Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Stuart Mason
  • Los Osos, CA
  • United States
  • 10 yr
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Started this discussion. Last reply by Stuart Mason Jun 20, 2014. 2 Replies

http://www.aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/congo-square-soul-new-orleans"Other instruments used were the…Continue

Minstrel Jigs

Started this discussion. Last reply by Stuart Mason Jun 9, 2014. 5 Replies

I'm new to the minstrel world, but on first blush, many of the old 2/4 "jigs" sound to me a bit like Irish barn dances from Donegal. Which makes sense I suppose. I've heard it said that barn dances…Continue

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How long have you played banjo?
10 yr
What kind of banjo(s) do you own?
custom open back oldtimey

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Comment Wall (8 comments)

At 3:23pm on September 29, 2015, Al Smitley said…

I wouldn't be overly concerned.  Yes, the site is called "Minstrel Banjo" but I don't think it hurts to widen our views, sometimes.  Maybe I'm wrong but as I stated before, I like to apply other period genres to the 19th C banjo and frankly have to assume 19th C players did as well.  For example, Converse included "Rainbow Schottisch" in his 1865 Method for the Banjo.  Tim even posted a couple of original tunes he composed in the style of this genre.  If we stuck, strictly to "Minstrel Banjo", we might run out of material.

At 8:09pm on September 29, 2015, James Pentecost said…

I liked it.  I guess I never read the rules. 

At 9:50pm on September 29, 2015, Richard Katz said…
Rules? No way! I enjoyed it also, Stuart.
I believe music should be played in the style most comfortable for the performer as I also have seen historic evidence on this site, and others, that supports this. Stroke style, two finger upstroke style, and guitar style were all used during the Minstrel period. I realize that the tutors predominantly promoted stroke style, but other styles were also being used then as they are today.
I would hope that we would be accepting different styles of playing as long as what is produced in musical and a joy to listen to. Isn't that the goal after all to make music?
Thanks for listening to my rant. Be kind to one another.
At 6:25am on September 30, 2015, Al Smitley said…

I wasn't intending to come down on Dan'l, either.  I'm just saying that most who embrace the "minstrel" style transition from other styles and there will also be those who play on the fringe.  After all, music is a creative endeavor.  I just think that, unless, "minstrel" banjo is in danger of being pushed aside or crowded out of it's own site, I don't see a big problem.

At 1:27pm on September 30, 2015, Stuart Mason said…

I hear you, fellas, and thanks for your kind words. I totally enjoy this website and the music found here, and I can see where it might lose its punch if it were too diluted by non-minstrel styles of banjo. Thanks to ALL of you for sharing this wonderful old music with us. It has been a strong influence on what I play--maybe not so much the old repertoire, but more the instruments for sure. Peace out.

At 7:11pm on September 30, 2015, Richard Katz said…
What I was referring to by saying "music played in the style most comfortable to the performer" was the style of stroke, whether it be stroke style, two finger upstroke style, or guitar style. All three were used during the Minstrel period.
I was not referring to other genre of music outside the Minstrel repitoire and I agree that this site should pretty much stick to Minstrel period music as the title suggests.
There is definitely enough Minstrel period music to keep us all busy for many years of learning. I for one am just starting to learn and appreciate Minstrel music.
At 1:21am on October 1, 2015, Richard Katz said…
The African buchundu (similar to the akonting) played by the Manjago people of Senegal and Gambia use upstroke two finger style of playing. No reason no to suspect that this style also came with them to the States and was used as well as stroke style during the Minstrel period.
The Jola akonting playing style is more akin to Minstrel stroke style.
You can watch Lawrence Mendy play the buchundu with upstroke two fing style on Youtube at:
At 9:23pm on October 2, 2015, Richard Katz said…
Just because the tutors promoted stroke style doesn't necessarily mean that other styles were not being used. Guitar style, at least, is mentioned in the tutors, which in itself is very close to two finger playing.
The only proof we have that certain styles were used are the printed tutors as far as I have seen, thus really isn't conclusive proof that other styles were not being used.
I would say that the styles used today by African musicians (stroke and two finger) are more proof of what their ancestors played than not.
I still believe that all three styles were common then as many styles of playing are common today depending on what suits a particular musician.

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