Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Beginner Tune of the Month - (May2016) Old Joe

I'd like to post this as the Beginner Tune of the Month for May 2016...
Old Joe, a banjo tune from Thomas Briggs' banjo tutor book of 1855. Here played in minstrel 'high bass tuning' in the key of D...tune your minstrel banjo to d-ADF#A. (You can also play this in regular Briggs 'low bass' tuning if you simply avoid hitting the bass string, since the tune as written does not utilize the bass string)
This is one of the easiest tunes to learn in stroke style/minstrel style banjo, and most of the moves will be familiar to clawhammer players already. But it's a satisfying tune or song for any level of minstrel banjo player.

Views: 270

Comment by Brian Kimerer on May 5, 2016 at 7:14am

Yes. I have many times been misnamed "Brain". People don't call me that out loud, so it must be clumsy typing rather than an unbiased assessment of my intellectual capacity. (Dang)

Re. the rhythmic perturbation in the tune: I think that it makes the tune.

I gave it a try last night, and I made some progress on it. Fun to play. I don't understand the lyrics much at all.

Comment by Strumelia on May 5, 2016 at 9:54am

Yes, if one is not singing the words, then that rhythmic 'full stop' measure is what turns a merely pleasant tune into a compelling tune.

My husband ("Brain") and I played it once at an oldtime jam, in regular oldtime pitch, and then a couple days later some oldtime fiddler asked us to "play that cool tune with the weird silent moment"...the rhythm thing had made an impression on him and he wanted to hear it again.   :)

Comment by Brian Kimerer on May 6, 2016 at 6:54pm

I was practicing this tune on my banjo when my wife said that it sounded familiar to her. In fact, she told me what tune it was based on. I didn't believe it.

So on a lark re-tabbed it and removed the use of the drone string and some of the rolls to simplify the tune....  and I came up with this.

If you play the last four measures of the tune, you will see what it is based on, "Ah! vous dirai-je, maman"... Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star. I was surprised at how exact the match is. According to the Wiki, Ah! vous dirai-je, maman is "an anonymous pastoral song dating from 1740". Interesting how the old tunes fly across oceans and blend and shift together. I wonder which tune came first.

Comment by Strumelia on May 6, 2016 at 7:11pm

Well then there's Baa Baa Black Sheep and the ABC song....

Comment by Brian Kimerer on May 6, 2016 at 8:25pm

Yeah. It's all over the place. I was just surprised to see it in an old minstrel tune. To quote Ulysses S. Grant, "I only know two tunes. One is Yankee Doodle, and the other one isn't."

Comment by Tom Taggart on May 6, 2016 at 10:23pm

How about that?  Everything old is new again.  Makes you feel kind of sheepish.

Comment by Paul Miletta jr on June 25, 2018 at 5:35pm

Will give it a go. Just what I was looking for.  

Comment by Brian Kimerer on June 25, 2018 at 5:57pm

Another twisted tune that has shown up here recently is Injun Rubber Overcoat. Lots of syncopation. I am trying to learn that one as well. Then, of course, is the Pea Patch Jig. I have not yet mastered that one. 

Comment by Scott Danneker on June 26, 2018 at 8:50am

We should start doing these tunes of the month again. 


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