Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Mid 19th Century Minstrel Tambourine

A great reproduction made by Dave Kirchner in Maryland. Goat skin head.

Views: 602

Comment by patrick fetta on September 30, 2020 at 7:19pm

Does a link still exist for this tutor?



Comment by Chris Prieto on October 1, 2020 at 1:57am

I have it but am unsure how to send as the file upload here is limited to 5mb. I will message you for your email.

Comment by Joel Hooks on October 1, 2020 at 10:03am

Chris, Since it is public domain you could send it to me and I'll add it to the Internet Archive... or you could post it to the Archive yourself.  It is easy, accounts are free, and the more contributors the better.

Comment by patrick fetta on October 1, 2020 at 10:56am

chris here is my email:    brierycrk@aol.com



Comment by patrick fetta on October 1, 2020 at 10:58am

Does Dave still sell this tambo?

Comment by Joel Hooks on October 1, 2020 at 1:14pm

Somehow I missed this topic the first time around.  Mark's explanation, while possible, fails to address the obvious problem of burden of proof in the same light of "Russell's Teapot".  And just like Russell's Teapot we are so conditioned by the folk revival mantra that we are not to question what "might possibly have been done by someone somewhere."  Esp. if that somewhere was in "the mountains".

For the comparison of banjo "tunings", this is (somewhat) addressed in that the available information describes a "scheme" of retuning the banjo to match the key desired.  While most documentation describes this system as keeping the string intervals the same while raising or lowering the pitch, Briggs' does mention altering the second string for playing in minor keys. 

Was this retuning the same as all of the various scordatura used in post WW1 "hillbilly" music and taken to a much higher level during the post WW2 folk revival?

Was the system of old time banjo tunings a product of convergent evolution-- is it such an obvious concept that it was developed at a different time and place with no knowledge of the popular banjo?

Frank Converse's description of an itinerant Black banjoist using scordatura is often cited.   In that example, the banjoist uses the change in intervals as an entertainment gag.  He would "fro de banjo out a' tune" and then play with the "out a' tune" banjo to show that he was such a great banjoist that it would not cause him a problem.

Fast forward to Buell Kazee, where he describes that the "mountain man is not good at chords and wants to get as many open strings as possible" (paraphrasing-- a film of this can be viewed on YouTube).  Then he fumbles with the pegs in a folksy manner and plays in a different key. 

It makes for great entertainment, this changing of intervals. Good showmanship gags can be had changing tunings. I watched Paul Brown at Banjo Camp North retune his banjo for an hour.  There was some playing of tunes, but it was mostly twisting pegs and describing who did it, or where he got it, or some other story.  Very folksy and old fashioned. 

As far as the tambourine, most "civil war" string bands play it as if it were a bohran without a tipper.  The bodhran is, of course, a product of the post WW2 folk revival (and is also often featured in "civil war" string bands along side of other anachronisms like mandolins and plectrum guitar).

In the very few films we have of minstrel groups (though from later generations) they tend to just hold the tambo out in front of them, 90 degrees to the floor, and pound it with the other hand in time or shake it.   

Is it possible that we are trying to make the tambourine out to be more that it really was?

Comment by Chris Prieto on October 1, 2020 at 2:11pm

I tried email it to you guys but it might be too big. I uploaded to Google docs so you can download from there: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1iLev-5NkrYgHv6Zug3H4DC4oGzyMuU_e/v...

Comment by Mark Weems on October 1, 2020 at 4:31pm

Poor Joel "classic banjo supremacist" Hooks, will evidently spend another 10 years driving people off of this site with his snobbery and bizarre need to denigrate folk music.

Comment by Joel Hooks on October 1, 2020 at 5:33pm

Hi Mark, is everything okay?  Not that long ago  we could have a conversation... now insults?

My post included a few questions that I don’t have answers for.  I feel like there is a connection between the old time alternate tunings and the “pitch to key” of documentation, I just can’t connect them.

Comment by Joel Hooks on October 2, 2020 at 7:59am


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