Children's hopes
are like green leaves
They soon fade
and tumble down
Come to rest in the
lonesome valley
Where they never
can again be found

Derroll Adams
The Valley

This is "Five Strings Inside V2.0" and is simply the sequel to my first attempt at web design some years ago. I began playing the banjo as a kid, I mean long time ago though my first instrument was a banjolin. I later gave a try to the mandolin, hawaiian slide guitar and eventually some penny whistle. But my first interest in playing music is to play the five strings banjo whatever the style: 3 fingers bluegrass picking, classic ragtime, old time clawhammer or frailing, soloing or back-up, it's always banjo for me. The more I listen to various traditional musics, the more it appears obviously to me that there's only one music for all world. I do listen to music from India, Asia, East Europe or Mediterannean, and also more occidental as english, Irish or American. Pentatonic modes are universal and express the same feelings all the world. Actually, the earth getting smaller and smaller, musicians are meeting each other from farther and farther, always finding a language in music they have in common. Such a mix gives what we call "World Music" in which we find only what musicians have in common (though the music in itself is good, but it tends toward uniformity). The Flecktones or Oregon belong to the exceptions playing a kind of jazz-rock fusion always expanding their own boundaries alot farther than most of those "world" bands.

I have chosen that illustration (from Francis O'Neill's "Irish Minstrels and Musicians" - Chicago 1913) showing Dick Stephenson on 5 five strings banjo - a rather recent addition to the irish instruments - and John Dunne on uillean pipes - the Irish bagpipe, really old instrument - playing irish music but probably not knowing they also played "Fusion music" at that time. some decades later Donnal Luny did the same introducing the greek bouzouki to the irish musicians and actually an irish "traditional" group may not have a guitar player but the bouzouki is always there. More about Stephenson and Dunne at Standing Stones.

Five strings in Irish music ?

In fact the five strings banjo is not so common in irish music. I began to have the idea of playing irish on a five strings back in late sixties (thanks to M. Johnston in Kinvara who opened my ears to something different of what I used to call music before). I had to find the way to recreate what I heard in Kinvara, and it took years before mastering clawhammer in general and the melodic approach to that music in particular. I learned a lot from John Burke's book which gave some examples of what could be done through tunes like "Miss McCloud's" or "Buffalo Gals". Later I went in learning fiddle tunes from fiddle records or from music books - "The Fiddle Book" by Marion Thede and the "Appalachian Fiddle" by Miles Krassen - My all-time favorite, the one I wouldn't go anywhere without is "O'Neill's Dance Music of Ireland".

Actually when I have time enough I enjoy playing in sessions, it can be Old Time or Irish as I feel comfortable with both. It's the best place to learn new tunes.

(to be continued…)

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