Comment by thereallyniceman on May 21, 2023 at 9:59

A really crisp Zonophone recording from 1907 so can really hear Olly Oakley's playing. The piano sounds good too!

Comment by Steve Harrison on May 21, 2023 at 20:24
Hi Ian, My arrangement this tune, composed by Henry Robert Stern in 1901, can be found in the library listed as The Coloured Major. The tempo is considerably slower than Oakley's recording....Steve.
Comment by Samurai Banjo on May 24, 2023 at 7:35

It has been a while.

Tomorrow, 1912.

On May 25th, Japan's first

university mandolin club.

There was a concert.

The last piece of that concert was this piece.

The person who performed it was Mr. John Gorman, an Englishman living in the Yokohama settlement, who had gone to teach at the university mandolin club.

He later became a naturalized Japanese citizen and his descendants still live here in Yokohama.

As far as I know, this concert was also the first banjo concert by a Japanese.

Comment by TONY BRYAN on May 25, 2023 at 11:05

Olly Oakley's playing is always a joy to listen to and this recording is no exception.  Clean, crisp, exciting.  Wonderful stuff!

Does anyone have an explanation of how Oakley achieved his characteristic repeated triplets?  I have heard a few other professional players use this technique - sparingly - but no amateur or semi-pro seems to have mastered it.  Charles Mansell, for example, sticks pretty closely to the dots on the page and adds little in the way of embelishments.  None of the banjo tutors mention the theory or the practice.  So, how did he do it?



Comment by Jody Stecher on May 25, 2023 at 13:09

On this recording OO plays what seem to be four kinds of triplets in the first part of the tune. I used the YouTube adjustable playback speed function to match the banjo speed to my brain speed.  At 25% playback speed it sounds like ornamental triplet  DED is always done on the first string playing the open string, then the second fret and then back to the open string, but not always with the same finger movements. I think I hear 

1) Two strokes: strike, hammer (slur), strike. Whether the strokes were index followed by middle or the reverse or if the thumb was involved, I can't say

2) One stroke :  strike, hammer, pull (snap)

3) Three strokes: I don't know if the thumb is involved but I can guarantee that he didn't use the same finger twice in succession

On GGG he seems to do it one consistent way. String five with the thumb and then String One at fret five played twice, presumably either index followed by middle or middle followed by index. This is followed by a fourth, longer G note, the open 5th string again.

I hear that four note ornament often on old recordings.  I think this may be what Joe Morley, Tarrant Bailey etc called "twiddly bits". It's onomatopoeic.  That's more often done on strings 3,2,1 5 in succession with thumb, index, middle, and then thumb again. Of particular interest to me, is that this same figure is played by clawhammer banjo players by dragging the back of the (usually index) fingernail across strings 3, 2, and 1 and then sounding the 5th string with the thumb. 

Comment by Joel Hooks on May 25, 2023 at 16:18

Check out page 84 of the Mel Bay Bradbury method. #4 is used in this recording.

Comment by TONY BRYAN on May 25, 2023 at 16:21

Hi, Jody!

25% playback speed?  Your brain is a lot faster than mine!  At that speed I can't tell if the notes are the same or different. 

You don't mention the fast single note GGG triplet or GGGG four notes using the fifth, fourth finger at 8 on the second, first finger at 5 on the first and then back to the fifth.  On the right hand that's TIMT. 

In terms of when to add another triplet or two, does this only apply to tune notes played on the first string?  If so, it would dictate how OO would have to play the tune as he would have to put as much of the melody as possible onto the first string, whereas we lesser mortals might prefer an inside string, but without the possibility of adding an emphatic triplet. 

And speaking of emphasis, I think OO almost always uses the extra triplets to push the rhythm, particularly in places where the tune note lasts for more than one beat.  His genius, of course, is that he can separate out the tune from the embelishments, playing his own rhythm accompaniment. 

I wonder if anyone would like to take on the challenge of adding OO embelishments, taken from one of his recordings, to an easily-available number?  We could then discuss how he managed to work them in and possibly why he decided to put them where he did. 



Comment by Jody Stecher on May 25, 2023 at 17:19

Tony, I *did* mention the fast single note GGG triplet and the four note thingy as well. I have played that as you describe in various other tunes but I don't know that OO is doing it that way here as the tone is uniform on the two notes not played on the 5th string. That said, it's easier to play as you describe and that is the way I would play it. And the timbre of strings 1 and 2 are similar on most zither-banjos, so you are probably right.

Triplets are played any time and anywhere a musician wants to play them on any string. Different music genres have different conventions but really it's up to the player.

Joel, Bradbury's #4 is TMIT which is the reverse direction of Tony's TIMT description. Why do you think OO is playing it that way and not forward?  

Comment by Jody Stecher on May 25, 2023 at 17:21

Tony, that was 25% speed,  not 250% speed. :-)  Quarter speed is very slow.  

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