Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Calabash Dance Cotton Pod Walkaround test 4 stringer2

test on just completed 4 string with light strings,,, needs heavier

Ive been inspired by Mark Weems playing on the Ross 4 string so I made one, unfortunately its test flight was on classic mediums, Ill switch to minsterel to try for a better tone

Views: 156

Comment by Mark Weems on May 6, 2013 at 11:42am

Cool. How do you like the difference in sound between the 4 and 5? Mine has so much more tonal complexity and sustain up the neck than a minstrel banjo does, it's almost all I'm playing now. If I need a bass string note, I just invert the note up to the first string or play the piece out of up the neck positions. I actually don't mind the sound of the classic's on the gourd. A lot of folks seem to feel that  tighter tension is better. I'm not so sure yet. I think fluidity of technique can be enhanced with a little more looseness. Good luck!

Comment by Steve Jeter on May 6, 2013 at 12:15pm

 I haven't spent enough time with it.  when I did the vid in field,,  when actually recording the vid, I didn't like the tone,,, I have yet to make a sound hole, maybe that would make it sound better in playing position. when I listened to the vid it sounded better.   the lighter strings I can see will be needing more finess.

Comment by Strumelia on May 6, 2013 at 3:38pm

What is the general scale length to mid pot, Steve?

I put a sound hole in one of my gourd banjos that didn't have one, and it did add about 25% more volume for me. Just be careful to not make it too big or position it close to a cut edge area of anything on the gourd.  Dont want to compromise the gourd structure- it being under high pressure anyway.

Comment by Ron on May 6, 2013 at 6:01pm

I'm totally not familiar with a 4 string banjo with a short thumb string.

are they like a 5 string just minus the bass string?

I just might have ta make me one o them things !!

Comment by Strumelia on May 6, 2013 at 7:35pm

Yes I am wondering the same as Ron- you appear to be 'thumbing' it, so it the only difference a lack of a bass string perhaps?

Comment by Mark Weems on May 6, 2013 at 11:30pm

According to our available documented evidence, the early american banjo was a four stringer until 1840 or 41' when Joel Walker Sweeney switched from a 4 string gourd to a five string frame banjo, his popularity as a performer and banjoist thus securing forever this format for the instrument. Hans Nathan, however, says that 4 stringers continued to be used throughout the rest of the 1840's, which could explain why Elias Howe's Banjo Preceptor, from 1848, only contains one tune that requires the use of the bass string.  

Comment by Steve Jeter on May 7, 2013 at 8:48am

Strumelia,,, its 25" to bridge in center,,,,,,,,,,  I  had thought the lighter strings were the reason for the weak tone,,,, I now believe it was the lack of a sound hole, with the birdie it sounds good.

Comment by Strumelia on August 14, 2013 at 9:21pm

Steve, I came back to enjoy this video again.  I love the simplicity and home-made music quality.  Great tone on that banjer.  Did you ever wind up trying the heavier minstrel set of strings?-if so how did that turn out?

Comment by Steve Jeter on August 15, 2013 at 8:25am

 thank you,, it actually sits unstrung in my music/book room.  Hoping to sell it in fall art&craft  fests.


Comment by Strumelia on August 15, 2013 at 10:05am

=8-o    Well you better put some strings on it if you want to sell it.  I take it the heavier string experiment didn't turn out well?


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