Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

It's been a while. Perhaps we can revive the "Tune of the Week" again? Post it one week from tomorrow. I propose "Kitty O'Niel's Champion Jig". It's from Ryan's, and is unusual in that it has 7 lines, each with new material. Here's where creative banjo arranging comes into play...do it all, or select segments that you like. Take liberties with the ornaments. It all lays okay on the banjo. You will find several themes already in our banjo repertoire. What says you?

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Count me out. Really busy this week, and besides, that looks hard! I'll be tuning in to hear the contributions.
Aww Rob! Oh well, don't let it stop you from taking a look. It could be a big "cut and paste" tune. Almost any 2 lines could be put together. It turns into a big "Minstrel Banjo Treasure Hunt" to notice familiar themes. It even has a a little "Dick Van Dyke" theme.
I'll try to get it into TAB this evening, Tim. Interesting stuff, lots of mordents and trills...the TAB should be a mess! ;-)
Hey Marc, I would consider leaving out a lot of that stuff. The melodies survive fine without all that. Squares it off a little better for the banjo.
Well...what I would typically do is to put in all the written ornaments and see what happens (I enjoy hearing what the composer intended). If the piece sounds like something I'd want to play, I adjust to suit my ability. Thursday nights are a great time for me to concentrate on tunes, no place to go, few regular chores, 1000 channels on TV...all worthless.
Ok, I got it tabbed. As you said, the mordents and trills can probably be left out. The part with all the half-notes (line 4) isn't especially appealing but I'll reserve judgement for when I can actually sit down and pick thru it. I do like the "F#m interlude" (line 3).

I've run out of time tonight to work on the fingering (and clean up how it prints out). I'll get it posted tomorrow.

===Marc
Baroque music (or musically baroque) question: I looked up mordent and found that it is what I think of as a specialized trill where the main tone is being alternated with a lower tone that is lower by just a half- or whole step.

That made me wonder whether a "trill," strictly speaking, is the same kind of note alternation but higher. When I looked up "trill," there wasn't anything indicating that a trill is that: it appears to be simply that rapid alternation of two notes. It therefore sounds as if a mordent is a type of trill. Is there a name for a trill that bounces off a note up the scale instead of down it?

Is there a full technical vocabulary of types of trill? Ex. A trill that alternates a larger interval than a whole or half step, say, two-and-a-half steps apart...? A trill on a fretless instrument that alternates between an interval that doesn't register on the 12-tone scale, for example, a trill that is more like a vibrato, e.g., between notes less than a half-step apart....? Trills which cross strings?

I realize that the latter questions are probably of no consequence to anyone but a musical rhetorician, but "mordent" is a new term opening a slightly new path of thinking for me about not just ornamentation but music in general: why did the move/technique get that name from a root meaning "to bite"? Why did someone ever make that distinction in the first place? What is the alternative possibility that would call for the distinction to be made? What was the fundamental context of naming that mordent move and not other trill types (in case other hypothetical but actual trill techniques as mentioned above were not noticed or deemed important enough to be named and classified?

I'm guessing that the hearing of the sound of the music is what would initially guide this naming of the mordent, and not mathematical calculation of all theoretically possible moves. That would be impractical given the range of possibilities within the biological parameters of human hearing (which may as well be infinite since hearing would seem to be the ultimate--invisible--horizon of any musicality of the non-deaf). But that thematization and analysis of a piece of music into techniques is just the type of systematic experimentation a musican--like myself--might think through. Music becomes thought as technique in the search for new possibilities.

But what realworld situations give birth to new articulations in language of music? Can music even exist without the language surrounding it and naming it? A thinking based on the playing, and not just as technique isolation and exploration, but in conjuction with transcribing it somehow... don't you need to have a reason to make the distinction? (How would a reasonless distinction appear or exist? Furthermore, I don't name every new "trick" I find when I'm experimenting with the banjo.) Writing the music down, recording it via a code that would have to be decoded, would call a listener-transcriber to invent that "term" for what was heard--that would be just such a reason that might bring a word like "mordent" into being: a need to indicate the sound heard, which brings up the question of why transcribe it....Musical notation is clearly a kind of tool for preserving and transmitting; there's no other reason for it that I can think of. I mean, sure, I use it as wallpaper, but that's not where it comes from, the original context.

I keep getting lost in trying to think. I guess I need to find a good history of musical notation and conception to find historical analysis of specific examples. Music and techniques are not the same thing. Music, musical notation, and language are not the same thing.

I never perceived mordence until I read it and looked it up, even though the phenomenon it describes is common in music I do listen to and even though I actually sometimes play mordents.

Does anyone know of a good example of the kind of analysis I'm needing in order to think this through? I'm trying to think about the thematization of music as a domain of thought, its history and fundamental categories (maybe), and the relation of that thematization to experiencing music and to being a musician.

I believe this does relate fundamentally to the kind of self-conscious retrieval/reenactment of minstrel banjo that is happening in this ning community, however abstruse it may sound.


Trapdoor2 said:
I'll try to get it into TAB this evening, Tim. Interesting stuff, lots of mordents and trills...the TAB should be a mess! ;-)
I basically went with what Converse outlines in his Analytical. I think of trills as "note extenders", esp. on the banjo where one hasn't the sustain to carry much more than a 1/8th note (quaver). I have found no technical terms for the wide variety of trills beyond the codified markings shown in the Wiki article on "trill (music)"

The etymology of mordent seems to me to be appropriate. The movements are rapid and one must aggressively attack the string to get it to sound correctly. That the finger should "bite" the string...well, that's how I would describe it!
Steven,

What you describe is known as the LOWER mordent

--1-o-1---

There is also an UPPER mordent

--o--1--o--

both executed very quickly.

The trill is similar to both but has more (left hand) strikes. This is an upper note trill - starts on the upper note, the 2 is the melody note:

--3-2-3-2-3-2--

the number of times this happens depends on the length of the melody note and the speed of the music. Some periods have preferred lower note trills.

One of the main issues is where the accent lies. In the upper-note trill above, the downbeat is on the 3 - the note which is NOT the melody note. This gives a dissonance which yearns to be resolved. A lower-note trill starting with the melody note on the downbeat is less 'yearning', so to speak.
Here's the tab...with all the fancy ornaments. Leave 'em out if you want...I kinda like 'em.

This piece seems to work pretty well in the Stroke Style, but my TAB is actually kind of half Stroke and half Guitar. I think I could do the whole thing Stroke Style but the decending triplets at the end of the 4th line are easier for me to execute guitar style.

Unfortunately, this is just not an attractive piece for me. I can muddle thru it but it isn't something I want to add to my bag O' tunes.
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Okay. Well, I think this tune kicks ass, but let's muddle through it anyway. Tabbers, watch M13 and M14. I would also suggest trying other fingerings for the triplet figures (M31 and M32 / M48). Think of a more linear descending pattern. If I were reading tab, I think I would rather see the ornament figures, rather than the detailed tab numbers. It is a very busy score, making it look more complicated than it actually is. I am playing it all straight stroke. Perhaps as we look at it this week, we can identify some of the familiar motifs in this "kitchen sink" piece.
I'm muddling...

M13 and M14 ... I just couldn't decide which fingering to use (see M9 & 10, which are indentical except for where I found the notes). Generally, when I can't decide, I tend to put both 'versions' in the tab.

I had the more linear triplets in there initially. If I were playing this on a fretless, I think I would indeed go for the "single string" linearity. I was working thru the piece on a fretted instrument...so guess what came out? :-)

It is busy with the ornaments in. However, I decided to write them out as many people haven't got a clue how they are supposed to look (or be played). These ornaments also may vary in many specifics depending on the player, so don't take my intabulated mordents and trills as "gospel".

It is an interesting piece and I've enjoyed working thru it.

Tim Twiss said:
Okay. Well, I think this tune kicks ass, but let's muddle through it anyway. Tabbers, watch M13 and M14. I would also suggest trying other fingerings for the triplet figures (M31 and M32 / M48). Think of a more linear descending pattern. If I were reading tab, I think I would rather see the ornament figures, rather than the detailed tab numbers. It is a very busy score, making it look more complicated than it actually is. I am playing it all straight stroke. Perhaps as we look at it this week, we can identify some of the familiar motifs in this "kitchen sink" piece.

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