Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Al Smitley
  • Male
  • Hartland, MI
  • United States
  • 1968-1976 then minstrel banjo since…
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Al Smitley's Discussions

20th C Tim

Started this discussion. Last reply by Chris Prieto Jul 14. 2 Replies

I'm reluctant to post this as I don't know if Tim will be upset with me but...... for those of you who know 19th C Tim, I thought it might be interesting for some to see 20th C Tim.…Continue


Started this discussion. Last reply by Strumelia Mar 1. 3 Replies

I'm embarrassed to admit that I found a whole bunch of messages that I never knew I had.Therefore, I apologize to all those whom I never responded to.  Chalk it up to my ignorance!Continue

Early Minstrel Show CD

Started this discussion. Last reply by david caron Jan 28. 5 Replies

I was just looking on YouTube for some renditions of the Hutchinson Family Singers songs but this came up, nearby.  As great as this CD is, it almost seems to have faded in the background so I…Continue

Email Notices

Started this discussion. Last reply by Chris Prieto Oct 27, 2017. 4 Replies

Can anyone tell me how to stop gmail notifications that tell me that someone replied to a posting I may have once responded to?Continue


Al Smitley's Page

Latest Activity

Al Smitley liked Mark Weems's video
Nov 19
Strumelia commented on Al Smitley's photo

Capo, etc.

"What keys are you wanting to sing in?"
Nov 12
Al Smitley commented on Al Smitley's photo

Capo, etc.

"I'm talking about "limited singing range".  Two frets MIGHT help.  Not sure I'd want to crank up the fifth string that much, though.  I have a Vega long neck which would be perfect but my interest is antebellum…"
Nov 10
Strumelia commented on Al Smitley's photo

Capo, etc.

"Hi Al.  Van you elaborate on what you mean by "your limited range"?  What tuning or range are you trying to achieve in this instance?I ask this because I believe the majority of (fretted) banjo players I know tend to put a capo…"
Nov 10
Al Smitley posted a photo

Capo, etc.

Due to my limited range, I was starting to think of ways to accommodate it with the use of a capo, etc. I would try to find use an old-style capo but what do I do with the 5th string?Anyone have experience with this? On my Sweeney model, the neck…
Nov 10
Strumelia commented on Al Smitley's photo


"Too funny!"
Nov 6
Al Smitley commented on Al Smitley's photo


"I guess we got the idea playing at Greenfield Village that Memorial Day weekend during "Civil War Days". Elaine came up with the verses and of course the chorus was "A - E - B - G" instead of "Y - M - C - A". I'm…"
Nov 4
Paul Draper commented on Al Smitley's photo


"Something about the Greenfield Village People?"
Nov 4
Al Smitley commented on Al Smitley's photo


"I don't think you attended that one, Strum......2015."
Nov 4
Strumelia commented on Al Smitley's photo


"Be afraid.   Be very afraid."
Nov 4
Al Smitley posted a photo


Some might recall what this is about. For others, I'll leave it as a mystery.
Nov 2
Al Smitley commented on Brice Alms's video

Old Dan Tucker On Early Gourd Banjo.

"It's got a good sound!"
Oct 19
Al Smitley commented on Timothy Twiss's video

Taylor's Clog Hornpipe

"Besides, you're in the key of 'G'!"
Oct 17
Al Smitley commented on Timothy Twiss's video

Taylor's Clog Hornpipe

"Shouldn't one of you be wearing a flannel shirt?"
Oct 16
Al Smitley commented on Paul Draper's video

Genuine Negro Jig

"I think Tim and I talked about it, very early on, but I don't ever remember trying it.  I'm willing, however, but I think we've only seen each other once since Memorial Day weekend."
Oct 4
Al Smitley replied to Steve Stroot's discussion Fretting over fretless
"Well, you can't know everything but thanks for responding!"
Sep 26

Profile Information

How did you find out about Ning Minstrel Banjo?
Member/contributor, Tim Twiss
How long have you played banjo?
1968-1976 then minstrel banjo since 2007. Stopped when Tim Twiss wanted me to play fiddle and play banjo, now, only to figure out best keys for various songs/tunes.
What kind of banjo(s) do you own?
Vega long-neck and Hartel Sweeney model

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Comment Wall (18 comments)

At 7:09pm on July 11, 2011, Tim Twiss said…
Hi Al. Do you prefer Friday or Saturday...Aug 5 or 6?
At 10:55am on November 26, 2011, John Masciale said…

Al,  That's the kind of thing you can either add as a link in a thread (there's a way to upload files to a given thread, click on the paperclip icon), or something as generally useful as that we can put under resources.  Elaine has been going through period songsters and has a list of over 1800 songs at this point from the time period.  The list is growing.  I would put your spreadsheet under documetation.


I find that the most useful thing about the Weidlich book is his index of Minstrel Songs and which instructor they are in.  It would be great to have some resources like that here on the site.

At 12:27pm on November 26, 2011, Tim Twiss said…

And there it is...thanks John. I lost sight of the fact you could add files of different types in the Documentation spot. Perfect.

At 11:21am on November 28, 2011, John Masciale said…

Al,  Thanks for sending the tutorial index.  I now have it posted on our documentation page.

At 12:06pm on November 28, 2011, Tim Twiss said…

John...what format is that? New Excel? I could open Al's old one, but not this. Perhaps open office?

At 1:44pm on November 28, 2011, Tim Twiss said…

Never mind...answered my own question...open office for those who are behind.

What a great contribution Al...

At 8:09am on February 3, 2012, Ian Bell said…


I'm not a re-enactor (though I do have a suit of funny clothes in the closet) so I usually don't always have to limit myself to completely period-appropriate performances. When I am doing a historic perfromance I use the "period" instruments that I happen to play — wooden flute, Scottish smallpipes, fiddle and sing unaccompanied. I've never earned the trick of self-accompaniment with fiddle. It's all I can do to play in tune when I'm not singing. 

I mostly do 1812 songs from the Canadian point of view. My repertoire  comes from old manuscripts and early published sources and also includes songs of the time that survived to be collected as part of the folk tradition in Ontario. I've been accumulating this stuff since the early 80s. Canada was much less urban than the eastern US at that time so there weren't nearly as many printed broadsides produced up here. Your Library of Congress website has lots of American 1812 songs online. (I'm envious)

In a concert setting, I'll usually perform this stuff in a more "folksingerly" context, as music from the past that has survived into the present. I use non-period instruments like steel-string guitar, mandolin and concertina and arrange songs to suit my own tastes — which to most people's ears are probably pretty arcane.

At 8:10am on February 3, 2012, Ian Bell said…

Clarifying a bit of bad writing in previous comment - I meant Canada was less urban in 1812 - not the 1980s!

At 7:33pm on May 22, 2012, Jeff said…
I live in Midland
At 8:54pm on March 22, 2013, Tim Twiss said…

Hey Al...the first Thursday of every other month is approaching. Want to join me again? Love to add some of those crazy early ones we have discussed.

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