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Jan 10, 2022 - 6:43:16 AM
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DWFII

USA

338 posts since 1/9/2022

I love Celtic music...esp. Scottish  music ala Silly Wizard and Andy Stewart. Just out of curiousity, what kind of banjo or what kind of style is or could be used to play Celtic music?

Jan 10, 2022 - 6:54:43 AM
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m06

England

10965 posts since 10/5/2006

quote:
Originally posted by DWFII

I love Celtic music...esp. Scottish  music ala Silly Wizard and Andy Stewart. Just out of curiousity, what kind of banjo or what kind of style is or could be used to play Celtic music?


Most typically a tenor banjo plectrum-style in ITM. But 5-string banjo can also be a fit in ITM and playing traditional music of the British Isles. It has more to do with feel and sensitivity and the suitability of the sound you are intending to contribute rather than the number of strings. 4, 5, 6 and 7-string banjo can all have their place.

The same works the other way round; the 5-string banjo is overwhelmingly typical in an American OT setting. But I've seen and heard tenor banjo played in that setting to great effect and be most welcome. I've also had the unfortunate experience of being present when an inappropriately played tenor banjo turned an OT session into a dischordant shambles and was definitely not welcome again. To a large extent it's how, not what.

Edited by - m06 on 01/10/2022 06:56:50

Jan 10, 2022 - 7:42:30 AM

2309 posts since 2/4/2013

quote:
Originally posted by DWFII

I love Celtic music...esp. Scottish  music ala Silly Wizard and Andy Stewart. Just out of curiousity, what kind of banjo or what kind of style is or could be used to play Celtic music?


I assume you mean Andy M Stewart who was in Silly Wizard rather than kilt wearing music hall variety Andy Stewart of Donald Where's Your Trooser's fame

Jan 10, 2022 - 7:58:03 AM

DWFII

USA

338 posts since 1/9/2022

Must be Andy Stewart of Silly Wizard. All I know is that Pandora offers up traditional  music by him, as a separate artist, on the Silly Wizard station.

Jan 14, 2022 - 7:03:52 AM
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649 posts since 5/20/2008

I play Southern Mtn. tunes on the banjo (clawhammer style), and I play Scottish trad. music on fiddle, border pipes and small pipes.  But except for the rare tune now and then, I don't mix the two genres.  

As has been stated many times before on the Forum, it is possible to play Scottish/Irish tunes on the 5-string.  You can search the Forums for in-depth discussion on this point.  But the 5-string, in the context of serious Scottish/Irish trad., comes with some hurdles.  And it's not  in the tradition.  I'm not suggesting that you not play the tunes on the 5-string.  But if going deep into Scottish/Irish trad. is what you're after, then I think you would be better served using a 4-string . And for what it's worth, Andy Stewart played tunes with Silly Wizard on a 4-string.

Jan 14, 2022 - 7:51:46 AM

6092 posts since 3/11/2006

The use of the 5-string in Irish/Scottish music has been  the subject for long-standing debate here on the BHO.

Take your cue from the tradition itself, and the bands that play this music.  You may have seen the occasional ballad singer use a 5-string,  but in bands that make a career of jigs and reels, it is virtually non-existent, and there are reasons for this, gone over many times in the past.  Things are accepted or rejected by tradition for reasons.  Although as someone here once often said; "It's your banjo kid, play it how you want.

Matt is in the V-ring.

Mar 10, 2022 - 4:43:36 PM

31 posts since 12/5/2005

I play some Scottish songs on 5 string clawhammer style but mostly play tenor banjo now which suits jigs, strathspeys, reels etc much more.
I especially like the tenor for playing Scottish pipe tunes ( like jig of slurs)
Nigel Gatherer's mandolin site is a great resource for Scottish tunes which I play on mandolin, tenor guitar or tenor banjo depending on my mood

Apr 5, 2022 - 1:16:28 AM

AllanJ

Scotland

201 posts since 5/1/2008

I'd make distinction between Scottish and Irish music. Celtic is too fuzzy a term for my liking.

None of the forms of Scottish trad tunes have any strong tradition of using tenor banjo - people sometimes use it but unlike in Irish music it isn't a typical instrument. The fiddle really is king so another GDAE instrument makes sense (and the mandolin is popular in session here).

For song accompaniment the 5-string is popular (see Corries, Billy Connolly etc) and it's perfectly possible to play tunes on it too - see Tom Hanway's excellent books.

Apr 12, 2022 - 12:52:19 PM
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6446 posts since 8/31/2004

quote:
Originally posted by AllanJ

I'd make distinction between Scottish and Irish music. Celtic is too fuzzy a term for my liking.

None of the forms of Scottish trad tunes have any strong tradition of using tenor banjo - people sometimes use it but unlike in Irish music it isn't a typical instrument. The fiddle really is king so another GDAE instrument makes sense (and the mandolin is popular in session here).

For song accompaniment the 5-string is popular (see Corries, Billy Connolly etc) and it's perfectly possible to play tunes on it too - see Tom Hanway's excellent books.


Hey, thank you Allan for mention my tune collections, and I agree that Celtic is a too fuzzy a term.  All Irish music is Celtic, but not all Celtic music is Irish.  And that's just for starters.  I have lots of Welsh Triple Harp tunes for another collection (still unpublished).

My 5-string Irish and Celtic collections (four Mel Bay books/ebooks with companion recordings) have tunes from the six Celtic nations and Irish, Scottish and Welsh diasporas, e.g., Cape Breton, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Shetland, Appalachia, etc.  The term "Celtic" is handy as an umbrella term, and easier than always writing out Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Manx, Cornish, Breton, etc., or some combination thereof.  Think of Celtic language groups, ethnic peoples and their diasporas around the world.

I have transcribed and published well over two hundred Celtic tunes for 5-string, and I play them at sessions twice a week here in Co. Longford, Ireland, also visiting Galway, especially The Crane Bar, and I'm just getting back into it after these horrible lockdowns and travel restrictions.

Music is listening, not boxing oneself in or letting others box you in with words and playing diktats.  Go for it, and the begrudgers be damned.  I also have a tenor banjo, but I prefer to play the 5-string at sessions, and people love it.  It's different, exotic and can go places that the tenor banjo cannot go!  One has legato possibilities that the tenor doesn't have, especially for reels, hornpipes and harp (especially Carolan) tunes.

Also, playing tunes on the 5-string is not as hard as people might think, if one develops certain fretting and picking-hand skills for the task, though some tunes are quite tricky, while others lend themselves better to the 5-string than to the Irish tenor (especially harp tunes).  Actually, playing and mastering tunes on a 5-string is probably easier than playing tunes on the uilleann pipes, which is like wrestling an octopus.  laugh

Here is a link to my collections (books.ebooks), and feel free to write me privately with questions, or ask me in one of the forums. 

I took a detour into songwriting and fingerstyle guitar playing, recording with Larry Campbell (Bob Dylan/Levon Helm) and blues, jazz and rock musicians in NYC, so, the banjo took a back seat for a while while I was recording songs on guitar (now on all the big streaming sites).  But I'm back to banjo, and it's more fun than ever.  And to be honest, I'm relearning tunes from my own collections.  

Please find my Mel Bay Irish and Celtic tunes collections for 5-string here, all with audio downloads:  

https://www.melbay.com/Author/Default.aspx?AuthorId=37876
 


Edited by - Tom Hanway on 04/12/2022 13:07:49

Apr 13, 2022 - 5:38:30 PM
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7488 posts since 11/4/2005

There is no better on the five string than Tom Hanway.

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Apr 16, 2022 - 3:14:43 AM
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martyjoe

Ireland

145 posts since 3/24/2020

Tom Hanway Hi Tom what style of 5 string banjo do you think suits trad music best. I make tenor banjos & haven’t made a 5 string for a couple of years. With the next batch I’m going to make 3, 5 strings & as usual I’m aiming to get them to sound very different to each other. The aim is to to have one bluegrass style & 1 oldtime style & one is still undecided. So, in your opinion what scale length, pot size, bridge placement, head thickness, tuning & so on would hit the sweet spot for trad music? I’m located out the far side of Westmeath from Longford, out near Milltownpass

Apr 18, 2022 - 7:46:59 PM
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6446 posts since 8/31/2004

quote:
Originally posted by DWFII

I love Celtic music...esp. Scottish  music ala Silly Wizard and Andy Stewart. Just out of curiousity, what kind of banjo or what kind of style is or could be used to play Celtic music?


Hey hey, sorry for not replying to your initial post, a really great set of questions.  I used to hang out and drink with Johnny Cunningham (RIP, former Silly Wizard with brother Phil), and he would come to bluegrass sessions at Paddy Reilly's in NYC back in '90s, where we also were playing Celtic tunes, and he'd come up, whiskey in hand, borrow a fiddle sometimes and play incredible medleys of Scottish and Irish fiddle tunes, then maybe go into an old-time tune, then back to a Scottish tune, changing modes but sticking to the tonic -- A modes.  He was incredible in how he could seamlessly connect tunes from Celtic traditions from both sides of the pond and make them sound like one fiddling tradition.  He could do that because he knew the tunes and how they would sound good together.  Scottish, not Irish, but he could ALSO play Irish tunes with Tony DeMarco (a NYC Sligo-style fiddling legend), The Sweeps, and he would go insanely fast for the craic. Tony could hold his own, which is why Johnny loved to up the tempo and just KILL it on fiddle.  

We got to be friends, and we'd go out drinking, okay, to Rocky Sullivan's.  He was to produce my debut Celtic crossover album, but 9/11 happened and I moved to Ireland, and we left it.  But he died, sadly, and we never got there.   He was fun, otherworldy at times, and a sweet genius.

I still want to do that crossover album, and I'm working on a single (with tenor and 5-string banjos) since albums/CDs are becoming increasingly obsolescent -- even Ringo Starr says that he'll only do singles, no album -- and, anyway, Johnny Cunningham gave me ideas about percussion, electric guitars and amps .. for the bedevilment.  Create your own musicality on your instrument/s of choice.  Don't listen to critics and purists.  Do it your way.

Anyway, the short answer is that one can play Scottish and Celtic tunes on any kind of banjo.  Style is also about technique on one's chosen instrument, so, there are as many answers as there are Celtic-inclined musicians playing tunes in whatever style want and choose to play them in.  Get the tunes right, get to sessions, and practice, practice, practice.  

Play the instrument that you like, and learn tunes, one at a time.  Learn from other instruments -- not just the one/s that you play.   I learn from pipers and flute players -- and I don't always try to make the 5-string sound like a tenor, though I do at times, e.g., Barney McKenna playing 'Mason's Apron'.

Beir bua agus beannacht,

Tom

Edited by - Tom Hanway on 04/18/2022 19:59:54

May 18, 2022 - 1:55:03 AM

ChuckCharles

Netherlands

39 posts since 6/21/2015

Tom Hanway I love your 5 string arrangement! I'd really love to get my hands on that Celtic Crossover album. As far as I have Found, you and Dave Hum have been the best sources to learn to play Irish and Scottish trad tunes on the 5 string banjo up to date.

Greetings from the Netherlands.

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