What about another banjo site ?

Welcome to my own experimental html page devoted almost exclusively to the five-string banjo and the melodic clawhammer style. My aim is to share my experiences in playing at sessions, in irish or old time music context. I also hope to have contacts, trade views, suggestions, critics about what I'm doing.It seems to be a common idea saying that you have to play four-strings tenor banjo to play irish music. In fact if you play bluegrass music you HAVE TO play it on a five-string banjo, but for irish music all you need is a MELODIC instrument and it can be tenor, plectrum, mandolin or five-strings and even bass banjo.

Why another banjo site ?

This site is dealing with : Irish, scottish, Northumbrian, english, canadian, appalachian, etc. any kind of music playable at sessions -of which the pipes are the king and the squeeze box or fiddles the princes- including music from other traditions than celtic : french, italian, swedish, east european...

I love irish music, I love the five string banjo and especially the hornpipe motion of frailing and clawhammer which is unique and inimitable. Unfortunately if I can find on the net 50 ways of playing "Cripple Creek" or Foggy Mountain Breakdown", I haven't seen a tablature of "the Kesh Jig", "La Grondeuse" or "Strayaway child" which are standards in sessions. There are lot of interesting banjo sites (have a look at some of the links page), I only hope this one will reflect my own views on the subject.

If you're not familiar with melodic style clawhammer on the banjo, highly recommended are the books, cassettes, records, tunebooks by Ken Perlman in which you can find anything concerning celtic arrangements, easy ways to embellish old time standards. Ken has a monthly column in Banjo Newsletter in which he deals with a lot of technical aspects and generously reveals and explains secrets and mysterious fingerings. All these added to a great knowledge of gaelic music tradition and modal harmony theory. See also Mr Perlman's Books.

About the choice of a banjo… and tunings

My favorite is of course the 5 strings banjo on which I can also play some bluegrass, classic or guitar adaptations, but it's always fingerstyle, and for tremoloes or if I wish to play with some more sophisticated ornmentations in the real irish style, I better play it on the mandolin or banjolin.

Choosing the plectrum banjo [DGBD] is good compromise as you can play it either fingerstyle or flat picking, it has the long scale of the 5 strings banjo, the possibilities of four notes jazz chords, but not the clinkety sound of 5 strings nor the volume of the tenor.

On the tenor banjo you have the volume and, if you play the guitar, you can tune it as the four first strings on the guitar (say [DGBE] , standard is [CADG] - most of Irish tenor players tune their banjos one octave lower of mandolin tuning [GDAE]). Using a thimble on the tenor is quite effective and it gives a real color to the music. Listen to the solo albums of Gerry O'Connor and you'll see (hear...) what I mean.

On the five-strings banjo the color of a tune is given mainly by the differents tunings used in the old time clawhammer style, which means that in standard tuning (G Major) or in C Major (standard tuning with 4th string lowered to C) you can play in almost any key of classical modes scales, but you'll have to skip the 5th string in some of them. With more exotic tunings (as double C [gCGCE] or D [f#DF#AD] or [aDFAD] for D minor, mountain minor which is common in old time mountain music [gDGCD] Dorian mode, and so on) you can play in one key with a maximum of two keys, if one tune goes from key of C major to key of Am, you'll have to quickly retune or capo!

More about tunings can be found on Anita Kermode's home page Five String Banjo Tunings. which is in fact an exhaustive exploration of banjo tunings. Don't miss it!

What level ?

Melodic clawhammer arrangements are always difficult, even for the accomplished instrumentalist. I've always considered the banjo as a difficult instrument, because for playing in the melodic style, you have to play arrangements and the place for improvisation or variations is very short. Of course it's possible to master common licks or runs but it is diffcult to follow the chords progression of an irish jig as you have only one motion of two fingers.

The tunes I propose are of intermediate difficulty as in most of them I use some unusual right hand techniques and cheatings to keep some of the tunes in the banjo range without too much finger pyrotechnics.

What about MULT'IMAGE

contactez-nousMULT'IMAGE is a french graphic design workshop, our main activity is page layout and image processing for both the paper and computer screen. Working with Fontographer, we can make or transform any font in any format covering your needs. We can also make on line documents with Adobe Acrobat for every platform (Mac, PC, unix). With GoLive, your internet catalog, home page, song or cook book may have the appearance of this page. At Mult'Image, with our typographic knowledge, our experience in image processing and the help of the computer on such software as QuarkXPress, Fontographer, Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator we actually do almost everything to personalise your pages with our own clip arts and our own stock photos. MULT'IMAGE is a creative workshop.

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