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 Jan 26 0 Replies

Does anyone know of a good place to look online for old catalogue images of turn of the (20th) century banjos? I just fixed up a dreadful old tub for someone (32 brackets, painted on fretboard, and…Continue


Started this discussion. Last reply by Ian Bell Jan 21, 2015. 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


Ian Bell's Page

Latest Activity

Andy Chase liked Ian Bell's photo
3 hours ago
Ian Bell commented on Ian Bell's photo

Fun new/old banjo

"Cheers Joel! "
Joel Hooks commented on Ian Bell's photo

Fun new/old banjo

"Cool banjo Ian!  It was not built as, or intended to be, a "steel string" banjo.  As with all good regular (or five string) banjos built before the late 1920s, gut was it. L&H built them.  They were good copiers and made…"
Wes Merchant liked Ian Bell's photo
Wes Merchant liked Ian Bell's photo
Ian Bell posted a photo

Fun new/old banjo

I picked up a nice steel string banjo at a local auction on the weekend. It's a Lyon & Healy "Mystic" - from about 1895 as far as I can tell. It's "mutated" a fair bit from its original form, with new planetary tuners, steel strings and a…
Ian Bell liked Chris Prieto's video
Jun 11
Ian Bell liked Mark Weems's video
May 26
Ian Bell liked Timothy Twiss's video
May 26
Chris Prieto liked Ian Bell's video
May 15
Ian Bell commented on Ian Bell's video


"I think those variations (more-or-less) Can be found in "Ryan's Mammoth Collection" and its offspring, Cole's "One Thousand Fiddle Tunes". My long-time fiddling partner Anne Lederman had yet another part that went down…"
May 15
Al Smitley commented on Ian Bell's video


"Seems like we discussed this but I don't see it here.  I usually play the 3rd and 4th parts, too, but do you know the provenance of it?  Seems like the Ford Orchestra used 4 parts but I don't know if it predates the Ford…"
May 15
Timothy Twiss liked Ian Bell's video
May 15
Ian Bell commented on Al Smitley's video

Base Ball Polka, 1867

"Ain't that a jaunty little number! Love the visuals as well."
Apr 26
Ian Bell liked Al Smitley's video
Apr 26
Ian Bell replied to Chris Prieto's discussion Folks seem to love the grapevine twist
"I think I may have said this here before, but I've always felt that "Grapevine Twist" shares some kind of vague kinship with "Cripple Creek" -  at least in general shape. Starts up high but not too notey, with a busy B…"
Apr 26

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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