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Irish banjo

Stringsinger 20 Jan 12 - 03:38 PM
Big Mick 23 Jan 12 - 02:12 PM
Dave Hanson 23 Jan 12 - 02:46 PM
The Sandman 23 Jan 12 - 06:02 PM
Zen 23 Jan 12 - 07:02 PM
Dave Hanson 24 Jan 12 - 03:11 AM
Sugwash 24 Jan 12 - 04:22 AM
Zen 24 Jan 12 - 06:39 AM
The Sandman 24 Jan 12 - 07:57 AM
clueless don 24 Jan 12 - 09:04 AM
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Subject: Irish banjo
From: Stringsinger
Date: 20 Jan 12 - 03:38 PM

As of late, I have been enamored of Irish banjo, mainly Barney McKenna and Jimmy Kelly who seem to tune the tenor banjo in dropped tuning, GDAE an octave below standard-tuned fiddle. I am also interested in Jazz banjo player Elmer Snowden who used this tuning as well, the former leader of the Washingtonians which later became headed by Duke Ellington.

I have a Bacon and Day Silver Bell #1 circa 1922, an early model with round hole
flanges. I've tried to play a tenor banjo chordal style on it but found it to be "muddy" when it came to articulating chords. Single strings sound bright and clear, bell-like which the Silver Bell is noted for. I've been using a Jim Farquhar bridge which replaces ivory with tocoa wood, a hard resonant sounding inlay on the bridge. I also have an Oettinger tailpiece which enables me to tune each individual string by placing it closer or further from the banjo head.

I admire Gerry O'Connor but I really prefer the lower tuning instead of the standard tenor tuning of CGDA which sounds shrill to my ear.

I would be interested in hearing about others interest in this style of banjo, what they use, string gauges, picks and whether they prefer the short 17 fret scale
or like the 19, and does anyone use the plectrum tuning for Irish, as well as how they view their role in a seisiun.

What is your view on Boston or Newtone strings?


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Subject: RE: Irish banjo
From: Big Mick
Date: 23 Jan 12 - 02:12 PM

C'mon folks, I am interested in your knowledge on this subject as well. Give a brother a hand here.

All the best,

Mick


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Subject: RE: Irish banjo
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 23 Jan 12 - 02:46 PM

I have an Aria standard scale tenor and a Vega Whyte Laydie short scale both tuned EADG an octave below a mandolin, I use the same strings on both instruments, 12, 18, 28 and 38 thou. phosphor bronze.

I'm a great fan of Banjo Barney McKenna, Keiron Hanrahan, Tony Sullivan and Gerry O'Connor who also plays EADG as well as ADGC tuning.

Great instrument.

Dave H


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Subject: RE: Irish banjo
From: The Sandman
Date: 23 Jan 12 - 06:02 PM

its loud, if its tuned cgda its bright, its not subtle, but its kind of useful in sessions, because its loud and because its an octave lower[ [gdae] than the fiddle, so its almost like having a bass instrument playing the melody


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Subject: RE: Irish banjo
From: Zen
Date: 23 Jan 12 - 07:02 PM

I've played tenor banjo in Irish and Scottish traditional music for around 30 years now and mandolin and guitar for even longer.

I play a Fairbanks-Vega 17-fret 1922 Style R Whyte Laydie tuned GDAE. The strings are nickel wound 42w 32w 22w 12 (because of the short scale) and generally a .60mm gauge tortex or ultex pick. I use a Fiberskyn 3 head which gives a more natural vellum-like sound without the humidity hassles and an Emerald Banjos hand carved ebony bridge.

My favourite players are probably Barney McKenna and Kevin Griffin. I don't know the Boston strings but find the Newtones good although I usually use D'Addario single guitar strings with the ball cut out.

Hope this helps.


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Subject: RE: Irish banjo
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 24 Jan 12 - 03:11 AM

Zen, my Vega is the same model as yours but from 1914, I can't imagine a better sounding banjo.

Dave H


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Subject: RE: Irish banjo
From: Sugwash
Date: 24 Jan 12 - 04:22 AM

Dick Glasgow runs an excellent Irish Tenor Banjo site where you will find a wealth of tip, techniques, videos and fellow players of the 'pigskin piano'. The address is: http://theirishtenorbanjo.ning.com

I play both 17 and 19 fret instruments in gdae tuning, they both have their charms. 17 fret banjos have a reputation for tuning issues, but I have a modern banjo by Oakwood that stays in tune well enough, so I wonder if it is down to the quality of the tuners. Barney McKenna now plays a 17 fret Davy Boyle banjo, he had a stroke which made his old Paragon 19 fret instrument harder to play well.

Welcome to the wonderful world of the Irish Tenor Banjo.


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Subject: RE: Irish banjo
From: Zen
Date: 24 Jan 12 - 06:39 AM

Hi Dave,

Good to hear you have a similar Vega. Yes... they have a great sound and I love the neck on mine.

I agree with Sugwash that tuning can be tricky on a 17 fret. Mine came with the original friction tuners (which I still have) but I have replaced them with 1920s Planet 4:1 narrow spindle planetary tuners (i.e. contemporary with the banjo and requiring minimal adaptation) which certainly make tuning a lot easier.


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Subject: RE: Irish banjo
From: The Sandman
Date: 24 Jan 12 - 07:57 AM

I have a vega little wonder, it is loud without a resonator , i think all the vegas i have come across are wonderful


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Subject: RE: Irish banjo
From: clueless don
Date: 24 Jan 12 - 09:04 AM

My own thoughts:

1. For whatever reason, I particularly enjoy Irish dance music played on plectrum instruments, such as the tenor banjo.

2. In my experience, the gdae tuning is standard for players of Irish dance music. Gerry O'Connor is an exception.

3. My favorite player is Seamus Egan (of Solas.) Other favorites include Gerry O'Connor, Eamonn Coyne, Enda Scahill, Kevin Griffin, and Kieran Hanrahan.

Don


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