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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O m'Gosh  that totally ROCKS, Dave!!  I loooove it!

Love the playing, love the new words, even the shirt!!  lol

I agree with Strum, Dave.

Yeah! Great Dave!

So, before October is over...

I had wanted to make a new video with my gourd banjer, but I just haven't had the time lately.   :(

But i will post a gourd video I did 3 yrs ago, along with explaining how i got here on minstrel banjo site.

Here is a video some of you may have already seen, but oh well, it's part of the story:

It's from Christmas time 2011, in front of our fireplace, me on my gourd banjo and my husband Brian on fiddle.

When I watch it now 3 yrs later, I can see it's a little too slow and i stumble quite a bit.  It doesnt really get into a groove until the second half, but I do like that groove we get when it finally gets there.   :)  It's played in oldtimey style, not minstrel style.  It's an old Hammons tune from WV that I slowed down and added a lot of my own personal space to.  It's one of my favorite things to play and I feel I've 'made it my own' over the years.

In the Summer of 2011, I saw this gourd banjo posted in a photo over on my dulcimer site, by Jeff Menzies.  Truthfully, it was the carved pig head of the headstock that stopped me in my tracks.  But then I had memories of how wonderful Mike Seegar sounded on his Thornburg gourd banjo years ago when I would hear him play it in person.  I had to have this gourd banjo!

When i bought this piggy gourd banjo, I didnt even realize that I couldn't just tune it right up to my usual oldtime banjo keys and tunings.  When tuned high it completely lost its beautiful deep resonance.  Not to mention breaking nylgut strings.  Jeff had warned me.  So, I was forced to tune it lower than say standard banjo G tuning.  I tuned it down to D, E, and F instead of the usual G.  Brian loved how it sounded low, and so did I.  So he started tuning his fiddle down lower too, to play with me.  We started having great fun in our 'lowdown' fiddle/banjo sessions at home.

Somehow, while researching low tunings for my new gourd banjo, I stumbled to this site, and was intrigued by the even older tunes and older tunings I saw here.  I realized that it might make sense to actually utilize some of the 'stroke' playing style and the low/Briggs tunings in order to experiment with some of the repertoire I was discovering here.  Eventually i bought two nice hoop minstrel banjos as well, started coming to Antietam gathering, and meeting and interacting with some of you in person.  Actually meeting you folks is a huge thrill for me, and I truly feel humbled by it.  

I'm still bringing minstrel repertoire into the music Brian and I play at home.  One little tune at a time.  We go slow, but are thoroughly enjoying the journey.   :)

Thus,  the carved piggy headed gourd banjo that Jeff dangled in front of me like a carrot several years ago was the catalyst for my playing minstrel banjo and for my being here on this site at all.  Yay for my sweet sounding gourd banjer!!     :)

Really nice videos Dave and Strumelia! Now I'm in the mood for tomorrow night!

Strumelia said:

O m'Gosh  that totally ROCKS, Dave!!  I loooove it!

Love the playing, love the new words, even the shirt!!  lol

Nice one, Brian and Strumelia!

That was great topic idea Strumelia, I've enjoyed all of the music everyone posted here. Thanks. I can always find inspiration here, so many good and diverse players.

Here's another one squeaking in before the end of October....  anyone else want to add their gourd vid here before All Hallow's Eve is over?   :D


I'm a little late to the party, but I just got my first gourd banjo.  It's based on the the four stringer from The Old Plantation by John Rose.  Lately I've been doing some educational performances, and it will be amazing to lay out a series of banjos for others to see that range from this gourd instrument to my Tu-ba-phone.

Very cool. Glad you got the 4 string. Who made it and how much (if you don't mind)? PLease post a video if you get a chance so we can hear it!

Jeff Menzies made it, and it cost $625.  I'd love to post a video of it (and my other banjos) but I don't have a good way to record sound.  It's something I've been working on for a while, and once the sound quality is acceptable I'm planning on making a Youtube channel.  I'll bring it to Antietam as well so you can hear it there!

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