Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

I would love to hear from any early banjo folks out here in western MA. I recently completed a Boucher-type banjo, and now I'm looking to actually play it. The books are fine and the videos are fine, but I have NEVER played an instrument in my life. Never had any inclination to do so until a few years ago when I discovered early banjo. I need to sit down with somebody and get some face-to-face guidance on tuning and playing. I wouldn't have spent a year building an early banjo from scratch if I wasn't serious about learning how to play it. I live in Westfield.

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Hi Stuart,

That's a beautiful instrument, it definitely wants to be played!

I'm up here in Winchendon, which isn't all that close to Westfield but I suppose closer than some! There are other Massachusetts members lurking about too, and a New England meetup was proposed in this thread last year... maybe it's time to renew that discussion! I think there are loose plans in the works for a get together after the Minstrel in the Banjo Era lecture at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts on December 6, but I don't know if that will be a bring-your-instruments sort of affair.

I think the Pioneer Valley would be a great spot for a central New England meetup; easy access via route 91 from CT and VT, easy access from upstate NY and eastern Mass via the Turnpike. For round 1 I think we could start simple; all we would need is a date and a venue.
Stuart,

That is a great looking banjo! I built a Boucher-style banjo myself two years ago:


I live in Holden in Central Mass. Andy and I just figured out that he grew up in the same town as my wife and that his brother is friends with my wife's sister. So we were hoping to get together one of these days. I am still a beginner, but I can certainly help you tune it and show you the simple tunes I know. If I can learn to do it, anyone can!

I am also hoping to be at the MFA on December 6, but I work in Cambridge, so it is easy for me to get there.

Brian
Andy:
Thanks for the input! Somewhere in the pioneer Valley would be accessible to me. I can't drive that far due to a stroke a few years ago that left me with a slightly weak right leg as a souvenier. Right now I'm looking around for non-credit course in music for dummies...I need to learn how to read music for one thing. I'm retired so I have the luxury of time. I would love to get together with other early banjo folks and learn how to set up my banjo and most importantly get going on the movements from Briggs. As I mentioned, I have NO music in my background. But I got interested in early banjo after researching what happened to Sam Sweeney and getting the memorial tombstone put in the cemetery where he's buried down in Virginia. I met Joe Ayers at the dedication...a great gentleman and a great banjoist. I look forward to hearing from you again!

Stu

Andy Chase said:
Hi Stuart,

That's a beautiful instrument, it definitely wants to be played!

I'm up here in Winchendon, which isn't all that close to Westfield but I suppose closer than some! There are other Massachusetts members lurking about too, and a New England meetup was proposed in this thread last year... maybe it's time to renew that discussion! I think there are loose plans in the works for a get together after the Minstrel in the Banjo Era lecture at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts on December 6, but I don't know if that will be a bring-your-instruments sort of affair.

I think the Pioneer Valley would be a great spot for a central New England meetup; easy access via route 91 from CT and VT, easy access from upstate NY and eastern Mass via the Turnpike. For round 1 I think we could start simple; all we would need is a date and a venue.
Brian:

Thanks for your response! First of all, YOU have a great looking banjo. I tried to replicate the faux finish of the originals. Don't know whether I got the colors right but I've tried. I realized when I made it that I would have to make small continuous improvements on it as time went on, and I was right. I replaced the nut and I just replaced the dowel stick. I have to make new pegs and at some point in the future I'm going to make a dinking die to stamp out more uniform tensioner shoes. My current tensioner shoes are made out of a old brass 105mm shell casing. I'm definitely no luthier.

I'm limited on my car travel range because of the lingering effect of a stroke on my right leg so I rarely venture far. But I appreciate your offer of help and maybe I'll see you at some kind of convention of like minded banjoists in Western MA.

Stu

Brian Welch said:
Stuart,

That is a great looking banjo! I built a Boucher-style banjo myself two years ago:


I live in Holden in Central Mass. Andy and I just figured out that he grew up in the same town as my wife and that his brother is friends with my wife's sister. So we were hoping to get together one of these days. I am still a beginner, but I can certainly help you tune it and show you the simple tunes I know. If I can learn to do it, anyone can!

I am also hoping to be at the MFA on December 6, but I work in Cambridge, so it is easy for me to get there.

Brian

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