Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

I finally figured out the rudiments of standard notation with Briggs last week. I started looking at converse today. Am i going to have to learn different coorespondences between note on the page and the physical means of playing it because Converse uses the A tuning? Sorry, hope that was a clear enough description of my problem here. I'm determined to learn standard notation !

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This is the unfortunate problem with the instructors. Some are written in D/G tuning, and others in E/A. I at first tried avoiding the issue by transposing a few tunes to concert pitch, but I finally had to bite the bullet and learn to read in both keys. After a while it becomes second nature, just keep working at it.
People will tell you how easy it is. Your brain is young, so maybe it will be. I prefer tab, so I have bought books with tab (Bob Flesher's books) and I make my own tab for tunes I want to learn. I find Tim's Early Banjo Rosetta Staff very useful. See page 17 from Tim's list here:


I've played classic guitar for more than 40 years. I've been able to read read a guitar line just fine for all that time. Unless a tune is one I've arranged myself, that's how I've learned that music. However, I learned to play the banjo by ear. I'm pretty good at it, and at least for most old time fiddle tunes and songs I can play the thing right away. When I got into minstrel banjo in the early 90's I discovered that I could read the tab as well as musical notation for guitar, but I couldn't read the banjo notation because the tunes were in different keys. I've had little to no luck in acquiring this skill. Tab works fine for me. Also, please don't hesitate to learn these tunes by ear and improvise. Improvisation is the true history and tradition of this music. If you don't believe that look at all the different variations of the same tune you can find in those tutors. Good luck.

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