FROM 'ELLIS'S ADVANCED SCHOOL FOR THE BANJO AND ZITHER BANJO', PLAYED ON A WILMSHURST ZITHER BANJO.

This is the first recording I have made. I played the tune once through from memory, just to hear if the banjo sounded ok and if I could work out how to post it.

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Comment by carrie horgan on January 11, 2020 at 15:55

Nice playing - the Wilmshurst zither has a sweet sound!

Comment by IAN SALTER on January 11, 2020 at 17:31

Hi Carrie,

Thank you very much and also, for your earlier 'welcome back' message. 

The zither-banjo had originally belonged to the Great Grandfather of a friend of mine. She gave it to me when I began learning in 2017, but I couldn't get on with it and used my ordinary banjo instead. A few weeks ago, when I opened the case to start playing it again, I found that the vellum had burst, so I got out the Wilmshurst. 

I'm discovering that it is extremely responsive and therefore very unforgiving of poor technique. However, I am really enjoying working slowly through the Ellis and the Barnes and Mullins tutors, that were very kindly sent to me by David Wade.

I very much like your video of 'All Alone' and look forward to hearing more of your Houghton. Are you going to concentrate on that or play both types of banjo?

I

Comment by carrie horgan on January 11, 2020 at 18:47

It's nice that you have some history to your zither.  I think I will continue to use my CE Special for ragtime as it has a dry, snappier sound whereas the zither is more suitable for slower, expressive pieces.  I must admit I find my zither more of a challenge to play as it has a thicker neck than I am used to.  How do you find your Wilmshurst?

Comment by IAN SALTER on January 11, 2020 at 23:42

The neck is quite slender and is very comfortable when playing the position, barre and position-barre exercises. 

I have had a problem trying to maintain the just intonation, when the wound silk 4th string and especially the gut 3rd string fluctuate in pitch. It is not something that is new to me, having only ever used these types of strings on my fiddles, cello and other banjos and tuned them in the same way. However, it has been particularly difficult because, unlike those other instruments, this zither-banjo is far more sensitive. It is easier now, but can still take quite a while to get it right. I'm interested to know, has anyone else had the same experience?

Because this banjo is so responsive, accuracy in placing my left hand fingers is so much more essential than on my ordinary banjo. This requires that I practice the exercises very slowly, which in turn allows me to cultivate a good right hand technique and so explore the tonality of the mixed string set.

I will, of course get a new vellum for my ordinary banjo, but I am so taken with the challenge of my Wilmshurst, that it won't be anytime soon!

Comment by Pip on January 12, 2020 at 6:58

Nice - always happy to hear a zither banjo :)

all the best

Philip

Comment by IAN SALTER on January 12, 2020 at 10:37

Thank you Philip.

I have only been playing it for about a month and whereas in 2017, when I could practice all day long, I am now restricted to a few periods of ten to fifteen minutes a day because my Wife has stage four brain cancer and needs a lot of care. Practicing some exercises whenever she falls asleep, is proving to be a valuable way of refocusing my mind.

I am also watching your videos every day, as your playing is very inspiring to me.

Kind regards, Ian.

Comment by Pip on January 12, 2020 at 10:59

I am sorry to hear hear Ian. That does sound a gentle way of refocusing in tough times.

all the best

Philip

Comment by carrie horgan on January 12, 2020 at 14:25

Sorry to hear that, Ian - that must be very hard.  The banjo has always been a friend to me during tough times.

Re zither intonation problems, sometimes it can be that the tuners are loose if it goes out-of-tune (once the nylon strings have settled down).  My zither generally keeps in tune - I did have to experiment with different string gauges to get the strings to 'chime' together - my fourth string was buzzy because it was too heavy.  They do take some tinkering these old banjos....

Comment by IAN SALTER on January 12, 2020 at 15:53

Thank you, both.

The tuners work very well but I'm still getting used to the strings on this particular instrument. At the moment I've got a wire wound silk 4th string that is not quite the correct gauge and therefore has very little latitude for accurate tuning. The 3rd string is gut and can be affected by temperature and humidity changes. The other three strings are wire and they cause me problems simply because I have only ever used gut strings. I contacted Northern Renaissance Instruments before Christmas to order new strings, but as they in the process of a change of ownership/management, I decided to wait. I will talk to them again soon.

  • I've got the Grimshaw books and also the Morley tutor, but have decided to leave those until I have completed both the Ellis and the Barnes and Mullins tutors. My reasoning, which I know seems ridiculous to a lot of people, is to apply a degree of Historically Informed Performance to my efforts. That is a subject that doesn't appear to have been discussed in the forum and requires a new thread.
Comment by IAN SALTER on January 12, 2020 at 16:06

I have no idea what I've done to reduce the size of the text. Tech is really not my thing!! It might seem that I'm 'whispering' the idea of HIP.

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