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UK banjo playing 1910-1940. Tarrant Bailey collection cylinder recordings..

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May 28, 2022 - 5:47:18 AM
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11089 posts since 4/23/2004

The Tarrant Bailey Collection has been posted to youtube.

Scratchy and noisy, home recordings made on a cylinder recorder...but if you can get past the noise, this is a delight. Hear Joe Morley play his own compositions, hear what professional players sounded like outside of the studio...gut strung, fingerstyle.

Tarrant Bailey cylinder recording collection

May 28, 2022 - 9:45:55 AM

2915 posts since 3/30/2008

Many thanks for this link. I enjoyed every second of this music.

May 29, 2022 - 5:07:58 AM

m06

England

11186 posts since 10/5/2006

Marc, thank you for posting the link. Despite having no desire to play classic style, I can certainly appreciate the playing. It’s great to have the opportunity to hear banjos being brilliantly played and archive recordings of long-gone classic players.

Here by lucky coincidence there is every September an annual classic banjo rally held in a small venue 40 yards from my front door. If I’m around I try to be there. I’m always impressed at the talent and passion on display.

Vive la difference!

ps - are these recordings all nylon strings?

Edited by - m06 on 05/29/2022 05:13:19

May 29, 2022 - 7:17:45 AM

14764 posts since 10/30/2008

Wow! Sounds great.

May 29, 2022 - 9:30:17 AM

4228 posts since 3/28/2008

quote:
Originally posted by m06

ps - are these recordings all nylon strings?


Gut, I'd imagine. Nylon was invented in the 1930s, and according to this Wikipedia article, was "first used commercially in a nylon-bristled toothbrush in 1938".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nylon

Edited by - Ira Gitlin on 05/29/2022 09:32:56

May 29, 2022 - 11:45:02 AM
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1844 posts since 2/9/2007

quote:
Originally posted by Ira Gitlin
quote:
Originally posted by m06

ps - are these recordings all nylon strings?


Gut, I'd imagine. Nylon was invented in the 1930s, and according to this Wikipedia article, was "first used commercially in a nylon-bristled toothbrush in 1938".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nylon


The zither banjo uses a hybrid set, with wire 1st, 2nd, and 5th strings.  I can't recall where, but I know I read recently that one of those British fingerstyle players preferred wire 1st and 5th strings on a standard open-back as well.

 

Thanks, Marc, for posting that link!

If y'all want to go even deeper down that rabbit hole: https://classic-banjo.ning.com/page/recordings

(includes the Bailey collection cylinders as separate files, among an outstanding assortment of both US and UK recordings. )

Edited by - Dan Gellert on 05/29/2022 11:57:49

May 29, 2022 - 12:59:45 PM
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6920 posts since 9/21/2007

quote:
Originally posted by Dan Gellert
quote:
Originally posted by Ira Gitlin
quote:
Originally posted by m06

ps - are these recordings all nylon strings?


Gut, I'd imagine. Nylon was invented in the 1930s, and according to this Wikipedia article, was "first used commercially in a nylon-bristled toothbrush in 1938".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nylon


The zither banjo uses a hybrid set, with wire 1st, 2nd, and 5th strings.  I can't recall where, but I know I read recently that one of those British fingerstyle players preferred wire 1st and 5th strings on a standard open-back as well.

 

Thanks, Marc, for posting that link!

If y'all want to go even deeper down that rabbit hole: https://classic-banjo.ning.com/page/recordings

(includes the Bailey collection cylinders as separate files, among an outstanding assortment of both US and UK recordings. )


WW1 caused a shortage of gut strings.  For one thing, it is the same stuff used to make sutures.  The other is that the countries that made gut strings were busy killing each other. 

Emile Grimshaw started promoting the use of a wire 1st string as a compromise.  The shortage, combined with the climate of London (humid), caused the short supply gut stings to break easily. 

I imagine that during the war most banjoists in England (and serving) experimented with wire firsts. The BMG magazine even published articles about this.  One article in Jan 1917 "Gut, Silk, or Wire Strings" explains the situation and how it is a compromise  (historically, wire string use seems to have always been a compromise).  The article also mentions how American banjoists "never use wire strings".

A follow up article in July of the same year explains that while Joe Morley tried a wire first, he stopped using them and started using Tropical firsts (those were made from Viscose or "Rayon").

On these recordings you are hearing gut, silk, Tropical, or a combination.  Unless it is a zither banjo.  You can see films of TBJ playing on youtube using the same (likely gut with a Tropical first and 5th).

Grimshaw and Essex kept up the wire 1st thing but it is unclear how many people actually used that set up.  I doubt that many professionals did.  We know that Tarrant Bailey Jr. only used "soft" strings (gut or silk or Tropical) and later nylon on regular banjo.

I do not know about England, but in the US nylon was first tried on banjos during WW2 but the fishing leader samples was still being perfected and would snap before getting to pitch. Shortly after the war this was available commercially and Paul Cadwell's wife found some for sale.  He sent pieces around to other banjoists and they never looked back.  Fred Van Eps sourced a nylon filament used for brush bristles from Dupont.  After Segovia got involved for Spanish Guitarists (and there was a market) nylon for music strings was developed (it is different than fishing line). 

Every now and again a banjo will show up that shows clearly what happens when one uses a wire first...  This Metal Hoop Special is currently listed on Ebay UK.  Take a look at those frets under the first string!

 


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