Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

I posted these two polkas as a contrast of instruments reaching for the same style. I think the guitar with its extended range is a better fit. But.....there was NO banjo repertoire at one point. No wonder it reached everyplace for an identity. Many of the earliest players were fiddle payers as well as guitarists...so it is no wonder we see all this experimentation.

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This is the genre I sometimes refer to as "social orchestra".  I'd really like to play this stuff but it often requires more refinement on the fiddle/violin than my capabilities will take me.  I'm working on it but......

I would that as they were playing the classical guitar in "the big house", a lot of that style influenced the banjo playing, much like the fiddle. A lot of these early tunes feel to me to be classical arrangements, note for note, as opposed to the way the banjo was played at the time. I think transferred to the banjo because that's what the white audience was used to hearing. Much like whites preferred whites in black face playing the banjo than actual blacks playing the banjo, which I find to be an interesting juxtaposition.

If we exclude the slave instruments from being considered "banjos" (something I myself don't agree with but whatever), and only count 'banjos' as being the hooped 5 string flat-fingerboard instruments like Sweeney played later in his career (it's thought he started out on a gourd banjo)... then how can we say there was NO banjo repertoire at one point?  Sweeney was touring all over the world playing shows on his banjo... was that not 'repertoire'?  Or are you (Tim) defining 'repertoire' strictly as tunes specifically composed for the banjo and/or published in tune instruction books?  I tend to define 'repertoire' simply as the selection of tunes typically played in a genre or played by a particular musician.

Also, not sure what you guys are meaning by "old music".. there seems to be mention in posts of both early and late banjo periods...?

Also, Rob are you meaning "classic" as in classic banjo?  And what's 'the Big House'... jail? or the White House?  (these days could be some confusion there too...)  lol

Sorry for the questions, but this thread is confusing to me!

I was referring to the classical style of guitar playing, which would make its way into the banjo, intentionally or not.

By big house, I meant the main residence of the plantation owner.

I took repertoire to mean a printed representation of style, music, and/or lyrics. Largely, different plantations tended to have their own particular styles and songs, even neighboring plantations. Really, the only way songs and styles spread was due to the slave trade. Conway talks about this in her book.

Well. at one point was no banjo repertoire....because there was no banjos. 

No need for a repertoire or identity to reach for when there were no banjos.  lol

But the earliest (or one of the earliest) white professional musicians to play the hoop 5string "banjo" as the instrument we know today, was Sweeney... did Sweeney not already arrange or create a repertoire of tunes/songs that he played in his shows and tours?  Do we not consider Sweeney's 1830s-40s stage material to be part of early banjo repertoire?  Or is banjo repertoire only legit if it was published in a book?  

Depending on how each one if us defines repertoire, I'd consider not only his manual, but his regular show tunes as well. Whatever he would play on a regular basis would be part of his repertoire.
Well, Sweeny played fiddle. I am sure he e derived some of his music from there. Then, it was banjo music.
We know what songs he played.... We just don't know how he played them. But, the point being.... Early banjo players were inspired by things that exsisted.... Like fiddle and guitar music

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