Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Due to my freshness into the minstrel banjo world, I was wondering why some players prefer to use thimbles? To me they would seem like a hinderance while playing, but I can see why players would like to use them. Where they used often in minstrel bands? Thanks for the help.

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In the famous eulogy for Tom Briggs, it was said he used a thimble because he played so hard and he needed it to avoid "tearing his fingernail" off.  I think the main reason people use thimbles is that you can get a consistantly clean, clear sound with maximum volume.  To this end, many modern clawhammer-style players will use those glue-on fingernails, or other methods to reinforce the nail.  Many people use nothing at all.  It's all a matter of preference.

And yeah, they can be a hinderance, until you get used to them, like anything else.

It's kinda like asking why guitarists use a plectrum?  Or why the violinist uses a bow?  Period documentation Showa that they were more often used than not.  Did every banjoist use them, no.  Did most of the pros?  Yep, I have reason to believe they did.  Like Carl wrote, they might be akward at first, but so is riding a bike, swimming... or even playing the banjo.  Even Paganini had to practice.

Carl Anderton said:

In the famous eulogy for Tom Briggs, it was said he used a thimble because he played so hard and he needed it to avoid "tearing his fingernail" off.  I think the main reason people use thimbles is that you can get a consistantly clean, clear sound with maximum volume.  To this end, many modern clawhammer-style players will use those glue-on fingernails, or other methods to reinforce the nail.  Many people use nothing at all.  It's all a matter of preference.

And yeah, they can be a hinderance, until you get used to them, like anything else.

What I really like the thimbles for is playing high notes.  My finger nails are not that hard, and I get a much cleaner sound above 5th position when using the thimble.

I guess I should add that even though I make and sell them, I still encourage folks to make their own if they want.  Converse gave a pattern that has been posted here a few times and is available again in reprint.  The ones I make represent a "factory" style of goods- consistent and well finished and machine stamped pattern.  You can bet folks made made their own.

I've made one from a normal finger pick bent a bit... its a bit ht and miss though... im going to get one of yours Joel and give that a try. They look a lot nicer too.

My nail is constantly breaking because of the job i do... steel work, welding, woodwork fiberglass - all bad for keeping you nails long.

Thanks for the help guys. Must have been playing super hard to tear nails with gut strings!!

I use my JH thimble on my 'jo and occasionally on my dulcimer and washboard. I'm intending to purchase a few more for back-ups.

Ryan

 As in travis pickin style guitar and thumbpicks,,, you either like them or not.  Im with you on the not, I prefer to be a non thimblist.   to each is own ,  I really have a hard time imagining any "working folk" that were playing really worrying about the nails or thimble. Suremight be different with  the professional minsterels.  But my desire is more the common man approach.            just  "the fellow with a stump of a cigar in his mouth"

Cigar? No one told me I had to puff a stogie to play banjo! Are the Round Peak Police watching for cigars, too?

Paul

 LOL  Its just a quote I remember from Americas Instrument.  Its something Stewart said about the dangers of Dobsons simplified system,,, and a pic, that had a guy representing it.  Just stuck in my head. Wish I could find the pic for you
 
Paul Certo said:

Cigar? No one told me I had to puff a stogie to play banjo! Are the Round Peak Police watching for cigars, too?

Paul

Do you mean this one?



Steve Jeter said:

 LOL  Its just a quote I remember from Americas Instrument.  Its something Stewart said about the dangers of Dobsons simplified system,,, and a pic, that had a guy representing it.  Just stuck in my head. Wish I could find the pic for you
 
Paul Certo said:

Cigar? No one told me I had to puff a stogie to play banjo! Are the Round Peak Police watching for cigars, too?

Paul

Great shot!

 

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