Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

I asked John to add a Blog tab alongside Banjo Clubhouse and other things on the banner here. Experience on the Ning Classic Banjo site has shown that they can be quite popular and interesting. You don't have to have anything new or profound to say, although it would be fine if you did...and folk can comment. It's not like the Forum, as it is more personal, but can still be of interest to others.

Curiously, although John just set up the Blog tab today, there are already 5 blog posts but from different time periods. Not sure how that happened.

So, now to my Blog...

I ordered a gourd banjo a couple of weeks ago, but it was due to arrive when I was on holiday in London and Oxford, so I asked Nate Calkins to hold back for a week. He sent it a couple of days ago, and tracking it on the net I see that it has arrived in the UK, but will be held up in customs for a few days. Really looking forward to its arrival.

I have tried playing stroke style but have failed miserably. I can get some success with the use of a reversed finger pick, but it never feels totally comfortable - either it's too tight or feels like it will fall off. I purchased a dedicated clawhammer pick by Perfect Touch - it sounds better than what I had been using, but it really doesn't feel comfortable at all. So when the gourd banjo arrives I'll try not to use a pick, just my finger. We'll see.

I will also play it with up picking. This might seem anathema to some, but there is some evidence it was used. Converse described seeing a black gourd player using up picking, but only the the index finger along with the thumb. Converse also wrote stroke 'style' pieces for 'guitar' technique, seemingly indicating that although the stroke style was best for the true banjo style, guitar style was acceptable with the same repertoire. Well, I've tried it, and it sounds OK to my ears, but might offend some. Maybe I'll be brave enough to upload a file someday.

Views: 23

Comment by Rob MacKillop on August 13, 2009 at 10:35am
This hasn't appeared in the Latest Activity box on the Main page - so I'm replying to it as a test to see if this does...
Comment by John Masciale on August 13, 2009 at 2:35pm
I started by using standard clawhammer picks, but did not feel they were period accurate. George made me one from Converse's book, and I always felt it was going to fall off my finger. So, I ended up modifying the design until I was comfortable with it. They are made from sheet brass, which I cut out and hammer and file to smooth them out. I then bend them around a steel rod, and have been very happy with them.
Comment by Rob MacKillop on August 13, 2009 at 2:39pm
You should sell them...
Comment by Trapdoor2 on August 14, 2009 at 9:40am
Here's a link to John Balch's clawhammer picks tutorial. I use the ACRI pick, modified per John's instructions for Stroke playing (esp. when I need the volume).

http://www.johnbalchmusic.com/picks.html

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