Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

A lovely song from the 1820's as found in Elias Howe's Banjo Preceptor of 1848. My fingerings for this piece were taken from the beautiful playing of Joe Ayers

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Comment by Nicholas A Bechtel on September 25, 2012 at 1:48pm

Me being fairly new to this music I don't have the back ground to contest certain literature or instructional books, But I Do know this,  playing notation is different from TAB, you don't get the same feel from Tab. As with the written music, some people like Tim, Greg, Carl, Paul, and there are more I'm sure, but when they play they bring a sense of feel and playing that evokes a sense of the period in time when these songs were written. And yep there are some that Pay close attention to how the songs are played. i.e. technique, and how they were written.  Those that  improvise...you can hear the difference. Some people play these songs so slow and with a contemporary sound, just doesn't sound right. I don't want to hear this style of music played with a contemporary feel.  That's why I like this stuff, and this site because of the ones that are worshiping at the alter of Briggs, Converse, Dobson, Rice.  Thank you Tim for putting the time to record the Briggs and Rice instructional books, thanks for not just winging it and doing your own thing. The proof is in the recordings.

Comment by Mark Weems on September 25, 2012 at 2:55pm

On my Gumbo Chaff, there was no improvising. I simply played exactly what was in the Banjo Preceptor in what I distilled, after playing it for weeks and trying different fingering options, as the most fluid way for me to present the piece. I added no notes and certainly did not improvise anything. I also sing, and as a singer, certain ideas about speed and dynamics present themselves naturally in a way that doesn't happen when you just play the tune as an instrumental. Briggs, Rice, Buckley etc. were all written as tutors to teach people from scratch and use particular easily learned building blocks (strike, double strike etc.) to quickly facilitate that process, much like in a drawing class one learns to first draw everything as a square, circle, triangle etc. then flesh things out more fluidly as you go. Seven years before Briggs, we have Elias Howe, whose book appears to be written for those who already were familiar with the instrument and were already good readers. I see no reason to exclude it from the early banjo canon.

Comment by Tim Twiss on September 25, 2012 at 3:06pm

I don't think it is excluded. It just does not offer much. It's a fake book...lead sheets. The tuning in the front even makes it difficult to gain any orientation to the instrument....c'mon now...it is pitched, notated, and illustrated in C, and it proceeds to play as though it were in G /D. The strength of it is in the choice of tunes. This I think is one case, where a book was born for profit and riding a wave. I don't think one would have that much imagination to birth good music on a banjo from that book had we not played the other books first. We are losing our sense of time in judging it.

Comment by Mark Weems on September 25, 2012 at 6:46pm

To me, it offers several pieces with wonderful, complex melodies which are lovely to weave vocals around, as well as older pieces not found elsewhere. And I see that as a great offering.

Silly me, I guess I just didn't realize that banjo in America didn't start until 1855.

Comment by Tim Twiss on September 25, 2012 at 7:47pm

Mark, I was with you until that last sentence. I don't know what you mean.


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