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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Tim, have you seen Ray Jone's "rosetta stone" for TAB? I like it a lot (though I've trained myself to simply look at a fretboard layout).
No, I have not.

Trapdoor2 said:
Tim, have you seen Ray Jone's "rosetta stone" for TAB? I like it a lot (though I've trained myself to simply look at a fretboard layout).
Sorry, Tim. I would have put it up here but don't have access to my home pc from work. I'll try to remember to post it tonight. It is the same as yours but the fret numbers for each string are carried out to the 22nd fret. In that way, you can see where the duplicate notes lie.
Here's Ray's Tab chart...I hope he doesn't mind me putting it out here!

Tim,

Your videos are a tremendous help! I am a terrible sight reader, never could count time signatures worth a darn, so I never know if I am playing something right unless I can see someone else play it (assuming they know how to correctly count in a time signature :)
Brent...thanks. I'm in the process of embedding all my YouTube videos into the Clubhouse site, organized by book. This way, you can hear the audio files already in there, or see the videos. There should be about 300 of them.
Also, I have the 1863 Converse "Old Cremona Songster" up. I hope folks browse through this one.
If you ever need a tune not already tubed...let me know. I enjoy trying new material all the time.

Brent W Browning said:
Tim,

Your videos are a tremendous help! I am a terrible sight reader, never could count time signatures worth a darn, so I never know if I am playing something right unless I can see someone else play it (assuming they know how to correctly count in a time signature :)
Wow, that notation chart is crazy. At first I thought it was the periodic table. At further perusal, I understood it though and seems like it would be very useful.

Heh, I first learned the rhythms of some minstrel tunes on djembe, playing with Carl, Greg and Tim. From there I listened to recordings gleaned from the Clubhouse (Good Job, Tim. Your site is truly amazing) for almost two years or so before I finally acquired a banjo to even try them. Once I did get a banjo, I didnt know about the tablature until I had played old-time for about 5 months, so I had clawhammer down already. The tabs I found then were from Weidlich's minstrel book. With all that prep, I learned them quick, especially because I knew the melodies and their rhythms by heart already. I have dabbled in reading notation and it certainly slows me down, however, not to a stop. I have to go through a rewrite then entire song.

A few comments on style:
I think once you've learned the basic moves (single stroke, drop thumb, glides, pull-offs...), its an open field. Go where you want. To me, these are the essential minstrel techniques, aided by minstrels' tendency to mostly play only melody (unlike old-time, where the 5th string can be truly called the "drone string").

I agree with tunes being exercises. Tunes like "Congo Prince Jig" and "Brigg's Corn Shucking Jig" are challenging because they transition between different meters of time; these instance where sixteenth note triplets follow sixteenth notes are most stark to me. A possible delusion, but these instances also highlight the banjo's connection with syncopation and Africa, which truly intrigues me, being a drummer.

Also, I think it is beneficial to see the left hand as well. In the Gettysburg sessions of Carl, Greg and Tim, each person's hand, right and left, had unique subtleties not mirrored in the others. In particular, Jake Bacchus' Jig illustrates the dynamic of the left hand to play the same tune. And of course, an easy picking for the right hand is that Carl fancies his middle finger for stroke (my youtube is too grainy and slow to really make a comparison).

As with life, everything needs a philosophy; banjo is no different. Meaning, dont take it so seriously that you stop having fun, or worse, you stop others from having fun. There is credence in the attempt to exactly replicate historic styles and tunes. But, the people we imitate, were imitating others before them, and only had themselves as the final interpreter and teacher. Not to say they all taught themselves, but realizing people learn in different ways at different skill levels. Let us not forget the human element in which banjos are saturated with and the tendencies of that human element in particular histories, geographies and social scenarios. I think the lovely and confusing world of "mimesis" could clarify or further shroud this chatter of mine.
But, the people we imitate, were imitating others before them, and only had themselves as the final interpreter and teacher.
One thing about this style is that broken link, whereas we are reconstructing this style from something other than a direct and undistiputable oral record. We see and hear the sounds and and styles that came out of it, but all we have is notation and written accounts of the early performances...often more colorful than technical descriptions.

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