Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

11/26/12

http://timtwiss.com/musicstore/

Today I began the last leg of the Buckley adventure. Above is the address where you can tune in and check it out. This will certainly be the most challenging, as it contains the fiddle repertoire in the back. Many are written with one or two sharps, and there is no thumb string indication. What to choose....thumb string as "D" or "E"? I'll talk about it one by one as i get there...so far as I'm concerned, if there is no thumb string indicator, interpretation is up for grabs. These were just added without much thought to being an actual banjo arrangement. I'm sure they were thought out and played by banjoists. What this tells me is that the source is unlimited if we use the fiddle repertoire. Buckley also published fiddle books. He even inducated in this book that these can be played on the fiddle.

Hang on as the fretless goes up into the upper atmosphere. I believe this is fretted territory, but I am going to do them all on fretless. Possible, but not practical...is how i view many of these.

I begin with Picayune Butler's Harmonic Jig. I "found a way" after thinking about it and trying lots of options. The indications for playing the harmonics are not totally clear. See what you think. 

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Comment by Tim Twiss on November 26, 2012 at 11:01pm

Added The Selim Smiter (what is that anyway??) and Hard Times. Smiter is a straight ahead melody. Nothing banjo like at all. Similar to a few in The Christy book. Hard Times....I just could not play the form as written. Gotta be a line missing or something. Anyway, I repeated the A section, and did not play the full length of B until the second time through. Trying to balance out all that repetition.

Comment by Tim Twiss on November 27, 2012 at 10:05am

11/27/12 - RH 41%...good morning for recording

Adding Spanish Waltz and R. Bishop's Hornpipe. On Spanish Waltz, I went back and forth with stroke and fingerstyle....alas it ended up total hybrid. I like being able to switch around. I really like the feel and the sound of the nail. Don't get wrong...not knockin' the thimble, but for subtle complex phrases, nothing beats that control, feel, and sound of the the natural nail. I must add again that I grind mine down to the nub. Bishop's Hornpipe...this laid well. It had a few harmonic surprises. I just went with the written page and figured it was on me to get used to the sound. I also used high bass, even though it was not indicated. play it...you'll see why. also, this was one of the few spots I have ever seen something written 8va.

Comment by Tim Twiss on November 27, 2012 at 9:45pm

And now, coming up to a favorite...Jake Bacchus' Jig. For me, this was the first encounter with "key" and "pitch" difficulty. Since the entire book we are reading from here...Buckley 1860, references "E" as the thumbstring, it would make sense to do it to this tune also...even though it has 2 sharps. So, I learned it that way. Stupid me...I get to AEBG II, and folks are playing it otherwise with "D" as a thumbstring. I could not transpose on the fly, so I had to tune my banjo up...for one stinkin' tune. I am convinced that there are no rules or protocal for playing a fiddle tune with no thumbstring reference. Choose it by the ease of the arrangement...i.e. what suites the banjo the best, unless you KNOW you will be playing with others in a specific "Concert" pitch. Sooo....a fiddle player would be matched in pitch if you think "Briggs'" on this one. 

Comment by Strumelia on November 27, 2012 at 11:19pm

Added The Selim Smiter (what is that anyway??)

Selim is a Turkish male person's name, smiter is one who 'smites' or inflicts heavy blows or conquers.

That's all I can guess.  Maybe someone wrote a tune to celebrate some long ago fistfight or boxing match?

Comment by Tim Twiss on November 28, 2012 at 9:32am

11/28/12

He was a leader in the expansion of the Turkish Empire as I see. Thanks for the tip. Perhaps he "smited" those in his path.

Today, I added "Dr. Hecock's Jig". This one worked out better than I thought it would. I really "felt" something for it as a banjo arrangement. I think sometimes it is necessary to not re-create a fiddle song, but make it into something meaningful for the banjo. Might not be really fast, but I did feel a groove. It is different from one appearing in Dan Emmett's manuscript.

 

Comment by Strumelia on November 28, 2012 at 10:47am

I really "felt" something for it as a banjo arrangement. I think sometimes it is necessary to not re-create a fiddle song, but make it into something meaningful for the banjo.

I think this is an important approach, Tim.  Any skilled musician can distill and write a 'blueprint' standard notation or a play-by-number tab for fiddle tunes, polkas, laments, jigs, ballads, parlor songs, etc.  As you noted in your comment on the French national anthem, this doesn't necessarily mean it's a good banjo tune or that it sounds good played on a banjo.  This is a problem I have with some tutor book choices.  Personally I suspect that many of these tutor pieces never got played much because they might have been very 'people friendly', and were pieces that had acedemic appeal to the author and helped pad out the book.  I find this to be true of many modern tab/instruction books for mandolin, dulcimer, banjo, etc.  One have to sift through some pretty dry stuff to pick out the little gems. 

Disclaimer: sometimes one person's discard is another person's treasure, and a good player can usually make almost any tune compelling and enjoyable.  I just like to start with something that feels kinda 'banjo-y'.   Hmm, what defines that?- sounds like a good thread topic.   :)

Comment by Strumelia on November 28, 2012 at 10:48am

I meant to write:

because they might not have been very 'people friendly'

Comment by Strumelia on November 28, 2012 at 10:50am

and i meant to write:  'academic'.  

Oh, the cruel irony !!   lol!

Comment by Tim Twiss on November 28, 2012 at 11:27am

Thanks for those comments. It seems that most growth comes from stretching a boundry. I guess you don't know you've gone too far until the ridiculous points itself out.

Comment by Strumelia on November 28, 2012 at 11:35am

I guess you don't know you've gone too far until the ridiculous points itself out.

I've yet to find that limitation pointed out for myself.   Usually others step in and help.   LOL!   ;D

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