A BANJO VAMP by Emile Grimshaw played on banjo by Tony Bryan

This was one of Grimshaw's most popular pieces. Like so much of what he wrote, it appears to have been conceived as a banjo and piano duet, so I have include...

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Comment by thereallyniceman on August 18, 2013 at 14:03

Hi Tony, your video post did not upload correctly so I have posted it for you.

Very good too!   :)


Comment by TONY BRYAN on August 18, 2013 at 14:22
Thanks, Ian. I saw it was a bit garbled. I guess these things don't fix themselves.
Comment by Mike Moss on August 18, 2013 at 16:19

Hi Tony, 

that's a great tune, it's "very Grimshaw" if that means anything, and it reminds me of another of his compositions, "Beat as you go". Thanks for posting.

Comment by Alan Sims on August 20, 2013 at 13:43

A very catchy tune , and very well  played  indeed .

Comment by thereallyniceman on August 20, 2013 at 18:01

The more I listen to that banjo the more I like the tone.  I assume that is a 11" CE Concert Grand, but what vellum and strings/bridge are you using to get such a terrific rasping bass?

 I have a CE Special XX but I can't get the bass to sound like that.

More :-)

Comment by Mike Moss on August 21, 2013 at 9:18

+1 to Ian's question, you get the authentic "William J. Ball" tone on the bass notes! I demand details so I can copycat your setup ;-)

Comment by TONY BRYAN on August 21, 2013 at 19:03
Firstly, thanks for all the comments.
It could, of course be that I have fingers of steel set in a fist of iron, but it you would rather believe that the instrument has something to do with it, here goes. It's an 11" CE Concert Grand (No 1602). At some stage it had an accident with the arm where the perch pole meets the heel, was repaired and refinished, so there is not an exact colour match. I use Chris Sands' heavies, with a slightly heavier fifth (on A Banjo Vamp you can see that I sometimes hit the fifth with my thumb by rotating my wrist rather than plucking, which is too much for lighter strings). There's nothing special about the fourth, though all the old-timers I ever spoke to made a point of saying that that fourth had to be played downwards - towards the vellum - with the thumb, and not sideways as with the other fingers. There is a slight buzz at some of the frets that I haven't managed to get rid of, but is one person's buzz another's rasping bass? It is possible that the bass comes from the head I use: an Elite Fiberskyn plastic head. That was deliberate as I found that the greater mass and the irregularity of its structure produced an overall sound that was less plastic-y than the normal ones. They were designed to do that and they do what it says on the tin. Oh, and the bridge is just one from my box of many bridges; it has no name and was selected on the basis of height and not being too heavy - you can create a dull thud with nylon strings and a heavy bridge.
I hope this is not giving away too many secrets. I'll keep some of the others in reserve. See how far you get.
Comment by thereallyniceman on August 22, 2013 at 10:13

Hmmm.. an Elite Fibreskin head, eh?  I tried a Remo Fibreskin on my Special XX (concert grand) and found that the banjo was much more difficult to play!  The thickness and rigidity of the head seemed to make the strings much harder work to pick, and I am renowned for having cast iron fingers.

I wonder if the Elite Fibreskin is any different?  I use heavy strings and have always tried to pick the 4th downwards. I moved from the standard/ frosted plastic Remo heads to the Renaissance  version for the same reason, to get away from the strident sound to something more mellow.

Perhaps I will give an Elite fibreskin a try..  thank you for the suggestions. I can feel a new section for the website coming on...



Comment by Jody Stecher on August 22, 2013 at 14:24

 If a  head is  tightened to the point that there is no dip or less dip under the feet of the bridge, this will cause the strings to rise  higher than when there was a slight dip and the action will feel —and be — higher and this will affect the ease of playing for both left and right hand. But this will be true for any type of head, natural or synthetic. 

Comment by Trapdoor2 on August 22, 2013 at 15:21

I believe that the Fiberskyn heads are all made by Remo. "Elite" is a trade-name (Stewart-MacDonald) but they are simply Remo heads. Same goes for the "Renaissance" vs "Elite Amber", they're made by Remo. It is possible that Stewmac has a slightly different spec for their versions but I think there is enough manufacturing variation in the process that one might find them difficult to compare or draw any concrete conclusions. I have used all four and I cannot tell any differences like:like.

I have a Fiberskyn on my Flesher and I like it a lot. Frankly, if my banjos don't already have calfskin, they wear Fiberskyn (ok, my Stelling wears a white plastic "weather king"). I haven't found any banjo on which I have liked the Ren/Amber heads. I simply find them to be too shrill.

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