Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Recently, I have been trying all kinds of new things, especially since I got my Fretted Minstrel. But, to back the truck up a bit, I am revisiting the Stroke Stuff. I never used a Thimble before....a little ignorance, and a little stubborness, but recently I pulled out my Hooks Thimble and gave it a good solid try. The result is astonishing. The tone clarity and projection is unreal. 

Now...I do have a story behind my reluctance to use use thimbles. I was like many guys, having never actually seen a Minstrel banjo player. I got the Flesher Book and an instrument and went at it. I made reasonable progress, but then went to AEBG I.It was there that I could see it done and hear it played right. What I did NOT know was the key players used thimbles. They were so hidden in the curve of the hand that they went undetected by me. Well, I returned to Michigan determined to get that "sound" I worked and worked, re-reading the tutors and trying to make that attack work. I succeeded after much effort, filing my nails ALL THE WAY DOWN, and playing the Converse Combinations/Exercises endlessly. 

But, this revelation is mind blowing. Sorry I';m behind...but no regrets. Using the thimble will take a little adjusting, but all the technique I have in place is accessible and useful. In fact, it is a bit overpowering sometimes, and I can understand the need and use for them in the old days of zero sound amplification. I put up a video of "Ethiopian Cracovienne" to mark the start of the venture. I'll check back in a few months when I get this down.

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I confess I'm lazy about consistently using my Hooks thimble (I'm not always playing in the room where I store mine, and don't want to risk losing it), but it really does make a notable difference in clarity and volume.  Can't wait to hear more!

It took me some getting used to. I am convinced I need a smaller one. Or to at least cut down the part that bends behind finger a lil. When I close my finger down to strike a note it raises quite a bit from my actual finger tip. I have had to really bend and contort mine currently so that it works with my small fingers. I also have it turned inward a  lil bit. But Im pretty sure if I got a ladies or child sized one it would be magical haha

I'm not sure I have it down, how to place it securely, but it is getting better. Once it settles in, it is beautiful.

Joel made me one in a special smaller size, 'cause everything he had was way too big for my dainty lil digitz.  :)   Just my 2 cents but I think Joel should offer smaller sized ones as part of his standard thimble lineup.  

Oh, here's a tip- if you wet your finger just a little with your tongue right before putting a thimble on, it'll really stay put while playing.  Not too much or it doesn't work.  Needless to say I've learned to do this when no one is looking.    =:-o

Well I will be firing off an email shortly haha

Anyone tried the aluminum thimble yet? 

Yup. I like the aluminum ones a lot. I have 'em in brass, german silver and aluminum. The aluminum ones are significantly lighter, of course. I've been testing them on wire strings...no problems, no significant wear.

Hugh Strawn said:

Anyone tried the aluminum thimble yet? 


thanx.....I too have the german silver and also copper. The copper isn't as 'bright' sounding as the other two.

Now, I'll just have to start using them. Have had 'em for a year or so but.......too lazy to keep at it. They do take some getting used to.


Trapdoor2 said:

Yup. I like the aluminum ones a lot. I have 'em in brass, german silver and aluminum. The aluminum ones are significantly lighter, of course. I've been testing them on wire strings...no problems, no significant wear.

Hugh Strawn said:

Anyone tried the aluminum thimble yet? 

I also have them in all three flavors. I use them interchangeably, whichever is closest to the banjo I'm playing... I like them all. The aluminum feels like wearing nothing at all...
I use the brass one for clawhammer on wire strings. I can't play without it.

After a short trial I already see an improvement in my note making consistency--minstrel and clawhammer with wire.  

Under normal situations (at home with Brian, or playing with a friend or two) I usually use a plastic fingerpick, because I like the mellower sound, and it's not too overpowering.  If I'm playing in boisterous jams or at an outdoor gig where sound gets swallowed up, i'll use the metal thimble...to be honest, it's louder and sharper sounding than i normally like.

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