Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

From Rice 1858...with a click to keep the crazy placement of the beat.

Views: 352

Comment by Tim Twiss on October 27, 2012 at 7:17am

Here is a version....kept a click on to show where the beats fall. It's weird.

Comment by Ian Bell on October 27, 2012 at 7:42am
That is so cool! - I'm on the way to the bookshelf to find the Rice book right now. The click was a great idea.
Comment by Bell Banjos on October 27, 2012 at 8:36am

Weird is good. It reminds me of the Full Rigged Ship http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D26MARG8Bic

Comment by Tim Twiss on October 27, 2012 at 10:53am

I bet this is a variant on this version of Uncle Gabriel.


Or...am I just poiting out the obvious? I don't think there was actually a Sandy Boy song at first.

Comment by Strumelia on October 27, 2012 at 3:50pm

Tim, I can't get to the page via your link, and I can't get the site's search function to work either. Is there a more direct link to the text or picture you are trying to show us?

I have a copy of an 1850 Uncle Gabriel/SandyBoy lyrics text that I 'think' is from Christy's N* Songster- is that the same you are linking to Tim?


Ok, looking at the Rice notation...  call me nuts, but I see also another possibility... 

First, I see that the Rice notation is spread out so that it's 4/8 per measure rather than 4/4 (correct me if I'm wrong)- which is something people do often when there are many notes in a measure, so it can be written more clearly and followed more clearly.  For the student's benefit, the phrases are broken down into more manageable parcels by doing this.  I do it myself when writing out beginner level tab for my banjo students.  That tells me Rice was at least trying in some way to make his notation more easily grasped by the student.

Now, in the first line Rice has the 'pickup' laid out just as one would expect, before the first bar and first beat of the first measure...on the last beat of the measure before the tune really starts.  But after that first instance, he shifts it so that the pickup notes are located neatly within the first measure of each phrase, on the first beat.  This is something I have seen people do informally sometimes, both when writing out standard notation and especially in tab-

I've seen it done for two reasons- 1: the person writing it down isn't quite understanding the concept of the pickup notes being on the last beat of a previous measure...OR  2: They do understand the pickup note timing, but for one reason or another they feel others will be confused by it, or it is too fussy to write it out, or it saves space on the page. 

I would guess that Phil Rice did  understand the timing, but might he not have done this same thing that I've seen done on multiple occasions, for reason #2 ?

The timing as written, and as played exactly from Rice by Tim, just seems so awkward and 'wrong'.  Yeah I know, we all have our comfort range based on our modern music ear, and I would normally assume I was completely wrong here, except for the fact that I've seen this kind of thing done with pickup notes on multiple occasions even today, and done by people who are musically fairly knowledgeable.  And by musicians with a bit less savvy- even in one case in SMN for fiddle tunes, written out by a real high school music teacher who (amazingly to me) had no idea he was notating it wrong.  You see it done all the time in modern banjo tab...and it's just simply incorrect.  So it makes me wonder!  

I've seen elaborately written banjo tab that starts out with the pickup notes located inside the first measure, on the first beat, and this timing error was then carried over throughout the entire tune right to the end.  Whenever I've seen this, it results in exactly the same odd feeling of 'off rhythm' that this Rice notation produces.  Now this well may have been the intentional rhythm... but this 'pickup notes on the first beat' issue is a familiar problem to me and in my experience the result often sounds different than what was really intended by the notator.

Comment by Tim Twiss on October 27, 2012 at 4:56pm

Dang Levy site is having a freak out of some sort.

No, this version is earlier....c. 1847.

Why do you say 4 / 8 ? I see 2 / 4 timing.

I dunno.....everything seems pretty deliberate, but i'm going to chew on what you said. I want to look at that music again for phrasing clues.

The conception of beat placement...pull my click out, and it will sound the same as Weidlich essentially. BUT....look at more tunes in this book...especially "Where Did You Come From"....you'll find a similar beat displacement. If you tap it with your foot , you'll get a surprise. Tricky little tune to do right.

Comment by Strumelia on October 27, 2012 at 5:07pm

Why do you say 4 / 8 ? I see 2 / 4 timing.

Well my error- I guess then what I mean is that the measures are divided up into 2/4's instead of the usual 4/4's, to break it up and give more room for 16th notes etc.

When such pickup notes are misplaced into the first beat as I described, what often happens is that the timing is 'normal' during part of the tune but 'off' at other parts of the tune, then gets 'normal' again...like two clocks that aren't quite in sync.

Speaking of two....can you enlighten me as to why and how this SandyBoy is labeled by Rice as a 'Banjo Duett'...?

I'd love to get the 1847 lyrics, so if you can point us to a source when you are able, that'd be great.  :)

Comment by Tim Twiss on October 27, 2012 at 5:15pm

That link will be good when the site is back up. Keep trying. Search Uncle Gabriel if you arrive there on your own. There are several versions, but I found one with motifs much like this arrangement.

The value of the time signature is to tell us what note gets one beat.....2 / 4 tells me conceptually how to group the notes.....foot taps 2 per bar.

No clue about the duett thing.

I think Buckley wrote most of the book....he was a sharp cookie. I tend to give the written page the benefit of the doubt before I try to explain it in another way. Much of the book has a weird feel rhythmically....which felt funny at first, but have really grown on me. Where's dat Nigger....another wierd timing one...page 52.

Comment by Tim Twiss on October 27, 2012 at 5:18pm

With Where Did You Come From...tap it in different ways. It changes drastically. One tends to do one tap per bar, almost like cut time....but when the line ascends, it gets you into a jam. Do it with 2 per bar....as written.

Comment by Strumelia on October 27, 2012 at 5:45pm

Where's dat Nigger....another wierd timing one...page 52.

That one has delightfully quirky timing, but makes more sense to me as written, and the pickup notes are on their own at the beginning and the last beat before the 2nd part... instead of located as the first beat of measures ...which doesn't invert the timing in a weird way like SB.

I only mention the 'Duett' thing in case it has something to do with this timing issue...a 'round', perhaps?  Dueling Sandy Boys?  lol!

I think I may experience 'rhythm discomfort' in part because I am so accustomed to hearing the steady 1&3 downbeat background emphasis in clawhammer rhythm. Sometimes when I hear melody-only minstrel tunes there seems to be a lack of definition as to where the 1 beat is, I get more easily lost when listening and I have to listen hard for the 1 beat to get my brain back on track. That never happens to me when listening to old-time banjo.  Maybe I should get some ginko pills.


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