Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

The last two times I played with Tim, I brought a tambourine along and put it within reach of Tim's foot (as I have learned from more than one person that my foot beats are erratic).

Tim used it on a few occasions and being that it was just two of us playing, I thought it added something. 

I wonder, therefore, if there is much, if any, documentation for mid-19th C use of the foot to play percussion, either the tambo or otherwise. 

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I'd like to know, too. I'm dyin' to make a buckle-on apparatus.

I am used to playing in an ensemble with a lot of percussion. I notice that if I am playing with just a fiddler I tend to use my foot a lot more for percussive effect and if I was more coordinated I think it would be great to have a tambo, or board within reach. The early minstrel performers were described of having a lot of wild exaggerated body movements, even as sitting down. I'll bet there was a lot of rhythm going on with the players feet. As for Terry's buckle-on idea, now that's a show!

I do this frequently, especially in outdoor gigs with just me and the fiddler-  I put a tambourine on the ground, skin side down (with maybe a bandana laid down to protect the skin a little) and I put the ball of my foot inside the rim and my heel on the rim, then i tap my heel to the music:

You can put either your ball of foot or your heel in the tambo, depending on whether you typically tend to tap your heel or your toe.

Other times I tie a rope or strip with small jinglebells or goathoof or seed rattles around my ankle, for much the same effect.  In my mind, it adds a festive/medieval tone to the proceedings when we are only fiddle/banjo.  Wish I could find a good bones player to play with us around here locally.  Maybe the popularity of the Chocolate Drops will produce some young local bones-ers in the next year or so!  Wish either Brian or I could play bones and fiddle or bones and banjo at the same time.

Terry, you have to make something for us all!  Something not too big or elaborate though, so we don't lose our last shred of dignity. And it has to go on and off quickly so we don't have to walk around some craft festival jingling ridiculously every time we have to get up. Maybe with a 'quick-release' buckle?  lolol  Seriously!

Maybe with a small wooden 'heel' on the bottom...a seesaw or rocker-like effect, so we can get a good solid foot THUMP along with our jingles, even if we are wearing sneakers soft soles.  Maybe just something that sits on the floor then, with having to buckle it to our foot- that would be awesome!

I'm certain musicians have just done this stuff naturally over the centuries.  I think most folks don't give it enough importance to actually write about it.  We here are obviously obsessed, too much interent access that merely encourages us to prattle on endlessly about such frivolities.   ;D

Wes Merchant said: Six at once, triangle , cymbals,  drum, some kind of wind thing and a string thing, what am I missing?

Well he's also standing on a little wooden platform which is like today's "Step-a-tune" personal plywood dance floor, that cloggers/stepdancers use a a portable platform that allows dancing foot percussion to sound good, so you should probably also count his feet as percussion 'instruments':


... thus documenting 19th century pedcussion. Mr. Bell. you may proceed! :-)

Wow. Here are two 'foot tambourines.' The black one definately sounds more like brass, and is ON the beat in this demonstration ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8GMfxNUeirU

Terry, I bought that exact black one about a year ago, all excited to solve my foot-tambo needs.  Unfortunately, I tap my heel up and down, not my toe, so with the thing in place around the ball of my foot, it makes almost no noise for me.  :(    I couldn't seem to find an easy way to attach it around my heel area and keep it sticking out horizontally so the jingles would sound correctly, and the wide elastic won't let met put my whole foot through it to get it on my ankle.  It just feels awkward, and has a 'new/steel' sound to it that isn't very appealing.

Maybe I should just hammer some bottle caps flat, nail holes in them, and string them on a strip of cloth to tie around my ankle?

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