Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Does a gourd banjo with a wide neck qualify as a Minstrel Banjo?

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Nothing to add really  - just wanted to say, that question spawned a lot of good writing that turned into some enjoyable reading for me. Thanks for posing it Barry!

Barry, AEBG IV is Antietam Early Banjo Gathering,IV. There's another thread here with info on attending.  Here's the link.   http://minstrelbanjo.ning.com/forum/topics/fourth-annual-early-amer... 

I won't comment on what a "Minstrel" banjo is and isn't, as I'm too new to know. And I've seen too many over extended similar posts as to what is Old Time music, or what is a bluegrass banjo. I'm not sure it can all be defined so clearly as we might wish.  I'm still studying pictures of early banjos myself, especially gourds. From the pictures, yours what looks to be a fine gourd banjo indeed.

Paul

I agree, using a specific genre of entertainment to describe the early decades of the banjo just helps to define the limitations that the historic segment of the banjo community puts on themselves (I'd like to add that we are very fortunate to have people willing to play from lifeless sheet music, they are a very important part of the modern banjo world).

 

Calling these banjos "Minstrel" presumes that people played that style of music exclusively.  As we all know, unless one has a direct generational link to the music, there is no way to know just how or what music was played on the banjo +/- 1840-1870.

 

Nat Winston, M.D., an authority on banjo history, wrote "banjo players were traditionally a rowdy lot, were comedians of a sort, and most often didn't take their banjo playing too seriously... it was strictly for fun."

 

Louise Scruggs wrote,  "No two banjo players had exactly the same method of working that fifth string.  For that matter, many people used four or five different tunings and changed both the tunings and style to play different songs.  Little music has ever been written for the banjo... In addition, a special body of 'banjo music' began to develop, and this too, is now a part of Americas folk heritage.  For the most part, the authors of this music are virtually unknown, as are the early inventors of the playing styles."

 

I'm not even certain that any music was played on the banjo before classical banjos were built, and then it was so hard to keep them in tune with violin pegs and gut strings, and the music so difficult to play, that people just put on tuxedoes and had their pictures made with them.

 

Then there is that Frank Converse who wrote all the banjo books and tried to sell them to illiterate America.  Who was he trying to fool, everyone knows that the only way to truly understand the banjo it to hear it.  Banjo music, if one has the time to try and decipher it (it sometimes takes months to understand the exercises), could never fully get at the soul of the banjo.

But I'm off subject.

 

If we must designate a specific title for these banjos, that I think should just be called "Banjo" and nothing more, it should be "Pugilistic Tubs."

 

I'm off to play by numbers... the Dobson way

 

Hooks out

 

Buy thimbles, don't play around without protection.

 

The most frequent comment that I have gotten while playing my Pugilistic Tubs is how much people prefer the sound of them to modern banjos.

I am not qualified to answer this question. But I appreciate this conversation. The video posted on The Banjo Project website is insightful. Though I am sad to see the negative light cast on minstrel music in this short review of the project, I look forward to the documentary and the archive to come. Check it out at http://www.thebanjoproject.org/. The comments by Riannon Giddens of Carolina Chocolate Drops at the end of the clip is priceless

Dena thanks for the reply I was never aware of the banjoproject and look forward to seeing it

I haven't been to one, but I believe it stands for Annual Early Banjo Gathering 4 (being the 4th one, not 1 nor 2, nor even 3...and 5 is right out...oh sorry...a Monty Python moment!).

Barry Sholder said:
What is AEBG IV?
Ah...I was close.

Paul Certo said:

Barry, AEBG IV is Antietam Early Banjo Gathering,IV. There's another thread here with info on attending.  Here's the link.   http://minstrelbanjo.ning.com/forum/topics/fourth-annual-early-amer... 

I won't comment on what a "Minstrel" banjo is and isn't, as I'm too new to know. And I've seen too many over extended similar posts as to what is Old Time music, or what is a bluegrass banjo. I'm not sure it can all be defined so clearly as we might wish.  I'm still studying pictures of early banjos myself, especially gourds. From the pictures, yours what looks to be a fine gourd banjo indeed.

Paul

Vince, you are funny.  I hope you are attending this year.



Vince Abadie said:

I haven't been to one, but I believe it stands for Annual Early Banjo Gathering 4 (being the 4th one, not 1 nor 2, nor even 3...and 5 is right out...oh sorry...a Monty Python moment!).

Barry Sholder said:
What is AEBG IV?

I would love to, Dena, and thanks! But my daughter got married last summer and now has grandchild #1 on the way in October, and my son is getting married in November. It's not looking like a trip is in the budget , unless that powerball ticket I get tonight comes through with a jackpot!



Dena Lee said:

Vince, you are funny.  I hope you are attending this year.



Vince Abadie said:

I haven't been to one, but I believe it stands for Annual Early Banjo Gathering 4 (being the 4th one, not 1 nor 2, nor even 3...and 5 is right out...oh sorry...a Monty Python moment!).

Barry Sholder said:
What is AEBG IV?

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