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Author Topic: Banjo players, Talk to me.  (Read 18856 times)

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Offline morning

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Banjo players, Talk to me.
« on: Aug 07, 2008, 12:11:19 AM »
While I am recuperating from treatments for cancer, I am too tired to practice fiddle for more than an hour a day, so I've been playing around with a banjo. Five string standard tuning. Resonator back.
I know there are basically 2 styles of playing. One is the Scruggs style. The other is Clawhammer. Maybe there are more. But I don't know about them.
I want to expand my versatility with the Old Time Band I play guitar in. Besides, I am comatose with the 1-4-5 patterns of rhythm guitar.
I have a Mel Bay teach yourself book by Janet Davis. She is showing wonderful arpeggiation, and less chords. The chords seem to be F shape. D shape or Barre.
I can't barre for s..t on my guitar, but the banjo might be easier.
I thought I could learn this thing in about a month and stay committed to my fiddle.
I'm thinking now, that it might be a long month. Maybe a winter or two.
The good thing about the banjo is the way it sits close to my body and resonates. It feels very therapeutic. I have unlimited time and patience and can play a measure over fifty times if I need to.
Tell me about your learning banjo. About the different styles of banjo. Feed me some trivia about it if you have any. I am really fascinated with it.
Thanks, M

Offline Happy Camper

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #1 on: Aug 07, 2008, 01:08:24 AM »

Hope some of them banjo players talk to you.

The only thing I know is that you have to learn how not to ever get the dern thing tuned, especially at a jam session, and also learn how to do that drool from one side of the mouth when you play it.

Other than that, I bet you pick it all up pretty quick from the stuff from Janet Davis Music Store.  She is some banjo player and usually plays some fancy banjo with all the trimmings.

Wish you well regarding your medical treatments.  I have enjoyed your postings on the Forum.

Offline frodopogo

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #2 on: Aug 07, 2008, 01:21:15 AM »
Sorry to hear about your cancer!
Hope the treatment goes as well as possible!
BEAT IT! (the cancer, that is!)

Anyhoo,
I played banjo before I got into fiddle.
Like so many at the time (circa 1970)
I fell in love with Foggy Mountain Breakdown,
and started taking bluegrass banjo lessons.
But there was a jam on the lawn at college (CSU Northridge)
with both bluegrass and old time pickers.
I was just beginning, so I was too timid to get my instrument out.
At the end of one jam, it was just me and a guitarist.
He said "Can you play that thing?"
"A little, I said"
He said "Show me!"
So I played him probably the slowest version of Foggy Mountain
Breakdown he'd ever heard.
He laughed and said, "That's not what you're supposed to play on
that kind of banjo!" (It was an open back Vega)
"Let me see that!"
And I handed it to him, he retuned it in C,
and played Soldier's Joy clawhammer style, and I fell in love right there.

I got a Pete Seeger banjo book, and it took me something like 3 and 1/2
months to get the "frailing" "bumpditty" strum which is analogous to
the boom chucka country backup pattern also used for Old Time backup.

The initial learning curve for frailing is STEEP, especially if you've ever played anything (usually guitar) fingerpicking style.
Not only is it the opposite direction the hand is moving more as a unit.

After that, things level off dramatically.

Pretty soon I was playing simple melodies clawhammer style and singing with them.  Then I found a fiddler, jammed with him, and caught the fiddle bug,
and decided that for fiddle tunes above a certain complexity, I was putting
so much effort into them on banjo that I might as well learn them on fiddle,
so I borrowed a fiddle, and the rest is history.
But I still play some banjo, and use it in my nursing home volunteering and
senior center gigs.

I only had 3 Scruggs-style lessons, but I can say that from the get-go it's a lot more complex, and it has lots of syncopation.
The syncopation is cool, but it doesn't always make sense without a backup instrument.
Many people who switch from Scruggs to clawhammer say that clawhammer is more satisfying to play when practicing alone, because you are usually playing the melody.

There are also Old Time fingerpicking styles similar to Scruggs style,
but instead of these complex breaks, the banjo is just playing some slightly syncopated arpeggios underneath the fiddle melody.

A really good album that highlights this is
Matt Brown's "Lone Prairie" album, available on CD Baby.
The banjo player is Paul Brown (the NPR announcer- no relation to Matt)
and he does both clawhammer and Old Time fingerpicking underneath
Matt's fine Old Time fiddling.  Beverly Smith sings 3 songs and plays backup guitar on many others.

Normally, 5 string banjos with resonators are used for Scruggs style.
The head is cranked very tight, and normally the finger position is near the bridge, resulting in a very trebley sound.

Banjos used for Old Time are normally open back.
The head is tightened to taste, some people liking it tight and bright,
others preferring loose and plunky (I'm the latter).

My current Banjo is a Hohner Travel Banjo (HTB).
They have them at Elderly Instruments where I got mine,
but other places as well.  They are less than $200.
I like it because:
1. I usually sing in D with the banjo,
and I'd have to capo a normal neck banjo.
This short neck banjo I just tune up.
2. It has a good plunky sound, with a small brass tone ring.
3. It is lighter than many banjos.
I strained my should when a friend handed his banjo to me last spring!
Many weigh around 10 pounds! Not for me!

There is also a similar Hohner with the same "pot" and tone ring,
but a normal length neck.

Oh yeah... Happy Camper mentioned something about tuning-
there are THREE tunings for Old Time Clawhammer which are obligatory.
1. G tuning, which you've tried.
2. Sawmill, with the second string B raised to C for
G modal mountain tunes like Shady Grove and Coo Coo Bird.
3. Some C tuning.  There are 3.
One is called Standard, and is just normal G tuning with the low D lowered
to C. It is good if you play a lot of chord backup.
I use what is called "2 C's" tuning.
I use Sawmill as a transitional tuning to get there.
From Sawmill, you drop the low D to C, and you have it.
The second string you raised to C and the low string you dropped
are an octave apart.

Although the tunings are G and C, banjo players often play
in A and D with fiddlers.  A capo on the second fret is used to get to those keys.
At jam sessions, the rest of the jam has to wait for the banjo player to get recapoed and retuned, which is why Happy Camper made the joke about tuning.
Smart fiddlers or tune requesters have a tune list segregated by key,
and play all their G tunes, A tunes, A modal tunes and D tunes together in groups.
If you're careful, the banjo only has to be retuned twice that way.
There are other tunings, but many are used for only a couple tunes-
if you play a lot in a group, it's best to stick to G, sawmill, and the C tuning of your choice.

Michael

Offline frodopogo

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #3 on: Aug 07, 2008, 01:28:35 AM »
On my ezfolk website,
http://ezfolk.com/audio/bands/1088/
I have some tunes with fiddle and clawhammer banjo-
they are marked as such.

I am a drop thumb clawhammer player.

Click on "Our Songs" for those.

I have a streaming "station" under "Our Stations"
that has my fiddle & banjo and fiddle & guitar stuff,
plus some of my favorite Old Time stuff from other performers
on ezfolk.

They offer a variety of different styles: some bright, some plunky,
some fretted, some fretless, some single note melodic, some with a strong
bump-ditty rhythm.


Michael

Offline morning

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #4 on: Aug 07, 2008, 01:36:45 AM »
So with all that re-tuning. Do you bust a lot of strings? I love the modal tunes and can't wait to try that tuning. We do a medley with Sally in the Garden and Julia Delaney and something else. I love it.
As to the drooling, I am basically rather well balanced. I can drool ambidextrously. I think that should work with the banjo, don't you?
I love your information. All of that is so new to me.
My family is shaking their heads thinking I'm off on another kick. I don't think I am. I love the fiddle. But, Gosh it's fun to learn something completely new.


Offline madmat

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #5 on: Aug 07, 2008, 01:51:41 AM »
My family is shaking their heads thinking I'm off on another kick. I don't think I am. I love the fiddle. But, Gosh it's fun to learn something completely new.
I think all it takes to play the banjo successfully is attitude... and a total lack of shame. ;D Tuning is not important.

Re-posted from the "music you hate" thread;
Quote
"Banjar" is supposed to be Swahili for "that which cannot be tuned..." Grin

Ryan Shupe & the Rubber Band combines rap and banjo playing to create... well, it it isn't something to hate, something that's at least REALLY funny. (Don't be eating or drinking anything while watching this, unless your computer needs a really good cleaning anyway.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3-YXYPCmSDA
Not your mama, or Yo-yo Ma!

Offline morning

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #6 on: Aug 07, 2008, 02:07:44 AM »
Good news, Matt . You need to listen to Micheal's ezfolk website. He really makes it sound like something I want to do. I think the one I want to learn first is Big Scioty. It's a tune we did a couple years ago and it could have used a little banjo spunk.Thanks, Michael.
My mother thinks I need to grow two new arms ( maybe where my recent amputations were). Then I could play banjo and fiddle. I guess she hasn't met Michael nor  Audacity.

Offline madmat

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #7 on: Aug 07, 2008, 05:56:12 AM »
I guess she hasn't met Michael nor  Audacity.
Audacity is a good substitute for a total lack of shame. ;D Use either in liberal quantities, and enjoy the banjo. :)
Not your mama, or Yo-yo Ma!

Offline Luther

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #8 on: Aug 07, 2008, 07:41:34 PM »
Hi Morning I hope you're feeling better. I don't play banjo but my wife does. She picked it up after playing mandolin for 5 years. She plays old time claw hammer style. Once she put her head to it she was playing fairly well within a few months. I did take a claw hammer class (5 days) a few years ago and the "bum-diddy" does take some practice but it seems that once you get it you've got it.  I can appreciate bluegrass / Scruggs style but claw hammer just warms my heart. Good luck to you with the banjo, and remember it's the journey.

peace...Brad

Offline frodopogo

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #9 on: Aug 07, 2008, 08:16:10 PM »
Quote from: morning

link=topic=28549.msg241622#msg24162

2 date=1218069405
So with all that re-tuning.
Do you bust a lot of
strings?
I love the modal
tunes and can't wait to try that
tuning. We do a medley with Sally
in the Garden and Julia Delaney and
something else. I love it.
As to the drooling, I am basically
rather well balanced. I can drool
ambidextrously. I think that should
work with the banjo, don't you?
I love your information. All of that is so new to me.
My family is shaking their heads
thinking I'm off on another kick. I
don't think I am. I love the
fiddle. But, Gosh it's fun to learn
something completely new.

Not all the stuff on the "radio" is by me-
I think Big Scioty is done (and very well!) by
a Swedish Old Time group called the Rockridge Brothers.

Tuning a string below it's normal
pitch and back up is not a problem,
neither in my experience is tuning
a string a half-step high.

There is only one tuning I can
think of that's a sure fire string-buster.
Open C!

If you get to "2 C's" tuning, the
top string is not part of the C chord,
and you put your finger on the 2nd fret to get the C.
I like that, because the hammer-on sounds cool,
and I tend to do similar things
with D and A chords on guitar.

But some people want the unfretted
strings to be a chord,
and they have a problem...
In that case, the top string has to
be tuned UP a whole step from what
it's supposed to be.  If you used a
slightly lighter gauge 1st string
it wouldn't be a problem, but if
it's gauged to be a D, it's going to be iffy.

I'm not sure what it is about banjo...
it's definitely one of the "Rodney
Dangerfield" instruments...
although it shares that role with accordion.
But since accordion is rare in the U.S. anymore,
banjo players make a much more convenient target.
Part of it is a tradition going back to minstrel banjo-
the banjo player is a comedian as well as musician.
In the 20th century Grandpa Jones
and Stringbean played this kind of comic role with
clawhammer banjo.
Also Bashful Brother Oswald.  You
can find videos of all three on YouTube.

Some of it may also be because more
expensive banjos, whether
5 string or plectrum are sonic
powerhouses- they can get VERY loud!
And loud instruments tend to attract brash extroverts...
who may have been the class clowns!
There is a local bluegrass band
with just such a Scruggs player-
he comes to jams, and is ALWAYS
joking about something!
And there is a local plectrum banjo
player (the kind without the 5th
string used for New Orleans Jazz
and also by some players in the "Folk Boom")
locally whose stock-in-trade is
comic songs and is a bit of a cut-up and jokester too.

Anyway, if you become a banjo
player, Madmat has given you a
taste of what to expect!
No respect!

Another factor with Old Time is the retuning-
if the band is performing on stage,
and the banjo player has to retune,
it's a natural place for TUNING
jokes... but the other musicians
are getting impatient with the
banjo player, so it's natural for
them to make the banjo player the
butt of the jokes.

If there are no banjos in the music genre-
a suitable fall-guy will be found-
In rock it's usually the drummer,
sometimes the bass player.
In classical, it's viola players.

Anyway,
if you get serious about this,
by all means check out the Banjo Hangout.
There are both Bluegrass and Clawhammer sections.
I'm banjopogo over there, but I'm not there much since
I don't play banjo all that much compared to fiddle.
But it's a very active, very friendly site.
You might especially enjoy Mary Z.
Cox' stuff over there.

Another thing: fingernails!
If you play Scruggs, you don't need
them, you've got fingerpicks.
If you play clawhammer, you either
need a strong, flexible fingernail
usually on the middle finger, but possibly the index...
or you can use one of a variety of
methods to toughen and/or protect
the nail, or substitute for it.

Michael

Offline madmat

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #10 on: Aug 07, 2008, 08:31:05 PM »
Hi Morning I hope you're feeling better.
Not to speak for Ms. Morning, but I'm reminded of the incredibly (brutally!) candid stuff my favorite political writer scrivened when she was under treatment:

Having breast cancer is massive amounts of no fun. First they mutilate you; then they poison you; then they burn you. I have been on blind dates better than that.

-- the late, and still great, Molly Ivins
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1101020218-201917,00.html
Not your mama, or Yo-yo Ma!

Offline madmat

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #11 on: Aug 07, 2008, 08:33:36 PM »
My mother thinks I need to grow two new arms ( maybe where my recent amputations were).
I'm picturing a Madonna-style brassiere, with opera-length gloves sewn to the cups, concealing robotic arms. ;)

We have the technology.
Not your mama, or Yo-yo Ma!

Offline frodopogo

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #12 on: Aug 07, 2008, 08:44:49 PM »
Oh yeah...

you mentioned Julia Delaney...
that's an Irish tune, right?

Be advised, while it is still called "banjo"
what is played in Irish bands is almost unrelated
except for the pot/drumhead working the same.

The 5-string openback was the earliest "modern banjo",
with frets and a tension-adjustable head.

Banjo players who wanted to do chord backup for ragtime
and jazz took the 5th string off cause it just got in the way,
both musically and physically. But the tuning is otherwise the same
That's called a plectrum banjo.
They were very popular because with the addition of a resonator,
they were loud enough in the days before amplification to compete
with trumpets and trombones.
People with a violin/viola/cello background had a hard time with the tuning
though, and so someone devise a version tuned in fifths that string players
could get the hang of easily.
These are notable for having a shorter neck than a plectrum or 5-string banjo.
It is played with a pick just like the plectrum.

While the 5 string banjo was used some for Irish vocal groups,
for instrumentals, the Irish did something different-
they took a tenor banjo, which is normally tuned C-G-D-A like a viola,
and tuned it <down> a fifth so it is an octave below mandolin and fiddle,
and can easily play fiddle tunes in first position, although a bit more hand motion is necessary.
This downtuning also gives the strings on an Irish tenor banjo a soft, rubbery
feel that imparts a softness to the tone better suited to blending in with fiddles and flutes, since Irish music is mostly about unison playing.
In modern Irish music the place of the Irish tenor banjo is sometimes taken by the octave mandola or bouzouki.

Tenor banjos can be hard to find.
Remember that Hohner Travel Banjo I have-
the neck length is the same as a tenor banjo, so
with different strings, retuning, and removal of the fifth string,
you can turn it into an Irish tenor banjo quite cheaply.
This is good because hardly anyone makes tenor banjos anymore.
Many were bought up by clawhammer players who had 5 string necks made for them, and many of those that are left are in bad shape or very expensive.

I also forgot to mention- the tuning machines on the Hohner Travel banjo
are really bad- they should be replaced.... otherwise you will need a chromatic tuner.

Michael

Offline morning

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #13 on: Aug 09, 2008, 04:34:43 AM »
Michael, Brad and MAdmat, I have been offline for a couple days. My Pete Seeger book arrived and I have practiced it a lot. And last night we had our weekly jam. I was so thrilled when someone told me I was playing too fast... that was on fiddle of course. I feel like a faithless lover when I pick up the banjo.
You're right, MAdmat, we have the technology. I could have arms growing out of my chest. It makes me smile, to think of myself as something of a western Shiva. Bless Molly Ivins.  I hadn't heard that quote.  She was a funny funny lady.
I'm watching the Olympics opening ceremony. Seeing all those people, even though it's beautiful and artistic, gives me a big sense of Uh Oh! I think we're in trouble. And I'm not talking about sports.
Also, I want one of those dresses the hungarian girls wore. Also the hat, please.


Offline morning

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #14 on: Aug 09, 2008, 05:31:20 AM »
Thanks, Michael, I just read and re-read your excellent descriptions of banjo for shut-ins. Actually none of that information has been in either of my two books. The fingernail/fingerpick information was particularly unlikely to appear anywhere else. I sort of suspected that a banjo was an unlikely candidate for a nice celtic sound.
I have copied and emailed myself the post on tuning.
Thanks to you all for your good wishes. I think I'm going to be really fine. I have been told, and I believe that it is so, that when one gets a diagnosis of breast cancer, you can just plan on giving up a year of your life to all the surgeries and treatments. But you can learn a lot of music in a year. This has been a little taste of the inevitable... for which I am not ready, and to which I am frankly opposed. I guess the whole cancer thing really ticks me off, though. I was so looking forward to a heart attack.  :P

Offline morning

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #15 on: Aug 12, 2008, 01:55:08 AM »
Ok, guys, I took the banjo to my fiddle lesson and my fiddle teacher gave me a lesson. Now I know the direction I want to take. He teaches clawhammer.
He showed me how to do double thumb and he gave me a song.. Shortnin Bread. I'll take one banjo lesson a month, and the fiddle for the other three.
I like the versatility. I tend to overpractice my fiddle and often learn things wrong and so deeply that I can't un learn them. So maybe this will help me get a little balance.

Offline Emma

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #16 on: Aug 12, 2008, 02:07:26 AM »
In my next life I want to learn banjo.
This thread is really interesting.  Thanks Michael for all that great information.  Maybe I won't wait for my next life - my husband's never-played resonator 5 string is propping up one of the walls of the music room!

All the very best of luck with recovery, banjo and life, Morning!
Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.
(Michael Pollan)

Offline morning

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #17 on: Aug 12, 2008, 04:48:18 AM »
Hey, Emma, The first thing the teacher told me was how to get the resonator off the banjo. On this one there are some braces and little tiny phillips screws.Also, for Clawhammer you don't need any dubious jewelry like finger picks so you can just go with it.
I don't know if I'm doing the right thing splitting my committment, but one thing I've learned for sure. Life is short and that 'next life' is pretty much theoretical. So, I'm going to take a chance that  I've got enough in me to do both.
If not, I'll make a new decision.
 

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #18 on: Aug 12, 2008, 02:35:27 PM »
If you play clawhammer, you either
need a strong, flexible fingernail
usually on the middle finger, but possibly the index...
or you can use one of a variety of
methods to toughen and/or protect
the nail, or substitute for it.

The fingernail thing might be a deal-breaker for me.  I'm a reformed nail-biter, and I have to keep my nails very short to prevent relapses.  Can I wear just one finger pick?


Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.
(Michael Pollan)

Offline morning

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #19 on: Aug 12, 2008, 03:37:24 PM »
My teacher is a nail biter too. Actually, you'll end up either using your middle finger or index finger nail. My teacher just grows that one out. Also, people do sometimes use one finger pick turned around backward and bent and modeled real close to the finger. But that's just for clawhammer. One book I got, The Tao and How of Old Time Banjo, says "The less you think about your picking nail, the less trouble you'll have with it."
If you play Scruggs style, you can wear all the finger armor you can find and leave the resonator on too.
It's a beautiful day in Colorado. I think I'll spend it re-learning New Money. At my fiddle lesson, I found that I had morphed the b part a bit and it was not a pretty mutation.




Offline farmerjones

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #20 on: Aug 12, 2008, 04:11:55 PM »
Good gracious, when most folks want a break from a fiddle they choose a mandolin, because it's tuned and kind of laid out the same.  You must've had the banjo at hand. Take heart, i've got a guitar, banjo, mandolin, as well as a fiddle, and they all get neglected accordingly, save the fiddle. I pick bare fingered. I can't stand the feeling picks on my fingers, so that seperates me from a real banjo picker. There's a company that makes a Goodtime banjo, though i don't have that brand, i think it's a fitting name. Like a harmonica, it's tough to make an unpleasent sound on a banjo. Not like a fiddle. Enjoy! If you don't have a copy of John Hartford's, Hamilton Ironworks, get one. Great banjo work behind, in front of, and alongside the fiddle. JH said, better are times with a banjo and no money, than times with money and no banjo.

Offline morning

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #21 on: Aug 12, 2008, 10:56:39 PM »
I played mandolin before fiddle and guitar. I have house full of them, they're so darned pretty to look at. But to play them, I find them a bit plinky.I am,however going tomorrow night to see Chris Thile and Edgar Meyer play together at the tent in Aspen.
Now,speaking of Edgar Meyer, there's an instrument I haven' tried. The bass.
It's hardly portable, and costs more than all my instruments together. Also, the players I have known complain about their fingers long past the time when I would have grown callouses with most other string instruments.
I'm going over to itunes now to check on that John Hartford recommendation.

Offline morning

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #22 on: Aug 12, 2008, 11:02:30 PM »
Oh, Yes, That's Bob Carlin backing him. Sooo fine.
When I hear them both play, I'm back to wanting a new set of arms so I can play both at once.

Offline madmat

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #23 on: Aug 12, 2008, 11:07:05 PM »
I played mandolin before fiddle and guitar. I have house full of them, they're so darned pretty to look at. But to play them, I find them a bit plinky.
Some of us like that ka-PLINGgggggg... and the fact that the fingering is nearly identical to fiddle. :)
Quote
I am,however going tomorrow night to see Chris Thile and Edgar Meyer play together at the tent in Aspen.
Now,speaking of Edgar Meyer, there's an instrument I haven' tried. The bass.

It's hardly portable, and costs more than all my instruments together.
Not to get your IAS any worse than it already is, but electric basses are affordable and portable... the Ashbory being particularly so:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashbory_bass

I have one of the old Guild ones... it can be made to sound like an upright with proper (improper for eBass) technique...

The new Ibanez Mikro bass is roughly Stratocaster-sized, and about the same weight... it'll fit in a guitar case. If you don't mind listening to yourself thru phones, you can save yourself amp-lugging.
Not your mama, or Yo-yo Ma!

Offline madmat

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #24 on: Aug 12, 2008, 11:25:27 PM »
When I hear them both play, I'm back to wanting a new set of arms so I can play both at once.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lakshmi
Lakshmi or Mahalakshmi (pronunciation: [ləkʂ.miː]; Sanskrit: लक्ष्मी lakṣmī) is the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity.

Iconography

Physically, goddess Lakshmi is described as a fair lady, with four arms, seated on a lotus, dressed in fine garments and precious jewels. Her expression is always calm and loving.
Not your mama, or Yo-yo Ma!

Offline morning

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #25 on: Aug 13, 2008, 01:51:32 AM »
Oh, Duh. I thought my patron saint was Shiva. Lakshmi looks like my kind of girl

Offline madmat

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #26 on: Aug 13, 2008, 05:04:01 PM »
I thought my patron saint was Shiva. Lakshmi looks like my kind of girl
Shiva is the Destroyer ("I am Death, the Shatterer of Worlds...") not good vibes... and... a guy. :P

Lakshmi is also the Goddess of Domestic Health, and a lot of the iconography has her clutching a musical instrument resembling a lute in her "lower" pair of hands. Might as well be a banjo. :)
Not your mama, or Yo-yo Ma!

Offline morning

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #27 on: Aug 14, 2008, 12:06:41 AM »
Excellent! That's my goddess! Thanks for saving me from the clutches of Shiva.

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #28 on: Aug 14, 2008, 04:19:47 AM »
What a dag-blasted, twisted, upside-down instrument it is.   
Took me half an hour to tune the damn thing!
It wouldn't stay in tune!  I had to give up any idea of all 5 strings being in tune at the same time!

Getting the resonator off was the easiest part of the exercise, and definitely worth doing.

I practised the G, C and G7 arpeggios until my fingers were sore.  That 5th string being an octave up feels so weird.  I was looking at the tab and the "lowest" note is really the highest.........freaky!  Now I know why banjo playing sounds sort of upside down - it's what I love about the sound, actually but it's going to take some getting used to.

My tutor book says it's for bluegrass banjo, and says to use finger picks.  Is this Scruggs style?

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #29 on: Aug 14, 2008, 04:37:21 AM »
I think my husband got the banjo about 25 years ago.  Maybe I should get new strings???
Or could be tuning whatsits be loose?
Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.
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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #30 on: Aug 14, 2008, 04:56:11 AM »
What's frailing?
Is clawhammer style the same thing? 
I've heard guitar players talk about frailing too, I think.

Would Perlman's book Clawhammer Style Banjo be a good one to get?
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Offline Don Stackhouse

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #31 on: Aug 14, 2008, 05:23:54 AM »
A friend of mine tells the story of a guy in the local nursing home who had just turned 104. The local paper sent a reporter over to do an interview.

Reporter: "What's your biggest regret in life?"
Old Man:  "That I only spent 40 years of my life doing something productive."
Reporter: "What did you do with the other 64 years ??!!"

Old Man: "I TUNED THE BANJO !!"
« Last Edit: Aug 14, 2008, 12:18:35 PM by Don Stackhouse »

Offline morning

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #32 on: Aug 14, 2008, 06:15:54 AM »
Now, that's' funny!!!
Emma, Good for you, girl. I am using a super cheapy entry level banjo and not having the tuning problems so it's probably got something to do with old strings. Hopefully not old tuners.
You're right. That fifth string seems kind of counter-intuitive. But Clawhammer uses is as a drone and it is said to "ring" as in " hear dem banjos ringin'"
Clawhammer takes about as long to learn as it takes to open a can of cat food. But then, you get to practice it for the next "40" years.

I just left that Chris Thile/Edgar Meyer concert at intermission. Both musicians are wonderful, and it's maybe that I just tire easily, but the music
wasn't exactly riveting and it definitely wasn't rousing.It was all extemporaneous except that which had been written by Edgar Meyer for violin(probably specifically Mark O'Connor)and bass.
Watching Chris grow up over the years has been kind of a trip. From rosy cheeked little fat kid to rumpled young adult, his musicianship has always been prodigious. Think of it. He's a musician who never had a "day job."

Offline Emma

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #33 on: Aug 15, 2008, 02:45:45 PM »
I think I just got it (clawhammer vs bluegrass)

I've been looking at a bluegrass banjo book.  I've been plucking upwards with my fingers, and downwards with my thumb.

In clawhammer or frailing, you hit downwards using a fingernail on the full length strings, and pluck downwards on the 5th short string.

If I want to play Old time, I should learn the second style, yes? 

Spent another 10 mins on the G, C and G7 arps, before sore fingers stopped play.

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Offline Luther

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #34 on: Aug 15, 2008, 08:09:45 PM »
Most old time is claw hammer style. There are a few areas here in the south east where a 2 finger style is still played in old time but not much.

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #35 on: Aug 20, 2008, 02:53:43 PM »
Finally had a go at learning "bum ditty" last night.  I watched a YouTube video by Richard Heffner of EZfolk which was very clear, and then I watched another very good video.  I feel as though I know just what to do, but it's not as easy as it looks!!
It's learning from scratch all over again! I feel unco-ordinated; my hands don't do what I want them to. I get confused whether I'm on bum or ditty and strum when I'm supposed to pick just one string etc etc.

What a good thing I learned violin as a little kid who doesn't expect to do complicated things well.  Children must have a very high tolerance of failure and endless patience for learning.  I would never have stuck with learning fiddle at the age I am now!
Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.
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Offline feodosia

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #36 on: Aug 20, 2008, 03:35:52 PM »
  Yeah, Bum-ditty  is  for oldtime banjo and clawhammer is a great method to start with, lots of instruction material out there ...
Most old time is claw hammer style. There are a few areas here in the south east where a 2 finger style is still played in old time but not much.

    I use an awful lot of 2-finger picking in my oldtime banjo playing ....but you can blame Doc Watson for that !   :D

Offline frodopogo

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #37 on: Aug 20, 2008, 04:05:02 PM »
Emma,

You too!
It's contagious!

Yes, bump-ditty = frailing = clawhammer

As Luther and Feo have said, fingerpicking IS an option in Old Time.
And sometimes you see a bluegrass band where they will use clawhammer
on certain songs for a different sound.

But those are pretty much "exceptions that prove the rule" that 99%
of the time
clawhammer = Old Time banjo and
Bluegrass banjo = fingerpicking.

Michael

Offline morning

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #38 on: Aug 21, 2008, 05:10:38 AM »
Neurologically, the skill required for banjo, seems to be sequencing. It's  about patterns. As a novice, I find that every time I start to practice the banjo, I need to go through the bum ditty pattern or the front roll/reverse roll etc. Otherwise, I just end up tangling it all up. I tried playing behind Henry King's reel and could quickly tell that drop thumb will be my next thing to learn.

Offline madmat

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #39 on: Aug 22, 2008, 06:35:01 PM »
Neurologically, the skill required for banjo, seems to be sequencing.
It's a lot like Travis fingerpicking (alternating thumb bass - index/middle/ring) or those early, and time-honored arpeggio studies from the Heitor Villa-Lobos classical guitar etudes.

If you can alternate thumb/index, thumb/middle, thumb/ring in any order and figure out your left hand 1-4-5 chords you're most of the way there.

Thumb = p (pollex)
index = i (same in Latin... cool, huh?)
middle = m (median)
ring = a (annular)

... and then you work out all the patterns for groups of 2, 3 and 4 notes, alternating the thumb and the fingers singly and in groups.
p-i, p-m, p-a

p-i-m, p-i-a, p-a-i, p-m-i, etc.

p-i-m-a, p-m-i-a, p-a-m-i, yada yada.

Left hand is same as guitar, you hold chords and change 'em quickly slightly before the beat.
Not your mama, or Yo-yo Ma!

Offline morning

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #40 on: Aug 25, 2008, 06:04:45 PM »
Madman, Oddly enough, I get that pima thing. Good god, do you think I'm getting my brain back? Lord, I hope so.
Well,my AIS is starting to itch again. So, Michael, talk to me a little bit about your Hohner travel banjo. Does it have a raised tone ring? Can it? Does it have a geared fifth string. Removable resonator? No resonator? (That would be ok too.) Like you, I don't want to carry an instrument that's as heavy as my bloodhound. But, I'm almost a joke in my band because all my instrments sold together wouldn't buy a tire for my truck.
How would you compare it to the basic Deering Goodtime? What, besides traveling is the advantage of the short neck?  Is the head standard size? Just how plinky is it?
Can you play it and send a sample to the website?

Offline madmat

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #41 on: Aug 25, 2008, 07:27:33 PM »
Madman, Oddly enough, I get that pima thing.
If you want to keep plinking away on guitar and not getting stuck into strumming I-IV-V progressions, Mark Hanson's fingerpicking books are really good for totally drilling these things into your brain for guitar, and a lot of it carries over for its more irritating cousin. You just learn different chords (which conveniently work out on the octave mando and regular mando!)
Not your mama, or Yo-yo Ma!

Offline frodopogo

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #42 on: Aug 26, 2008, 05:36:49 AM »
Well,my AIS is starting to itch again. So, Michael, talk to me a little bit about your Hohner travel banjo. Does it have a raised tone ring? Can it? Does it have a geared fifth string. Removable resonator? No resonator? (That would be ok too.) Like you, I don't want to carry an instrument that's as heavy as my bloodhound. But, I'm almost a joke in my band because all my instrments sold together wouldn't buy a tire for my truck.
How would you compare it to the basic Deering Goodtime? What, besides traveling is the advantage of the short neck?  Is the head standard size? Just how plinky is it?
Can you play it and send a sample to the website?

All the banjo stuff (actually fiddle & banjo) I have on the ezfolk page is the Hohner Travel Banjo.

It has a small brass tone ring.  The pot is normal sized 11".
No resonator.
5th string is the normal cheapo kind, not geared.

The biggest flaw for me is the tuners; they are the cheapest possible tuners, and the gig bag is a close enough fit that it's hard to get
the banjo in and out of the gig bag without the tuners getting bumped.
So it means everytime I play it there is some serious retuning to do.
I am very likely going to replace them.

In addition, the 5th string tuner was loose straight from the factory.
It wasn't hard to fix, though.
I took a strip of computer paper, curled it like a ribbon, wrapped it around
the tuner's business end, dumped some serious wood glue in the hole,
and jammed it in, then wiped up the residue.  Never a problem since.
That would also be a good installation method for an aftermarket
geared 5th string peg.

The banjo's tone is very pleasant compared to many I've heard.
Then again I've tried to mellow it by putting masking tape (beige)
in a cross pattern under the bridge on the underside of the drumhead.
It's really not visible from the front, but really mellows the tone.

I also don't tighten the head very tight- just a fairly light hand tight.

Hohner also makes a full sized banjo with the same pot and hardware,
but a full length neck.  That would give you more versatility
for playing in different keys.

The travel banjo makes sense for me, since:
1. I play in "2 C's" tuning 90% of the time
2.With the short neck I don't have to bother capoing up,
but just tune up to D.
3. I sing well in the key of D.

I tried a Goodtime banjo once and liked it,
but have not done an A/B comparison with the Hohner.

I really like how my banjo sounds.
I've gotten to try some much fancier banjos (Bart Reiter, Wildwood)
and I'm not that impressed.

I have though about getting the full length version Hohner too.
It's not that necessary for me since at local jams, I'm always the fiddler.
But for jamming, having the versatility of being able to capo from C to D and from G to A is very important.

Offline morning

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #43 on: Aug 26, 2008, 07:32:58 PM »
Clever fix on the tuning gear. I'll have to remember it, no matter what I decide on. Also, a nice idea on mellowing the bridge. It would be interesting to see how other folks have modified their banjos to adapt to their taste.
On another topic, My fiddle teacher just went to Clifftop and bought from Will Fielding. He brought home the banjo named Catamount. God what a beauty.
Such clear sweet tones. It is priced on the website well above 2000.00. But I susupect my teacher did a barter. He builds Pomeroy mandolins. You ought to check out Will Fieldings website. For that matter, you ought to google Pomeroy Mandolins too. These lovely little hand crafted instruments are so expensive, but they really can be unique and..  refreshingly un-chinese.

Offline chaoscat

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #44 on: Sep 03, 2008, 03:09:22 PM »
I picked up a banjo about a little over a year ago. My intent was to learn 3 finger Earl Scruggs style. But, I stumbled across Clawhammer and fell in love. I still think about learning 3 finger style, but there are just so many hours in a day.

The more time I spend with it, the more I realize that a Clawhammer banjo is a very melodic style. Yes, you can bum ditty chords as backup or for singalong. But, I play many of the same songs on the banjo that I do on the fiddle.

I don't practice scales or arpeggios. Those might be of help, but to me that's just not what banjo is about. It's about exploring melodies and rhythms, with just enough chord backup to keep things interesting. In the process, I've written 3 songs over the last year. Not really planning to, they just kind of flowed out while messing with Double C tuning (which I absolutely love)

One of my biggest challenges is not letting banjo suck away all the practice time for my fiddle. I've ended up taking the banjo to work, and practice that during lunch at a local park-then practice fiddle at home. Which works fine during the warm months, but not so good over the winter. Then banjo is limited to the week ends. :(

Another challenge, now I have ANOTHER instrument to spend money on for an upgrade. My Gold Tone CC-100 R was fine for the first year, but now I'm eyeballing a Vega Little Wonder, trying to work that into my budget.  Of course my wife asks, How can you TELL it's a better sounding banjo? (banjo's get no respect):D

Offline jenford

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #45 on: Oct 04, 2008, 01:18:14 AM »
I took some clawhammer lessons up at the Alaska camp - and loved it.  Fedex busted the headstock off of the Deering Goodtime that I shipped back home.  Bought a used Goldtone Whyte Ladye off of a gentleman from the banjohangout forum (and it is a nice affordable banjo)- still have the busted Goodtime in the corner of my diningroom. 
Clawhammer is fun - and it's great to play with a fiddler friend.
Everyone I talk with about banjos admits that 3 finger (Scruggs style) really really takes alot of time and effort.  So if you are trying to play 2 instruments - probably clawhammer is best for that kinda situation.

 

Offline frodopogo

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #46 on: Oct 05, 2008, 02:50:25 AM »
Sorry to hear about the busted banjo!

I agree, clawhammer banjo makes a good side instrument-
once you get past the fairly steep initial learning curve of
getting the clawhammer motions, it's kind of like riding a bicycle,
you never really forget, and if you aren't intent on complex melodic
clawhammer, it's not that demanding an instrument, time-wise.

I took some clawhammer lessons up at the Alaska camp - and loved it.  Fedex busted the headstock off of the Deering Goodtime that I shipped back home.  Bought a used Goldtone Whyte Ladye off of a gentleman from the banjohangout forum (and it is a nice affordable banjo)- still have the busted Goodtime in the corner of my diningroom. 
Clawhammer is fun - and it's great to play with a fiddler friend.
Everyone I talk with about banjos admits that 3 finger (Scruggs style) really really takes alot of time and effort.  So if you are trying to play 2 instruments - probably clawhammer is best for that kinda situation.

 

Offline giannaviolins

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #47 on: Oct 05, 2008, 05:29:08 AM »
Deering might be able to simply ship out a new neck complete.  Banjos are essentially kits put together by somebody.  Generally, a very nice good setup should occur & then be left alone on a banjo.  There's lots of modern tweekings to get a fat sound, with softer head tension and the like.  Doesn't work, it's just muddy. 

I played a few of the best banjos today, although not all of them.  I'm thinking a very fine high end instrument is the Desert Rose by Scott Zimmerman.  Uses the Pass timeless timber block rim, which I am highly impressed by.  And Scott's work is always first class.

On the lower end, I took a gander at the Recording King banjos while Greg Rich was bending my ear.  I'm impressed with those, too.

But there are so many good banjomakers out there.  The biggest challenge may be keeping players' mitts off the do-hickies.  Never give a banjo player a wrench!

Offline jenford

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #48 on: Oct 09, 2008, 12:28:27 AM »
Yeah - Deering would sell me a neck but won't let me have it unless i ship them the pot and pay them to fix it.
I ended up buying a used goldtone Whyte Ladye - for not a lot of cash.  I also admit I have a pre-1900 SS Stewart Thoroughbred that I purchased several years ago as a fun collector type piece.  It's more a classical banjo setup with nylgut strings - it's a beauty.

Best,
jen (secret banjo lover) ford


Offline frodopogo

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #49 on: Oct 11, 2008, 07:30:24 AM »
Yeah - Deering would sell me a neck but won't let me have it unless i ship them the pot and pay them to fix it.
I ended up buying a used goldtone Whyte Ladye - for not a lot of cash.  I also admit I have a pre-1900 SS Stewart Thoroughbred that I purchased several years ago as a fun collector type piece.  It's more a classical banjo setup with nylgut strings - it's a beauty.

Best,
jen (secret banjo lover) ford



Maybe you could find someone to make a custom neck for the pot- I always thought the Deering Goodtimes sounded good, but the headstock
is a bit odd looking- too guitar-like for a banjo, IMO.

You could do something interesting, too, like having an A-scale neck made for it, or a fretless, or???
Maybe some banjo maker has a cosmetically flawed neck that could be fitted to
that Good Time pot.
I bought such a neck once, and had it mounted on a Vega tenor banjo pot- made a nice 5 string- I should have kept it!

Offline David M.

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #50 on: Nov 17, 2008, 07:06:59 PM »
Hey, Mornin'.  Just now looking at this thread.  lots of info/advice.

a few months ago I bought an OLD vega openback 4 string banjo.  paid about $300 for it w/orig. hard case.  it's cool.

I play it like a fiddle.  that is, I have it tuned in 5th, crossed tuned at this time.  I can play the tunes I play on my cross tuned fiddles, which is fun and some good modal stuff.  same as mando except the stretch is greater and you really need to use the pinky and some quick shifts alot.  Right now the tuning is in CGCG.  Fun stuff.

Offline patheslip

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #51 on: Dec 02, 2008, 08:40:10 AM »
(tried to delete but don't know how)

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #52 on: Dec 02, 2008, 08:46:08 AM »
There are some good banjo players, somewhere, I'm sure, but my heart sinks anytime anyone brings one out at a local session.  If they take the lead on a tune then no one else knows what it is, if they join in with someone else then no one else can hear the lead.  They even appear to have some sort of herd behaviour, congregating in clumps from time to time.  Everyone else leaves with his or her ears ringing (and hands wringing).  

I like what is written above about muting it down.  There's a really good instrument in there somewhere.
And please don't take offence.  I'm sure non of you are like that.

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #53 on: Dec 04, 2008, 03:29:23 PM »
There are some good banjo players, somewhere, I'm sure, but my heart sinks anytime anyone brings one out at a local session.  If they take the lead on a tune then no one else knows what it is, if they join in with someone else then no one else can hear the lead.  They even appear to have some sort of herd behaviour, congregating in clumps from time to time.  Everyone else leaves with his or her ears ringing (and hands wringing).  

I like what is written above about muting it down.  There's a really good instrument in there somewhere.
And please don't take offence.  I'm sure non of you are like that.

  There's alot of truth in there ....  even as a banjo player myself , usually the things that will drive me out of a jam is the appearance of an accordian , or another banjo that has a resonator and played very loud.

In southern oldtime USA fiddling the problem has been well noted and dealt with ...the fiddler is considered lead , with banjo in support... most often open-backed banjos are used and the banjo players will even carry alittle stuffing to stick inside their banjo to keep their sound level under the fiddle ....  In bluegrass or Irish circles louder banjos are more often used and the banjo loudness problem can become everyone's problem .

When I bring a banjo , at the beginning of the jam I flat out tell the other players to let me know if my banjo gets too loud and I'll adjust it .
Sadly , alot of banjo players have no idea how their playing is affecting others.

  When properly used the banjo and guitar are the two best instruments for a fiddler to play alongside IMHO ...

Offline Luther

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #54 on: Dec 05, 2008, 09:34:21 PM »
Yep, banjos and fiddles go together like peas and carrots.

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #55 on: Dec 06, 2008, 08:30:22 AM »
There are some good banjo players, somewhere, I'm sure, but my heart sinks anytime anyone brings one out at a local session.  If they take the lead on a tune then no one else knows what it is, if they join in with someone else then no one else can hear the lead.  They even appear to have some sort of herd behaviour, congregating in clumps from time to time.  Everyone else leaves with his or her ears ringing (and hands wringing).  

I like what is written above about muting it down.  There's a really good instrument in there somewhere.
And please don't take offence.  I'm sure non of you are like that.

One essential problem with the banjo is this:
the things are VERY directional- they push sound straight out the front,
and the player can actually hear very little of what sound is being produced, so they think they are being drowned out, when in fact they
are drowning others out!

Offline Lyn

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #56 on: Dec 12, 2008, 11:25:57 AM »
why did I start reading this thread?? I have NO intentions of ever playing the banjo - maybe a mandolin if I ever have the time. But WHAT a corker of a thread - I have learned so much.  First, to you, Morning, had no idea of your illness but pleased you have made it through and doing fine - love the Lakshmi image - how positive is that!

I had the natural reserve one has after being ina room with 10 guys on resonator banjos (not that I knew what they were called) all playing fast and furrious - it was definately a macho thing with them. Met a guy here a few months ago who plays clawhammer - wow!Total change, mellow, melodic, lovely. He wants to play old time with a couple of fiddlers - including me!
Last night we had a concert 'starring' Adam Hurt, who played banjo and fiddle - he was over here to do a few banjo workshops, and a fiddle workshop tomorrow which I'm going to. Should be good.
Thanks for the thread and all the info, guys, this is so interesting.

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #57 on: Dec 13, 2008, 08:35:32 PM »
On Tuesday I went to a session at the Green Dragon, Bishop's Frome.  Great black and white pub with prize winning beer.  There was a banjo player who didn't drown out everyone else (Bob Dovey).  Well done Bob.

I apologise to you all.  Now I know it can be done. :D :D :D
« Last Edit: Dec 13, 2008, 08:45:43 PM by patheslip »

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #58 on: Dec 15, 2008, 10:57:40 AM »
Well, despite roaring chest infection and asthma flare-up, I made it to Adam Hurt's fiddle workshop - and SO pleased I went. The range of the other fiddlers was 25 years, 15 years, 10 years and 4 years, so my 2 years at the fiddle was somewhat overwhelmed; however, I just about managed to keep up, though learning a new tune AND a very new bowing pattern simultaneously was a bit like the old 'rubbing your tummy and patting your head' kind of thing. I got most of it recorded, with some very full 'walk throughs' by Adam. He's a great teacher. I'm now veering off towards Old Time again - oh so much to choose from, isn't there, with this music thing. But I do want to learn some OT so I can play with our new friend John , the banjo man.

Offline catty

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #59 on: Aug 17, 2010, 02:31:57 AM »
I guess there isn't much interest in banjo around here.  :-\

Just wanted to go on record as being a player--both 4 & 5 string.  Being an American, I've come to have more appreciation of the instrument recently.  It is, after all, indigenous to the U.S. (in its modern incarnation, and considering that much old-time American music derives from Scots-Irish and African origin).  When I play a variety of instruments for folks, they usually request more banjo--I think this has to do with its upbeat, bright, plunky and kinetic sound.

And the tenor banjo is quite a versatile instrument (don't forget, it's 5ths-tuned like a fiddle)--I play jazz and pop standards from the 20s, 30s, 40s--Gershwin, Porter, Rogers, Kern; fiddle rags; Irish; and ragtime like Jelly Roll Morton, Scott Joplin.  It's a most excellent performing instrument--loud, clear, rhythmic...

Hope you folks are still playin!
« Last Edit: Aug 18, 2010, 01:33:17 AM by catty »

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #60 on: Sep 24, 2010, 10:25:44 PM »
If you're looking for banjo related information, forums, lessons, pretty much ANYTHING Banjo  Banjohangout.com is your place

Most fiddlers think banjo's and banjo players are necessary evils - like penicillin.

Last time I was in Ireland, I saw signs on some of the pub doors at sessions that said,

 NO BANJO.   Silly me, I first thought that was the name of a group, not a keep out sign.

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #61 on: Sep 27, 2010, 06:48:33 AM »
The fingernail thing might be a deal-breaker for me.  I'm a reformed nail-biter, and I have to keep my nails very short to prevent relapses.  Can I wear just one finger pick?


Yes, one fingerpick will do.

I've used two different ones that I like- not just any backwards fingerpick will do.... the angle of attack is such that it puts more stress on the fingerpick and they wiggle loose, also, not all give the right tone.

The kind I'm using most is an Ernie Ball Picky Pick, with the sharp point bent to tuck down under the fingernail (or what's left of it)
This puts the end of the pick at about the same place the end of the nail is, and this is important for feel, also less pick sticking out means less leverage acting on the pick, and therefore more stability on the finger.
Another thing I've done is use a cable tie (also known as a zip tie) to cinch the ends together that wrap around the finger, using the two holes near the end.... this gives a tighter more stable fit- leave the bump on the OUTSIDE and trim off the excess.

I think the other one I like is called the Kelly Freedom Pick.  They come in small, medium, and large, and you have to hope that your finger is a perfect fit for one of those sizes, because they don't have ANY give in them at all.
But they sound good, and are very stable.
My banjo student has one, and it's helped her a lot.

I think there's also one called the Perfection Pick.... it's made of brass, but it's VERY expensive for a single pick... the Kelly's and especially the Ernie Ball Picky Picks are much more reasonable.

Resonators are removable, but sometimes they have a flange, and if you remove the resonator the flange will dig into your leg.

Some people just stuff a rag or hand towel in the resonator,
others stick a large sponge between the rod and the underside of the head, to cut the ringiness.

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Re: Banjo players, Talk to me.
« Reply #62 on: Sep 27, 2010, 01:15:06 PM »
Good lord, I'd forgotten all about this, that I did actually spend some time practicing banjo! 
I had to stop.  Fiddle is enough work for me, specially with lessons and a band to cope with.
I would like to get back to it some time though.
Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.
(Michael Pollan)

 




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