylon or plastic folk guitar pick, Mich easier on the nylgut strings. Start slow. It helps to find a few songs you like. Or we can always recommend some easier songs. Briggs is alphabetical. Converse works easiest to most difficult. They'll get you on your way to stroke style. Also, don't be too proud and skip the exercises. Juba and Old Dan Tucker are fairly elementary, along with Miss Lucy Long.

Start with Briggs tuning, not clawhammer tuning.

Here's Tim Twiss' good video on how to do that:

http://minstrelbanjo.ning.com/video/tuning-wmv

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