Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

I seek advice for locating a suitable vendor of real gut strings.  Many thanks in advance.

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Medieval type of fiddle:  https://youtu.be/jA2l9CKlu5g

Is it played under the chin or in the lap.  Very nice sound with the flute.

Scott, both long ago and in modern times, people play it in the lap, against the chest, or under the chin, as they pleased.  Common in 1200s-1500s.  Many variations in how people made them, strung them, and played them- pretty humble folk instrument compared to today's refined violins.  The bowl back and neck was usually carved in one piece from a block of solid wood. Sort of like comparing a gourd banjo to a modern banjo maybe? Here is showing how on guy built one:   https://ballistabob.wordpress.com/projects/soprano-rebec-project/

If your interested the Gamut strings I have are beef gut and the following sizes
.54 mm (1st and 5th string)
.64mm (2nd)
.80 (3rd)
And the wound string measures .9, I think it is an old string I got from George Wunderlich a LONG time ago. George had the best string around 18-19 years ago. I don't know where he got them from. They were thick as spaghetti and had a good low tones and didn't care how damp it was outside.
Bob Thorn burg used to have good ones as well. Haven't bought any in a while. I buy as many sets from folks as I can when I can. You never know when they will be unavailable.
Bob Flesher sells good gut string as well. That nylon crap just doesn't cut it with me. Makes your banjo sound like a cheap Hawaiin souvenir ukele!

Scott I assume those Gamut gauges are intended for low bass Briggs tuning, then?

Wow. That is a really nice instrument. It looks sort of like my Hungarian Gusle.

The gusle was sold to me at a church sale as a "banjo", but it obviously isn't. It has a skin head, unlike the rebec, and only one string. The bowl is carved out of a single block of wood.

More photos on my web page,


There is also more info in the Wiki's.

It took me a while to figure out what it is. It is played on the lap like a cello. I cannot play it; I just keep it around as a curiosity.


Strumelia said:

Scott I assume those Gamut gauges are intended for low bass Briggs tuning, then?

That's cool Brian.  :)

I have a Cretan Lyra as well, that I play like a tiny cello on my lap.  Wish I had more time to get better at it!

Now you guys got me thinking I can make a gourd fiddle. What's the bow made of and is it similar to traditional bow? Not sure how to make a bow. Very neat stuff.

Look up Google images of lyre bows, psaltery bows, and rebec bows.  It can be as simple as a bent stick with horsehair in the notches.

Thanks Paul & Lisa I will be sure to post any attempts at a gourd fiddle. Also seems all this gut talk sent out the gut signal cuz my gut string set from Dr horsehair has finally shipped today. I'm hoping they are super fat but will follow up once they arrive.

I had a gut feeling they'd be shipped today.

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