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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Difference between tenor banjo and ragtime banjo?


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.banjohangout.org/archive/64797

dimeboxpam - Posted - 10/19/2006:  16:10:56


Hi there - I'm a frailer, so I'm clueless when it comes to banjos with anything but 5 strings and an open back...and I'm even pretty clueless about those! :)

I'm getting interested in ragtime songs and was wondering what type of banjo was used during the turn-of-the-century to play on these songs - I know it was a four-string, correct? Was is a tenor banjo or something differerent?

Is there a difference between the banjos played for celtic music and ragtime music?

Help!

Pam

Pam
www.dimeboxband.com

trapdoor2 - Posted - 10/19/2006:  16:42:07


Hi Pam,

Lets see...a dime's worth of banjo history.

Tenor banjos "arrived" just prior to WWI (yes, there were some built before that). Before that, most were open-back 5-string banjos.

So, true "ragtime" banjos were primarily of the open-back 5-string variety. The playing style was 3-finger, no picks...they were gut strung (I use nylgut).

After WWI, the 4-string "Plectrum" and "Tenor" banjo became king. Almost all of the "Dixieland" music you hear would have been backed by either a Plectrum or Tenor banjo.

Now, what kind of "ragtime" tunes are you talking about?

edit: sorry, Celtic/Irish music is usually flatpicked on a tenor banjo. You can play it on a 5-string but it just doesn't sound the same (IMHO).

"If banjos needed tone rings, S.S. Stewart would have built 'em that way."

===Marc


Edited by - trapdoor2 on 10/19/2006 16:44:35

dimeboxpam - Posted - 10/19/2006:  17:12:48


Ah.. so, ragtime on 5 string and post WWI jazz on a tenor, correct?


Pam
www.dimeboxband.com

trapdoor2 - Posted - 10/19/2006:  17:17:58


Yup. That is, if you want to be historically accurate. You can certainly play ragtime on a tenor, just as you can play it on a Tuba or a Piccolo. It is, after all, just music.

"If banjos needed tone rings, S.S. Stewart would have built 'em that way."

===Marc

gottasmilealot - Posted - 10/19/2006:  18:24:28


You might be interested in this which indicates the 5 string gut strung banjo being used for ragtime music back in it's heyday.

http://www.standingstones.com/banjo.html



Keith

beegee - Posted - 10/19/2006:  23:47:15


ragtime is a style of music that can be played on anything. 5-string or finger-picked guitar work well with it,because of the alternating bass and chords and syncopation. To play it with a flatpick would require some serious cross-picking.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ragtime

banjofanatico - Posted - 10/21/2006:  20:15:05


I often play ragtime with a flatpick. Here is a sample I just recorded :


David


Edited by - banjofanatico on 10/23/2008 09:10:30

Scarecrow - Posted - 11/17/2006:  03:30:36


Ragtime works a treat on the 6-string banjo, as the alternating thumb bass drives it along.
See Mark Hanson's "Contemporary Travis Picking", esp. book 2, for an introduction.
Am I allowed to post the phrase, "6-string banjo"?
Apologies for any offence caused.
By the way, some early jazz was played on 6-string eg. Johnny St.Cyr, of Louis Armstrong's Hot Five and Seven.

Scarecrow

SharonB - Posted - 02/20/2007:  19:38:26


I am also a frailer but very interested in playing rags and moving into dixieland. Can I start this frailing/clawhammer style or do I need to pick? Is tablature available???

trapdoor2 - Posted - 02/20/2007:  22:45:22


Many of the "country rags" can be neatly executed via frailing. I'm thinking of tunes like "Pig Ankle Rag", "Ragtime Annie", "Black and White Rag", et al. I'm sure with a bit of inventiveness, almost anything could be played. I don't have Tab of any of the above noted rags, but if you are willing to try 3-finger, I can put you on music sufficient to keep you busy for years. Most of this is in standard notation, but can be converted to TAB with a bit of work.

There are a few books of rags out for bluegrass style-playing too. Bill Knopf published one in the 80's and Fred Sokolow did one too. Both show up routinely on ebay. There is also a source in the UK with dozens of Joplin rags arranged for banjo...I just sent off a query yesterday.

"If banjos needed tone rings, S.S. Stewart would have built 'em that way."

===Marc

SharonB - Posted - 02/21/2007:  01:24:25


Marc,
I am very willing to try 3-finger. I have played guitar for a long time and am comfortable finger-picking, though I've not yet tried it on the banjo.
Do I need to get a 4-string banjo??

Sharon

trapdoor2 - Posted - 02/21/2007:  10:56:33


quote:
Originally posted by SharonB

Marc,
I am very willing to try 3-finger. I have played guitar for a long time and am comfortable finger-picking, though I've not yet tried it on the banjo.
Do I need to get a 4-string banjo??
Nope! All of the above mentioned ragtime is for 3-finger (no picks) on a 5-string. If you look in the Tablature section here, you'll find a few pieces have been uploaded there. Much of the guitar style will transfer over to the banjo, although it is not typically an "alternating bass" style of fingerpicking.

edit: look for "Banjoland", "Berkeley March" and "Tarantella" here in the Hangout tab archives. Banjoland and Tarantella were written by English banjoist Joe Morley, who wrote about 250 pieces for banjo from the 1880's to his death in 1936. Berkeley March is a Brooks and Denton piece written in 1892-3 and is considered the 'theme song' of the American Banjo Fraternity (ABF).

Contact me thru my hangout homepage and I'll send you some others directly.

"If banjos needed tone rings, S.S. Stewart would have built 'em that way."

===Marc


Edited by - trapdoor2 on 02/21/2007 11:03:32

banjofanatico - Posted - 02/21/2007:  17:26:51


quote:
Nope! All of the above mentioned ragtime is for 3-finger (no picks) on a 5-string.


I played my sound sample above on a 4-string tenor (flatpicked).

David

writerrad - Posted - 10/22/2008:  09:24:23


quote:
Originally posted by trapdoor2

Hi Pam,

Lets see...a dime's worth of banjo history.

Tenor banjos "arrived" just prior to WWI (yes, there were some built before that). Before that, most were open-back 5-string banjos.

So, true "ragtime" banjos were primarily of the open-back 5-string variety. The playing style was 3-finger, no picks...they were gut strung (I use nylgut).

After WWI, the 4-string "Plectrum" and "Tenor" banjo became king. Almost all of the "Dixieland" music you hear would have been backed by either a Plectrum or Tenor banjo.

Now, what kind of "ragtime" tunes are you talking about?

edit: sorry, Celtic/Irish music is usually flatpicked on a tenor banjo. You can play it on a 5-string but it just doesn't sound the same (IMHO).

"If banjos needed tone rings, S.S. Stewart would have built 'em that way."

===Marc



The tenor banjo was invented in 1905 as a modification of the mandolin banjo. It became popular and began to be produced by major banjor manufacturers around 1910 due to its usefulness in the ongoing tango craise. With the onset of Jazz and the collapse of Ragtime, Tenor banjos became popular. In many of the 1920s and 1930s Jazz Bands, particularly African American Jazz bands and especially Black bands from New Orleans, often what sounds like a tenor banjo actually is a guitar banjo. Johnny St. Cyr, the most distinguished Jazz banjoist, for example, played a six-string and always thought of himself as a guitarist, not a banjo.

With the exception of the socalled "Original Dixieland Jazz Band" which featured a banjoist flat picking a five string banjo with the fifth string removed, plectrum banjo playing is excedingly rare on Jazz recordings from 1920 to 1940. However in the socalled Dixieland revival, many groups particularly California based groups did favor the plectrum banjo.

Tony Thomas black banjo player

writerrad - Posted - 10/22/2008:  09:36:33


quote:
Originally posted by gottasmilealot

You might be interested in this which indicates the 5 string gut strung banjo being used for ragtime music back in it's heyday.

http://www.standingstones.com/banjo.html



Keith


Actually Ragtime banjo recordings were among the most popular subjects for cylinder recordings. Many more banjo recordings of Ragtime were made than piano recordings of ragtime were made during the cylinder era.

The five string banjo was probably as or more identified with Ragtime than the Piano. One of the roots of Ragtime was the long series of piano compositions that tried to mimic the syncopation and swing of African American or pseudo-African American banjo playing, a genre that goes back to the 1840s. Another source of Ragtime was attempts by urban musicians to replicate Black country string band dances (called Rags both the tunes and the dances) on urban instruments especially the Piano. That combined with the application of formally trained pianio writers.

Scott Joplin, for one, a son of a banjo playing father and a banjo playing more, dedicated portions of his rags to banjoists and has instructions on his sheet music in places instructing pianoist to replicate banjo techniques with words such as "pick."

The period of Ragtime 1895-1910 was probably the acme of five-string banjo construction, the playing of the five-string banjo in all genres of music was at its height.

Another example was James Reece Europe's Society Orchestra, one of the great bands of pop Ragtime, featured no less than five banjos in 1917 before Europe and most band members enlisted. They combined five-string, cello, and tenor banjos. Europe used even more banjos in his famous Carneige Hall concert of Still's music.

In the age of Ragtime, the most popular instrument of any kind was the five string banjo

Tony Thomas black banjo player

writerrad - Posted - 10/22/2008:  09:41:25


[quote]Originally posted by trapdoor2

Many of the "country rags" can be neatly executed via frailing. I'm thinking of tunes like "Pig Ankle Rag", "Ragtime Annie", "Black and White Rag", et al. //

Most of these songs and many more fiddle tunes are not ragtime. Rags were one form of fiddle and old time dance tune. The name continued to be used both before and after the rise of Ragtime. Ragtime did take its name from emulations of Black old time rags in the Kansas Missouri area by urban musicians who concentrated on the syncopation. Moreover, during the Ragtime era, many tunes were named Ragtime like Ragtime Annie that were not actually in Ragtime syncopation. The most famous was "Alexander's Ragtime Band." If you listen to the great Frank Hutchison's original version of "The Weary Blues," recorded around 1929, Hutchison calls this very straight blues a "Ragtime song."

All Rags are not ragtime

Tony Thomas black banjo player

Klondike Waldo - Posted - 10/22/2008:  15:09:46


quote:
Originally posted by SharonB

I am also a frailer but very interested in playing rags and moving into dixieland. Can I start this frailing/clawhammer style or do I need to pick? Is tablature available???




You'll probably want a tenor or plectrum for Dixieland, definitely flatpicked.

deligo ergo renideo,
Bob Cameron

janolov - Posted - 10/22/2008:  23:25:37


quote:
Originally posted by SharonB

I am also a frailer but very interested in playing rags and moving into dixieland. Can I start this frailing/clawhammer style or do I need to pick? Is tablature available???




I think it is very difficult, but not impossible, to play true ragtimes with clawhammer. The ragtimes are heavily syncopated so you have to play a lot of emphasized melody notes by the dropthumb or left hand (pull-off, hammer-on). I think three-finger (without picks) is easier. It is a variation of the socalled classic banjo style. However, the ragtimes are usually built up by a syncopated melody with chords, both full chords and arpeggios, (played by the right hand on the piano) and a bass-chord line (played by the left hand on the piano). The bass/chord line is easy to adopt to clawhammer. It is often simple bum-di which easily can be developed to bum-dit-ty. But then you have to have the melody played by another instrument.

Jan-Olov

Compass56 - Posted - 10/23/2008:  12:38:21


This would be an good thread for our buddy Clawhammerjazz to get involved in. He has a thorough knowledge of early jazz, and he has plenty to say about the use of clawhammer technique and on how that technique can and cannot be used to play the early twentieth century jazzy stuff.

deuceswilde - Posted - 10/23/2008:  17:39:13


Open-backs were THE instrument in the U.S., but let us not forget the English "improvement" using the old Dobson "closed back" patent, long discarded by its inventor before they picked it up. Sorry, I'm having a Stewart moment.

But seriously, many times early banjo recordings will be mistaken as tenors or plectrums, when in fact they were done on a 5-stringer using a mostly now abandoned technique called "tremolo" playing.

-Joel

Success always comes to those who have the money to buy it.

-The Adventures of a Banjo Player, 1884 p.26

KI4PRK - Posted - 10/23/2008:  18:45:34


My friend has some old Fred van Eps and Vess Ossman cylinders. We fixed up a couple of his cylinder machines and set 'em spinning and it was totally awesome. He also happened to have a homemade cylinder from the early 1900's. It's in really really bad shape, but you can hear a muffled voice — and the faint twang of a banjo.

Classical happens to be the only *major* 5-string banjo picking technique I haven't tried. I have some PDF files of old classical instruction manuals, but they're a bit hard to understand. Are there some good, free, basic classical instruction manuals online of more recent date?

Thanks, 73, de Brennen KI4PRK age 14

banjopocolypse - Posted - 10/24/2008:  10:19:52


You can find Eps and Ossman mp3s easily online because they have enterred the public domain. The are pretty neat to listen too, especially the announcer that announces what you are about to hear. That's something that should come back!

Brad Bechtel - Posted - 10/24/2008:  10:50:42


If you want to hear some early cylinder recordings by Van Eps, Ossman, etc. go here:
http://cylinders.library.ucsb.edu/s...?query=banjo

banjofanatico - Posted - 10/26/2008:  15:24:57


I think of these songs as real ragtime, tunes like "Alexander's Ragtime Band", "Black and White Rag", "12th Street Rag", etc. I don't know where this idea comes from - that some are not "real" ragtime. I guess they are "fake" ragtime.

David

Ronnie - Posted - 10/26/2008:  16:15:32


Eddie Peabody was a wizard on the plectrum banjo. I don't know how he would fit strictly into the ragtime category, though.

www.bobbythompsonbanjo.com

banjopocolypse - Posted - 10/27/2008:  08:18:43


Alexander's Ragtime Band is just not ragtime. Its not an insult. Its not a rap song either. Its just a song about a ragtime band.

NYCJazz - Posted - 10/27/2008:  17:53:03


Most of the standard tenor/plectrum fare is traditional jazz, and as such, has elements of ragtime.

The birth of jazz in New Orleans was a merger of ragtime, rural blues, and european brass band music.

As my friend Compass56 has so eloquently said: "You can play anything on anything".

Cynthia Sayer has recorded some lovely traditional ragtime numbers such as "Georgia Rainbow" and "Chevy Chase" on the plectrum banjo.




Friends don''t let friends convert jazz banjos.

scotty22 - Posted - 10/28/2008:  14:18:52


quote:
Originally posted by NYCJazz

Most of the standard tenor/plectrum fare is traditional jazz, and as such, has elements of ragtime.

The birth of jazz in New Orleans was a merger of ragtime, rural blues, and european brass band music.




This is why such a seemingly geeky instrument as the four-string banjo is one of the coolest, soulful instruments in all of music.

______________________________
"...fat-assed, beer-gutted, grey-beared, balding Morris dancers with the little bent pipes clamped in their teeth and scraggly ponytails ... (and the men, too.)"

nmusser - Posted - 10/28/2008:  20:09:22


I was jamming the other day with some friends who play in an acoustic swing band (muted horns, harmonica plus guitar bass drums) and had been playing along using Scruggs-style or Clawhammer.... neither of which felt exactly right.... on a lark I slacked the 5th String and tried to emulate that dixie-jazz-tenor-plectrum sound with a flat pick ...

Hey! It really worked! I fit right in.

Needs a LOT more practice before it'd be presentable, but it was inspiring...

Compass56 - Posted - 10/29/2008:  03:42:00


That's great nmusser! Keep at it. Do you tune the fourth string (low D) down to C? That's standard plectrum tuning. (C,G, B, D) Doing so will make playing the chords indigenous to swing music much, much easier.

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