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Banjoists, what style

bald headed step child 25 Jan 09 - 04:35 AM
wyrdolafr 25 Jan 09 - 05:05 AM
Will Fly 25 Jan 09 - 05:09 AM
bald headed step child 25 Jan 09 - 05:20 AM
Acorn4 25 Jan 09 - 08:40 AM
Leadfingers 25 Jan 09 - 08:45 AM
bald headed step child 25 Jan 09 - 08:53 AM
Patrick-Costello 25 Jan 09 - 09:29 AM
Will Fly 25 Jan 09 - 10:11 AM
GUEST,BanjoRay 25 Jan 09 - 11:07 AM
Will Fly 25 Jan 09 - 11:13 AM
Will Fly 25 Jan 09 - 11:14 AM
GUEST,BanjoRay 25 Jan 09 - 11:51 AM
JedMarum 25 Jan 09 - 12:02 PM
greg stephens 25 Jan 09 - 12:03 PM
JedMarum 25 Jan 09 - 12:07 PM
Will Fly 25 Jan 09 - 12:09 PM
JedMarum 25 Jan 09 - 12:27 PM
JedMarum 25 Jan 09 - 12:29 PM
JedMarum 25 Jan 09 - 12:30 PM
Mavis Enderby 25 Jan 09 - 12:31 PM
Will Fly 25 Jan 09 - 12:54 PM
bald headed step child 25 Jan 09 - 02:02 PM
oombanjo 25 Jan 09 - 02:54 PM
Bee-dubya-ell 25 Jan 09 - 09:00 PM
JedMarum 25 Jan 09 - 10:14 PM
GUEST,glueman 26 Jan 09 - 07:46 AM
bald headed step child 26 Jan 09 - 11:31 AM
The Sandman 26 Jan 09 - 12:56 PM
Azizi 26 Jan 09 - 01:32 PM
GUEST,Felipa 26 Jan 09 - 01:44 PM
Stringsinger 26 Jan 09 - 01:46 PM
GUEST,BanjoRay 26 Jan 09 - 07:49 PM
Azizi 26 Jan 09 - 07:53 PM
bald headed step child 26 Jan 09 - 09:51 PM
Patrick-Costello 26 Jan 09 - 10:41 PM
bald headed step child 26 Jan 09 - 11:57 PM
Will Fly 27 Jan 09 - 03:54 AM
Patrick-Costello 27 Jan 09 - 06:29 AM
Banjiman 27 Jan 09 - 10:08 AM
GUEST,BanjoRay 27 Jan 09 - 11:10 AM
GUEST,glueman 27 Jan 09 - 11:16 AM
Banjiman 27 Jan 09 - 11:33 AM
Banjiman 27 Jan 09 - 11:34 AM
banjoman 29 Jan 09 - 12:10 PM
Azizi 29 Jan 09 - 01:18 PM
GUEST,Ana 10 May 09 - 03:26 AM
The Sandman 10 May 09 - 03:36 AM
The Sandman 10 May 09 - 04:09 AM
Banjiman 10 May 09 - 04:46 AM
Mooh 10 May 09 - 06:26 AM
Rog Peek 10 May 09 - 07:19 AM
The Sandman 10 May 09 - 03:02 PM
The Sandman 10 May 09 - 04:16 PM
GUEST,Ana 10 May 09 - 05:49 PM
Banjiman 11 May 09 - 03:44 AM
The Sandman 11 May 09 - 05:06 AM
Will Fly 11 May 09 - 05:14 AM
Banjiman 11 May 09 - 05:20 AM
Will Fly 11 May 09 - 05:27 AM
Banjiman 11 May 09 - 05:33 AM
Will Fly 11 May 09 - 05:39 AM
banjoman 11 May 09 - 06:44 AM
The Sandman 11 May 09 - 08:10 AM
olddude 11 May 09 - 08:54 AM
Will Fly 11 May 09 - 09:11 AM
Banjiman 11 May 09 - 09:22 AM
The Sandman 11 May 09 - 09:56 AM
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Subject: Banjoists, what style
From: bald headed step child
Date: 25 Jan 09 - 04:35 AM

I know there have been alot of threads talking about what kind of banjo's we play and such, but I would like to get an idea of what styles of playing mudcatters have.

I started banjo 3 finger style, with Scruggs style also,(I consider them 2 different styles) after playing fingerstyle guitar for some time.

3 finger with and without picks for 4.5-5 years, until recently starting to learn clawhammer.

I've been learning alot from the Youtubes posted by Patrick Costello, and I have been having a blast with it.

Using what I already knew from guitar and 3 finger, my improvisational abilities have just exploded.

Anyone else have this happen by switching styles?

Tell me your story.

BHSC


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: wyrdolafr
Date: 25 Jan 09 - 05:05 AM

I've got a 5-string which I've had for a few years but after the initial 6 month buzz of starting to learn something new - I got the banjo to learn clawhammer - I got side-tracked when I joined a (non-folk) band. After that, any time I could spare related to playing music was taken-up elsewhere. Subsequently, the banjo got put on the back burner. Then, when I gave-up playing in bands for health reasons, I promised myself I'd take it up again with gusto but I never did - I'll pick-up and play for a few hours but that's about it really.

Regarding 'my own take on it' and taking from existing skills/knowledge, I often found myself using the banjo to play a kind of jazz, (pickless) 3 finger style 'chord/melody'.

I did the same when I started playing the ukulele previously. Once I understood where to find inversions &c., instead of really pushing it as rhythm instrument and going for some of the more complex strumming, I seemed to be more interested in a chord/melody approach with simple strumming patterns or often picking rather than any strumming at all.


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: Will Fly
Date: 25 Jan 09 - 05:09 AM

I play tenor banjo - tuned in standard CGDA tuning. I bought it to play jazz but also started to play traditional tunes on it - and it's those that I play now. I sometimes use a pick for volume, but will pick the tunes with finger and thumb in a quieter company.


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: bald headed step child
Date: 25 Jan 09 - 05:20 AM

Will, I recently bought a Stewart tenor on e-bay. It's going to take a little work to get it playable, but that's probably the tuning I will be looking at for it, or maybe an open C tuning. My intent was to use it for blues.

BHSC


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: Acorn4
Date: 25 Jan 09 - 08:40 AM

have recently revived learning the 5 string, trying to learn Scruggs style and frailing simultaneously.


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: Leadfingers
Date: 25 Jan 09 - 08:45 AM

I am self taught , and have been told I play 'English Style' , what ever THAT is ! That's on Five string B T W .


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: bald headed step child
Date: 25 Jan 09 - 08:53 AM

I ain't sayin it can't be done, but I've never had much luck in learnin two styles at once.

If you're just learning I'd suggest frailing, although it's the opposite way from how I did it.

I'm just finding more results, faster.

Patrick Costello has some really good instructional videos on Youtube, here.

frailing lessons

I've had really good results with these video's as I stated above.

Hope this is helpful.

BHSC


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: Patrick-Costello
Date: 25 Jan 09 - 09:29 AM

The two styles at once thing won't work beyond a superficial level.
Yes, you can learn to make it through the individual finger movements of a few songs using a couple of different techniques - but each and every song is going to have to be arduously memorized. Instead of making music you will just be going through the motions.

As a frailing banjo player I have been able to take part in a pretty freaking huge range of music. I started simply and got to know one technique so well that I could find ways to use it everywhere.

-Patrick


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: Will Fly
Date: 25 Jan 09 - 10:11 AM

Good luck with the tenor, BHSC - I prefer that tuning to the "Irish" or "Celtic" tuning (take your pick) because it's the same fingering pattern as a mandolin and fiddle.


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: GUEST,BanjoRay
Date: 25 Jan 09 - 11:07 AM

I started off playing plectrum banjo ie 4 strings tuned CGBD. This was great for playing New Orleans/Dixieland jazz, and really taught me my way round the dusty end of the banjo neck. Then I discovered Old Time music and taught myself to frail, which is pretty well my only style these days. Great for playing fiddle tunes in sessions, and accompanying fiddlers - I love it.
Will Fly - the CGDA tuning mentioned by you is NOT the same as a mandolin or fiddle (GDAE which is the "Irish" tuning) - it's the same as a viola, and you don't see many of them playing folk.....
Ray


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: Will Fly
Date: 25 Jan 09 - 11:13 AM

Ray, read my post again. I said it's the same fingering pattern as a mandolin and fiddle. I'm perfectly aware it's not the same pitch. Actually, I'm off to an acoustic session tonight where my friend and duo partner Ian will be playing, among her things, a viola! But you're right - you don't see too many of these in folk... :-)


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: Will Fly
Date: 25 Jan 09 - 11:14 AM

Whoop "her things" should read "other things" - Ian is not a woman! (Whew...)


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: GUEST,BanjoRay
Date: 25 Jan 09 - 11:51 AM

Sorry Will - didn't realise that by "same" you meant "similar but on different strings". Have a good session...


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: JedMarum
Date: 25 Jan 09 - 12:02 PM

I've watched a few of Patrick Costello's videos and I like them. He's a good instructor and has made some great vids!

Learning the banjo, and developing my style has made me a much better guitar player! Also, as the years progress and my banjo style evolves, my abilities have just exploded, as you say.

Today, I use a sort half-frailing style - mixed with three finger. I do some straight three finger - but I almost always have at least a bit of down-stroke frailing going on, as well.

If you watch this video you'll see the style is based upon the three finger style, but there is a lot of brushing down with the back of the nails, especially while singing. This video was from a few years ago, before I added more true frailing techniques to my style. Now when I play this song, I still consider it based on 3 finger but I do even more down stroke brushing with finger and up stroke with the thumb. My hand position is still 3 finger style, though - for the most part.

On a lot of other songs though, today my basic style is closer frailing. It probably sound more like frailing, then it looks - though. I don't have any videos of that (yet) but I have some recordings. I'll go see if I can point to one where you can hear what I mean. If so, I'll post a link.


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: greg stephens
Date: 25 Jan 09 - 12:03 PM

I play a tenor banjo, tuned CGDA. But for playing in trad sessions or in the Boat Band I always keep a capo on the second fret, so I am in fact playing an instrument tuned DAEB. Great tuning for fiddle tunes(and avoids stretching your little finger for the high B, cheating really).


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: JedMarum
Date: 25 Jan 09 - 12:07 PM

I don't mean to say that video above has any frailing technique, per se - just that it is the start of my mixing some its' technique into a three finger "frame." With a bit of imagination, you can see where it might lead ... ok, now I'll go see if I can find an audio file of the more developed 3 finger/frailing technique.


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: Will Fly
Date: 25 Jan 09 - 12:09 PM

I'm also a slave to the Shubb banjo capo - and on the 2nd fret. Easier to play tunes in D - though I slip it off if anything comes up in G at a session...


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: JedMarum
Date: 25 Jan 09 - 12:27 PM

I don't have any posted, but this is one that is a step closer.


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: JedMarum
Date: 25 Jan 09 - 12:29 PM

Sorry the sample has me singing over it, so you can't hear as well as I'd like, but you can hear the "bumpity" sort of style beneath the lyrics ...


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: JedMarum
Date: 25 Jan 09 - 12:30 PM

I wish I could find better examples of what I'm talking about. I'll have to do a video of it sometime. I've actually had real frailing banjo players refer to it as frailing, from the sound ... but it still come out of a 3 finger frame ...


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: Mavis Enderby
Date: 25 Jan 09 - 12:31 PM

I'm another 5 string frailer, and another fan of Patrick Costello. It was mainly his blues playing & instruction that initially appealed, but when he says "As a frailing banjo player I have been able to take part in a pretty freaking huge range of music" - well, amen to that!

I also play tenor (in CGDA tuning) which I took to like a duck to water from mandolin playing.

Thread drift - viola not common in folk - why not?

Pete.


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: Will Fly
Date: 25 Jan 09 - 12:54 PM

I wonder if it's because most early string players had fiddles - and tunes were written to suit that instrument. The tunes don't always transfer easily, in terms of fingering, to the bigger instrument. The "Marquis of Lorne", for example, falls easily on the fiddle/mandolin, but not so easily on the viola/tenor banjo. Just an idle thought...


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: bald headed step child
Date: 25 Jan 09 - 02:02 PM

I will be using the lower tuning mainly because the age of the Stewart, and the fact it has no truss rod, will make it easier on the instrument. Also, playing blues along the lines of Yank Rachel, and Rich Delgrosso, it probably will fit better anyway.

As for viola, I think there are probably more out there than you might think. There are even a bunch of people playing trad music(s) on cello.

In a banjo fiddle duo I would rather play with a viola or cello as it gives the music more space. Both instruments aren't fighting over the same basic register.

Jed, the videos sound pretty good. There are some similarities to how I play 3 finger. I hate playing with picks. I find them a pain, both literally and figuratively. I like the feel and sound of the flesh on steel. It gives the banjo a more organic sound as opposed to mechanical sound.

BHSC


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: oombanjo
Date: 25 Jan 09 - 02:54 PM

I have fallen for my new old 6 strings fretless that have 3 octaves and tuned into E or F tuning. Style frail and drop thumb


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: Bee-dubya-ell
Date: 25 Jan 09 - 09:00 PM

I'm a self-taught three-finger picker. I play a fair amount of clawhammer-sounding stuff, but using 3-finger technique.   I'm particularly fond of D fiddle tunes played using C tuning with a capo on the second fret. I also play a smidgen of bluegrass (but not enough to require therapy) and some swing stuff.

There are a few hornpipes that I just can't get the hang of in three-finger style, so I've been known to use a flatpick for those. I figure that if it's okay to flatpick 'em on a tenor banjo, nobody's gonna shoot me for doin' it on a five-string.


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: JedMarum
Date: 25 Jan 09 - 10:14 PM

You know, after reading this thread I am convinced that banjo players are just cooler people!

Don't go telling the others. We'll have 'em all in here explaining why we're not doing something right ... but we have a bunch of players here, all with different styles, all with made up techniques - and no one is yelling at someone else.

That's cool!


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 26 Jan 09 - 07:46 AM

I mix styles too. Started playing banjo because I admired people like Earl Scruggs and still do but found the metronomic precision and virtuosity of bluegrass stultifying. I tend to begin pieces in 3-finger picking then use a kind of percussive frailing for intervals, switching between the two.

Some people find it offensive, I did some street playing at a folk festival last year and everyone smiled at the picking then jaws dropped when I put in the hammered chords although one person told me she thought it was cool and I thought she looked pretty cool so who cares? It's my banjo.


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: bald headed step child
Date: 26 Jan 09 - 11:31 AM

Glueman.

Carlos Santana had some really good advice for guitarists that would apply here.

He said that most of us start playing at least in part to meet pretty girls. I'd agree to that.

Then we practice and practice all these really cool licks and play really fast, and eventually you look up at a crowd of guys that think you're your great and there ain't a girl in sight.

Learn to play beautiful melodies and the girls will come.(no pun intended) ;)

Pretty good advice, I think.

If the pretty girl liked it, and even commented to you about it, I'd say you might be on to something there.

So, did you get the digits?

BHSC


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: The Sandman
Date: 26 Jan 09 - 12:56 PM

well I reckon,people should play just how they like.
If I was playing irish tunes on a 5 string ,I would be tempted to flat pick them,because thats what I have been doing on a tenor banjo.
the g chords emi and c chords would sound good with the high g string.
I am finding[I am only just learning 5 string]that drop thumbing,comes naturally[having fingerpicked a guitar],.what is taking a lotof time is one finger frailing,because it is completely alien to how I play guitar,which is thumb and three fingers.but it keeps me out of mischief.


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: Azizi
Date: 26 Jan 09 - 01:32 PM

I just came across this YouTube video Songs of Appalachia: Bluegrass royalty

Would someone please tell me what kind of style of banjo playing this is? And is this the same style of playing that is performed by the woman banjoist in this Carolina Chocolate Drops video?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KdLRCSOZ7wo

Also, thanks JedMarum for posting links to videos. Does anyone else have any recommendations of which YouTube videos people should view that feature different styles of banjo playing?

Thanks in advance.


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: GUEST,Felipa
Date: 26 Jan 09 - 01:44 PM

I don't play banjo (play a little bit of fiddle, guitar - some fingerpicking, appalachian dulcimer). I have a chance to attend a beginners workshop 3 finger style; is that a good way to start. What are the reasons for choosing one 5-string banjo style over another and which styles suit which types of music?


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: Stringsinger
Date: 26 Jan 09 - 01:46 PM

I like the versatility of the banjo. I have a Ome pot with a 17 fret B and D neck which I use for re-entrant "high C" tuning (taking the fourth string an octave higher). It works on this particular banjo. (CGDA) I use a clear plastic disc (mylar?) for a resonator because I like to stand while I'm playing. That saves your back because it's lighter. My wife plays a Stew-Mac scalloped tonering and pot (ala Whyte Ladye) with a Vega 17 fret neck. The two banjo work well together, her with the lower chords and me with the higher lead parts.

I put the same resonator on my RB175 so I don't have to use finger picks. It's a Pete Seeger model by Gibson with a narrow neck which is not too cool for the Seeger style which needs a wider neck and the best pot is the Tuba-fone for that "ring".

I have a 1922 19 fret B and D tenor which drives me nuts because the neck is too wide at the frets. I prefer a 17 fret. It has a conventional resonator, pot and neck all matching.
I have tried Chicago tuning (first four strings of a guitar DGBE), dropped tenor (GDAE)
conventional tenor (CGDA) and dropped conventional tenor as they do in New Orleans (BbFCG). Nothing sounds the way I like it. When I frail the sucker, it sounds old-timey which means maybe I should swap a five-string clawhammer neck on it to replace the tenor. It's an original and I hate to mess with it and destroy it's value. If I didn't have to jerry-rig the neck on it by invasive surgery and could just swap the necks and keep the
value by storing the original tenor neck, that would be a solution but I don't have any support for this from my repair person friends.

The deal about banjos is that you are always tinkering. Always trying to get it to sound "right".

I like all styles of the banjo but I'm lukewarm about Scruggs style which still sounds mechanical to me. I know it's just a preference.

I like the old Gibson "trapdoors" that have a traditional sound. Some early six-string banjo players used it (you can't hardly find one anymore) and that Buell Kazee used it. (I love his accompaniments).

So that "Half-Barbaric Twang" is a great dream or a nightmare depending on which side of the music bed you get out of.

Frank


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: GUEST,BanjoRay
Date: 26 Jan 09 - 07:49 PM

Azizi - the guy in the first video (Bluegrass Royalty) is playing three finger Scruggs style picking, as used by most Bluegrass pickers, whereas Rhiannon (what a lovely Welsh name) Giddens in the Chocolate Drops is playing clawhammer style banjo, also known as frailing, an almost purely Old Time style.
Ray


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: Azizi
Date: 26 Jan 09 - 07:53 PM

Thanks for that response, Ray.


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: bald headed step child
Date: 26 Jan 09 - 09:51 PM

Azizi,

I'll try to get a list together, and pm it to you.

The clawhammer style is actually a very versatile method of playing the banjo, but it is probably the oldest in use, and the most direclty linked to the African instruments that the banjo is descended from.

BHSC


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: Patrick-Costello
Date: 26 Jan 09 - 10:41 PM

What are the reasons for choosing one 5-string banjo style over another and which styles suit which types of music?

"Style" really isn't the right word to use for this. You are a lot better off thinking of the various ways to get music out of a banjo as techniques.

For example, I use the technique called frailing. I can take that technique into bluegrass, slide blues, country, folk songs or any other "style" of music I choose.

I can do this because I stuck to one technique long enough to get really comfortable with it.

It is easy to do a lot of things badly. It takes discipline to do one thing well.

-Patrick


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: bald headed step child
Date: 26 Jan 09 - 11:57 PM

Partly my fault Patrick, I figured if I asked what method, I'd get a list of book titles.

To expand on my last post though, while researching for vids for Azizi, I found a video that I think you would like.

The African player is playing the three string Akonting, considered by many to be one of the closest ancestors of the banjo, and if you watch how he is playing it you will notice he is downstroke frailing.

Joe Diatta-akonting

BHSC


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: Will Fly
Date: 27 Jan 09 - 03:54 AM

Does anyone else play tenor banjo with thumb and finger? I sometimes prefer this to a pick as it can sound less strident. There's an example here: The Little Beggarman (also known as "The Red Headed Boy", etc.)

A good, solid thumb is a help - but the addition of a little flesh on the fingertip tends to make the tone a little mellower...


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: Patrick-Costello
Date: 27 Jan 09 - 06:29 AM

I don't buy into the akonting hype. There are quite of few folk instruments that use some form of down-picking like the gimbri.

-Patrick


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: Banjiman
Date: 27 Jan 09 - 10:08 AM

I play 5 string, mainly frailing and drop thumb.... I also have a set of finger picks and do some basic Bluegrass (& other) picking.

Old time, English, Scottish, Irish tradsongs and tunes and a few modern ones as well.

I love it!

I've been lucky enough to play with (or listen) to a number of the other contributors to this thread as well.

Cheers

Paul


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: GUEST,BanjoRay
Date: 27 Jan 09 - 11:10 AM

The hypothesis that the akonting is a possible ancestor of the banjo is not hype but the result of serious academic research carried out by Ulf Jagfors, a Swedish expert. It is based on many clues given by the method of construction, the method of playing, and cultural factors. This is not the thread for a deep discussion on this, but Patrick's offhand dismissal of the akonting merits rebuttal.
Ray


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: GUEST,glueman
Date: 27 Jan 09 - 11:16 AM

I've been known to flick the strings (thumb and middle finger) and slap the frets with left hand alternately. The banjo is basically a percussive strung instrument and there's honesty in treating it rhythmically.


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: Banjiman
Date: 27 Jan 09 - 11:33 AM

Talking of banjoists with style. Any of you seen Dan Walsh yet? We had him on with his singing partner Kat Walsh on Saturday at KFFC (Complete self indulgence on my part!).

He really is something special and a really nice lad. Can't remember if he's 21 or 22

Watch this and weep!
Dan Walsh on You Tube

Paul


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: Banjiman
Date: 27 Jan 09 - 11:34 AM

.... oh and keep watching, he changes from 3 finger picking to clawhammer at about 1 min 40.

Enjoy!


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: banjoman
Date: 29 Jan 09 - 12:10 PM

Never met 2 banjoists who played the same. I've been playing for almost 50 years and nobody has ever told me what style I play. I basically taught myself years ago and started picking out tunes using my thumb and then adding in a few strums holding down the relevant chord shape. Seems to work for me but I dont try and analyse it. As Captain Birdseye says, play the way you feel comfortable with and dont be afraid to experiment.
Keep on pickin'
pete


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: Azizi
Date: 29 Jan 09 - 01:18 PM

Patrick-Costello, thanks for posting that link to the video about the gimbri.   

As a result of checking out that link, I found this video:

mahmoud gunia sur 2M GnAwA

I watched a couple more videos of that music and then went to this Wikipedia page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gnawa_music for some background on gnawa music {which I hadn't heard or heard of before seeing those videos}.

Here's an excerpt from that Wikipedia page:

"Gnawa music is a mixture of African, Berber, and Arabic religious songs and rhythms. It combines music and acrobatic dancing. The music is both a prayer and a celebration of life. Though many of the influences that formed this music can be traced to sub-Saharan Africa, and specifically, the Western Sahel, its practice is concentrated in north Africa, mainly Morocco and Algeria. (See Gnawa for more details)...

The melodic language of the stringed instrument is closely related to their vocal music and to their speech patterns, as is the case in much African music. It is a language that emphasizes on the tonic and fifth, with quavering pitch-play, especially pitch-flattening, around the third, the fifth, and sometimes the seventh. This is the language of the blues. Ó Gnawa have venerable stringed-instrument traditions involving both bowed lutes like the gogo and plucked lutes like the gimbri (Ar. 쳌äÈÑí; also called hajhuj, Ar. åÌåæÌ or "sentir" Ar. ÓäÊíÑ), a three-stringed bass instrument. The Gnawa also use large drums called tbel (Ar. ØÈá ) and krakebs large iron castanets; Ar. ÞÑÇÞÈ) in their ritual music. The Gnawa hajhuj has strong historical and musical links to West African lutes like the Hausa halam, a direct ancestor of the banjo.

Gnawa hajhuj players use a technique which 19th century American minstrel banjo instruction manuals identify as "brushless drop-thumb frailing". The "brushless" part means the fingers do not brush several strings at once to make chords. Instead, the thumb drops repeatedly in a hypnotically rhythmic pattern against the freely-vibrating bass string producing a throbbing drone, while the first two or three fingers of the same (right) hand pick out, often percussive patterns in a drum-like, almost telegraphic manner."


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: GUEST,Ana
Date: 10 May 09 - 03:26 AM

Banjiman said 'I play 5 string, mainly frailing and drop thumb.... I also have a set of finger picks and do some basic Bluegrass (& other) picking. Old time, English, Scottish, Irish tradsongs and tunes and a few modern ones as well.'

Being a newby to banjo, I'm keen to pick up some picking ideas. I've got a few guitar styles, and am wondering about what can be adapted for banjo.
What styles (on 5 string) work for celtic?
Look forward to ideas!
Cheers


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: The Sandman
Date: 10 May 09 - 03:36 AM

Celtic? you must mean irish tunes
try single string style using thumb and index,thumb for[one beats ]crotchets,thumb index for[half beats] quavers,and only use 5 string as a melody note,alternatively use a plectrum,using down up for reels


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: The Sandman
Date: 10 May 09 - 04:09 AM

I should qualify my previous post,what i suggested is ok if you want to sound like a tenor banjo player.


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: Banjiman
Date: 10 May 09 - 04:46 AM

Hi Guest Ana,

Perceived wisdom seems to be that 2 or 3 finger picking works best for most Celtic/ Irish Tunes but it is worth experimenting. Frailing works with some as well. I've found bluegrass picking patterns can work pretty well too.

If you are interested in playing non-American tunes/ songs on 5 string banjo have a look at Sully's G Banjo & G Banjo 2. There is tab and suggestions for playing a large number of tunes from this side of the Atlantic with a large proportion being Irish. (though his style of notation can be difficult to read).

These are published by Halshaw Music.

Happy picking.

Paul


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: Mooh
Date: 10 May 09 - 06:26 AM

Not sure I have any style on the banjo, just a weird and spastic "comp" (accompaniment) thing. For example, last night at an infrequent sort of country/rock/blues gig I used the five string (GoldTone BG250) on a song using an improvised slightly bluegrass slow roll. Since I never manage to completely change my classical guitar/fingerstyle right hand, it ends up playing and sounding a little weird. The attraction of five string was that open G tuning was very familiar from guitar.

On 4 string (another GoldTone, IT250) I play some hymns, some celtoidish, some jamming stuff, in GDAE because I'm too lazy to learn yet another tuning. I don't like this banjo for chording as it doesn't sound as smooth as a guitar-shaped bouzouki/octave mandolin thing I have....though Copperhead Road does sound pretty wicked-funky on Irish Tenor banjo.

Peace, Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: Rog Peek
Date: 10 May 09 - 07:19 AM

I started learning tenor banjo at the beginning of February. I have been playing guitar finger picking style for a few years, not to any great standard, but enough to accompany myself on a few songs.
I never could get on using a pick with the guitar, which was a bit of a nuisance as one of my hobbies is working on classic cars, and it is very difficult to to keep your finger nails in good nick when you're working under the bonnet ('hood' for those in US). So I was a bit apprehensive with regard to this with the banjo. I should perhaps mention that my aim is to be able to play Irish tunes, hence the short scale tenor with GDAE tuning.
I was determined not to teach myself this time, as I didn't want to get into bad habits, so I count myself very fortunate to have found a teacher only 10 minutes from my home who plays in a ceilidh band, and regularly sits in on sessions.
I've been set dancing for a number of years now, so I have a pretty good grasp of the rhythm of the various types of tune and am able to recognise a number of tunes. This has been very helpful, as I don't read music, but am able to cope with TAB.
My long term aim is to be able to play in sessions, so I am working pretty hard at it. However, in the scheme of things, I am an old dog, and these are new tricks, so wish me luck!

Rog


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: The Sandman
Date: 10 May 09 - 03:02 PM

the problem,that I see in using the styles advocated by Sully,rather than single string style is this,the fifth string.
when I put sets of irish tunes together,I will often put three tunes that are in different keys,lets say Gmajor, Adorian,and Dmajor.,this helps to avoid monotony of sound.
If you sit in an irish session,this happens all the time,which means you have to be constantly re tuning your g string,it is just not practical,whereas single string style does not have that problem.if you are not playing in sessions ok its not a problem.
but is not the point of learning irish tunes,to go and play them at other irish sessions.


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: The Sandman
Date: 10 May 09 - 04:16 PM

I have to say thatIam full of admiration for Sully and his books are very good,however,if one takes Sullys g banjo book,some of the tunes are not in the keys that they are played in at sessions, Egans polka,banish misfortune,congress reel,ballyhoura mountains,humours of tulla.
ok you can capo,but everytime you have to capo,you have to retune.
with single string style on a 5 string you dont have this problem,neither do you have it in a tenor banjo.
the disadvantage,or is it an advantage,is that single string style can sound like a Tenor banjo.


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: GUEST,Ana
Date: 10 May 09 - 05:49 PM

Ooo - all sounds very complicated, and I'm sure I will get there!

For the meantime, I'm just concentrating on C tuning and chords, and sussing some nice rolling finger pick styles - thumb and 3 preferably. Involving that 5th string I guess is the trick, and the run probably needs to be different to those my fingers already know (guitar). And then there are the 4/4 3/4 etc.

Most sites/books tend to focus on frailing, clawhammer or scruggs. Guess I'm wondering if there is another way?
Cheers


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: Banjiman
Date: 11 May 09 - 03:44 AM

Ana,

That's why I'm suggesting Sully's books. He seems to advocate the most suitable style for any particular tune rather than focusing on a single technique.

I agree with some of CBs comments but would suggest the issue with changing keys is something that is a limitation with the 5 string banjo, not any particular playing style. It is designed to be played with the drone string as part of the sound. Using a single string style is a way of accomodating this limitation, but as CB says, you may as well be playing tenor banjo.... it no longer has the distinctive 5 string sound.

But, there you go. If we wanted to play sensible instruments we could all take up the g*itar!


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: The Sandman
Date: 11 May 09 - 05:06 AM

Banjiman,Good points,there is one slight difference,between playing single string style,and tenor banjo,you have the option of the g string as a melody note,plus when you play a g chord in a tune[say on a long note]you have alovely five note chord which is not possible on a tenor.
single string style does not have to exclude double stoppping,or occasional brush chording


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: Will Fly
Date: 11 May 09 - 05:14 AM

Dick - there's a 5-string banjo player who attends a session I go to (there's one tonight) who either has some sort of mini-capo device or locking device which he uses on the high g string to help out when he either plays in different keys or with a main capo on.

Any idea what that might be?


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: Banjiman
Date: 11 May 09 - 05:20 AM

Either a fifth string capo or "spikes" (small tacks used by model railway enthusiasts for holding down train tracks) which you can tuck the 5th string under.

Both of these are fine (I prefer spikes as I find a 5th string capo on a slider gets in the way) but it is still difficult to change keys during a song or tune set.

You always end up having to fine tune when you apply a main capo or a 5th string device as banjos seem more sensitive than g*itars. More of a precision instrument maybe.....

Or is it that g*itarists just don't care?


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: Will Fly
Date: 11 May 09 - 05:27 AM

I use a G7 capo on my guitars sometimes. A fine capo, but I always have to tune the 6th string down a little when it's on. Guitarists, as you know, are caring, sharing, essentially sweet floral creatures whose sole aim is to please...


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: Banjiman
Date: 11 May 09 - 05:33 AM

"tune the 6th string down"

Now you're just showing off because you have 6 strings.........

"Guitarists, as you know, are caring, sharing, essentially sweet floral creatures whose sole aim is to please..."

As someone who lives with a g*itarist (amongst other things), I know this isn't true!


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: Will Fly
Date: 11 May 09 - 05:39 AM

Sorry Banjiman - thought it was April 1st... :-) I have to have a 6th string on my guitar, by the way, to compensate for the 4 on my tenor banjo.

In a few weeks time, I shall have a tenor guitar - being made for me by a luthier friend - and then I shall have the best or worst of both worlds, depending on your viewpoint...

Tuned, of course, in standard tenor tuning - GCDA - like a viola, so I can play both jazz and traditional tunes on it.


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: banjoman
Date: 11 May 09 - 06:44 AM

The best fifth string capo I have found is a simple piece of elastic webbing with a small clip hook on one end which hooks onto the edge of the fingerboard and a plastic hook that hooks over the fifth string. Works well and in use for a long time, I bought this on ebay a couple of years ago and they are still on sale there.
Pete


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: The Sandman
Date: 11 May 09 - 08:10 AM

there is another possibilty[I havent tried this because I play TENOR Banjo with a plectrum]and that is to use a Thimble on the index finger to play the tune similiar to a plectrum [in the style of John Keenan Tenor Banjo]on the 5 string ,this leaves the thumb free to pluck,or to drop thumb or double thumb if the player wanted to.


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: olddude
Date: 11 May 09 - 08:54 AM

I play bluegrass scruggs style (not very well)
after listening to Art Thieme play the clawhammer I am now on a mission to try and learn it. I just love the sound


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: Will Fly
Date: 11 May 09 - 09:11 AM

Just out of curiosity - not being a 5-string player - what's the difference between banjo clawhammer and frailing?


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: Banjiman
Date: 11 May 09 - 09:22 AM

Bit of a minefield that on WF.

Some would say nothing...... that they are the same thing.

Others would say that frailing is the relatively simple technique of hitting a note then brushing a number of strings and then releasing the 5th string with your thumb. Count 1-2-3-4..... 1/pick 2/ nothing 3/ brush 4/ thumb release top string.

Clawhammer is a development of this where you add in drop thumbing, double thumbing (hitting top string on 2/ & 4/) , pull offs, slides and hammers to add more of the melody notes in. Chances are the 2/ beat as described above will have a note sounded and 3/ might also be a single note rather than a brush.

Some may argue with this description..... it would be far easier to show you than explain!


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Subject: RE: Banjoists, what style
From: The Sandman
Date: 11 May 09 - 09:56 AM

I am not an expert,
Quote:a more refined type of frailing is known as drop thumb frailing melodic frailing, strumless frailing or clawhammer.IN FRAILING the melody generally alternates with chords i.e strums.
pull off hammer ons and slides are used in both.
whereas in clawhammer the emphasis is on linear melody with few chord strums.
they are both down picking.
in clawhammer the fifth string is often used as a melody note.
of course there must be styles where the two are almost indistinguishable.


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