SSS Orchestra 2 Champion Fretless banjo from c.1890 - Rob MacKillop

http://RobMacKillop.net/banjo/ - lots of banjo-related stuff there. I need to spend a lot more time with this instrument, but I'm enjoying getting back into it.

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Comment by Rob MacKillop on April 13, 2019 at 17:16

Okay, I'll be the first to admit this is not my best playing ever, but I just wanted to let you see my new banjo in action. I will enjoy getting to know it well, and getting back into the repertoire. 

Naturally, with gut strings and 19th-century guitar technique, the sound is more mellow than what seems to characterise the classic banjo on this forum. But I'm reminded that Henry C. Dobson "went to bed nights, and found it almost impossible to sleep, for the mellow notes of the banjo were continually ringing' in his ears. 

Comment by Rob MacKillop on April 13, 2019 at 17:29

I've recorded Twisted Rope Jig a few times now, at different tempi, and always enjoy playing it, but never feel I completely understand its creation. Much of Baur's Banjoist's Budget repertoire seems to stem from dance, but very specialised dance, with odd footstep rhythms - especially the clog dances, but others too.

Twisted Rope Jig could be related to that dance culture, but what does the title refer to? It could be a jig, an apparatus that twists the ropes used in industry, or - and I prefer this more macabre thought - it could be the hangman's rope! I view the descending fast triplets as the hanged person's feet flailing around, or if tied together, his whole body. Well, I've no idea, but it's fun to speculate on these things. 

Comment by Daniel Bradbury on April 13, 2019 at 17:44

What a beautiful and beautiful sounding banjo!  What fun tunes also.  Lovely to hear your playing. I think I need to get my fretless back out.  Thank you for this post

Comment by Rob MacKillop on April 13, 2019 at 17:55

Cheers, Daniel. Everyone should have a fretless! 

Comment by Chris Cioffi on April 13, 2019 at 20:45

I loved hearing your thought visualizations of "Twisted Rope"....I just didn't give another thought further than a convenient title....like he looked over while writing, thinking of a title, and some rope was hanging there coiled up next to the horse stall....those are neat thoughts, Rob.

Banjo sounds great....is that first star and crescent at the 2nd fret position?  Does this and your last orchestra have/had the continuous sided dots at every fret location like a Temlett/Leeds?

Not your best playing ever?  Psha....Rob, you don't have bad days, at least on what I've seen you do through my computer screen....

1860?  THAT'S early for that advance/elevated style of banjo......

Please keep it up.

Comment by Rob MacKillop on April 13, 2019 at 21:15

Chris, Converse [The Cadenza, August 1901 issue, page 15] claims that George Swain Buckley played almost everything fingerstyle, and also used a fretted instrument as early as 1852

There are star with moon inlays at both the second and tenth "fret" positions, and unfortunately there are indeed side dots for every single fret position, which is not too helpful. 

It's going to be interesting to compare it to the fretted version...

The playing's okay, but I need to tighten up my right-hand rhythmical articulation here and there. Intonation is reasonably good in these pieces at least. No cigar! 

Comment by Chris Cioffi on April 13, 2019 at 21:57

Wow, thanks Rob.  I didn't have access to that Cadenza issue, or most of them for that matter.  I wish they were available....or I knew where they were.   THAT is fascinating, and I did not know that.

I thought the second was at 12th...wow...you sure do fine with intonation with no side marks and the odd placement of them on the board.....

....I'll send you a Cuban......

Comment by Rob MacKillop on April 13, 2019 at 22:06

I'd send you the Converse article if I had it, but can't remember where I got it. I'm quoting my own website https://robmackillop.net/banjo/early-fingerstyle-banjo/ 

I would have researched it well at the time, but can't remember anything about that now, I'm afraid.

Comment by Jody Stecher on April 14, 2019 at 1:35

On the rhythms in Twisted Rope and other Baur compositions. I think these may derive from old world harp playing. Africa had it, ancient Ireland had it, Burma still does. There are dense clusters of short notes of unequal rhythm separated by spaces and enough simple rhythm to indicate an underlying pulse.  This is reflected in the more peculiar pieces in Stroke Style manuals and I expect it is an attempt to replicate one aspect of the music of early Black American banjo players.  I can't prove this. It's just a theory.

Comment by Joel Hooks on April 14, 2019 at 2:45

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