Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

All Blog Posts (282)


Guilty! Man, sometimes it is hard to not push tempos on this stuff. Sometimes it just starts too quick. Sometimes it creeps up. Sometimes both. It takes discipline to hold them back. 

Added by Tim Twiss on May 29, 2011 at 11:30pm — 3 Comments

Kansas still there Carl?

Hey Carl,

Has your part of the State been affected by all the tornado activity in the past week?

Added by Ian Bell on May 26, 2011 at 9:33pm — 1 Comment

Vai and Swaine

I put up 2 images. Monsters from different eras.

Added by Tim Twiss on May 25, 2011 at 10:22pm — 7 Comments

Rob Morrison in Chapel Hill, Mark Weems in Durham

Rob, two players within 15 miles and we don't know each other? please get in touch!

Added by Mark Weems on May 21, 2011 at 10:16am — 11 Comments

National Jukebox

I was just put onto another fine service of the Library of Congress - "The National Jukebox" - http://www.loc.gov/jukebox/?loclr=jb_004 lots of banjo stuff from the usual suspects (Van Epps/Ossman)

I haven't really checked it out very thoroughly.  Unfortunately, being an ethical federal government agency they won't let you download - This of course is to ensure that Vess L. Ossman will continue to be able to buy shoes for his…


Added by Ian Bell on May 11, 2011 at 6:19pm — No Comments

Van Bramer

It's a rainy morning here in Michigan, so I thought I'd pull out a couple of snappy minor jigs on my Boucher with the (shhhh) Renaissance head, which makes it unstoppable under any condition. The first one is Van Bramer's Jig, from Dan Emmett's manuscript. I found that Van Bramer was a singer/dancer that Joe Sweeney performed with in Philadelphia in 1842. It segues into Bell's Canadian Minor Jig, my own composition named for the famed musican/ scholar to the north. It's cooking as I write this. 

Added by Tim Twiss on May 6, 2011 at 7:22am — No Comments


I hope we hear from Marc Smith...????

You okay?

Added by Tim Twiss on April 28, 2011 at 5:27pm — 8 Comments

Banjo Heaven?

Yesterday I spent a little time in the "banjo room" at the Twelfth Fret music store in Toronto. I played a few nice banjos including a Menzies tackhead, but mostly steel string.

Listen, If you ever get a chance to play banjo in a small room with a couple of dozen other, mostly pretty high-end banjos hanging, perfectly-tuned on the wall around you....do it!  It was like a playing a giant surround sound instrument with epic sustain. The music of the spheres.  "Peanut Gal" took on…


Added by Ian Bell on April 27, 2011 at 6:05am — 8 Comments

Spring Is Here

As Solomon said in his excellent song, "The voice of the turtle is heard again in the land". It's been a long winter up here, but the last bit of piled snow melted on the weekend, the temperature and humidity shot up, and the bridges of my tackheads are sinking into their skins like fat men on trampolines. I don't mind saying I'm feeling a little conflicted about all this.

Added by Ian Bell on April 11, 2011 at 3:57pm — 1 Comment

FYI--   A Boucher-like, probably 1850's double-headed banjo showed up today on the Bernunzio website.  It's already on hold, but it's fun to check out.  I haven't seen many double-sided banjos before…



A Boucher-like, probably 1850's double-headed banjo showed up today on the Bernunzio website.  It's already on hold, but it's fun to check out.  I haven't seen many double-sided banjos before.  The hardware is very odd and primitive.



Added by Rob Morrison on April 6, 2011 at 6:31pm — No Comments

7-string Flush-fret Banjo On eBay

A seven string - anyone got two extra fingers they don't know what to do with?



Added by Ian Bell on April 5, 2011 at 6:14am — No Comments


Today Ms. Judy was talking with her Grade 3s at Fairview School about different percussion instruments and thought she'd show them the Youtube video of the gang at last year's AEBG with Elaine playing the jawbone. The kids were highly entertained at the sight (and sound) of all those banjos - not to mention the jawbone!  This was so successful they moved on to the "related video" that popped up of  Carl and Joel playing "Funeral March Of An Old Jawbone" at Frank Converse's graveside in Elmira,… Continue

Added by Ian Bell on April 4, 2011 at 8:40pm — No Comments


Here is some quick tab for a few tunes we have been talking about. Here is a part of Bryant's Jig (referenced from Buckley 1868...with the "Rice" tuning in "E".)

Also, Coon Hunt Walk Around from Yellow Converse 1865. Disclaimer for any errors...ha!  

Added by Tim Twiss on January 20, 2011 at 11:01am — No Comments

Rice Tunes

I hope you enjoy the last batch of Rice tunes I posted. Something felt really good about those tempos I hit. Please feel free to comment on your interpretation of how these go. I am starting to repeat songs, and justly so. I went back to my first YouTube songs, and almost felt like I should start over. Although not horrible, I can feel how much I've changed and developed the last couple of years. Taping is a great catalyst toward improvement. The first tune I ever put up was "Sandy Boy". It… Continue

Added by Tim Twiss on January 16, 2011 at 3:30pm — No Comments

Introducing... me

Thought I would introduce myself as I am new to this site.


I have been playing tenor banjo for roughly three years, an outgrouth of my interest in guitar, mandolin and banjo mandolin.. My focus musically is pre WW2 blues and have been surprised to learn that the banjo can be a terrific blues instrument.... I had been away from self-made music for quite a few years so when I began playing guitar again it led to other stringed instruments and the banjo really  struck a…


Added by Bart McNeil on January 4, 2011 at 12:28pm — No Comments

Happy New Year

A good new year to all at MB.

I'm heading down to my museum in Port Dover for the annual "Captain's Polar Bear Levee & Old-Time Fiddle Party" which takes place just after the Polar Bear Plunge at the Beach in which brave souls (not me) take a (brief) swim in frigid Lake Erie. There'll be fiddles, accordions, guitars, mandolins, bagpipes, tinwhistles, piano and at least 3 banjars of various species  - good noisy fun for New Years Day!

Added by Ian Bell on January 1, 2011 at 10:44am — 1 Comment


Hey Brian. I hope you find that case suitable to tote that Wunder in. I have been using them for a few years. Not period, but practical. Have a great holiday, and stop back to the shop sometime.


Added by Tim Twiss on December 20, 2010 at 4:45pm — No Comments

Enjoy the Holiday

Happy Thanksgiving to all my compadres below the 49th Parallel!

We had ours 6 weeks ago and I had such a good time I think I might just do it again!

(Come to think of it my part of Ontario is below the 49th too - so why not?)

Added by Ian Bell on November 25, 2010 at 12:59pm — No Comments


If anyone's in the market, there's a tackhead with a Dobson-esque peghead on ebay. Closes in a couple of days. I didn't notice a maker's name anywhere on the listing but probably worth taking a look at.

Added by Ian Bell on November 12, 2010 at 11:33am — No Comments

Grapevine Twist - Cripple Creek

For your consideration:

Is Cripple Creek a distant descendent of Grapevine Twist?

I was playing the GT and CC kept popping into my head.

It's a stretch.

Added by Ian Bell on October 14, 2010 at 6:59am — 2 Comments


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