Hey guys, I'm "crossing over" here to share one in conjunction with the new Converse 1871 book. Here is a twisty melody played on your clunky cousin, the fretless minstrel banjo. I'll dress up more for the fingerstyle tunes.

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Comment by thereallyniceman on July 23, 2012 at 6:48

Hi Tim, Great to see you over here in the 20th Century  ;-)

You are always welcome , as you know.

What I always think when I hear these tunes is what the would sound like on "modern" instruments. I realise that they were played at the time on "our clunky cousins" or old tubs as I call them.. Why not knock one out for us (me) on a nylon strung, plastic headed, fretted instument. I would love to hear the difference in tone of the piece.  I hope that this is not sacrilege  !!!

Old Converse sure knew how write a good tune!

Comment by Joel Hooks on July 23, 2012 at 11:23

The Boucher pattern banjo that Tim is playing would have been old fashioned by 71, 25 years behind the times.  Converse would want us to play a smooth fret banjo, by the 80s he would want raised frets.

Frank even wrote about not being able to get good banjos from shops early on (likely Boucher banjos) and choose a peck measure with a pine neck.

The Boucher banjos that are being made now are a huge improvement over the originals.

These are at home on a "modern" banjo just like tubs.

Ian, what are your thoughts on stroke style here?  The ABF strictly prohibits it, but looking at the Ellis stuff it seems that you Brits don't have the same problem.

Comment by Richard William Ineson on July 23, 2012 at 14:29

When Pat Doyle acquired the van Eps collection of banjos and related ephemera, there was one banjo which had belonged to Frank Converse (van Eps was meticulous as regards recording exactly where and from whom he got all of his collection, the provenance was immaculate) this banjo was fretted and played well. I don't think that Pat has this banjo any longer, but I will ask him when I see him next.

Comment by thereallyniceman on July 23, 2012 at 14:43

Hey Joel,

It is good to see you back over here, my mate!

You certainly know how to ask awkward questions! Whatever I say I will upset someone.

I have never had a problem with the occasional stroke style video (do I call it Minstrel Style?) and in the past pieces by You, Tim and Carl have been received very well indeed.


Minstrel has its own Ning group and BHO categories already but I suppose that we could call it “Early Classic Style” in descriptions for the occasional videos, but I don’t think that we can have every Minstrel player posting on here or there would be no room for “Classic Style” !!


I am no historian so please forgive errors, but I always believed that “Classic Style” was popular from mid 1890s to the 1920s.  Minstrel Stroke style seems to be from 40-50 years earlier than this.


I don't really know about any stroke style material published in the UK beyond a few variations specifically written for thimble-style by Herbert J. Ellis. Stroke style doesn’t seem to be mentioned in any of the main British banjo tutors, and that fingerstyle seems to have been far more popular than stroke in the UK.


Your video posts are always welcomed Joel, so, between you and me, call them “Early Classic Style”  ;-)

Comment by Trapdoor2 on July 23, 2012 at 15:14

It's not my place to comment...so I will anyway. ;-)

Like Ian, I don't have any trouble with the earlier styles occasionally popping in. However, I personally prefer that we maintain some relevance to our schema, that is, Classic fingerstyle banjo. The two styles overlap and have co-existed since the earliest period.

It is easy to bounce between the two ning sites and many of us do. Again, personally, I wouldn't consider posting a stroke-style piece here. I might post a link to one posted over on the Minstrel site, if I felt it had some relevance to Classic fingerstyle.

Is this a UK specific site? Can I play American Classic fingerstyle here? I'm working on a Geo. Lansing piece, perhaps I should switch off to something more Blackpoolish? (Blackpudlian?) ;-)

Comment by Jody Stecher on July 23, 2012 at 15:42

The relevance of the downpicking video seems to have been the recent discussion and availability of the Converse "Banjoist" book. But I can't find The Music Box Polka in that book. Even more confusing is why this melody is classified as a polka. As for whether a string is caused to vibrate by a downward or an upward motion, neither the string nor the banjo seem to care so neither will I. 

Comment by Mike Moss on July 23, 2012 at 17:01

@Jody: It's on page 36 of the book (p. 37 of the PDF file).

Comment by thereallyniceman on July 23, 2012 at 17:08

Marc, Wrong on both attempts. Not Blackpudlian, nor Blackpoolish...  

Sandgrown'uns  are people born in Blackpool. 

Some say that TRUE Sandgrown'uns were actually conceived on the beach under one of the piers. I guess that is why I have a lot of grit.   ;-)

Comment by Trapdoor2 on July 23, 2012 at 17:47

I should have gone with "Blackpooligans". We have grit here...but you would probably call it "polenta".

Comment by Richard William Ineson on July 23, 2012 at 17:52

I think that Mackney's sixpenny tutor was based on Briggs's book, so that would be 'stroke' style I suppose? 

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