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Beginning Banjo -- please help!

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Alex.S 07 Jul 04 - 07:35 PM
Alex.S 07 Jul 04 - 07:38 PM
The Fooles Troupe 07 Jul 04 - 07:44 PM
Amos 07 Jul 04 - 07:58 PM
Alex.S 07 Jul 04 - 08:06 PM
Alex.S 07 Jul 04 - 08:07 PM
mooman 07 Jul 04 - 08:11 PM
mooman 07 Jul 04 - 08:15 PM
Alex.S 07 Jul 04 - 09:16 PM
DonMeixner 07 Jul 04 - 09:57 PM
Steve Latimer 07 Jul 04 - 11:18 PM
Alex.S 07 Jul 04 - 11:31 PM
Leadfingers 08 Jul 04 - 04:47 AM
greg stephens 08 Jul 04 - 05:37 AM
The Fooles Troupe 08 Jul 04 - 05:39 AM
A Wandering Minstrel 08 Jul 04 - 07:58 AM
GUEST 08 Jul 04 - 08:14 AM
SINSULL 08 Jul 04 - 10:03 AM
The Fooles Troupe 08 Jul 04 - 12:10 PM
Alex.S 08 Jul 04 - 01:42 PM
mooman 08 Jul 04 - 02:06 PM
Leadfingers 08 Jul 04 - 06:23 PM
DonMeixner 08 Jul 04 - 06:50 PM
Steve Latimer 08 Jul 04 - 08:57 PM
GUEST 08 Jul 04 - 09:12 PM
GUEST,Brien 09 Jul 04 - 11:24 AM
Geoff the Duck 09 Jul 04 - 04:28 PM
Alex.S 09 Jul 04 - 11:56 PM
InOBU 10 Jul 04 - 08:01 AM
GUEST 10 Jul 04 - 08:14 AM
Jeri 10 Jul 04 - 09:24 AM
DonMeixner 10 Jul 04 - 10:21 AM
Alex.S 15 Jul 04 - 02:01 PM
fretless 15 Jul 04 - 02:31 PM
BanjoRay 15 Jul 04 - 04:10 PM
BanjoRay 15 Jul 04 - 04:31 PM
GUEST,NH Dave 15 Jul 04 - 04:33 PM
Geoff the Duck 15 Jul 04 - 08:19 PM
GUEST,Songster Bob 15 Jul 04 - 11:33 PM
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Subject: Beginning Banjo -- please help!
From: Alex.S
Date: 07 Jul 04 - 07:35 PM

Well, I just dug my aunt's old "Harmony" 5 string Banjo from the 1960s out of her garage, took it to the music store, and bought some strings -- the only problem is that I don't know what to do with them!
Is the "fifth" string the short little drone one? If so, why is there so much more slack than on, say, a guitar or violin? which way does the bridge go on, long foot towards the short string (and my head) or the others (towards my feet)? If anyone would be so kind as to help me out, or point me towards a website that can, I would be eternally grateful.


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Subject: RE: Beginning Banjo -- please help!
From: Alex.S
Date: 07 Jul 04 - 07:38 PM

In addition, why are there 6 string holders at the base of the bajo, and which holes/holders go with which strings? and what is the screw that goes into the string holder for? This is amazingly complicated...


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Subject: RE: Beginning Banjo -- please help!
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 07 Jul 04 - 07:44 PM

Let me help you simplify matters...

First, take an axe... :-)


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Subject: RE: Beginning Banjo -- please help!
From: Amos
Date: 07 Jul 04 - 07:58 PM

ALex:

The highest string is the drone string, usually tuned to a high "G" note. It is the one that starts half-way up the neck.

On my aged old Silvertone the "long" foot, which is only slightly longer, points toward the player ("up"). There are six slots in the tail piece, true, but it doesn't matter. One on one or the other end should be the one you ignore. The bridge will take care of fairing the run of the string sufficiently.

This is from an amateur, though, and you might want to consult a luthier who knows banjos.

Or, by an introductory book on them./

A


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Subject: RE: Beginning Banjo -- please help!
From: Alex.S
Date: 07 Jul 04 - 08:06 PM

thank you, Amos, that is helpful. let me add one final problem--

Let us label the strings, 5 to 1, from the drone (5) on up the banjo. Now, let us label the pegs at the end of the neck A, B, C, D, starting from the upper-right and moving clockwise (lower-right, lower-left, upper-left). I know there are a lot of questions here, and every little bit helps. Thanks again.


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Subject: RE: Beginning Banjo -- please help!
From: Alex.S
Date: 07 Jul 04 - 08:07 PM

The question, btw, on the last post, was "Which string correspoinds to which peg?"


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Subject: RE: Beginning Banjo -- please help!
From: mooman
Date: 07 Jul 04 - 08:11 PM

Dear Alex,

On your last question you may find the following link, which has pictures, useful:


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Subject: RE: Beginning Banjo -- please help!
From: mooman
Date: 07 Jul 04 - 08:15 PM

Here it is:

Fret.com banjo stringing pages

The rest of that site is also very informative on a variety of instrument questions.

Good luck and peace

moo


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Subject: RE: Beginning Banjo -- please help!
From: Alex.S
Date: 07 Jul 04 - 09:16 PM

Alright, I got the strings on -- thanks everyone! -- now if someone could just refer me to a website that can play the proper pitches for the tuning, I'll be ready to go!


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Subject: RE: Beginning Banjo -- please help!
From: DonMeixner
Date: 07 Jul 04 - 09:57 PM

Hi Alex,

Did you get the bridge in the right place? Like in real estate location is critical. In an over simplification, measure from the inside of the nut(Where the strings start up near the tuners)to the twelfth fret. This distance can be anywhere from 12" to 13 3/8 ". And locate the center of the bridge what ever that distance is from the twelfth fret to the center of the banjo head. Actually it will be about 1/3 the width of the head from the tail piece. I won't scare you with intonation. You'll be pretty close to right anyway.

Tuning spend $ 30.00 and buy an electric tuner and tune the banjo

"D-G-B-D" with the littles one tuned to a "G" note equal to the smalled "D" string played at the fifth Fret. You will be in open "G" tuning.


Good luck from there.


Don


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Subject: RE: Beginning Banjo -- please help!
From: Steve Latimer
Date: 07 Jul 04 - 11:18 PM

There is a real wealth of information here.

Banjo Hangout

Go to the "Lessons" and "Links" icons. If you can't find the answers to all of your questions (and you will have lots more) click on the "Discussion" icon. You will have to register to post any questions, but you will be amazed at how much banjo knowledge is there. Professional pickers, teachers, Banjo builders etc.

Good luck.


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Subject: RE: Beginning Banjo -- please help!
From: Alex.S
Date: 07 Jul 04 - 11:31 PM

Thanks so much everyone. I got the banjo in tune, I think (though I did break a drone string in the process...) and now it sounds a nice Gmaj chord when I strum it. Back to the store tomorrow for that replacement drone!


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Subject: RE: Beginning Banjo -- please help!
From: Leadfingers
Date: 08 Jul 04 - 04:47 AM

Alex - Where abouts are you ? There are two reasons for asking !

(1) Any Non banjo people in your area will be warned !

(2) Any real musicians (banjo players , of course ) may be able to help you out .

I am West London UK and only too pleased to help any one in my patch with any problems they might have with any Folkie info .


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Subject: RE: Beginning Banjo -- please help!
From: greg stephens
Date: 08 Jul 04 - 05:37 AM

Alex:welcome to the club. Us banjo players may get laughed at by envious common people, but we know we are right.


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Subject: RE: Beginning Banjo -- please help!
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 08 Jul 04 - 05:39 AM

Just like us Piano Accordion Players... :-)


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Subject: RE: Beginning Banjo -- please help!
From: A Wandering Minstrel
Date: 08 Jul 04 - 07:58 AM

And since you will be the butt of jokes anyway You can always take up the Bodhran as well. The more of us the merrier (and noisier :) )


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Subject: RE: Beginning Banjo -- please help!
From: GUEST
Date: 08 Jul 04 - 08:14 AM

You will need all the help you can get


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Subject: RE: Beginning Banjo -- please help!
From: SINSULL
Date: 08 Jul 04 - 10:03 AM

Banjo players are sexier


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Subject: RE: Beginning Banjo -- please help!
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 08 Jul 04 - 12:10 PM

But a Mandolin owner can always slice cheese and vegetables...


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Subject: RE: Beginning Banjo -- please help!
From: Alex.S
Date: 08 Jul 04 - 01:42 PM

Leadfingers, you'll have to come a long way to help me out-- to Los Angeles, California! Thanks for the offer, though, God knows I could use it...
and what the heck is a "Bodhran?"


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Subject: RE: Beginning Banjo -- please help!
From: mooman
Date: 08 Jul 04 - 02:06 PM

Best you don't know Alex! In this case ignorance is bliss!

Peace

moo


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Subject: RE: Beginning Banjo -- please help!
From: Leadfingers
Date: 08 Jul 04 - 06:23 PM

Alex , a Bodhran is a banjo without the neck and no strings , which
Irish men beat in time with the music . And best of luck with the banjo , Look for Pete Seegers Banjo guide , mate , its full of useful stuff .


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Subject: RE: Beginning Banjo -- please help!
From: DonMeixner
Date: 08 Jul 04 - 06:50 PM

5-String Banjo for The Complet Ignoramous by Wayne Erbson is also highly recomended

Don


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Subject: RE: Beginning Banjo -- please help!
From: Steve Latimer
Date: 08 Jul 04 - 08:57 PM

Many people have found this to be a good way to learn to play.

The Murphy Method


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Subject: RE: Beginning Banjo -- please help!
From: GUEST
Date: 08 Jul 04 - 09:12 PM

This thread begs for BanjoBonnie/LittleNeo to come back to the fold and recount her amazing journey through the wonderful world of learning to play the banjo.......


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Subject: RE: Beginning Banjo -- please help!
From: GUEST,Brien
Date: 09 Jul 04 - 11:24 AM

Alex - subscribe to the Banjo-L mailing list and ask away. A lot of friendly helpful folks there.
My opinion is it is best to find a mentor, teacher or kindred spirit to get the juices flowing.
Almost immediate results guaranteed for those who collaborate.

With any luck someone on the list lives close to you and you can get together and explore this great music maker.

Get info on the List and more at:
http://zeppmusic.com/banjo/


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Subject: RE: Beginning Banjo -- please help!
From: Geoff the Duck
Date: 09 Jul 04 - 04:28 PM

Once you have got the banjo set up to play, then you need to decide what style of music you are going to go for.
My personal preference is Old-Timey Clawhammer/Frailing. Some prefer Bluegrass. Some use it in other ways.
You need to make an initial decision so we can point you towards the best source of material - or the guides/websites/instructors etc. There are also a lot of old Mudcat threads, but once again they are aimed at diferent targets. And you wouldn't want to stand in front of a loaded Mudcat thread without the correct protective gear!!
Quack!
Geoff the Duck.


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Subject: RE: Beginning Banjo -- please help!
From: Alex.S
Date: 09 Jul 04 - 11:56 PM

Well Geoff, I haven't really decided! I was thinking more old-timey/folk music, a(pardon the lack of accent)-la Pete and Peggy Seeger, something I could sing along with.

I got the Pete Seeger and Trischka self-teaching guides from the library, but I haven't started either yet in earnest. Seeger recommends a different tuning than the one most websites recommended for beginners, deviating from the standard Gmaj by dropping the fifth string to C-- is this a good idea to pursue?

thanks for all the help!


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Subject: RE: Beginning Banjo -- please help!
From: InOBU
Date: 10 Jul 04 - 08:01 AM

A bodhran is an Irish drum generally played with a bone, stick or thumb, generally played badly, loudly and too often, therefore the observation made my myself one day in a pub, when someone walked into a session with a round leather bodhran shaped bag... "Oh god, I hope that is a bomb..." this from myself, who made bodhrans for a while. In defense of Banjos, they are good in a bar fight, better in fact than almost every instrument other than a guitar, though few would want to destroy a guitar by wanging someone over the mellon with a real instrument and most banjos would not be worse for the wear (even if broken).
Very best of luck, and it is not too late to buy a guitar.
No, really good luck...
No really buy a guitar,
No, just kidding good luck on the banjo
No, really DO trade it for a guitar,
No, really really just kidding, be a good banjo player
No, I can't help it, buy a guitar,
No, don't listen to me, I am just kidding you
No, I really am not
Damn, I better see what else is going on.
Cheers
Larry
PS It is not too late until you start playing Kerry slides on the banjo and hoping that a lot of piano accordians show up to play with you...
and a bodhran or two
or four
or twelve


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Subject: RE: Beginning Banjo -- please help!
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Jul 04 - 08:14 AM

Give up now before it's to late - you have been warned


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Subject: RE: Beginning Banjo -- please help!
From: Jeri
Date: 10 Jul 04 - 09:24 AM

Alex, regarding the tunings, I think it's a good idea to experiment with different ones early on so you don't get stuck in one. It's relatively easy to re-tune a banjo, and tuning/re-tuning is a basic skill you're going to need down the road.

I think Seeger's very good at explaining things to a beginner, so I'd advise tuning the banjo a-la Seeger for learning the basics. I haven't heard the Triska learning video/book(?) so I can't comment.

The clawhammer technique takes a while to learn, and the only way to learn it is to do it over and over again until you relax and don't have to think about it.

GUEST who mentioned Banjo Bonnie/Little Neo - I agree completely. I miss her around here.


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Subject: RE: Beginning Banjo -- please help!
From: DonMeixner
Date: 10 Jul 04 - 10:21 AM

Alex,

Don't pay attention to Jeri. Clawhammer is easy. It only took me twelve years and 12 minutes to untangle my thumb. The big thing is the practice and practice the right moves and you learn it well. Practice the wrong moves and no matter how long you practice you won't do it right. To this day I can't decipher the Pete Seegar Basic strum, that up-picking screws me up everytime.

Have someone who plays show you how to get started. Form me, I need a 3-dimensional breathing instructor. I find that is best.

I also agree with Jeri about getting comfortable wit a couple tunings. "Open G" and "Pete Seegar C" are probably the easiest to move between as it requires retuning only the heaviest string. There will be enough chord similarity to both ease your education and confuse you a little as well.

Continued good luck

Don


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Subject: RE: Beginning Banjo -- please help!
From: Alex.S
Date: 15 Jul 04 - 02:01 PM

I'm happy to report that I got my banjo in tune and can play at least 3 chords, but as with any worthy endeavor a new problem emerges with each step...

this particular one concerns the so-called "bum-titty" strum. Actually, I'm pretty good at it, but what to do with a chord that does not feature the drone string? When playing in G, for example, a D chord does not use the drone string, so I must reluctantly eliminate the -ty from my bum-titty, and substituting the 4th string for the 5th jsut doesn't sound right. What kind of pattern might I use to keep the rhythmic feel of bum-titty on these troublesome chords?

   Thanks for all your help


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Subject: RE: Beginning Banjo -- please help!
From: fretless
Date: 15 Jul 04 - 02:31 PM

Generally, for beginnings you can keep the drone in the bum-titty even when it doesn't go with the chord. It just drones on and on regardless, and doesn't seem to do too much damage to the music. Eventually, if you shift to more varying clawhammer modes (a.k.a. melodic clawhammer, although someone is bound to comment that the asociation of Melodic and Clawhammer is an oxymoron) you will find yourself dropping the third note (in other words bum-tit, although I'm reluctant to write that lest someone make another anti-banjo coment). For my money, you can't do better than Seeger's How to Play the 5-String Banjo for starters.


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Subject: RE: Beginning Banjo -- please help!
From: BanjoRay
Date: 15 Jul 04 - 04:10 PM

You can always drop-thumb ie use the thumb on say the second string instead of the 5th (usually the next string down in pitch to the one you've "titted" on). But mostly you just carry on with the fifth - it gives it the good old time sound.
Ray


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Subject: RE: Beginning Banjo -- please help!
From: BanjoRay
Date: 15 Jul 04 - 04:31 PM

The book that helped me most was "Clawhammer Style Banjo" by Ken Perlman (from Mel Bay)- comes with a CD. It progresses from easy to ludicrously advanced, and it'll give you something to amuse yourself with for the next few years. You should listen to the bits you're trying to learn over and over till they're ingrained. That way, when you do it, you'll know if you're doing it wrong. Find an old time jam somewhere you can get to regularly - I know there are some fine players around LA. There's nothing like watching and listening to good players, and joining in when you feel up to it. You'll go home with the best buzz you've ever had.
Play for at least 20 minutes EVERY day - no matter what else you're doing, and listen to lots of banjo music - really listen. It gets better and better.
Good luck
Ray


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Subject: RE: Beginning Banjo -- please help!
From: GUEST,NH Dave
Date: 15 Jul 04 - 04:33 PM

And of course there ARE capos for the fifth string so you can get that last "bum" in on key. For now practice with both the open G tuning and the C tuning that Pete starts folks off in, until you get it down to something automatic, that you can almost do without thinking. From there, Pete gets you into double thumbing and even some clawhammer work.

While this works best if you have the record cut to go along with Pete's book, I don't think they are available any more. You could also get in touch with the McNeils in Riverside. They used to do a course in folks music for teachers that included learning simple acompanyments on the instrument of your choice. I've included their names and stuff below.

Dave

Keith (& Rusty) McNeil
16230 Van Buren Blvd
Riverside, CA 92504-5739
(909) 780-2322


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Subject: RE: Beginning Banjo -- please help!
From: Geoff the Duck
Date: 15 Jul 04 - 08:19 PM

Alex - the 5th string keeps sounding whatever chord you play. Sometimes it produces a discord (dischord?), but mostly it just makes the banjo sound like it should. It doesn't matter if it "shouldn't be there" it just is!
Best advice is - decide what style of music you want to play, then listen to as many examples of it as you can get hold of. For Old Time stuff, the Honking Duck website is worth a visit - HONK HERE!.
Art Rosenbaum is one worth a listen, Uncle Dave Macon, Grandpa Jones, the list goes on...
Quack!
Geoff the Duck.


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Subject: RE: Beginning Banjo -- please help!
From: GUEST,Songster Bob
Date: 15 Jul 04 - 11:33 PM

Well, I have a banjo book I'll send anyone who wants it enough to send me $10. I published it in 1976, and have taught many, many folks using it (both as a teacher, when I did that sort of thing, and simply through the book). My address is

Bob Clayton
8401 Cedar St.
Silver Spring, MD 20910

If you bought the Perlman book, you probably won't need mine, but if you use the Seeger book, you'll find that he often doesn't use melodies (teaching accompaniment as much as tunes) and many times doesn't finish the song (if you can get through 3/4 of it, you can finish it by ear -- an interesting approach, but to me it makes the beginner do too much. It's like an exam, but doesn't provide the answer. (This is based on trying the book when I started, in 1968, so perhaps he's changed it, or my memory is bad).

But good luck with it. The banjo rewards the effort it takes to learn it right.

Bob


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