Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Fiddle tune from O'Neil's adapted directly to fretless banjo

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Comment by Rob MacKillop on August 1, 2010 at 2:00am
Now there is a tune every Scot hears from Day 1, and it is ALWAYS dotted all the way through.
Comment by Tim Twiss on August 1, 2010 at 6:22am
Crazy...look at my photo upload. Dots all folks.
Comment by Rob MacKillop on August 1, 2010 at 6:40am
Well, I don't think we'll ever know exactly how the composer or arranger wanted it. Hornpipes, especially, are an interpretative nightmare. Best just jump in as you have done at make the most of what you can. But it's an excellent example of trying to recreate an historical timepiece of something that is very popular today. I'm trying to appreciate the 'straight' version, but I'm just SO used to hearing it dotted. Fun, though, either way.
Comment by Ian Bell on August 1, 2010 at 7:28am
What Bob said is true for my neck of the woods as well.
That said, up here at least, there are some hornpipes that get undotted and played as fast as reels for dancing. (not usually this one) When that happens they seem move from 4/4 into 2/4, the triplets fall away, and the backbeat gets more pronounced. It's all good. There's no reason not to be "the guy who plays Harvest Home like a reel".

It just occurred to me that one of the differences between books like O'Neills and the old banjo books is that the fiddle books are not "tutors". They are for the most part someone's effort to collect and codify a repertoire for the musicians who are already part of that tradition. They are merely a sort of index for the music that community is already familiar with.

Most of the early banjo books I've seen are much more like Mel Bay type publications - presenting a "how to" of a musical style that's unfamiliar because it's relatively new to most of it's audience. I think I'm safe in saying they weren't produced for the use of the use of the musicians (in a collective sense) from whom the earliest banjar tunes were collected. It seems pretty clear that they were also re-inventing the style at the same time and having a great time doing it.
Comment by Ian Bell on August 1, 2010 at 7:29am
Nicely played - by the way
Comment by Tim Twiss on August 1, 2010 at 10:43am
Okay, Ian or anybody, give me a metronome marking that would be a good tempo for this tune with dotted rhythms. I'd to add that, for comparison.
Comment by Rob MacKillop on August 1, 2010 at 1:45pm


This is closest to what I grew up with (my dad played accordion) -


I was shocked as to how many bad versions there are in the first ten pages of youtube. Difficult to find decent ones.
Comment by Ian Bell on August 1, 2010 at 8:20pm
Those Youtube examples all seem to be in the ballpark tempo-wise. I've mostly played this type of hornpipe for step-dancers. Traditional clog hornpipe dance steps are full of triplets and other complex syncopations so you can't play the tunes too fast. In Ontario, old-time step-dancing is a weird mishmash of Irish, English, and African-American moves. A lot of the steps and routines started off as stage performance dances but eventually devolved into traditional forms.


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