Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Hello all. My name is Jeremy and I am new to this site. I have just recently found the world of minstrel banjo. I have been playing clawhammer for a while after buying a gourd banjo wanted to find some older music to play on it. I have bought the Briggs banjo book redone by Joesph Wiedlich. Is there anyone out there that has advice about learning this style on the banjo? Other than the very addictive Banjo Clubhouse and the original sources are there any other resources avaiable on the internet? Any help or tips would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

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The Early Minstrel Banjo - Technique and Repertoire by Joe Weidlich is probably the best single source, for early banjo; I think it would be your best bet. Almost everything is in tabs, and the index in the back is wonderful, it has an index to the songs in many of the early banjo instructors.

I got started by buying the books by Bob Flescher. I find that there are some pros and cons to these books, and I have since moved over to playing from more original scores. But these were a great place for me to start. You can buy them at http://www.drhorsehair.com/bookbag.html - There are two books on minstrel banjo there.

Aside from that, then next best thing is to learn to sight read the music instead of tabs, because then you can read any of the early instructors or fiddle books. The weekly challenge that we do is great, it has really improved my playing. If you feel that it is too difficult then try adding a tune or two a week.
Hi Jeremy, and welcome. One of the best things you can do, in addition to what John has already said, is to not be afraid to ask questions. This is a great place to get answers. I am certain that folks will be quite generous with their tips and experience. We have all the tools here to do such things...audio, video, text files, and photos. The only better thing is the banjo gatherings, which have happened twice already and may happen again.
Maybe we should consider a Beginners Guide page here?
Thanks for all of the help. Are there any albums that are a good survey for getting into minstrel banjo? Another question, is mintrel banjo intended to be played more as a solo piece or more with others? If jam, then what are the typical other instruments included? Also what are some good standard songs that people try learning first.
Minstrel Banjo Style is a good album
http://www.amazon.com/Minstrel-Banjo-Style-Various-Artists/dp/B0000...

There are a number of recourdings out there. Tim recently cut some cds, and there are all of those recordings on the banjo clubhouse.

The tunes in the instructors are mean as solo pieces, but it is quite common to play with other instruments. I play with a fiddler, a penny whistle player, and a bones/tambourine player, and somtimes a guitar player. The Virginia Minstrels started out with a banjo player, a fiddler, a bones player, and a tambourine player.
Yes, "Minstrel Banjo Style" on Rounder is a must have.
Starting with any of the versions of "Juba" is a good beginning.
Play solo, or with others. Generally, the vocal songs are good ensemble tunes.

JeremyS said:
Thanks for all of the help. Are there any albums that are a good survey for getting into minstrel banjo? Another question, is mintrel banjo intended to be played more as a solo piece or more with others? If jam, then what are the typical other instruments included? Also what are some good standard songs that people try learning first.
I, too, am fairly new to the minstrel style and have appreciated this thread. I joined a few weeks back, and have also had many questions. My teaching job keeps me busy, and when I'm not in the classroom I'm usually in my shop or playing the fiddle or clawhammer, now minstrel.

The Weidlich books have been great for helping me get started. I believe what I've enjoyed the most is playing a fretless neck...much more comfortable to a fiddler, in my opinion. Thank you Mr. Twiss and Mr. Masciale for the "Minstrel Banjo Style" suggestion. I'll start looking for it.

By the way, are there any, more localized, pre-Gathering, gatherings?
I have not heard anything assuring about the gathering this year. However, we have a reenactment here near Chicago in Wauconda on the weekend of July 11. Part of that reeactment is an agricultural fair, where I, and a number of other musicians have played in the past. This normally is one of the larger reenactments in Illinois. If there is interest in some banjo players gathering here I can look into making sure we have camping, etc. available.
I've been a member of the site for several months now and have really valued reading and following many of the conversations on the site.

A big thank you to Mr. Masciale and Twiss for continuing to upload videos, tunes, and advice on playing and researching. Possibly without knowing it, this site has been a great tool and source of inspiration for new players like me.

John

John Masciale said:
I have not heard anything assuring about the gathering this year. However, we have a reenactment here near Chicago in Wauconda on the weekend of July 11. Part of that reeactment is an agricultural fair, where I, and a number of other musicians have played in the past. This normally is one of the larger reenactments in Illinois. If there is interest in some banjo players gathering here I can look into making sure we have camping, etc. available.
The Chicago area would be quite a trip for me, but it sounds like a great event and made more exciting with some playing. I was wondering about the Wichita/Kansas City area...anyone close by? I usually attend several living history events in these areas and spend most weekends during the summer at Old Cowtown Living History Museum in Wichita doing leatherwork and woodworking. The Coalition of Historical Trekkers is having an event at Fort Osage (just outside of Sibley, MO) this weekend. I'll be there this weekend if anyone is close by?!

John Masciale said:
I have not heard anything assuring about the gathering this year. However, we have a reenactment here near Chicago in Wauconda on the weekend of July 11. Part of that reeactment is an agricultural fair, where I, and a number of other musicians have played in the past. This normally is one of the larger reenactments in Illinois. If there is interest in some banjo players gathering here I can look into making sure we have camping, etc. available.

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