Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Has anyone have ever put together a historical timeline for Minstrel banjo fingering styles?
Which was the earliest fingering style used and in what order did the different styles develop?
I have seen stroke, thumb lead two finger, and guitar style used. Just curious as to which style preceeded which. Thanks In advance for any input.

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I was curious about this too. I've only begun reading up on minstrel banjo ......and came across a 1993 paper by Robert Winans, ' the Banjo: from Africa to Virginia' ( referenced under the 'Resources' tab here) . He mentions fieldwork done in West Africa in the 70s, which reported that the index finger was used for a down stroke, similar to clawhammer style and rarely, the upward stroke of the middle finger. So you'd guess this was the style adopted by early banjo players in America.
Don't know what more recent research reveals about thumb and guitar picking styles.

The stroke style was the predominant style into the 1860s.  You can tell this because the instructors show the use of stroke style.  FYI Stroke style is somewhat of a modern label.  Converse's 1865 instructor introduces guitar style.  This became the predominant style somewhere in the 1870s-1880s, perhaps sooner.  We have had debate here in previous threads whether guitar style was possibly used earlier.  What I've described for you is the written record.

Yet Briggs mentions guitar style, though he does not give a detailed description. WHile Briggs' avcompaniments can all be played stroke style, the accompaniements in Buckley's 1860 book are clearly intended to eb finger style.
Hi Lee - where does Briggs mention guitar style? I missed that.
Thanks for the information. It does explain, perhaps, why stroke was adopted early on. I was more referring to thumb-lead two finger playing trying to ascertain when it became popular. It seems that TLTF in a simpler method than stroke, so why did stoke become so popular?
Hey Paul. Page 31, where the song accompaniments start. "......as in playing the guitar." They can all be played stroke, however.
Ah! Thx!
I've seen the name "stroke style" used in 1880s and 1890s publications, so I wouldn't exactly call it a modern name. As for thumb lead two finger, it is a modern 20th century style.

Hi Folks. In connection with early fingerstyle, please view my webpage devoted to it: http://robmackillop.net/banjo/early-fingerstyle-banjo/

Some more in depth info on thumb lead two finger style, if anyone is interested...

http://www.folkstreams.net/film,216

Morgan mentions banjo playing and learning from his sister, uncle, father, grandfather...cool video, shows the thumb lead two finger clearly...it's truly a beautiful traditional style.

https://2ftlbanjer.wordpress.com/about-2/

http://journalstar.com/entertainment/music/jerry-spahn-lincoln-s-ba...

About 15 years ago i took a workshop on thumb lead two finger style from Mike Seeger, who was teaching it on his big Thornburg gourd banjo.  I was too dense and awkward to get much from it.  Sure wish I could go back in time and take that workshop from Mike over again.

Thanks to Rob for sharing some historical content supporting both styles of playing.
If you look closely at The Banjo Player by William Sidney Mount it looks as though his
index finger is in the upstroke position.
Only Mr. Mount will ever know. I am attempting to learn both styles. No more to add.

I have a related question that's puzzled me for a long time.  So I hope someone here can weigh in.  What is the historical relationship between stroke style and what came to be known as Appalachian frailing or clawhammer?   Is there one?   It appears to me that one evolutionary line led directly from finger style to what we now call classical banjo--the predominant urban (?) style during the latter part of the 19th century.  So where did clawhammer begin?  Is it an offshoot of stroke style that survived in isolated pockets of the South?  Or did it develop sui generis in some mountain holler? 

Here's my second question/observation:  It seems to me that stroke style has some attributes in common with what we now call "melodic clawhammer"--in particular, the frequent use of the thumb on the inside strings to create a melodic line, rather than just rhythmic accompaniment.   But my understanding is that "melodic clawhammer" is a relative recent development, one associated with players like Ken Perlman.  Correct?   So is modern clawhammer an inadvertent recapitulation of something very old?  

Anyway, I welcome enlightenment if anyone has any thoughts about these questions.   Many thanks!

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