Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

I heisted this link from Dan Gellert's posting on the Banjohangout...very cool recording. Y'all think it might be stroke/thimble style?

 

cylinders.library.ucsb.edu/mp3...8103d.mp3

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I'm quite convinced that it is stroke style.

 

The 32nd notes are done -- stroke, stroke, stroke, thumb -- with the finger gliding between the 3 strings. The thumb stroke gives just enough time to get the finger back in position for the next 3 gliding strokes. It takes a bit of practice to do it smoothly but plectrum players on mandolin (and later guitar and banjos) do that kind of stroking with the pick. Not too much of a stretch to do it with nail or thimble.

 

I'll try to do a video of it later.

The articulation just doesn't sound like fingerstyle.

I am still going back and forth as to what is taking place in the performance (as I have recently been listening to a good bit of Harry C. Browne) and currently feel a bit skewed because I've lately been studying a bunch of classic fingerstyle pieces. Some of the instrumental breaks sound as though they can be played either way (downstroke or fingerstyle), yet when I sat down with Jim's opening transcription I agree that the rapid ascending arpeggios (or as Joel referenced them earlier as "buzz saws") work out very well with the downstroke. Ultimately, I'm excited to consider this as a full down-stroke performance, but am even more excited to see the process being undertaken by our members in structurally analyzing this piece. I'm looking forward to both Jim's transcription as well as several youtube interpretations. This is great stuff all around!

 



Greg Adams said:

 I have recently been listening to a good bit of Harry C. Browne <snip>

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 Someone ought to upload a bunch of his stuff to archive.org.   I've seen one cd, but it doesn't include a lot of stuff, like his maniacal "Tapioca", which I used to have somewhere on a cassette but of course can't find now....


I just spent a lot of time with this cylinder recording. Jim, I think your transcription is spot on. Nice job, and great ear. I had to record it in real time and put it in the slow downer (my musical microscope) to really get it, but there it is - clear as day. It is not a difficult move, but I had never encountered it before. It creates an awareness of what is transmitted through oral tradition...so much.  

Thanks Tim.

 

Fascinating recording, isn't it? I think it adds a new perspective to a number of things and answers or maybe raises a number of questions about performance practices of those decades.

 

About the technique -- no, it isn't difficult but to do it as fast, cleanly and as rhythmically accurate as Mr. Asbury takes a bit of practice to be sure!

Tim Twiss said:

I just spent a lot of time with this cylinder recording. Jim, I think your transcription is spot on. Nice job, and great ear. I had to record it in real time and put it in the slow downer (my musical microscope) to really get it, but there it is - clear as day. It is not a difficult move, but I had never encountered it before. It creates an awareness of what is transmitted through oral tradition...so much.  

Yes, it is a fascinating recording. I hope more pop up over time....perhaps the Holy Grail itself, Mr. F.B. Converse.

 This was a really great post, and discussion. There is nothing like hearing the real thing!

Started the year with a whopper of a headcold which made me useless for a few days. Today I'm slowly getting back to a productive state without pushing it too much. 

 

Here is my transcription of the Charles Asbury recording of Haul the Woodpile Down.

 

I'm not good at transcribing lyrics -- I did the best I could with the help of the lyrics posted in this thread.

 

I'm also attaching the exercises that I use with my students to develop the kind of roll that Asbury plays here.

Attachments:

Hats off to you Jim. Great  job on this transcription. I'll spend more time studying it in the coming days, but wanted to say thanks for a job well done. If you were able to produce this while being sick, I'd say you are unstoppable when you are feeling well. Huzzah!

 

Greg

Well done, Jim!

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