Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

...when I was starting and I had the Flesher book. It spoke of Buckley and Rice, and i did not know what that meant. Sometimes we forget that the obvious is not so obvoious to everybody. I hope people come forward with any question....regardless. Ask it, and then you will know.

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When I came to this site over a year and a half ago, I had nothing BUT questions.  It felt like much of what i was reading was written in mysterious code, and I could see that the discussions of tutors and tunings were something that I would just have to sit back and absorb a little bit at a time. There were a gazillion things I had no idea about, despite 15 years of clawhammer old-time playing.

Back then, it took me forever to stumble upon Tim's beginner teaching videos, and his website with printable tutor scans (thank you!) and audio recordings of tunes for sale, but I think he has since re-located some of the pointers to them in more findable places on the site here. Plus, now he has his great new book for beginners!

Even so, my brain is often operating in semi-fog when it comes to tunings and keys for minstrel.  I'm drinking ginko tea even as I'm typing  right now!   ;D

When I discovered this site a few years ago - for some reason I thought I could never learn this style. It seemed so melodic and busy at first. And I used to think that Stroke style was just clawhammer without the other fingers. Wrong and wrong. Like the saying goes, "It's easy when you know how." The best part has been meeting other players. And I sure used to eat up those videos by Carl and Cuffie.

I know I'm probably a minority opinion here, but just as I feel there is no one method or set of rules to play clawhammer, I equally don't believe there is one one conventional, approved, orthodox method to playing banjo style.  I can tell different clawhammers players by their sound (all good, all different).  My feeling is that within reason a musician should bring his or her own sensibilities to banjo style and be creative and explore new techniques that are not necessarily in the tutors.  The tutor authors are all great musicians, no doubt, but I'm sure they all played a little bit differently.  What is comfortable and natural to one player may be all wrong for another. Furthermore I'm primarily talking about banjo style here, be it thumb lead or regular, and not the later guitar style which evolved into classic banjo and the "elevated' music of light classics and funeral marches of S.S. Stewart and his ilk.  Anyway, that's just my view on it.  I think it's easy to become far too doctrinaire about this music which was anything but.--Rob 

There's no money in this anyway. Play how you want.

Rob,

Joe Ayers and I have been working together for a few years now researching and exploring an Early American  pre-tutor Banjo Style which I'm sure you will find interesting, especially when considering how he is the man who re-published the tutors in the first place.  We look forward to lively discussion at the Sweeney Banjo Convergence next month! His lecture entitled "Sweeney and the Registration of Banjo in Music Print" will be on the Friday night.  



Rob Morrison said:

I know I'm probably a minority opinion here, but just as I feel there is no one method or set of rules to play clawhammer, I equally don't believe there is one one conventional, approved, orthodox method to playing banjo style.  I can tell different clawhammers players by their sound (all good, all different).  My feeling is that within reason a musician should bring his or her own sensibilities to banjo style and be creative and explore new techniques that are not necessarily in the tutors.  The tutor authors are all great musicians, no doubt, but I'm sure they all played a little bit differently.  What is comfortable and natural to one player may be all wrong for another. Furthermore I'm primarily talking about banjo style here, be it thumb lead or regular, and not the later guitar style which evolved into classic banjo and the "elevated' music of light classics and funeral marches of S.S. Stewart and his ilk.  Anyway, that's just my view on it.  I think it's easy to become far too doctrinaire about this music which was anything but.--Rob 

oops! actually this lecture will be on Saturday at Appomattox Courthouse. His Friday lecture will be on four string gourd technique.

Mark Weems said:

Rob,

Joe Ayers and I have been working together for a few years now researching and exploring an Early American  pre-tutor Banjo Style which I'm sure you will find interesting, especially when considering how he is the man who re-published the tutors in the first place.  We look forward to lively discussion at the Sweeney Banjo Convergence next month! His lecture entitled "Sweeney and the Registration of Banjo in Music Print" will be on the Friday night.  



Rob Morrison said:

I know I'm probably a minority opinion here, but just as I feel there is no one method or set of rules to play clawhammer, I equally don't believe there is one one conventional, approved, orthodox method to playing banjo style.  I can tell different clawhammers players by their sound (all good, all different).  My feeling is that within reason a musician should bring his or her own sensibilities to banjo style and be creative and explore new techniques that are not necessarily in the tutors.  The tutor authors are all great musicians, no doubt, but I'm sure they all played a little bit differently.  What is comfortable and natural to one player may be all wrong for another. Furthermore I'm primarily talking about banjo style here, be it thumb lead or regular, and not the later guitar style which evolved into classic banjo and the "elevated' music of light classics and funeral marches of S.S. Stewart and his ilk.  Anyway, that's just my view on it.  I think it's easy to become far too doctrinaire about this music which was anything but.--Rob 

If I recall this right, I found this site through the Banjo Hangout site,  I think it was Tim's post over there...  I still learning how to play, an the journey has been fun.  Just wish I had more time to pick up the banjo and play.  What I have found this year is teaching someone else.   

I found pick up a student to teach the very raw basic's really helps build up your playing.  

So, I have a student,  A friend from Church (Charlie), he is an older gent. Late 70's maybe in his 80's.  He has wanted to play the banjo his entire life.   We are now on our 4 month... and to watch the smile on his face as he learns is awesome.  This makes me want to learn more...  

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