Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Billy in the Lowground, Early Banjo & Percussion

Tom Berghan - Early Banjo, Tim Miller - Percussion. Recorded November 14, 2017

Views: 132

Comment by Al Smitley on November 15, 2017 at 6:26pm
Nice playing!
Comment by Mark Weems on November 15, 2017 at 10:37pm

Nice experiment! Cool sound.

Comment by Strumelia on November 16, 2017 at 10:53am

Tom, what tuning are you using?

Comment by Tom Berghan on November 16, 2017 at 11:20am
“Tom, what tuning are you using?” Answer: dADF#A (Briggs high)
Comment by Strumelia on November 16, 2017 at 11:37am

ok so that's 'high bass tuning'  ....a 2.5 steps lower equivalent of standard oldtime G tuning.  Maybe i'm mistaken, but it sounds to me like you are playing in clawhammer style.  To me, there are more similarities than differences between clawhammer and minstrel style playing, but still they play and sound different from each other.  I feel that clawhammer directly evolved from minstrel/stroke style over time... though others disagree with that.  I do love the sound you've got going there, with your greasy slides and with Tim on percussion!  I also enjoyed your presentation in the first part of the video.   :)

Comment by Tom Berghan on November 16, 2017 at 12:06pm
Thank you Strum! I really appreciate it! Actually, I am “up picking,” (guitar style as they called it in the 19th century) but I can play it stroke style as well. I choose finger style here simply because I wanted a rich-round tone. Stroke Style has a harder edge to the timbre of course and is especially good for more energetic tunes. I like to use various techniques, even within the same piece or song.
Comment by Tom Taggart on November 16, 2017 at 10:25pm

Really nice. I appreciate the mini history at the begining as well.

Comment by Tom Berghan on November 17, 2017 at 12:38am
Thanks Tom! I appreciate your note very much! I sure love working with a talented percussionist like Tim Miller who is a master on the jawbone as well the bones, tambourine, frame drums, triangles, etcetera!
Comment by Strumelia on November 17, 2017 at 12:02pm

I think percussion has been sadly underutilized in general when we play this minstrel repertoire.  Due in part to our socially isolated settings, we're all too busy sitting and playing alone in front of a camera or mirror or laptop. Sad!  Finding a friend who can play any kind of drum, tambo, triangle, bones, or even beat on an oatmeal box... or whatever... is a wonderful thing and really brings the music alive, IMHO.

Comment by Tom Berghan on November 17, 2017 at 12:30pm
Absolutely Strumelia! Good point! Even a perfunctory scan of period drawings and photographs indicates that “performance practice” in Minstrel Shows, Music Halls, and Circus shows was that every band had at least one banjo and at least one, often two, and even three percussionists. And let’s not forget dancers such as Master Juba and John Diamond whose feet would essentially be yet another percussionist. And I suspect that their rhythms and syncopations were very sophisticated.


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