Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

If a new Minstrel Banjo book were to come out, what would be the ideal format? Notes, Tabs, or both? Are fingerings helpful?

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I would say both.

Tim--

Joseph Weidlich has an excellent series of books with both music and tab.  It's my guess that many more banjo players are comfortable with tab, and tab could also be helpful, I suppose, in learning notation.  Suggested fingerings are always appreciated, though I admit I don't always follow them.  One other suggestion.  I love the illustrations though I know they are in no way essential in learning the tunes.  Finally, for those of us who can carry a tune in a bucket (I would have trouble carrying one in a bathtub), a set of lyrics would be nice.  This is often the missing piece.  I also love new books.  I hope this means you are thinking about writing one.

Rob Morrison

I like both. I enjoy getting the Weidlich books (Or Rob McKillop's Briggs transcriptions) out and plowing through the tunes in tab (cos it's easier) However, even though I'm not a great reader, I still like going back to the original dots. It makes me feel more connected somehow - like I'm digging a little deeper. I also just like the way they look. I don't know that it actually improves the music. The odd time I've learned complicated tunes from the Converse books the fingerings are actually pretty useful once you figure out what the heck he's telling you.

Audio might be a big plus, right? Is it better to hear an actual performance, or a slowed down version? (or both?).

Perhaps a book could have a link to a site with several alternative fingerings. Sometimes "inking" them in is rather permanent. If one is creating arrangements of new material, say fiddle tunes in the upper register, there are often multiple solutions, although a well thought out arrangement should hold water. I had a vision of putting Tab on the left page, and notation on the right, parallel to each other. Personally, I prefer minimal, but essential fingerings.    

Audio's a great idea - and thanks to the fascinating modern age we live in,  a link to a site with MP3s or even videos is way easier and cheaper than tucking a CD or DVD into the book.


Tim Twiss said:

Audio might be a big plus, right? Is it better to hear an actual performance, or a slowed down version? (or both?).

Perhaps a book could have a link to a site with several alternative fingerings. Sometimes "inking" them in is rather permanent. If one is creating arrangements of new material, say fiddle tunes in the upper register, there are often multiple solutions, although a well thought out arrangement should hold water. I had a vision of putting Tab on the left page, and notation on the right, parallel to each other. Personally, I prefer minimal, but essential fingerings.    

Good point Dan'l - Maybe the audio/video could include different players'  "takes" on some of these tunes. That's what I like about the MP3s in the Banjo Clubhouse and the videos on this site.

 

Dan'l said:

I think the ideal format would include historical context for when and where these tunes were originally intended or played, if known.  This sometimes contributes insight into to the technique -- fingerings and tempo -- that aren't expressly shown in the transcripts.  For instance some of these tunes we play so carefully were in fact pounded out back in the day.

 

Audio is good, keeping in mind that any given audio might not express the full potential of a tune because it's an intrepetation. A classical allegory is Pachabel's Canon in D.  Some recordings fall flat and others are the stuff of angels, yet all are performed from the same transcripts.

 

Dan'l

I like the idea of facing page transcriptions. Although I use the Weidlich books, I'm not a fan of the format. I prefer a book that will lay out flat and TAB/Notation that has a higher contrast (the Weidlich TAB looks thin and spindly).

 

Yes, either provide a CD or show links to existing performance, full video if it exists. I don't much care if the audio/video is "good", I'm much more interested that it portrays the tune as written (at least one or two times thru). It is always nice to see variation/interpretation after that.

 

I prefer how most of the tutors use fingering to get the tune started and thereafter only where there may be a tough part or an exemplar. If the book is "graduated", then at some point the fingerings drop away unless really needed to make a point.

Oh man, thanks for some of these comments. I agree about the "thinness" of the tab in the Weidlich Books. I've only seen the Converse one.

It almost makes me think...would a book be the best format, or should things go to the digital age? You could onesy twosy the pieces you like. There is so much material to be done! It could be downloadable in tab and visible with audio and video, for some reasonable fee.

I still like an actual book....but then, I like a lot of outdated things.

Tim Twiss said:

Oh man, thanks for some of these comments. I agree about the "thinness" of the tab in the Weidlich Books. I've only seen the Converse one.

It almost makes me think...would a book be the best format, or should things go to the digital age? You could onesy twosy the pieces you like. There is so much material to be done! It could be downloadable in tab and visible with audio and video, for some reasonable fee.

Tim--

 

I would like to second Ian's comment.  It's not just that I like books, which I do,  but I've got so many folders with so much minstrel banjo material scattered about that my TV room is starting to look like Sherlock Holmes' study.  A book lends a definite sense of organization and permanence, even if it is obsolete.

 

Rob Morrison

Yea, I've been thinking about that too since I said that, and I also like having an actual book, for reasons like you just stated Rob.  

Tim:

I think a book is a great idea and I would echo the thoughts of some of the others (it should have both tab and traditional notation, it should be spiral bound to lie flat when opened, it should have some lyics and certainly, some history, since we are all interested in that as well) 

I would add that if a song goes to two pages, the song should be on two facing pages so there are no difficult page turnings.  Sometimes this involves putting in a blank page (perhaps this is where the history could go)  I know it's difficult to lay out, but I would really appreciate that.

A CD or DVD or link to a page to see and hear it played would be great, as well.

 

Jeff Trace

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