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Dec 4, 2023 - 5:02:12 PM
4947 posts since 9/12/2016

Just curious and no I ain't out to upgrade or down grade opinions but I got to wondering==when the genre that has van epps --morley etc. as creators --when it first became established as a real genre in public media

Dec 4, 2023 - 7:51:39 PM
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634 posts since 4/14/2014

I would say the 1860s/1870s when "guitar style" was written about in tutors. I'm looking in the Septimus Winner (1827-1905) book right now and it reads:

"There are two styles of playing the banjo - the first or picking style being the most used.... The striking style is now mostly used for military marches, etc., and is readily mastered after the pupil has made himself familiar with the picking style".

It just was the predominant style of banjo playing until just before WWI(ish). It was not a genre, just an approach. I've seen some knowledgeable people say that the older players in the mid-20th century distinguished what they played from jazz or emerging bluegrass as Classic as in the same way "classic rock" is used today -- these are newer terms for what was just banjo or rock in the past.

Dec 4, 2023 - 7:56:13 PM
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634 posts since 4/14/2014

Here's a picture from the book (1892). Also, note the old American tuning (eAEG#B). 


 

Edited by - Nic Pennsylvania on 12/04/2023 20:11:38

Dec 5, 2023 - 5:31:52 AM

KCJones

USA

2863 posts since 8/30/2012

Seems to me that classic banjo pre-dates the concept of genres. Genres really didn't come about until the commercial recording studios and broadcast radio stations became popular, they were used as a way to market bands commercially to sell albums and popularize radio.

Dec 5, 2023 - 5:46:17 AM

634 posts since 4/14/2014

quote:
Originally posted by KCJones

Seems to me that classic banjo pre-dates the concept of genres. Genres really didn't come about until the commercial recording studios and broadcast radio stations became popular, they were used as a way to market bands commercially to sell albums and popularize radio.


I agree with this to a point. I mean, there is always a distinction between types of music, and the book I cite mentions marches and whatnot, but the average banjo player of the era would likely have been familiar with several songs types from waltzes, mazurkas, polkas, marches, etc. 

I think it maybe more accurate to say that there were song types and there were ethnic styles. Ethnic or regional style is probably closest to what we think of as genre, but it is not a perfect comparison. What there was not, was all the compartmentalization we have, and many of the greatest fingerstyle (classic) players of the era, such as Frank Converse; were well versed in stroke style (clawhammer) and played all sorts of song types using both approaches as they saw fit. 

Dec 5, 2023 - 6:16:43 AM

4947 posts since 9/12/2016

There are many veins from the pre electric sound system days--for sure--but my question was when did Classic banjo style-- start getting named and called out --by that name

Dec 5, 2023 - 6:18:01 AM
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8085 posts since 9/21/2007

"Briggs' Banjo Instructor" 1855:

"The performer, in playing the accompaniments of the Songs, can use either the Banjo fingering, or snap the first, second, and third strings with the first, second, and third fingers of the right hand, as in playing the guitar."

archive.org/details/briggs-ban.../mode/2up

Briggs' was likely written by Frank B. Converse based on the evidence we have.

By 1858 the Phil Rice method specifically calls "stroke style" by the name "banjo style". It is clear that this distinction was made due to the other being "guitar style".

archive.org/details/phil-rices.../mode/1up

In 1860 James Buckley publishes a collection of tunes that includes very obvious fingerstyle/ guitar style solos. While these may be played stroke style (with varying results) they are most effective played fingerstyle. Examples included "Japanese Grand March", "Violet Mazurka", "Buckley's March", etc..

In 1865, Frank B. Converse publishes two methods, one "elementary" which describes every movement in detail, and one full instruction book.

This is the first work, published in North America, that we know of to go into detail describing "guitar style".

archive.org/details/Converse1865Green

Following this, we see a pretty steady cascade of methods and folios published that incudes guitar style.

The first published single sheet music shows up in the late 1870s and by 1879 or 1880 the flood gates open up on sheet music.

People often point to publishers with larger catalogs but there were scads of local individuals that self published their own works (think of this the same as local bands or musicians making their own records). These tend to have lower circulation so are nice when they turn up.

What we call the "era" of "classic banjo" today was still in effect through the 1920s but rapidly fell out of favor by the late 20s. New compositions were being published in the US but it was in very low numbers compared to earlier.

The "get rich quick" scam style of marketing the tenor banjo went over well for a younger generation. (i.e. buy a tenor banjo and instantly get work with a dance band.).

A large contributor to the down fall was the disaster that was caused by A notation and C notation. This is a confusing mess that had me spinning in circles when I started down the path of historically informed banjo playing.

Despite the notation being in A, the actual pitch of the banjo had been raised to concert C by the early to mid 1880s. You read in A but the pitch was C. The banjo was considered a transposing instrument much like Bb horns.

Now, in England, what we call classic banjo was strong(ish) all through WW2, then after the war you just have the older players with few younger players taking it up. Solid compositions were being published up to just before WW2, these were being imported into the US.

In a way it kind of never went away but at some point became frozen and survived on the outer fringes. After Segovia broke big, some of the older US players had visions of trying to do the same with the banjo that Segovia had done for the Spanish guitar. It did not work.

Dec 5, 2023 - 6:44:42 AM
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8085 posts since 9/21/2007

quote:
Originally posted by Tractor1

There are many veins from the pre electric sound system days--for sure--but my question was when did Classic banjo style-- start getting named and called out --by that name


I answered that here:

https://www.banjohangout.org/topic/393972

 

but will re post it below.  

 

Why "classic"? Before the folk revival it was just "banjo playing", or "finger style" to differentiate from plectrum/pick playing ( or earlier stroke or thimble style).

When a generation who grew up with this music and "style" retired in the 1940s and wanted to take up the instrument of their youth, they suddenly found themselves faced with something different--- "folk music". Nobody knew what the heck they were talking about (in the US). Banjos are strung with wire and played wearing white socks and loafers. Tom Dooley not Vess Ossman, oh and something about "hillbilly" music.

Meanwhile, post WW2 saw a huge rise in Segovia and his version of Spanish guitar-- dubbed "classical guitar". Universities were putting in music programs based on the rebranded Spanish "classical" guitar. Spanish guitars were selling well and people in general were familiar with the idea, gut (shortly thereafter nylon) strings, sheet music, fingers with no "picks".

So, as far as I can tell, the still living players of fingerstyle banjo started calling it "classical banjo" as it was sort of like the "classical guitar". They also had grandiose ideas (delusions) of bringing back their fingerstyle banjo to the level of popularity of the then classical guitar. So attaching themselves to a popular movement was a good idea. They had the idea that they could get current classical guitarists interested in playing banjo.

Well, it was not "classical"-- from the era, or even in style. If it falls into any art music category that would be "romantic era".

At some point in the early 1970s we landed on "classic banjo". It is not the best descriptor, I don't really like it. It is not historical (are eras not named after the fact anyway?). But it is what it is.

Why do I always feel the need to correct the "classic/classical" thing? Because it disappoints. People will (and have) expect classical music and they pretty much won't find it. Even the stuff Farland and Bacon were playing was mostly romantic era music. Sure, you can dig and dig and you will find an arrangement of Mozart (usually a fragment or popular strain), but you will be digging through thousands and thousands of popular music pieces to get there.

Dec 5, 2023 - 6:51:30 AM

4947 posts since 9/12/2016

I tend to think that single line up picking was always around ---but probably considered beginner playing by those that studied the wealth of knowledge in written notation--some were likely mid stream in all the ways of playing--
slapping a banjo with a flat pick would probably have a helpful volume boost sometimes

early 70s thanks Joel-- before hand it seems  like guitar style was one and the same-- but an even more confusing name ha ha

Edited by - Tractor1 on 12/05/2023 06:58:38

Dec 5, 2023 - 6:55:43 AM
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8085 posts since 9/21/2007

quote:
Originally posted by Tractor1

I tend to think that single line up picking was always around ---but probably considered beginner playing by those that studied the wealth of knowledge in written notation--some were likely mid stream in all the ways of playing--
slapping a banjo with a flat pick would probably have a helpful volume boost sometimes


The average person would not know what a "flat pick" was in the US until The Spanish Students tour of 1879 started a sensation and was a catalyst for phony copycat groups pretending to be "Spanish" while playing Neapolitan mandolins.   True and weird story. 

We start to see the mandolin plectrum used on banjos in the late 1890s, a little earlier for guitar. 

The thimble and stroke style is where the power was.  

Edited by - Joel Hooks on 12/05/2023 06:56:02

Dec 5, 2023 - 7:26:33 AM

634 posts since 4/14/2014

Joel, would I be incorrect in saying that the term 'concert style's was also in use by players like Bradbury and company in the 1940s?

Dec 5, 2023 - 9:08:35 AM

398 posts since 5/25/2015

quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks
quote:
Originally posted by Tractor1

I tend to think that single line up picking was always around ---but probably considered beginner playing by those that studied the wealth of knowledge in written notation--some were likely mid stream in all the ways of playing--
slapping a banjo with a flat pick would probably have a helpful volume boost sometimes


The average person would not know what a "flat pick" was in the US until The Spanish Students tour of 1879 started a sensation and was a catalyst for phony copycat groups pretending to be "Spanish" while playing Neapolitan mandolins.   True and weird story. 

We start to see the mandolin plectrum used on banjos in the late 1890s, a little earlier for guitar. 

The thimble and stroke style is where the power was.  


The Spanish Students were also actually playing bandurrias that were mistaken for mandolins...but let's not go too far down that rabbit hole!

Dec 6, 2023 - 9:29:50 AM
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249 posts since 6/20/2020

From a historical and contextual perspective it's not really helpful to think in terms of a 'genesis' or 'birth' in relation to any activity that has an antecedent. Innovation is by definition always introduced into a pre-existing culture that exerts it's own influence on behaviour. Guitar style or finger style technique long predated the banjo.

I have attached a page from Cecil Hicks' Banjo Tutor, published by Duncombe & Moon, London 1852. The technique described is finger style. Not in any way a 'birth of classic banjo'. Simply a natural continuation in one context of technique that, culturally, was already familiar and was adapted to the specific requirements of the banjo.

'Classic banjo' is a modern label or shorthand; a convenience. To musicologists, historians and academic researchers the term 'classic banjo' is largely irrelevant, and completely so in relation to  the diversity of 19th century contexts.


Edited by - Pomeroy on 12/06/2023 09:47:09

Dec 6, 2023 - 10:25:49 AM
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chuckv97

Canada

71558 posts since 10/5/2013
Online Now

At the risk of being a shameless plugger, a while back I arranged a classical guitar piece by 19th century guitarist/composer Ferdinando Carulli (Op.241 , No.5) for 5 string banjo with muted bridge. I suppose one could say it merges a few genres or styles of banjo playing - classic, classical, 3-finger, Scruggs bluegrass.
youtu.be/U2ZC8xesG7c?si=nJsqopvieEN_pCDv


 

Edited by - chuckv97 on 12/06/2023 10:28:06

Dec 6, 2023 - 10:47:09 AM

8085 posts since 9/21/2007

quote:
Originally posted by Pomeroy

From a historical and contextual perspective it's not really helpful to think in terms of a 'genesis' or 'birth' in relation to any activity that has an antecedent. Innovation is by definition always introduced into a pre-existing culture that exerts it's own influence on behaviour. Guitar style or finger style technique long predated the banjo.

I have attached a page from Cecil Hicks' Banjo Tutor, published by Duncombe & Moon, London 1852. The technique described is finger style. Not in any way a 'birth of classic banjo'. Simply a natural continuation in one context of technique that, culturally, was already familiar and was adapted to the specific requirements of the banjo.

'Classic banjo' is a modern label or shorthand; a convenience. To musicologists, historians and academic researchers the term 'classic banjo' is largely irrelevant, and completely so in relation to  the diversity of 19th century contexts.


I am glad you are able to speak with authority for musicologists, historians and academic researchers and what they believe is irrelevant. 

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