Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

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 supernatural proportions. I may never be the same.

Views: 24

Comment by Rob Morrison on April 27, 2011 at 9:06am


One of my justifications for growing a beard was that since I pretty much had to shave twice a day if I went anywhere at night, I figured the time saved by not shaving would add another year or two to my life.  It would also help compenate for all the time I wasted in music stores from age 14 well into adulthood doing exactly what you describe in your post.  But now, alas, with the advent of the internet most all of the real music stores in my neck of the woods have closed.  It's true that I do window shop in the virtual music store websites, but it's really not the same thing.  There's no substitute for feeling the instrument in your hands and actually playing it.  The Bernunzio website has made a step in this direction by having little videos of somebody else play the instrument, but it'sust not the same thing.  Zepp's Country Music Store is the closest place to me now and it's a good hour and a half away.   I did go there once just to see and play the banjos on the walls, but it's really not very practical.  Well, anyway, I can certainly relate to what your recent experience.  Do it again.  It's habit forming.  Just ask my wife.

Comment by John Masciale on April 27, 2011 at 9:34am
Try being left handed....
Comment by Joel Hooks on April 27, 2011 at 10:07am
I'm left handed.
Comment by John Masciale on April 27, 2011 at 11:50am

Joel,  you play right handed.  I'm much more comfortable playing left handed.  It is difficult however being a left handed player from the standpoint of finding older instruments.  They are few and far between.  I do agree with the original point of this forum however.  Playing in a room full of instruments, all in tune is a great experience.

Comment by Ian Bell on April 27, 2011 at 12:05pm
There is a new(ish) lefthanded gourd banjo for sale at Folkways music in Guelph, Ontario. It's been there for a while. I remember thinking when I saw it that at least two distinct niches have to overlap for a sale to occur - Like those venn diagrams they made us do in public school.
Comment by John Masciale on April 27, 2011 at 1:14pm
That's a nice looking gourd.  My next purchase however is going to be either a Sweeny or Ashborn banjo.  I'm interested in the Sweeny, mainly because the original in the LA museum is left handed.  I'm more drawn to the Ashborn simply because of its sophistication/sound.  Like Joel suggested, I'm saving my money...
Comment by Ian Bell on April 27, 2011 at 3:13pm
It would be fun to make/have a copy of the left-handed Sweeny. It's nicely wonky-looking in the pictures I've seen.
Comment by Joel Hooks on April 30, 2011 at 11:47am

Sorry, I was being snarky.  I have my mom to think for the way I play instruments, her thoughts were- they don't make reverse keyboards and we have not seen reverse violins (as of me in 5th grade), so when she got me a guitar for my punk rock band in highschool it was not reversed.


Some folks just can't play the regulation format, no problem there.  Me, I use both hands to play.


Back to Ian's observation.  Seems that the barn had a little of this going on with all the banjos laid about.  Or it just could have been the company that made them sound better.


I say, if one has not had the chance to play with 20+ other early banjos, come join us at the EBC in June!


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