Here is a total newbie question from a guy who is still building his first minstrel banjo and has only had a four string Vega plectrum banjo from the '20s to fool around with until my banjo is done (any day now, I hope!). Hope this isn't too stupid a question!
I am trying to reconcile two conflicting bits of information about the role of chords. The first is Bob Winans' comment in his "The Folk, the Stage, and the Five-String Banjo in the Nineteenth Century" that "Minstrel banjo style involves no chords. It is strictly a succession of single notes."
The other comes from Bob Flesher's "Learning Minstrel Banjo," wherein the first thing he teaches you on the left hand is various chords and states that "The minstrels did not hold complicated chords because the banjos were fretless," but the chords he shows us "are the necessary chords required to play most any song."
The tunes in the Flesher book do not seem to involve the use of chords (as in strumming a chord on the guitar). Are these chords then more like left hand finger positions? Does the left hand spend most of its time in one chord or another while the right hand is playing single notes of that chord? That seems to reconcile these two conflicting sounding comments.
Basically, I'm trying to figure out what my left hand is supposed to be doing!