Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

It's easy to see Rice's arrangements as being idiosyncratic by nature, because they sometimes differ radically from what Briggs or Converse, say, might have played. I think most of us see Briggs as representing a simple, pure "banjo style". I know I used to. And it certainly is a great place to start. But what if Briggs was just as idiosyncratic as Rice?

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When I made my first banjo, I showed my grandpa. He said, "I didn't know you could play 'music' on a banjo."             

You know that quote in Pete Seeger's book ""there ain't no notes to the banjo, you just play it'  -old time banjo player circa 1850" or something like that...

Eli Kaufman likes to point out that that was a true statement.  In 1850, Frank Converse had not applied the science of music to the banjo.  ; )

Bell Banjos said:

When I made my first banjo, I showed my grandpa. He said, "I didn't know you could play 'music' on a banjo."             

I'm going to stretch this over to Buckley. I know Buckley contributed to Rice....maybe a lot! Some of the printing in the beginning of the 1860 book looks just like where the Rice book left off. That not being the main point, however. Look at "Buckley's Juba"...page 13. It looks like "Whoop Jamboree". I'm going out there to say, that "Whoop Jamboree" is Juba....as an extended improvisation, that somebody transcribed, or at least captured the essence of. THIS.....may be a look into the minds of people playing tunes, and straying from the written page. If YOU have the skill and imagination.....play Juba....and Whoop....and then go off on your own. I'd like to see the variations.

Tim I agree that Whoop Jamboree sounds like some banjo player who knew their way around the instrument, inventing some rich flourishes for a basic Juba, and beefing it up nicely.  Or... maybe it's just that there are only so many patterns one can do, so some patterns just naturally get repeated in various tunes!   We may never know, but I like both Juba and Whoop J.  Whoop Jamboree is still to difficult for me to play. 

Hmm...maybe I should take your advise and improvise something, a 'bridge' tune half way between the two in complexity and call it Whup Juba ?   :D   Might be cool for beginners like me who are struggling to make the leap from Juba to Whoop jamboree...

Wow, I don't recall ever having a similar conversation in my drumline days about drums, their history etc.  I think we all just assumed a caveman banged on a goat, killed the goat, took its skin and made the first drum.  So yeah, this discussion is a little deeper :D  haha  

In all seriousness, this is great!  I'm always learning something new here.  Every time i take my banjo out, to a reenactment or just to play for friends at the house, I get the "you can play that?", reenforcing how much a niche we're in.  

Joel,

I read  that Baur claimed that Converse wrote the Briggs, but is there any evidence ?

Joel Hooks said:

Also Frank Converse wrote the Briggs' Banjo Instructor, and mostly likely had involvement in the Rice book... So, that would be "Converse" too.

The ABM really captures variations.  "Rolls" and strings of triplets, 16th-8th-16th Habanera rhythm (more on that later), based on melodies that we have seen in early books.

I feel that the stroke style pieces in the ABM represent what Converse wanted to publish earlier.

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