Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

I just received 2 of Bob Fleshers Minstrel Books and I'm a bit puzzled by these pull offs on open strings. I'm a good clawhammer player but I'm not quite catching what's going on . Most of the things I'm finding is say....2nd string 1st fret then we have open on the first string with a "p" inbetween indicating pull off. An example is page 19 on "Learning Minstrel Banjo" Part B  2nd measure. To me that's  a pick with the pinky because from what I know you can't pull off a string that hasn't been fretted. I know how a pull- off on the same string, say 2 to open but not what I'm seeing. Can anyone help me on this?

Views: 169

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Imagine your left hand "plucking" the open string. The left hand sets the string in motion. Refer to the Rice Book for a pretty darn good description of it. If you get in a pinch and want to see it, I'll do a quick demo, and also refer you to some of dozens of Minstrel Banjo songs that use this technique. It's an important and basic move.
If it's not a lot of trouble. Just seems a bit confusing and I really want to get it right rather than guess.

http://minstrelbanjo.ning.com/video/stroke-instruction-rice-2

 

Forward to 7:58 of this video. Also, recently I did "John Diamond Walk Around" in the Phil Rice batch of videos. It's full of them.

So Tim let me ask you one more thing,, I'm tuning my gourdies down to dADF#A.  Flesher calls this High Bass tuning. Is that where most of the minstrel stuff is played and in Fleshers book he mentions Low Bass Tuning where he drops the A down as in dble C tuning but leaves the F# alone.
No. High Bass is the exception. Most material is tuned dGDF#A. 

Barry Sholder said:
So Tim let me ask you one more thing,, I'm tuning my gourdies down to dADF#A.  Flesher calls this High Bass tuning. Is that where most of the minstrel stuff is played and in Fleshers book he mentions Low Bass Tuning where he drops the A down as in dble C tuning but leaves the F# alone.

I think that some of the confusion could be avoided of Flesher used period correct terms.

 

"Pull-off, " not only is bawdy, but does not convey the action clearly.  "Snap," or simply "Pull" is much clearer.

 

"Low Bass" goes without saying and it is unnecessary to note.  "High Bass" or the much more commonly used "Bass Elevated," or "Tune forth to...) will be noted.

 

Bob glommed onto those terms, but the only place I've seen "High/Low Bass" are in Edmund Clark's studies.

 

Another is "Drop Thumb."  "Combination" is more concise.

I believe the term "pull off" goes back at least as far as Pete Seeger's old book on how to play the five-string banjo (a book I found immensely unhelpful at the time I was trying to learn to play, around 1960).  Seeger is credited with coining the term in 1948.  I've never heard it called anything else.  The other term introduced in Seeger's book was "hammer on".

Pull offs on unfretted stings are common in clawhaamer banjo circles, at least in North Carolina, and are freqently adopted in figures which are used as filler at the ends musical phrases.   The unfretted pull offs are a little tricky to learn at first, and are used differently in minstrel banjo tutor music than in contemporary clawhammer, wherein they are usually just part of a conventional lick used to mark time.

As to the terms "low bass" and "high bass", I've noticed something interesting about which tunes tend to be in which tunings.  The earlier tunes tend to be completely playable either in high bass or without the bass string at all, that is per-Sweeney, not using a bass string.  Later tunes tend to need the low bass string to work effectively.  For myself, I just use which of these tunings is more convenient for the tune, and it's not always the one Bob Flesher suggests or what's in the tutor.  For practical purposes, however, most tunes are in low bass.

.

Reply to Discussion

RSS

About

John Masciale created this Ning Network.

© 2020   Created by John Masciale.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service