Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Scottish fiddle tune and Appalachian variant by Rob Morrison

Views: 108

Comment by Rob Morrison on April 1, 2014 at 4:25pm

This tune, which appears in James Buckley's 1860 banjo tutor, hales from Scotland.  Monymusk is a small village in Aberdeenshire. The Scottish violin tune composer Daniel Dow called it "Sir Archibald Grant of  Moniemusk's Reel."  I t was composed around 1776.  The tune migrated to America and the Appalachians where it was called "Money Musk."  Alan Jabbour recorded Virginia  fiddler Henry Reed's version of the tune for the Library of Congress. Alan  said that, depending on the occasion, Henry  played between two and five parts.  I'm playing four of them here.  The 1860 Buckley version is much closer to the tune's Scottish roots.

Comment by Rob Morrison on April 1, 2014 at 4:28pm

The banjo I'm playing here is one of the famously inexpensive, mass-produced banjos out of the Buckbee factory.  It has a rolled brass cladding and union shield brackets.  It's a great banjo, wonderfully easy to  play.

Comment by Andy Chase on April 1, 2014 at 10:43pm

That was sweetly played, and it's really neat to see how much overlap there is between the two styles.

Comment by Rob Morrison on April 1, 2014 at 11:20pm

Thanks Andy.  I think the way the tune evolved is interesting.  Despite claims to the contrary, 19th century banjo style (or stroke style, if you prefer) and clawhammer are basically the same thing.  Techniques like arpeggios, strings plucked with the left hand, hammer-ons, pull-offs, drop thumbs, harmonics, and steady fifth string drones are all commonly practiced by clawhammer players.  The only noticeable difference between the two styles is that clawhammer renditions ( at least in the South) tend to be continuous to keep a steady rhythm.  There aren't a lot of rests. 

Comment by Nicholas A Bechtel on April 2, 2014 at 12:11am

Heck Yeah! that was nice. I like that middle part right at 1:06 min into the video. What song is it that your playing at that point. Whatever it is I like it. Nice tone on the banjo.

Comment by Ian Bell on April 2, 2014 at 6:03am
That was great! I love the sound of that banjo. It would be fun to line up all the variation parts of Monymusk tune ) Scottish, American Anglo-Canadian, French-Canadian, Australian) together in one place. I think the tune would go on for about three pages.
Comment by Rob Morrison on April 2, 2014 at 8:16am

Nicholas--The second tune I'm playing is also a version of Money Musk, as it's played in the Appalachians.  These tunes evolve over time into sometimes barely recognizable tunes.  It's all part of the folk process.

Comment by Rob Morrison on April 2, 2014 at 8:28am

Thanks Ian.  I'd love to play a 10 or 15 part tune.  One thing I do sometimes do is play medleys of tunes that obviously have a common ancestor, such as Matt Peel's Walkaround, Camptown Hornpipe, Cotton Pod Walkaround, Rural Walkaround, Coon Hunt Walkaround, and Philadelphia Walkaround.

Comment by James Pentecost on April 2, 2014 at 7:24pm

Sounding good, Rob! Like "Soldiers Joy", "Money Musk" has stood the test of time. Perhaps they will still be playing it 100 years from now.

Comment by Nicholas A Bechtel on April 2, 2014 at 11:38pm

Very cool I liked it!

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