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

Ian Bell commented on Wes Merchant's photo

Banjo Victoria and Albert Museum

"Do you suppose it's round-back or flat-back? It would be interesting to see how sophisticated (or funky) the construction of the sound box actually is."
6 minutes ago
Ian Bell commented on Andy Chase's video

Pitch Burgundy Plaster

"Great little tune. Nice "feel-good" groove too. It's adding to my enjoyment of our first really nice spring weekend up here! (Sounds like it might have concertina potential.) Maybe I'll just follow the bouncing ball... "
Ian Bell commented on Wes Merchant's video

Kimmel's Buck Dance

"(Hit post too soon) Forgot to say "Nice recording, Wes!""
Ian Bell commented on Wes Merchant's video

Kimmel's Buck Dance

"KIMMEL! KIMMEL!! He's my man.... I play a few of his tunes on the accordion. (They take SOME learning) Some of his minor key tunes sound just like the kinds of things you find the Buckley repertoire. There's one called American Cakewalk…"
Strumelia commented on Ian Bell's video


"Nice!   :)"
Apr 8
John Salicco liked Ian Bell's video
Apr 7
Ian Bell commented on Paul Draper's video

Old Johnny Boker Meets Old Jimmy Sutton

"Nice job! I've always liked"Old Jimmy" (blame the Highwoods Stringband) When my son James was a toddler we used to sing it together - "Took my gun and I went a huntin' - BANG went the the gun and down went the mutton -…"
Apr 4
Ian Bell commented on Leonidas Jones's video

Boatman's Dance

"Obsession trumps current skill every time!"
Apr 2
Ian Bell commented on Ian Bell's photo


"Yes - I think the prevailing opinion (this week) is that the bass string is the one Sweeney (or whomever) added, back whenever it was he/they added it. Exhaustive research may eventually reveal that the important string Sweeney added was actually…"
Apr 2
Strumelia commented on Ian Bell's photo


"Did you leave off the low bass string? "
Apr 2
Strumelia commented on Ian Bell's photo


"God, you people are all so incredibly talented!!!   D'OH!!! I can't believe you just threw this together from 'spare parts'....it's gorgeous!"
Apr 2
Strumelia replied to Ian Bell's discussion SEEKING TAMBOURINE ADVICE
"Gotta love tambos... basically hand held frame drums.  Need more drums in our playing, definitely.   :)"
Apr 2
Ian Bell commented on Rob Morrison's video

Money Musk: James Buckley/Henry Reed

"That was great! I love the sound of that banjo. It would be fun to line up all the variation parts of Monymusk tune ) Scottish, American Anglo-Canadian, French-Canadian, Australian) together in one place. I think the tune would go on for about three…"
Apr 2
Ian Bell commented on Ian Bell's photo


"Thanks Andy - The grain was a pleasant surprise that wasn't a all apparent until I rubbed a little stain on. Maybe I should pretend I planned it all along!"
Apr 1
Andy Chase commented on Ian Bell's photo


"Love the grain on the neck... almost looks like oak!"
Apr 1
Andy Chase commented on Ian Bell's video


"Very nice!  I really need to play my gourd banjo more often.  And I need to decide whether I'm going to try to grow gourds again this year.  I planted some kind of late the year before last and wound up with one tiny stunted…"
Apr 1

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

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

Having the guts to repair a string....

Posted on December 16, 2012 at 10:58pm 10 Comments

I broke a string tonight while playing. Judy immediately said, "Wow, I didn't realize I could do that with my mind..." (That's why I love her)
Not a suitable gut spare to be found and not enough left on the peg to make up the difference, but I did have a baggie of random string ends. I now have a 1st string with not one, but two splices in it — one above the nut and one below the bridge. Seems to be holding so far. Three cheers for natural materials.

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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