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Beginner banjo - advice please

GUEST,Seaking at work 02 Dec 08 - 04:29 PM
Will Fly 02 Dec 08 - 04:36 PM
Guy Wolff 02 Dec 08 - 05:30 PM
Leadfingers 02 Dec 08 - 05:43 PM
fretless 02 Dec 08 - 06:43 PM
Leadfingers 02 Dec 08 - 06:55 PM
Old Roger 03 Dec 08 - 03:30 AM
GUEST,Seaking (at sea) 03 Dec 08 - 04:55 AM
ced2 03 Dec 08 - 05:10 AM
banjoman 03 Dec 08 - 05:27 AM
Banjiman 03 Dec 08 - 05:41 AM
Cllr 03 Dec 08 - 05:44 AM
Piers Plowman 03 Dec 08 - 06:13 AM
matt milton 03 Dec 08 - 06:51 AM
Banjiman 03 Dec 08 - 07:15 AM
GUEST,Uncle Jaque 03 Dec 08 - 07:37 AM
matt milton 03 Dec 08 - 07:52 AM
GUEST,BanjoRay 03 Dec 08 - 08:51 AM
matt milton 03 Dec 08 - 09:14 AM
Dave Hanson 03 Dec 08 - 09:33 AM
fretless 03 Dec 08 - 01:06 PM
ced2 04 Dec 08 - 12:06 PM
MissouriMud 04 Dec 08 - 03:36 PM
GUEST,Uncle Jaque 04 Dec 08 - 03:56 PM
mark gregory 04 Dec 08 - 08:24 PM
Dave Hanson 05 Dec 08 - 02:45 AM
Geoff the Duck 11 Dec 08 - 06:39 PM
GUEST,robbie 12 Dec 08 - 05:42 PM
GUEST,BanjoRay 12 Dec 08 - 06:47 PM
Dave Hanson 13 Dec 08 - 05:01 AM
GUEST,BanjoRay 13 Dec 08 - 08:31 AM
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Subject: Beginner banjo - advice please
From: GUEST,Seaking at work
Date: 02 Dec 08 - 04:29 PM

A friend of mine, who knows even less about banjos than I do (they have strings don't they ?), has a sixteen year old son determined to learn to play the banjo so wants to buy him one for Christmas.

He lives on the East Norfolk coast and has a budget of approx £200. Is this enough to buy a new/used instrument to get his son started, what should he look for, any good hints, local music shops who would give him good advice ? ..etc

Thanks in advance

Chris


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Subject: RE: Beginner banjo - advice please
From: Will Fly
Date: 02 Dec 08 - 04:36 PM

£200 would get you, for example, a new Tanglewood 5-string or tenor banjo of Asian make (probably Chinese or Korean). They're adequate for a beginner, and you can get them from folk-oriented stores like the Hobgoblin chain. Check out prices and styles on eBay. Tenor banjos will be either standard CGDA tuning, or "Irish" tuning - which, I believe - is GDAE (an octave below a mandolin) or sometimes GDAD. Other 'Catters will know this last lot better than me!


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Subject: RE: Beginner banjo - advice please
From: Guy Wolff
Date: 02 Dec 08 - 05:30 PM

First you have to find out what " the Banjo" means to him . Four string banjo for irish tunes ( often tunes in fiths ) and five string: open back for Old Time clawhammer style and finally bluegrass Erle Scruggs style.. You can have a look on Youtube at all three styles with him to at least get an Idea at what kind of music he is after.. search youtube for "clawhammer Banjo " "Bluegrass Banjo " "Irish Banjo"   "Tenor Banjo" and for a lot of fun look at "Kitchen Banjo " for George Farnby (SP)? style . The "Good Time" banjo is an inexpensive instrument that hold its resale value made in both 4 and 5 string models with an open back 5 string as well .. Resale is of interest if he decides to take up the mandolin next year . All the best , Guy


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Subject: RE: Beginner banjo - advice please
From: Leadfingers
Date: 02 Dec 08 - 05:43 PM

Guy beat me to it ! Nothing worse than (as I have seen happen) a guy asks in a shop about Banjo , and is sold a Five String when he wants to be Barney MacKenna !!
And far too many shops have NO idea how a banjo should be set up , so try Music Room in Oxford - The Shop Manager is a bloody good banjo player .
And a GOOD used instrument is a better bet than a cheap new one .

And Good Luck and ignore the Banjo Jokes !


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Subject: RE: Beginner banjo - advice please
From: fretless
Date: 02 Dec 08 - 06:43 PM

There are a number of former threads on this topic. Here's one.

And for self-instruction books, my favorite remains Pete Seeger's How to Play the Five-String Banjo. It covers multiple styles and I think is still in print.


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Subject: RE: Beginner banjo - advice please
From: Leadfingers
Date: 02 Dec 08 - 06:55 PM

And it has a Peanuts strip included !


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Subject: RE: Beginner banjo - advice please
From: Old Roger
Date: 03 Dec 08 - 03:30 AM

Whereabouts on the East Coast of Norfolk. I live near King's Lynn and teach clawhammer banjo. Maybe I could help a bit.


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Subject: RE: Beginner banjo - advice please
From: GUEST,Seaking (at sea)
Date: 03 Dec 08 - 04:55 AM

OR, he lives in Mundesley, near Bacton.

Thanks everyone for the comments, not even a single banjo joke...

Chris


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Subject: RE: Beginner banjo - advice please
From: ced2
Date: 03 Dec 08 - 05:10 AM

Banjo jokes are not in the stict sense of the word jokes. Most are an attempt to be helpful in seeking to guard the unwary from the dangerous effects that banjos have on the health and sanity of those who are unfortunate enough to be within earshot when they are being played. In issuing such warnings one may adopt an attitude of gravitas or one may attempt to reassure and educate the potential victim by injecting a modicum of mirth into the warning. I think I should rest my case (which does not contain a banjo).


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Subject: RE: Beginner banjo - advice please
From: banjoman
Date: 03 Dec 08 - 05:27 AM

Speak to a banjo maker - contact Andy Perkins (His web site should be easy to find) He's very helpful and highly recomended. Before I started making my own banjos he was a great help to me
Best of luck
Pete


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Subject: RE: Beginner banjo - advice please
From: Banjiman
Date: 03 Dec 08 - 05:41 AM

Agree with Banjoman.....Andy Perkins is the man. As I've not progressed to making my own I still can't pass his workshop/shop without popping in and usually buying a new one. Luckily I only pass his shop once or twice a year........he's in Kent.

Paul


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Subject: RE: Beginner banjo - advice please
From: Cllr
Date: 03 Dec 08 - 05:44 AM

I remember in derek brimstone's introduction to play "cripple creek" Brimmo declares that everyone in their lifetime owns or steals or gets given or buys a banjo and at least once tries to play one. Mike Blair who runs Bedford Folk club has a music shop (Bedford Acoustic Music in Ampthill) sells Banjos in the shop as well as on ebay would be worth giving a call.

good luck Cllr


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Subject: RE: Beginner banjo - advice please
From: Piers Plowman
Date: 03 Dec 08 - 06:13 AM

From: Guy Wolff - PM
Date: 02 Dec 08 - 05:30 PM

"[...] and for a lot of fun look at "Kitchen Banjo " for George Farnby (SP)? style ."

I take it you mean the immortal George Formby, Jr., star of stage, screen and music hall ("When I'm Cleaning Windows", "Leaning on a Lamp-post", "My Little Stick of Blackpool Rock", and many others), who played the ukelele-banjo ("banjolele", but that's really a brand-name) and ukelele:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Formby,_Jr.

His father, George_Formby, Sr., had also been a music-hall performer (and very successful, too).


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Subject: RE: Beginner banjo - advice please
From: matt milton
Date: 03 Dec 08 - 06:51 AM

Hi

I'm a beginner banjo player. My girlfriend bought me one (5-string, open-back) for my last birthday, in June.

This is it: £120 from Hobgoblin music
http://www.hobgoblin.com/local/bigpic.php?ID=GR3705

Obviously, being a beginner, I dunno how it's tone compares to "a really good banjo". But I love it.

I'm using the Pete Seeger banjo book. It's a great book, although I wouldn't say it's absolutely the clearest tutor on the essentials. Describing picking styles in words is a tricky thing to do and, to be honest, I have no idea if I'm playing "correctly". The way Seeger describes frailing, for instance, seems to be different to how frailing is described in various tutorials on youtube et al.


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Subject: RE: Beginner banjo - advice please
From: Banjiman
Date: 03 Dec 08 - 07:15 AM

Hi Matt.....I think Pete Seeger"up" frails rather than the more usuual "down" frailing. (picking the mellody note upwards rather than striking the string it downwards. (Where's my anorak?).

I used (and still pinch tunes and arrangements from) Mel Bay's "Frailing The 5 String Banjo" written by Eric Muller and Barbara Koehler which comes with a CD too. I can thoroughly reccomend it. As well as having clear instructions and lots of tunes it also has some great photos of Old Time Appalachian scenes.

Paul


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Subject: RE: Beginner banjo
From: GUEST,Uncle Jaque
Date: 03 Dec 08 - 07:37 AM

So the lad wants to be a banjo picker, eh?

I seem to recall there being some sort of medication available for that, but you might want to check with your Chemist just to make sure.
Some of the afflicted get over it quite on their own, while others do require drastic intervention.

Perhaps he could be introduced to the compellingly more melodious, sonorous and easier to learn Great Highland Bagpipes in stead?

Banjos are sort of like bagpipes, Moxie, and popular talk radio Host Rush Limbaugh (the latter two I don't expect you to be familiar with over there in the Auld Countrie); They certainly ain't for everybody!

Most people love 'em or they hate 'em; I've not known many to be really "iffy" about them.

The cruelest of "banjo jokes" might actually emanate from fellow Banjo Pickers themselves. We like to pick fun at ourselves and each other as much as anyone else, for the most part I think.

Like that "Peanuts" strip in Pete Seeger's book (which I never could quite fathom, although I bought mine back around 1965) where Charlie Brown says something to the effect of "Every baby upon birth should be issued a banjo".   Perhaps the World might be a happier place if we had more proficient banjo pickers in it.

We surely wouldn't be taking ourselves quite so seriously, I don't reckon.

For a really "different" banjo sound, check out the old style "Minstrel" banjo; usually fretless, gut (or nylon) strung, and tuned about 2 1/2 steps lower than the modern 5-string.

http://www.drhorsehair.com/

The Minstrels were quite popular over there in England during the latter part of the 19th into the early 20th centuries as well as back here in Ameri-kay.

Once learned a bit, the banjo is a delightful instrument. Well; to some it is, anyway.

I am still forbidden to play mine (or smoke my pipe) in the house.

The big house, that is...

Grand Opening of the Uncle Jaque Memorial Pavilion (Back House)


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Subject: RE: Beginner banjo - advice please
From: matt milton
Date: 03 Dec 08 - 07:52 AM

"Hi Matt.....I think Pete Seeger"up" frails rather than the more usuual "down" frailing. (picking the mellody note upwards rather than striking the string it downwards. (Where's my anorak?). I used (and still pinch tunes and arrangements from) Mel Bay's "Frailing The 5 String Banjo" written by Eric Muller and Barbara Koehler which comes with a CD too. I can thoroughly reccomend it. As well as having clear instructions and lots of tunes it also has some great photos of Old Time Appalachian scenes"

Yeah, I've got that Mel Bay frailing book too. That was partly the source of my confusion. But also that on youtube you can watch lots of instructive banjo tutorials (for free) which often have slightly different terminology. One guy I watched (who was probably the best tutor of the bunch) called what he was doing frailing, and it seemed to be what Seeger called his basic strumming technique.

That Mel Bay book does indeed have some wonderful photos. I can also recommend the Mel Bay "Blues and Folk Harmonica" book. Even if you don't play harmonica and never intend to, the pictures are beautiful. It's like a folkie's equivalent of a coffee-table book
http://www.amazon.com/Mel-Bay-Folk-Blues-Harmonica/dp/0871668157

One problem I have with banjo is that, because I'm a fingerpicking guitarist, I really want to play the fourth string with my thumb (as well as the fifth string of course). Pete Seeger's book only seems to acknowledge this in a short two-page tangent on playing blues on the banjo. Is this bad banjo practice? Have I misunderstood him?


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Subject: RE: Beginner banjo - advice please
From: GUEST,BanjoRay
Date: 03 Dec 08 - 08:51 AM

When you frail the banjo you only use the thumb on the off-beats, either on the fifth string or occasionally on another (called drop thumbing). People who play finger style guitar are the hardest people to teach frailing to, unfortunately - even harder than bluegrass players, who are hard enough!
Ray


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Subject: RE: Beginner banjo - advice please
From: matt milton
Date: 03 Dec 08 - 09:14 AM

I'm fine with sounding the fifth-string using my thumb on the off-beats. It's just that I intuitively want to strike the "one" of a given bar or riff with my thumb.

Am I right in thinking bluegrass banjo picking is more like fingerstyle guitar in the fingers used? Listening to Earl Scruggs et al, it certainly sounds like that's how you'd play it...


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Subject: RE: Beginner banjo - advice please
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 03 Dec 08 - 09:33 AM

Kill him now, it saves time in the future.

eric


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Subject: RE: Beginner banjo - advice please
From: fretless
Date: 03 Dec 08 - 01:06 PM

The only rule is that there are no rules -- just watch Ken Perlman play clawhammer using the 5th string fretted for notes instead of playing it as a drone and you will realize that all bets are off regarding how you "ought" to play.

Seeger's basic strum involved an up-pick, but he then described frailing as it ususually is played, with a down stroke using the back of the nail. Or at least that's what I remember learning from his book.

Best bet is to send that son's friend out to watch as many players as he can find. At 16 years old, he'll work out his own way of stroking the world soon enough.


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Subject: RE: Beginner banjo - advice please
From: ced2
Date: 04 Dec 08 - 12:06 PM

I thought you played the banjo eric the red or have you now recanted, received absolution or taken the medication?


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Subject: RE: Beginner banjo - advice please
From: MissouriMud
Date: 04 Dec 08 - 03:36 PM

I learned from Seeger's book years ago - besides his emphasis on his up-picked basic strum vs frailing (clawhammer) he also emphasized the use of gCGBD tuning which I find is rarely used in these parts.   While the book has a lot of good stuff in it, I would definitely supplement it heavily with material that includes more on clawhammer techniques and tunings that are used more widely, including D tuning(with the "B" string raised a half tone) .

In terms of buying a banjo - definitely need to determine if you are talking about 4 or 5 strings, but with respect to the latter I wouldnt worry about open back vs resonator unless you are dealing with a die hard bluegrass devotee.   Since cost is an issue go with the potentially cheaper open back - you can play good but slightly quieter blue-grass on it. A beginner with a resonator can be a dangerous thing.


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Subject: RE: Beginner banjo - advice please
From: GUEST,Uncle Jaque
Date: 04 Dec 08 - 03:56 PM

One of the first things I did when I absconded with my Brother's Sears & Sawbuck 5-string (after he gave up on it) was remove the resonator.

I also followed Seeger's advice to stuff a cloth diaper or small hand towel in between the back stick and the head to muffle the instrument, especially when practicing with people in the vicinity... like about a 250 meter radius.

You also might want to pad the top of the rim where your forearm lies over it - that gets a mite uncomfortable after a while. Some banjers come with a little doo-hickey similar to a fiddle's chin rest that clips on to the rim for that purpose.


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Subject: RE: Beginner banjo - advice please
From: mark gregory
Date: 04 Dec 08 - 08:24 PM

In his book Pete Seeger teaches up plucking for basic strum and down plucking for frailing


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Subject: RE: Beginner banjo - advice please
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 05 Dec 08 - 02:45 AM

I still play banjo ced2 but it's too late for redemption for me.

eric


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Subject: RE: Beginner banjo - advice please
From: Geoff the Duck
Date: 11 Dec 08 - 06:39 PM

He should listen to this one - BLICKY!.

Quack!
Geoff the Duck.


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Subject: RE: Beginner banjo - advice please
From: GUEST,robbie
Date: 12 Dec 08 - 05:42 PM

im 22 want to learn how to play the banjo, ilive in dublin ireland and want to buy o banjo also, what sort of banjo and what string banjo shouls i look out for???


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Subject: RE: Beginner banjo - advice please
From: GUEST,BanjoRay
Date: 12 Dec 08 - 06:47 PM

If you want to play Irish traditional tunes, buy a 4 string tenor banjo tunes down to CGAE. If you want to play American Old Time or Bluegrass buy a five string banjo. If you get a five string, find Bill Whelan who lives in Dublin and is one of the world's best Old Time banjo players, a good teacher and a great bloke. Bill plays for the Rough Deal String band
Ray


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Subject: RE: Beginner banjo - advice please
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 13 Dec 08 - 05:01 AM

If you want to play traditional Irish tunes your banjo needs to be tuned E A D G [ first to last ] an octave lower than fiddle or mandolin.

eric


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Subject: RE: Beginner banjo - advice please
From: GUEST,BanjoRay
Date: 13 Dec 08 - 08:31 AM

Yes Eric you're right - I had a senior moment there!
Ray


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