Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

This has been great. Since there is a lull, I'd like to jump in and suggest the next one. How about "What's Going On?" from the monumental and unique Rice Book of 1858? This one is not complicated, but the rhythmic figures and fingering are of a particular flavor that is truly "Early". Notice the Dactyl (bum ditty) and then the contrasting Anapest (ditty bum). 

I put up two photos.....tab, and the original. 

We should take two weeks to give all people time to digest turkey and music

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This is an interesting tune for me. Unfortunately, my banjos are 500mi away.

First, I would point out in your tab, Tim, that you might try the measure 12 D# as notated (it would be a 4th fret note) rather than a D natural (3rd fret) as all the other Ds in the piece. I think it sounds better as notated (D#). Also, that 1/4 note rest really should be a 1/8 note rest...but not having my copy of Rice here, I can't look up how he notated either...so I can only go with how the tune feels to me. 

Second, I find that the first part just doesn't flow very well. The pickup puts the accent on the wrong note of the next measure...and that makes the whole first 5 measures hard to count. That 1/8 note rest in bar 5 forces the bar to be short 1/8 beat, but allows measure 6 to start on the proper note. If you use a 1/4 note rest, it forces an uncomfortable pause. Yah, it is all "minstrely" but I prefer something I can dance rather than hiccup to.

I reset the piece, simply shifting the bar lines to the left to incorporate the pick-up and it really falls together nicely and becomes a danceable piece. Just my $0.02!

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"Thanks Marc. This should be a fun one to play and discuss. So.....

  • I stick by the D natural. I think it is a misprint. Both from the sound of it, and the precedent set forth by all the other pieces in the book in the key of E with a flat 7th as an intrinsic part of the harmony. ....Go Away Jenny, Hi Hi Charleston Gals, Sandy Boy.
  • That rhythm thing....I think it's fine. Do the reverse engineering from bar 4. That is a quarter rest. Looks like an eighth,,,(Briggs Rest) but it is backwards. 

Should be fun to play and talk about. I set forth an additional task...to line it up with a click and hear it.

My Michigan penny's worth

PS.....even if you don't have your copy....look above.

Yah, I found your pdf of Rice online and was able to confirm his use of a crotchet (1/4) rest. I still don't like it. ;-) On the flip side, when it is 'straightened out', it sounds very 'clawhammery'...and loses some of the wacky rhythm stuff we associate with early banjo tunes.

I dunno about the harmony. That D sharp sounds really good to me and gives it a bit of chromaticism. I do understand the misprint thing but as soon as I heard it, I liked it!

I have an mp3 of it but I'd rather hear how folks interpret it without ever hearing it played by a robo-banjo.

This one falls in the "can be played on a 4-string" early banjo tune category. The bass string ain't used.

===Marc



Timothy Twiss said:

"Thanks Marc. This should be a fun one to play and discuss. So.....

  • I stick by the D natural. I think it is a misprint. Both from the sound of it, and the precedent set forth by all the other pieces in the book in the key of E with a flat 7th as an intrinsic part of the harmony. ....Go Away Jenny, Hi Hi Charleston Gals, Sandy Boy.
  • That rhythm thing....I think it's fine. Do the reverse engineering from bar 4. That is a quarter rest. Looks like an eighth,,,(Briggs Rest) but it is backwards. 

Should be fun to play and talk about. I set forth an additional task...to line it up with a click and hear it.

My Michigan penny's worth

PS.....even if you don't have your copy....look above.

This is another one for which I do not know the source material.

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