Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Ian Bell's Blog (27)

Have Fun in Antietam!

Wish I could come, but pesky work has gotten in the way again. Plunk one out for me!

Added by Ian Bell on June 18, 2014 at 8:35am — 2 Comments

Has anyone read this book?

On Amazon I stubled across this title; The Banjo Entertainers: Roots to Ragtime, a Banjo History.

It's by someone named Lowell H. Schreyer. It's only a few years old…


Added by Ian Bell on February 7, 2013 at 1:14pm — 6 Comments


I was going through some music looking for something new to play, and landed on General Burnside's Jig.

It only took a couple of bars to realize that I already knew it. It was a version of the tune that's also called The Octaroon Jig, and Emancipation Jig in a couple of other books - only a few notes different. (not any of the important ones)

Boston Jig aka Modoc Reel is another tune with multiple titles (there's at least one more for that too) It would be interesting to do a survey… Continue

Added by Ian Bell on January 23, 2013 at 8:04am — 6 Comments

Tambo on Ebay

Neat looking tambourine. Wonder if it's as old as they claim? http://www.ebay.ca/itm/Antique-Tambourine-Brass-Banjo-hardware-All-original-Minstrel-Era-/181046686874?pt=Folk_Art&hash=item2a2739349a 

Added by Ian Bell on December 18, 2012 at 12:13pm — 9 Comments

Having the guts to repair a string....

I broke a string tonight while playing. Judy immediately said, "Wow, I didn't realize I could do that with my mind..." (That's why I love her)
Not a suitable gut spare to be found and not enough left on the peg to make up the difference, but I did have a baggie of random string ends. I now have a 1st string with not one, but two splices in it — one above the nut and one below the bridge. Seems to be holding so far. Three cheers for natural materials.

Added by Ian Bell on December 16, 2012 at 10:58pm — 8 Comments


My buddies buddies Sheesham & Lotus and I were all playing at the Millrace Folk Festival in Cambridge, Ontario on the weekend. We agreed to bring funky banjos to the "Whimsical Songs" workshop and foisted Rumsey's Jig on several hundred members of the unsuspecting public - spendidly accompanied by bones and Sousaphone. It was pretty darned whimsical, and clearly one for our side!

Added by Ian Bell on August 6, 2012 at 8:30am — 1 Comment


Hey, Greg, Tim et al.

Is there a Harpers Ferry event being planned for anytime in the future?

I'm feeling definite withdrawl symptoms after missing the June weekend.

Added by Ian Bell on July 23, 2012 at 7:50am — No Comments


When do we get the live feed from the Pry Barn in Antietam?

Sure wish I was there!

Added by Ian Bell on June 23, 2012 at 9:38am — 19 Comments

Green Converse Book

Just got my paper copy of the Green Converse Book from Elderly - Huzzah. The PDFs were great, (Thanks again Tim and Rob) but there's nothing like a book of henscratches sitting on the table in front of you.  There's some crazy music in this book.

Added by Ian Bell on February 1, 2012 at 10:08pm — 1 Comment

What has Nellie done to us?


Is everybody else seeing all the "Nellies"?

John,  is this something you (or anyone) can fix?

Added by Ian Bell on January 19, 2012 at 8:04am — 1 Comment


Everybody but me might have known this already, but the Green Frank Converse banjo tutor is available again at Elderly Instruments for 18 bucks. It's one of my favorites but I've only ever had it in PDF form. The line forms to the left.

Added by Ian Bell on January 3, 2012 at 3:27pm — 1 Comment

Africa - North America - Africa... A Good Story

I heard a great story on the weekend.

I got talking banjo at a gig with Lewis Melville, an old musical acquaintance of mine from Guelph, Ontario. He had recently sponsored a visit to Canada by a musician from Mali who plays one of the many banjo-like traditional instruments in use in Africa these days. (I forget which)

In any case it's one of the ones with a thumb string (or two) and is basically played in what we'd think of in a stroke style.

He took the guy around to…


Added by Ian Bell on September 26, 2011 at 1:04pm — 1 Comment

New Book of American Fiddle Tunes

Has anyone got this impressive looking tome yet?

The "Milliner Koken Collection of American Fiddle Tunes" here's a link to the book at Elderley. http://elderly.com/books/items/158-72.htm

Looks like a lot of good playing could be had out of it. I was a big fan of Walt Koken's when he was in the Highwoods Stringband (one of the great hippie stringbands of the 1970s). I'm dying to see what sort of crossovers there might be…


Added by Ian Bell on August 18, 2011 at 8:38am — 3 Comments

Kansas still there Carl?

Hey Carl,

Has your part of the State been affected by all the tornado activity in the past week?

Added by Ian Bell on May 26, 2011 at 9:33pm — 1 Comment

National Jukebox

I was just put onto another fine service of the Library of Congress - "The National Jukebox" - http://www.loc.gov/jukebox/?loclr=jb_004 lots of banjo stuff from the usual suspects (Van Epps/Ossman)

I haven't really checked it out very thoroughly.  Unfortunately, being an ethical federal government agency they won't let you download - This of course is to ensure that Vess L. Ossman will continue to be able to buy shoes for his…


Added by Ian Bell on May 11, 2011 at 6:19pm — No Comments

Banjo Heaven?

Yesterday I spent a little time in the "banjo room" at the Twelfth Fret music store in Toronto. I played a few nice banjos including a Menzies tackhead, but mostly steel string.

Listen, If you ever get a chance to play banjo in a small room with a couple of dozen other, mostly pretty high-end banjos hanging, perfectly-tuned on the wall around you....do it!  It was like a playing a giant surround sound instrument with epic sustain. The music of the spheres.  "Peanut Gal" took on…


Added by Ian Bell on April 27, 2011 at 6:05am — 8 Comments

Spring Is Here

As Solomon said in his excellent song, "The voice of the turtle is heard again in the land". It's been a long winter up here, but the last bit of piled snow melted on the weekend, the temperature and humidity shot up, and the bridges of my tackheads are sinking into their skins like fat men on trampolines. I don't mind saying I'm feeling a little conflicted about all this.

Added by Ian Bell on April 11, 2011 at 3:57pm — 1 Comment

7-string Flush-fret Banjo On eBay

A seven string - anyone got two extra fingers they don't know what to do with?



Added by Ian Bell on April 5, 2011 at 6:14am — No Comments


Today Ms. Judy was talking with her Grade 3s at Fairview School about different percussion instruments and thought she'd show them the Youtube video of the gang at last year's AEBG with Elaine playing the jawbone. The kids were highly entertained at the sight (and sound) of all those banjos - not to mention the jawbone!  This was so successful they moved on to the "related video" that popped up of  Carl and Joel playing "Funeral March Of An Old Jawbone" at Frank Converse's graveside in Elmira,… Continue

Added by Ian Bell on April 4, 2011 at 8:40pm — No Comments


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