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May 29, 2018 - 7:42:54 AM
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265 posts since 6/4/2015

Hello all,

Out of hospital and back from major ear surgery, since a couple of days. And I'm happy to report that the latter hasn't spelled the end of my future in music. My biggest fear, in the runner-up to the operation, not coming true after all. The entire procedure much more relaxed than I imagined, as a matter of fact. And surprisingly painless it has been, too, so far. I expected to be thoroughly miserable, afterwards, and in much pain. In the end, though, I simply took a bus home.

Unfortunately, I'm yet unable to listen to BHO's latest musical submissions. My ear recently reconstructed in still a little too delicate state as to tolerate half of a headset weighing on it. But maybe you'd like a pictorial banjo history? Clearing my storage bringing together four generations.

When this history starts I'm actually not sure of. My best guess is sometime 1910s or 1920s. But the instruments dubbed "great-grandfather" (the mandobanjo with all its tuning pegs still intact) and "grandfather"(the mandobanjo with half of its tuning pegs not), for the purpose of this thread, were actually both possessions of my father's father, once. The former is not playable, at this time, but deserves loving restoration, I think. The original tailpiece missing, for instance. I also know next to nothing of where that instrument originally came from or what its pedigree is.

But the "grandfather" was shipped in on occasion of the 40th wedding anniversary of my father's parents. My parents had written a little "play", especially for the celebrations, in which my younger sisters and myself were to be the "actors". A song was also part of that performance, I believe - hence that old banjo trotted out. My father spent several nights stringing and tuning, causing the son (me) to investigate repeatedly, if in vain. Unable to sleep because of those strange noises coming from downstairs. But once the secret was out, my father taught me the basics. In the end, he had settled for ADF#B soprano uke tuning. And BTW: the head is real animal skin (pig's or calf's, I'm not entirely sure). And the knobs at he end of six tuning pegs remaining have been made of real cow horn.

I was a tiny 10- or 11-year old, at the time. Too tiny for my age, probably. But in surviving Super-8 footage that instrument looks positively huge on me.  So when it finally surfaced again, about half a century onwards, I was truly amazed how small it really is. Memory truly deceptive, in this instance.


May 29, 2018 - 7:53 AM

49168 posts since 12/14/2005

Good to hear you still can hear.

Great to see the Family Portrait.

Only wish I lived closer, so I could offer some help with the restoration.

You MIGHT post  a topic

"Need banjo restoration assistance near [ your location] UK" and see who wants to either help, or suggest a skilled luthier.

May 29, 2018 - 9:39:14 AM

265 posts since 6/4/2015

Thanks very much for your offer, Mike. That's much appreciated.

However, with my life being in flux, in more than one respect, and that flux very likely to last over the course of 2018 and, probably, the first months of 2019, restoration of my instruments is low on my priority list, at this moment in time. That doesn't mean, though, that I'm ruling future restoration completely out. However, I neither have the talent nor the skill to pull that successfully off myself. And therefore I'll have to approach an expert, the services of whom require some financial investment as well, I reckon. At the present, that's all money to be reserved for entirely different purposes.

I'm hoping for a moment, in the not too far-off future, that these choppy seas will have been left behind me and that I'll be sailing much calmer waters. But that time seems still some way off.

Veerstryngh Thynner

May 29, 2018 - 11:59:23 AM

265 posts since 6/4/2015

My story (if it can be called that) isn't quite finished yet, though....

Now cue a couple of years. My ancient "banjolele" had served me greatly in developing a mean right hand. And then I was presented with my first "real" tenor banjo, one birthday (3). A cheap Chinese instrument ("Marma"). But definitely a step up, at first glance. And, , rather a step down, too, as soon transpired. In a wholly unexpected way: CGDA tuning obliging me to start from scratch with the chords. All over again. Yet this was also the instrument that propelled me into my first trad band. And what also helped bringing that about was that I was the sole banjo player in town.

After several more years, though, I outgrew the "Marma" and the need of a more "professional instrument became ever stronger. So at one point I launched some pretty serious research. Not so much a specific brand or make that I was after, but a quality of sound that had been ringing inside my head for a while. I spent a long time trying out a whole range of tenors, ranging from dirt-cheap to exorbitantly expensive. But the timbre I was looking out for I did not find. However, on the way back from a visit to my future brother-in-law I passed a musical instrument shop and popped in on a whim. And the first instrument strummed set me all a-quiver. The very sound I had been searching for for more than a year, if not longer.

This is the Morris (4) I also referred to in an earlier thread. I considered stringing it with nylon or nylgut then: something of the warmth of its early projection lost, over the course of some forty-odd years, and replacing steel with nylon/nylgut seemed to go some way in restoring at least a bit of that, at first glance.

The Morris is currently not in England. But I recently found out that there are 20 frets on it. And George's estimate, from that earlier thread aforementioned, as to its scale has been pretty accurate too: just al couple of tenths away from scale 23". So just out of a residue of curiosity, I'm wondering now as to whether that would bode well or ill, as to stringing the Morris with nylon/nylgut.

Veerstryngh Thynner


May 29, 2018 - 12:57:52 PM

265 posts since 6/4/2015

Oops! Something went wrong with that last picture - and nothing I can do about it. So here it is again.

Veerstryngh Thynner


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