Hello everybody,

while looking at old issues of the Crescendo magazine (available here : https://urresearch.rochester.edu/searchRepositoryItems.action?query... ), I stumbled on an article by T. J. Armstrong mentioning an effect that I hadn't heard of before. Here's the extract :

"Strumming on the ukulele is an exact copy of the old fan-tan banjo movement occasionally used by Fred Lyons, Horace Weston, and a few old-timers, thirty years ago [… ]" (link (direct pdf download) : https://urresearch.rochester.edu/fileDownloadForInstitutionalItem.a... - page 20)

Have any of you ever heard of that "fan-tan" movement? I don't remember having read about it in the various tutors that are hosted on this website, but I may have simply missed it. Does anybody know of a book describing the effect more precisely?

Best regards,

Riton 

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I think I have read just about every contemporary account of Weston's playing and have not ever read this movement described.

I get the feeling that this is a "kids today" story of the "back in my day" and "nothing is new" variety.  You know... "Kids today think they are all clever, well back in my day we did that all the time..."

This particular edition of Banjoists Round table is filled with cute little anecdotes about the banjo.  Lansing and Armstrong had been in the popular banjo business since the 1880s,  People who are in a profession for 30+ years tend to know everything about everything and are quick to tell you that new trends and fads are not new at all (even if what they are describing is nothing like the new trend, which is often the case).

Anyone who knows how to use Google can learn that Fan Tan is a Chinese gambling game that was popular all through the mid to late 19th century where Chinese people lived in the US.  The only logic I can come up with is that in the early 20th century old man mindset of lumping many different cultures together as "oriental", "Fan Tan" is Chinese and that Chinese have fans and the strumming of a uke is like a oriental person waiving a fan. 

Now that I think about it-- that is a pretty racist statement that they wrote.

Interesting, I hadn't thought of it that way. It makes sense.

Joel Hooks said:

I think I have read just about every contemporary account of Weston's playing and have not ever read this movement described.

I get the feeling that this is a "kids today" story of the "back in my day" and "nothing is new" variety.  You know... "Kids today think they are all clever, well back in my day we did that all the time..."

This particular edition of Banjoists Round table is filled with cute little anecdotes about the banjo.  Lansing and Armstrong had been in the popular banjo business since the 1880s,  People who are in a profession for 30+ years tend to know everything about everything and are quick to tell you that new trends and fads are not new at all (even if what they are describing is nothing like the new trend, which is often the case).

Anyone who knows how to use Google can learn that Fan Tan is a Chinese gambling game that was popular all through the mid to late 19th century where Chinese people lived in the US.  The only logic I can come up with is that in the early 20th century old man mindset of lumping many different cultures together as "oriental", "Fan Tan" is Chinese and that Chinese have fans and the strumming of a uke is like a oriental person waiving a fan. 

Now that I think about it-- that is a pretty racist statement that they wrote.

I would guess it is simply a description of the Rasgueado stroke from flamenco guitar technique. It is a flashy "unfolding" of the fingers, like a Chinese fan. It is also a common uke technique...and banjo as well.

I wouldn't read too much into it. It is just somebody's made-up term for something they didn't really understand the roots/history of.

I’m not sure that is what they are talking about. Both Lansing and Armstrong cover that in their books calling it a “drum strike” if I remember correctly. I think that they are talking about the light strumming pattern with fingertips that is used to play chord accompaniments on the uke.
Well, I'm certainly not sure either. However, my logic goes something like this: The speaker remembered it because it stood out...something flashy (common on the stage). Now he's seeing it again (as something the 'kids' think is 'cool') and commenting by using the term he knew it by (which is hardly descriptive)back in the day.

I would say that several of these strokes shown by Roy Smeck might be "Fan-Tan"

https://youtu.be/8pzUIQuCC_A

Alf Wood composed a piece entitled 'Fan Tan' published by Dallas in the 'Artistic Banjoist' series No 143, which is  in the 'patrol' format and has a hint of the 'Chinese' about it. I've not heard it played for many years but it was popular along with Cammeyer's 'Chinese Patrol' c 1900. Other than that I've not come across Fan Tan. In Dallas' tutor there is a technique called 'fanning' but this is a type of tremolo if I remember correctly.

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