Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

I just decided.

Because October is the month of Halloween and pumpkins and squash and old hollow/hallow things, even the O in October is round like a gourd...so...

I declare October to be Gourd Banjer Month !

Let's use this thread to share our enthusiasm for our gourd banjos...

Post your gourdelicious videos, pictures, your love/hate gourd relationship stories, and random factoids about your gourd banjo here!

Anything goes...bring it on!    :D

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If it weren't for gourd banjos, I wouldn't have stumbled upon early banjo subjects (by 'early' I guess I mean everything 'banjo-ish' before 1890 or so), minstrel tunes, or pre-1870s American tune/song repertoire for the banjo at all.  And I wouldn't be here on this site if it weren't for my accidental encounter with a gourd banjo several years ago.  So I admit I have a special soft spot in my heart for gourd banjos.  More on that later.   :)

Photo showing relatively high action on my gourd.  I play over the empty space where the neck curves down.

Paul, thanks for the photo of your string/bridge height- very helpful!

Is that a pine bridge?  It's way heavy!  May I ask who made it?

I think my gourd banjo action is currently a little lower than yours, seems to be similar to the action of my minstrel banjos.  it's all a bit deceiving though, since the neck dips down so much lower than the head surface at the 'scoop' area, so hard to judge accurately compared to a regular hoop banjo.  My bridge seems to be pushing the head down a little right now too- will get tighter once the heating system kicks in this autumn.  It's not low enough to put a higher bridge in though- seems fine action for playing right now.

I went to take a photo just now to show you one for comparison for string height, and Rufus Rastus decided to get into the spirit of this thread and express his undying love for my gourd banjo.  I finally had to take it away from him before things got out of control and someone got hurt.  !  lolol...

Ha ha - great photos! Ah cats!
Oh right- the bridge is spruce made by Jay Moschella - it's from wood from an old piano.

Well it sure sounds good, and has got to be the thickest banjo bridge i've seen.  Some might feel that wood from an old piano would have some good effect in terms of sound transmission- maybe even on a piece of wood as small as a bridge ?  Like how an instrument gets 'played in' and gets better tone after being played a lot.  Who knows, but surely it can't be a bad thing.  

Just finished up a week of playing music for Fiona Ritchie of NPR's Thistle & Shamrock on her book tour of "Wayfaring Strangers: The Musical Voyage From Scotland and Ulster to Appalachia", published by UNC Press. I got to showcase the gourd several times during the course of the week. Fiona is actually learning how to play banjo and loved my Pete Ross four stringer.

Very cool Mark!

It is a lovely banjo indeed!   I got to play with it for a few minutes too, at Antietam.   :)

That photo shows just how small the actual vibrating skinhead surface is on that banjo... the cut-out of the gourd is quite modest.  It sounds beautiful even with the small head surface.  Pete did a great job making that, love the flamed neck.

My creepy contribution to October Gourd Banjo Month!

Mark, nice dark feel.  Perhaps you should get a black hat of some sort to complete the theme?   :)

Here's one of my favorite videos to get a ghourdish chill in October....  :D

http://minstrelbanjo.ning.com/video/de-blue-tail-fly

Just in time for gourd banjo month here's a song parody called "The Ghost of Joel Sweeney". Dave

http://youtu.be/Uv6883x2U9U

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