Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

So, I do not own the Weidlich books but they seem quite popular. I ask...how much of Rice is covered in his book? Also, Buckley 1860? Are people still using Tabs, or are you gravitating towards notation?

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I started dabbling with the banjo and used tab, since the vast majority of the materials were in tab. When I started early banjo, I went for the Weidlich tab, since I was familiar with tab. However, after a while it became clear that reading standard notation opens up all of the period material, so I converted. Of course, my background as a symphonic musician made it easier. Still, both are types of graphic notation. Tab presents a graph of the mechanics of playing the piece. Standard notation presents a graph of what the resulting music sounds like. I prefer that, though I can deal quite well with both. Weidlich, in the Early Minstrel Banjo, does chapters on both the Rice and Buckley books. There are excerpts there, but not comprehensive. His other books give tab for Briggs and the Converse Yellow, with all of the stroke style pieces covered.

I like the tabs because it allows me to plow thru lots of music at once, but I have been sticking with the rice and converse yellow in standard in hopes that it begins to click. I don't yet own the 1860 buckley but have been trying to keep a copy of standard and tabs for each.

The book has

- arkansas traveler
- buckleys jig
- essence of old virginia dance
- joe sweeny jig
- money musk reel
- parkers jig
- rattlesnake jig

- buckleys banjo jig
- buckley's best reel
- buckleys walk around
- come day, go day
- get away gumbo...
- gettin up stairs
- go way jenny
- grape vinetwist
- hi ho de charleston ...
- john diamond walk around
- mr brown
- old gander
- old virginny jig
- phils excelsior jig
- power of music
- rise old napper
- sam j's reel
- sandy boy
- whats goin on
- where di you come from
- wheres dat n*****
- whoop jamboree

Oh thanks. Looks like Buckley 1860 needs a visit.

Agreed! It would be good to open that one up to a wider group of players.
Tim Twiss said:

Oh thanks. Looks like Buckley 1860 needs a visit.

I just wanna learn the sanford jig, LOVE that tune

We have 3 members posting it here.

I mostly rely on tabs, however I am struggling to learn the musical notation.  Given time I may be able to switch over.

I started by tabbing a lot of stuff out of the tutors myself (using Tabledit) but got tired of doing that and gradually worked my way into notation, which I now much prefer - I'm not great at sight reading and it takes me longer to sit down with a tune and work it out, but I find that tab is a little bit like reading an English translation of a book in a foreign language; the substance is there but something gets lost through that extra layer of abstraction. I particularly struggle with rhythm in tablature, and it also locks you into fingerings that you might decide to play differently when reading from notation (2nd string, 1st fret vs 3rd string, 5th fret for example. A lot of times the notation will suggest fingerings but it's easier to try alternatives if you're reading for the note vs the fingerboard coordinates.).
Andy, you've hit on the essence of what I was trying to say. Both are types of graphic notation, tab of the physical process of playing, standard notation of the sound. Since we are crating an art in sound, that notation makes more sense of it musically to me. Both have their uses. When I make arrangements, I work in Tabledit (a great tool, by the way), and find that the tab makes it very clear when I am writing something that would sound really good, but not be actually playable, at least with my skill set. When I go to play the result, though, my eye goes straight to the standard notation line.

"Tab is milk....Notes are meat"   ( biblical parallel for you church people )

I used tab...I still do in my teaching. But there comes a point to depart from it due to it's limitations.

I like using both tab and SMN (not necessarily both needed for a particular tune though)....both have their advantages and limitations.  

We can't have convenient tabs for all the gazillion wonderful old tunes and 'tunebooks' out there.  And, we can't always look at a standard notation piece and figure out all the coolest 'banjo moves' ourselves, either. (though that's definitely a skill to work on and gets better with time and experience).  I find if I dabble in both, I improve in a well rounded way.
Also, let us not forget that it's great to work on the ability to learn a simple new tune BY EAR at least occasionally.  (what a concept!)   That's why videos, recordings, and just playing together in real life are all so wonderful and enriching.   :)

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