Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

"There are but two really fundamental principals or movements governing the action of the right hand in this (banjo) style."

The Hammer

The Combination


Trust this man. He published this statement in 1886.

Views: 55

Comment by Ron on March 31, 2013 at 9:37pm
I'm finding that truth more every time I play.
When learning a new tune I go over the basic movements and then look for those strike patterns in the tune. They are the building blocks. What seems to be complex is really just usually various groupings of the basic units.
Comment by Tim Twiss on March 31, 2013 at 9:51pm
Yes, it provides my schema for the Minstrel Banjo.
Comment by Scott Johnson on April 1, 2013 at 3:18pm

How true, How True.

In fact banjo playing can be thought of as only two movements, a single strike and a double strike. Of course it is how you put the two together and on what strings that makes it interesting.

If there are any mathematicians out there can you give me all of the possible combinations of, two fingers, five strings, and two ways of striking on one 4 beat measure???  My eyes glaze over just thinking about it. How about 2 measures? 3 measures? and so on.

One way of learning is by just learning to play songs. But that kind of locks you into the pattern of that particular song (or songs). One of the things that these type of exercises do is teach you to move your right hand in different ways and not get locked into a particular pattern. One of the things that i do, like Ron, is to start looking for patterns in various songs. It helps to simplify thing when you can break them down to simpler elements.

Here is something interesting you might want to try with the Converse combinations. If you look at the combinations they start with the finger leading on the first beat.  Can you play the combinations(or something like them) with the thumb leading on the first beat?  An example would be taking a 1215 combination and playing it 5152. and then doing that for all of Converse's combinations. 

For beginners it is hard enough just dealing with 2 of 3 strings sometimes, which is why exercises like the Converse combinations can be helpful.  learning some dexterity with the right hand and starting to recognize pattern in songs.  

Comment by Tim Twiss on April 1, 2013 at 6:12pm

Study the Stroke tunes in the Converse Analytical. The marks are mind blowing, but the result is beautiful.

Comment by Ron on April 1, 2013 at 6:18pm

I'm going to stop (for a while) learning tunes like they were a discrete unit.

Instead i'm going to work on learning the Movements in various combinations

until I  am more proficient. That will be my "vocabulary"

Then I will be able to put them together as the various tunes require. Then I'll

feel that sense of satisfaction I've been seeking all along.

Comment by Tim Twiss on April 1, 2013 at 6:25pm

Yes, then the key is to erase the seam and make it seem effortless....connected....musical, and flowing. Yet, there will be something distinctive in there that separates it from all other banjo styles.


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