Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

For those of you at various stages of pursuing Minstrel Banjo, I am curious to ask what type of things are most useful to you in learning? TAB, notation, TAB with fingerings, videos, slow demonstative videos, audio recordings, slow audio recordings....perhaps a treatment like Converse provides in "Without A Master"??

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Thanks Tim.

Some of the "Online Teachers" from the Banjohangout use seperate password protected sites for their "e-lessons". They basically put up a marketing page, give away some tips and some tunes and then to access the full site, they require a payment. Pay the man and receive a password, etc. Of course, you can add a level of protection there by putting in a checkbox for the legal stuff (all works copyrighted, etc.).

Since I'm not deriving a large part of my living from teaching (or *any* part at the moment), I'm far more inclined to put my stuff up for free. Check with me again after I retire in 2022. ;-)

I think a "Learn To Play Stroke Style Banjo" website would be a very cool thing. Your capabilites (both banjo and PC) make a great combination. I like Rob's "deconstruction" idea; every bit shown in minute detail. Difficult to execute but perhaps if you chose just the right tune it might stand alone.
We should experiment here....I'd like to get some real feedback. I've been thinking a lot about the "graduated" repertoire. If you saw 150 tunes tabbed out, with notation and the original fascimile, along with a video demonstration and an audio file, going from easy to difficult, that would cover it.
I think anybody complaining about such a thing would be listed as 'barking mad'. ;-)

How would you do that here? There's no place for files...

The good thing is that most early tunes are short and sweet, usually only 16 measures (if that). You can easily combine notation and tab and facimile on a single page for such tunes. Start small, do something like "Juba" and see how it lays out. I think it is important that it all fit on a single screen/page (that is, no need to scroll around). Links to audio/video should be right there in with the music (perhaps off to one side) and pop up in a seperate window rather than envoking a full page.

I know nothing about webpage design but I think I can do all of the above out of a single pdf file.
How would you do that here? There's no place for files

I think just experiment with content and format here at Ning....I would most likely put final stuff in a special Clubhouse spot...with all files (audio and visual) available in one place. I think that PDF. is the way to go for the print. A one page layout would be good for the short songs...which most are.
Tabbed notaion is what works for me. Designation of the fingerings for difficult passages has helped my technique. In addition to the great books from Joe Weidlick, I have been pulling down original songsheets and tabbing them. I created a conversion chart for the keys of C, D, A, E, G and Bb. Makes the tabbing easier.

I've been playing banjo for a little over two years. It's the first serious instrument instrument for me and has caused me to learn about music theory.

The biggest aid for me has been the audio recordings on your banjo clubhouse. I've downloaded them and burned them to CD's. It's my usual music when commuting to work. I need to hear the song in my head before I can begin to learn it on the banjo. Once the connection is made between how it should sound verses how I am playing - or not playing the song - then I'm okay. Until I can get my brain and fingers to conform to the recordings, the sounds coming from my banjo can be brutal.

Converse without a master has been good to me. There aren't many of the songs there which I play regularly, but the instruction has been very helpful. Joe W's progression through the manuals in his Early Minstrel Banjo has been a gold mine.

I've been lurking on this page since it was created and thought it about time I logged in and posted something.
If you use Tabledit, then you get it all together... standard notation, tab, slow down, and you could even print in pdf. There is a free version which allows you to just view and not make any alterations.
Progressing from easy to hard would really help us fresh fish! My banjo is my first stringed instrument, and I've been playing for about 6 months - mostly trying to follow the instructions in Brigg's & Converse. Muscle memory can take some time to develop! My most recent 'Eureka" moment was presumbably figuring out the B strain in 'Congo Prince Jig.' Created an exercise out of the pattern.... and then heard/watched the recent G'burg performance, and wondered how in earth you fellows played it 'that way!' Put another way - my stroking doesn't sound quite like that.

A project of the type here described would really help us newbies 'get it right' when it is rare that we see proper technique demonstrated. (My experience watching some other players is that they seem to be using some fingering techniques that either post-date my era of interest: pre-1865, or were used but not described in the how-to books.)

Jim Moffet
Lonely in Minnesota!
A project of the type here described would really help us newbies 'get it right' when it is rare that we see proper technique demonstrated. (My experience watching some other players is that they seem to be using some fingering techniques that either post-date my era of interest: pre-1865, or were used but not described in the how-to books.)

Jim Moffet
Lonely in Minnesota!


Here is another thing-"proper technique". When I see the variation of different people reacting to the same descriptive instructions, each resulting in a positive and pleasing sound and style, I am left wondering "exactly what is good technique?" I think you need to see several guys play and come up with your own angles and positions. The description in Converse and Briggs is quite definitive, yet the results vary. This style is difficult to swallow without seeing it done. When I play with Greg and Carl, I see none of us doing it exactly the same. One reason I like this forum, and Youtube in general, is the ability to see lots of players so one can form their own technique. This style just shouldn't fall into the same rigid pedagogy that the Classical Guitar has.
Just discovered the Banjo Clubhouse. Has it been here all along? I'm so new to this it's ridiculous, but thanks for posting this as a resource for uber-beginners like me. Much appreciated!
Tim, I fully agree. Not knowing the classical guitar scene, the styles of banjo play that one might have seen before and during the war are those that interest me. Manuals & tutorials are good as far as they go. As a player heard or performed with a different 'stroke stylist,' he inevitably expanded his experience and either rejected the differences or attempted to duplicate them. When I listen to some recordings, I wonder if the performer isn't at times 'adulterating' a period song with banjo techniques that were not yet practiced in the early minstrel era.

As to fingering instructions added to tabs, I find them very useful - particularly at first. As my skills expand, I find that I sometimes vary from what was originally written!

Jim Moffet
I find myself reading and re-reading the right hand descriptions in the tutors.
The technique be effective when is is loose and crude, as well as tight and exact. I am a true fan of Stroke Style. Part of my attraction to it was the demands on the right hand as I enter old age. I think a stiff old hand can still rock on this stuff.
"It's no use Eph...I can't hit it no more"
Here is a revised BANJO ROSETTA STAFF which will help you transfer notes to TAB in either of the banjo keys used. I hope that some of you TAB readers find this useful. This, when used with a simple math for timing, should enable you to play anything in notation from banjo and fiddle sources. There is a correction in this one, which was kindly pointed out to me. Thanks.
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