Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

The whole thing about thumb strings developed from a discussion about repertoire and styles of Early Banjo. I hope someone wants to jump back in and discuss music. 

Views: 89

Comment by Strumelia on February 10, 2014 at 12:42pm

Name a topic!   :)

Comment by Tim Twiss on February 10, 2014 at 12:59pm

We initially looked at the Howe Banjo Preceptor and the validity of it as an actual banjo book, comparing it's relationship to the other parallel publications by How for flute and violin.

Comment by Tim Twiss on February 10, 2014 at 1:00pm

That is still a topic, and I was hoping that my playing of it, and having the book available, would initiate discussion.

Comment by Tim Twiss on February 10, 2014 at 1:18pm

And much of the idea came from a discussion where he suggests that Sweeney may have played in a more melodic way, as opposed the fashion demonstrated by the Briggs book. He suggests this may be an actual reflection of his playing style. I thought that was an idea worthy of exploring.

Comment by Strumelia on February 10, 2014 at 1:24pm

I actually just printed out the Gumbo Chaff book that you linked to (thanks again!), and was planning to noodle around with some of the tunes this evening.

Have to say I kind of like the fact that the banjo fingering is not laid out for you already in this book, as in the 'tutors'.  It's just the melodies of popular tunes of the time, including tunes and songs known to have been played by the Christy Minstrels.  That the banjo fingering is not indicated gives me the freedom to allow the banjoistic quirks to assert themselves in (hopefully) a natural way that is also appropriate to the genre.

The cover states that it contains "all necessary instruction", with a large collection of music...

So apparently 'Mr Chaff' felt that two half-pages of instruction are really all one needs to play the banjo...give 'em the tuning and shove them over the cliff... but I bet there has been many a great banjo player who started out with less instruction than that!  ;D

Comment by Strumelia on February 10, 2014 at 1:28pm

And much of the idea came from a discussion where he suggests that Sweeney may have played in a more melodic way, as opposed the fashion demonstrated by the Briggs book. He suggests this may be an actual reflection of his playing style. I thought that was an idea worthy of exploring.

I'm sorry, but who do you mean by "he"?

Comment by Paul Draper on February 10, 2014 at 1:34pm

And, has been stated before, those 2 1/2 pages are... interesting.  Here's how you tune your banjo in C and D (where the 2nd string is given as F and not F#);  now, go play these tunes that aren't necessarily in C or D...

Comment by Tim Twiss on February 10, 2014 at 2:00pm

Strumelia, I meant Joe Sweeney. btw...try those without fingerings...and get back to me.

Comment by Strumelia on February 10, 2014 at 3:06pm

Tim, I'm sorry, I'm confused!-  so you mean:

And much of the idea came from a discussion where Sweeney suggests that Sweeney may have played in a more melodic way, as opposed the fashion demonstrated by the Briggs book. Sweeney suggests this may be an actual reflection of Sweeney's playing style. I thought that was an idea worthy of exploring.

Surely that's not what you mean?  Who is this 'he'?

Not trying to bust your chops, honest- I just get so confused when you refer to various books, people, and tunes using pronouns only- maybe I didn't read a sentence from some previous thread, but I fall off the train of thought once it's been removed from the original track and .  So sorry!

I guess I will need to choose a tune from the Gumbo that I haven't already heard a lot and/or experimented with at some point using fingerings from some tab or tutor already, fingerings that might be already seeded in my head for that tune.  I'll try to pick one out tonight.  I tend to learn slowly so I'm afraid I can't just whip one off immediately- I'll give it my best!

It makes me wonder though- here's a thought to discuss-

Once a person is fairly comfortable with stroke style, having learned the fingering of a couple dozen tutor tunes....Just how necessary or desireable is it to continue to follow intricately written out banjo fingering for all these relatively simple folk song melodies?  Is it possible that much of these 'arrangements' are simply the natural result of playing melody phrases using the typical playing and fingering movements that a banjo player of the time might use anyway, once they were comfortable with the innate African-influenced banjo rhythms and syncopations, drone strings, and open tunings?  I mean, it's not an orchestral arrangement of a movie score, after all.  just pondering.  :)

Comment by Tim Twiss on February 10, 2014 at 3:11pm

Oh sorry...

Mark Weems...

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