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 Strumelia Apr 2. 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

150 Verses of Jim Crow

Started Dec 28, 2011 0 Replies

Some of you may have come on this already. I stumbled onto it on the Library of Congress website while looking for something else. (totally unrelated) Longest version of a song I've ever seen. It…Continue


Ian Bell's Page

Latest Activity

Charles Edward Lee liked Ian Bell's video
Oct 9
Charles Edward Lee liked Ian Bell's video
Oct 9
Ian Bell replied to Strumelia's discussion October is GOURD BANJO MONTH ! Show the love!
""Hear Hear!" I'm going to the Hallmark store to demand greeting cards!"
Sep 23
Ian Bell commented on Mark Weems's video

The Country Bumkins

"That Swings!"
Sep 20
Ian Bell replied to Hugh Strawn's discussion Now for my first "stupid" question.
"If you look at the old books you'll see they were absolutely playing Scottish & Irish music on them in the 1850s. In the Briggs book alone we have - Fisher's Hornpipe, Monymusk, and Alabama Joe - which is actually the Cornish hymn…"
Aug 6
Ian Bell commented on James Pentecost's video

Ashborn banjo

"Boy, does that ever ring nicely! Good tunes too. Who made the banjo?"
Aug 6
Ian Bell commented on Tim Twiss's video

Flockton's Hornpipe

"Neat tune - the B part contains a bit of musical DNA from some other tune and it's driving me nuts trying to figure out which one! I'll report back if it comes to me."
Jul 29
Ian Bell commented on Paul Draper's video

Fancy Dance.

"That's a curious little number. I often wonder where the tunes like that in the old books came from. It seems to be somewhere between a march and a clog hornpipe. I get the sense (from the fingering) that it was actually put together on the…"
Jul 29
Wes Merchant liked Ian Bell's video
Jul 23
Ian Bell replied to John Masciale's discussion Time to help pay for this site
"Am I too late to help? I couldn't get into any of the donation links."
Jul 23
Ian Bell commented on Ian Bell's video


"I can't find the first one (Pledge Break #1) anywhere. Seems to have disappeared into cyber-limbo."
Jul 23
Tim Twiss liked Ian Bell's video
Jul 23
Ian Bell commented on Ian Bell's video


"Is commenting enough to bring it up again?"
Jul 23
Ian Bell commented on Mark Weems's video

Old Plantation Girls

"Good tune, and the banjo sounds amazing. That picture is one that used to turn up in all the Canadian history school textbooks, called "French Canadian Dance". It was credited to George Heriot, who painted Canadian scenes in the 1790s. I…"
Jul 20
Ian Bell replied to Wes Merchant's discussion Here's one looking for a good home and lots of TLC
"Looks like a great project. Somebody spent a lot of time playing barre chords at the fifth and seventh frets!"
Jul 13
Ian Bell commented on Bob Sayers's photo

Early Uilleann Pipes

"It really isn't any more outrageous than the women's outfits worn for "traditional" Irish step-dancing today."
Jul 3

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 (14 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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