Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Ian Bell
  • Male
  • Paris, Ontario
  • Canada
  • off and on (mostly off) for 40 yrs.
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Ian Bell's Friends

  • Will Chappell
  • Paul Draper
  • James Pentecost
  • Strumelia
  • Al Smitley
  • Mark Weems
  • Dena Lee
  • Christopher Olson
  • Stephen B Kendall
  • Wayne Shrubsall
  • Steve Jeter
  • Ronald Ray Walker
  • Vince Abadie
  • Bell Banjos
  • Chuck Krepley

Ian Bell's Discussions


Started this discussion. Last reply by Ian Bell Jan 21. 3 Replies

Hello all,I'm trying to figure out if I can can attend the Sweeney Weekend, and am wondering if there might be any possible gigging opportunities in that area around that time. I'm booked to play at…Continue


Started this discussion. Last reply by Strumelia Apr 2, 2014. 4 Replies

Ahoy Comrades,Has anyone in the gang ever built a tambourine? My nephew is a hot percussionist with a taste for the bizarre, and he's going off to study music at the University of Toronto next year.…Continue

Lon Morris's Jig - Scordatura?

Started May 19, 2012 0 Replies

Anybody ever taken a run at Lon Morris's Jig in the 1868 Buckley Book?  (p.15)I think he's telling me to retune the banjo to raised bass and with the fifth string tuned flat but then finger the notes…Continue

Converse "G" tuning

Started this discussion. Last reply by Tim Twiss Feb 8, 2012. 4 Replies

Still having fun with my copy of "The Green Book", but I have a question for the Converse aficionados out there — and I know you're out there... In the fingering chart for the key of G, Frank seems…Continue


Ian Bell's Page

Latest Activity

Paul Draper left a comment for Ian Bell
"Thanks Ian. It sure looked like fun from the video you posted."
Jun 21
Ian Bell left a comment for Paul Draper
"Hey Paul, I did get to pass on your greetings to George Ward at Mystic. We were in a "contemporary songs" workshop together. We were the "freshwater reps" at the festival. George is an interesting guy. He said you were putting…"
Jun 20
Ian Bell commented on Mara Eagle's video

Boatman dance

"That's got a nice groove to it!"
Jun 20
Paul Draper left a comment for Ian Bell
"Al - that is correct. Ian - that's great - have fun!"
Jun 6
Ian Bell left a comment for Paul Draper
"Will do, Paul. I'm looking forward to the weekend. (I get to be "Great Lakes Guy") I'm also playing at Havre Le Grace Maritime Museum near Baltimore on Wednesday evening."
Jun 6
Ian Bell commented on Mark Weems's video

Old Jonny Boker at Old Joe Sweeney's Grave

"Ya never know who's going to turn up in the graveyard!"
Jun 6
Al Smitley left a comment for Ian Bell
"I'm guessing that's George Ward who did "Songs of the Erie Canal" on Front Hall records in 1982(?) I'm doing a repeat of a program on the Erie Canal next year and wondered where he got the melody he uses for…"
Jun 6
Paul Draper left a comment for Ian Bell
"Hi Ian - give a shout out to my friend George Ward who may also be performing at the Mystic Sea Music Festival next weekend. George gave me some banjo lessons way back in '06..."
Jun 6
Ian Bell commented on Mark Weems's video

Old Jonny Boker at Old Joe Sweeney's Grave

"Nice - the applause at the end surprised me!"
Jun 6
Ian Bell commented on Mark Weems's video

Ohio River (1839)

"Nice setting of that tune! What are you playing it on?"
May 23
Ian Bell commented on Tim Twiss's video

Too Utterly Too

"One of my favourites, Tim! Thanks to Joel for the Wilde info - I'd been wondering. I love playing this tune on a fretted instrument and throwing in some extra bass notes and chords. My piano-playing buddy Tom has a great accompaniment for it…"
May 23
Ian Bell commented on Mark Weems's video

Boatman's Dance

"It got funky!"
Apr 23
Ian Bell commented on Mark Weems's video

Two Gourds Are Better Than One: Blues Improvisation on two 4-string gourd banjos

"There's some music that's just looking for a movie soundtrack to be part of!"
Mar 8
Ian Bell commented on Mark Weems's video

Alabama Joe w/thumb lick

"OK - I've clearly seen it before - a few times - it's awful gettin' old! Thanks Mark."
Mar 7
Ian Bell commented on Mark Weems's video

Alabama Joe w/thumb lick

"Nicely done - I want to see the rest of that banjo! Is there a photo anywhere on the site?"
Mar 6
Ian Bell commented on Mark Weems's video

Speed the Plough

"That sounds just great! Speed the Plow is the archetype for a few other tunes - Roxburgh Castle, Whiskey Before Breakfast and others..."
Mar 5

Profile Information

How did you find out about Ning Minstrel Banjo?
happy accident
How long have you played banjo?
off and on (mostly off) for 40 yrs.
What kind of banjo(s) do you own?
Three home-made tackheads (one a four-string gourd), A circa 1900 C. Bruno Peerless, nylon strung since about 1975- A Gold Tone open-back since last year

Ian Bell's Photos

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Ian Bell's Videos

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Ian Bell's Blog

Have Fun in Antietam!

Posted on June 18, 2014 at 8:35am 2 Comments

Wish I could come, but pesky work has gotten in the way again. Plunk one out for me!

Has anyone read this book?

Posted on February 7, 2013 at 1:14pm 6 Comments

On Amazon I stubled across this title; The Banjo Entertainers: Roots to Ragtime, a Banjo History.

It's by someone named Lowell H. Schreyer. It's only a few years old…



Posted on January 23, 2013 at 8:04am 6 Comments

I was going through some music looking for something new to play, and landed on General Burnside's Jig.

It only took a couple of bars to realize that I already knew it. It was a version of the tune that's also called The Octaroon Jig, and Emancipation Jig in a couple of other books - only a few notes different. (not any of the important ones)

Boston Jig aka Modoc Reel is another tune with multiple titles (there's at least one more for that too) It would be interesting to do a survey… Continue

Comment Wall (18 comments)

At 12:06pm on February 20, 2010, Carl Anderton said…
That sounds very interesting, Ian, I'd love to take a look at it.
At 9:48pm on March 06, 2010, Tim Twiss gave Ian Bell a gift
At 1:44am on April 7, 2010, Rob MacKillop said…
Many thanks, Ian. Glad you enjoyed your vacation ;-)
At 11:58am on June 23, 2010, Trevor stevens said…
Thank you for your welcome, I love riding although I was sixty before my first lesson.
I have ridden in some of our ACW battles here in the UK.
Are there any free tabs out there for minstrel banjo?
I love this site, well done to ya'll
At 11:58am on August 26, 2010, Rob MacKillop said…
Thanks, Ian. A very interesting and moving article. I had never heard of Scott. Seems to have been a good un.
At 8:17am on October 18, 2010, Bill Graham said…
Thanks for the greetings. Would have responded but have had computer problems. Darned machines!
At 8:24am on April 10, 2011, Dena Lee said…
Thanks for the welcome, Ian. You are right. I am not beareded. Heehee. Are there good banjo gatherings in your area, I am in Ontario often. None here that arent ALL bluegrass
At 8:43am on April 24, 2011, Dena Lee said…
I thought your town sounded familiar to me. I've been near there on my way to Barrie from London. In a few weeks I will be in Toronto and then Parry Sound. I'll wave as I pass by. :-)
In Toronto, I will be building a fretless tackhead tenor at Jeff Menzies' workshop. Dena
At 7:59pm on July 25, 2011, Strumelia said…
Ian, thank you very much for your welcome greeting.
At 9:13am on August 11, 2011, Dena Lee said…
Hi, Ian.  Here is a picture of Jeff's latest.  I went with him to pick up the gourd at Northern Dipper.  It was my first time there.  What a neat place.  Hope to see you around.
Would you be interested in getting together to compare builder's notes in the future?  I am new at building and always happy to meet with others.


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