Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Andantino in G Major, composed by Ferdinando Carulli and published in 1825. Performed on guitar, banjo and bass banjo.

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Comment by Tom Berghan on May 16, 2017 at 12:11pm
This performance is a fantasy of how I imagine this Andantino might have been played by African American plantation string band musicians who we know were exposed to European music traditions and in some cases schooled in the performance of European music. As this crowd knows, these musicians combined European music with their own African and Caribbean traditions and African/Caribbean instruments such as the gourd banjo, and later the Early American Banjo. I hope you enjoy it. Oh . . . and yes, there were bass banjos in the 19th century! Best Wishes, Tom
Comment by CURTIS PAYNE on May 16, 2017 at 9:12pm

is there any guitar and banjo tab or sheet music of what you played? 

Comment by Tom Berghan on May 16, 2017 at 10:06pm
Hi Curtis, There is "Sheet Music" for Carulli's Andantino in G (and he published hundreds of other works as well). I improvised both the banjo and bass-banjo parts (so no help there I'm afraid). Let me know if you want the sheet music for the guitar part.
Comment by CURTIS PAYNE on June 17, 2017 at 9:07am

where and what can I find out about a bass banjo? 

Comment by Tom Berghan on June 17, 2017 at 9:25am
Hi Curtis, my bass banjo was made custom for me by GoldTone. Price was very reasonable. Clink on this link for photos: http://www.banjohangout.org/myhangout/photos.asp?id=40254&album... Mine has a 14 inch rim, is fretless (don't get frets it changes the tone), 32 inch scale, and has a thick calf skin head. Call them and ask to speak with Wayne Rogers (the founder). He will remember it, tell him you want the same thing (if you decide you want one). I love mine.
Comment by CURTIS PAYNE on June 17, 2017 at 11:16am

thanks, it really adds to the sound. 

Comment by Tom Berghan on June 17, 2017 at 11:29am
We have evidence that bass banjos existed in the mid 19th century. Although, probably not too common. I am no expert, but I believe that most 19th century bass banjos were extremely large and closer to the size of a double bass. But the strings I use ARE a type of string that existed in the Antebellum and my bass banjo sounds great and is easier to carry around than a double bass.
Comment by Joel Hooks on June 17, 2017 at 5:18pm

Hi Tom, I am curious as to the evidence that you have about bass banjos in the mid century.  All that have seen shows them to be the product of the Banjo Clubs of the late 1880s with S. S. Stewart leading the other manufacturers on producing them.  Thomas Armstrong was one of the big promoters of the "Cello Banjo" (what they called what we call a "bass" banjo) used in clubs or "orchestras" and wrote a series of articles for the Stewart Journal about proper decided accompaniment with the cello playing the root note and the 2nd banjos playing the chords on the next beat.

Comment by Tom Berghan on June 17, 2017 at 5:39pm

Hi Joel, there is not a lot of evidence (as I alluded) but I have spotted a few old newpaper articles that mention very large banjos.  This is one of my favorites from the year 1858: http://minstrelbanjo.ning.com/photo/a-monster-concert-interrupted-1...

Comment by Joel Hooks on June 17, 2017 at 7:41pm

Okay now I understand.  I think a "large banjo" had a different role than a true octave low bass or cello banjo.  There was a common concept of pitching (I don't use "tuning") the banjo to suit the size.  There was also the common novelty act that would use special instruments to draw a crowd.

I might have been taking your use of "bass banjo" literally, in the way a bass horn or violin is related to the bass banjo in a ensemble.  That was a product of the late 1880s. 


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