Let's talk about the history and music of the American Heartland

Visit our Sister Sites
CreekDontRise.com Home Page Visit our sister site, School of the Rock
Visit our Classic Train Songs Page
A page devoted to some of Paul's own music endeavors.

It is currently Fri Jul 19, 2024 7:45 pm

To ask any question about the content on this site please use our Site Contact Page.

To sign up for this discussion forum, please use our Forum Signup Page.

Either way, we'll be very glad to hear from you - Paul Click to see Paul's music home page Click to contact Paul through this page. Click to see Paul's music page on Facebook Click to see Paul's music blog page Click to hear Paul's music on SoundCloud. Click to sign up for this discussion forum. Click to learn about our Momma Don't Low Newsletter. Click to see Paul's YouTube Channel. Click to see Paul's Twitter Page

All times are UTC - 5 hours [ DST ]

Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 2 posts ] 
Author Message
PostPosted: Fri Apr 03, 2015 2:08 pm 
Site Admin
User avatar

Joined: Thu May 15, 2014 3:39 pm
Posts: 1004
A reader writes:

I'm a seasoned classical guitar player (strong technique) and am considering buying a 6-string banjo to get to a fully different register but still not start from scratch.
I found your articles on 6-string banjo very insightful and this will help me pick the right instrument!
Now, here is my question: as my musical culture is not so much with country, blues or folk, would you advise me some good tabs to start with a 6-string banjo?

----Our Response -----Please log in and add your own ----------------------

Thanks for getting in touch. Here's an irony - nearly a century ago several folks in Britain were making a career out of playing more-or-less classical music on a banjo. In this case, they were 5-strings, often strung with gut, seldom with a resonator and NEVER with tone ring. The picking style as I can make it out is very similar to classical guitar (except for some "double-thumbing" to pick up the high string on occasion). Our article about Zither banjos has some links to sites with old recordings near the bottom.

http://creekdontrise.com/acoustic/zithe ... _banjo.htm

I mention this because Deering's new Goodtime 6-string banjo is built like the zither banjos (except for the string arrangement). I don't know the neck width, off hand, but that would be your biggest adjustment. Personally, I don't see any reason you couldn't play the same kind of music on a gut/nylon/silk-equipped 6-string banjo you are currently playing on guitar. So far MOST of the folks who swear they are "six-string banjo players," are transplanted lead, bluegrass, country, or folk guitar players. I've even seen "online lessons' for six string banjo which were really based on either common guitar patterns or Irish banjo (4-string) patterns. I'd be surprised if any books you bought would tell you anything you don't already know.

I use a technique that gives it a BIT more of a banjo sound, but I haven't documented it anywhere, so I wouldn't know where to tell you to look for it. I'll try to explain it if you want me to. Or send you a recording and I'm sure you'd figure it out for yourself in a hurry. Or Skype you. :)

Eventually, I'd like to put a "how to play 6-string banjo" section up on my site, focusing on the things it's uniquely good for, but I'm neck deep in other projects, plus that pesky thing called a day job.

For you I WOULD recommend going for the widest possible neck, and getting either an open-backed banjo, or one you can safely take the back off. At least to start. Steel strings are okay, if you prefer the sound, but don't be afraid to try nylon if you're more comfortable with them. If you try nylon, you might eventually get a good sound out of a backless banjo with a tone ring (yes there are a few).

Hope this helps. PLEASE keep in touch - Paul

PostPosted: Fri Apr 03, 2015 2:12 pm 
Site Admin
User avatar

Joined: Thu May 15, 2014 3:39 pm
Posts: 1004
The reader replied:

Dear Paul,
I did not expect such a quick answer. Thank you. I really appreciate you took the time, despite the work day and all that staff... (I know to much what you mean!)
Actually, you're confirming some of my thoughts. I was very intrigued with the new Goodtime Solana 6 strings banjo of Deering. Price is still reasonable for giving a serious try and it has this nylon strings that are obviously a dream for a classical guitar player!
But does it still sound like "real" banjo, even with nylon strings? And why do you recommend to look for an open-backed banjo? I thought the back resonator would make it more powerful. But it may not be needed.

Last, my question was probably not clear enough, but I was wondering whether you would know about music sheet dedicated to 6-string banjo? There must be some traditional transcriptions of 4 or 5 string banjo hits for a 6-string one, I guess. Actually, I don't really know where to look for.

As for your own technique, I'll be curious to learn about it when I decide and buy my banjo! Your proposal to share is very nice of you.

-------Our Reply --------Please log in and add yoru own.

Here's a quick answer to something you implied.

If you want to play specific Bluegrass hits like "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" you need a 5-string banjo. I wrote the sheet music out for it once for a guitar player trying to play it on a six-string banjo and he just swore at me that I must have written it out wrong. Sorry I've lost the file. The Drone string playing a high G at least once every beat is an important part of any Bluegrass and many folk banjo parts.

My earlier response was based on my assumption that you wanted to try to broaden your tonal pallet, not necessarily to sound like any specific banjo player. Nylon-string banjos sound plunkier than steel-string banjos, and they don't "ring" or sustain nearly as long, but it's an authentic sound that some people like. Again, if you can find a steel-stringed six-string whose neck you can adjust to, you might prefer the sound of steel string.

As far as sounding like a "real banjo" is concerned, I pick my five-string in a style that was popular sixty years ago, before Bluegrass became popular. To Bluegrass fans today, I don't sound like I'm playing a "real banjo," even though it's the same instrument. So "real banjo" is relative.

One reason I recommend that guitar players lose the resonator when they go to a 6-string banjo, is that 6-string banjos go nearly an octave below 5-strings, and those low strings add a muddy resonance that isn't there on a 5-string. If you buy a 6-string with a resonator, try to get one you can take the resonator off of so you can try it both ways. You can't take the resonator off of a "pop-top" banjo without turning it into a deadly weapon.

One more thought - this week, I'm playing my 5-string in our current church for the first time ever. They're performing a Mumford and Sons-style song called "Build Your Kingdom Here" by the Rend Collective. The banjo player on THAT track (and Mumford and Sons and most other Celtic bands) plays continuous arpeggios, a technique adopted by several Irish bands in the 1990s. It gives equal emphasis to every quarter of every beat of every measure. I COULD do it but I'm more comfortable playing a folk banjo roll, which gives more emphasis to the first and third quarter of every beat. Only two people in our church are even likely to hear the difference, the song goes so fast. Even Americans who love and think they know Celtic music don't know the difference.

The irony is that once folks realize I play banjo, they always ask me to play "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" or some other Bluegrass hit. I can do it when I have my five-string, fortunately, but I prefer not to. When I have my six-string banjo, I CAN'T do it. And they always want to know why. I haven't gigged for years with my banjos (I mostly play "flattop" guitar), but if I ever start again and take a banjo, I'll probably have to take both - if for no other reason than to prove to banjo bigots that I really "can play banjo."

Sorry, that's more than you probably wanted to know. The point is that "sounding like a banjo" means different things, and you'll get into some weird cultural baggage if you worry too much about what your banjo sounds like to other people. Whatever you do, plan on making it your own.

If this doesn't make any sense, I apologize, it's been a VERY long day. But at least it ended with some banjo playing. :-)

Have a great rest of the week,


Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 2 posts ] 

All times are UTC - 5 hours [ DST ]

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 0 guests

You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  

To ask any question about the content on this site please use our Site Contact Page.

To sign up for this discussion forum, please use our Forum Signup Page.

Paul Race playing a banjo. Click to go to Paul's music home page.Whatever else you get out of our pages, I hope you enjoy your music and figure out how to make enjoyable music for those around you as well.

And please stay in touch!

    - Paul Race Click to see Paul's music home page Click to contact Paul through this page. Click to see Paul's music page on Facebook Click to see Paul's music blog page Click to hear Paul's music on SoundCloud. Click to sign up for the Creek Don't Rise discussion forum. Click to learn about our Momma Don't Low Newsletter. Click to see Paul's Twitter Page Click to see Paul's YouTube Channel.

All material, illustrations, and content of this web site is copyrighted 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006,
2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 by Paul D. Race. All rights reserved.

Note: Creek Don't Rise (tm) is Paul Race's name for his resources supporting the history and
music of the North American Heartland as well as additional kinds of acoustic and traditional music.

Creek Dont' Rise(tm) is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising
program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Visit related pages and affiliated sites:
- Music -
Heartland-inspired music, history, and acoustic instrument tips.
Best-loved railroad songs and the stories behind them.
Visit musings about music on our sister site, School of the Rock With a few tools and an hour or two of work, you can make your guitar, banjo, or mandolin much more responsive.  Instruments with movable bridges can have better-than-new intonation as well. The Independent Christian Musician. Check out our article on finding good used guitars.
Carols of many countries, including music, lyrics, and the story behind the songs. X and Y-generation Christians take Contemporary Christian music, including worship, for granted, but the first generation of Contemporary Christian musicians faced strong, and often bitter resistance. Different kinds of music call for different kinds of banjos.  Just trying to steer you in the right direction. New, used, or vintage - tips for whatever your needs and preferences. Wax recordings from the early 1900s, mostly collected by George Nelson.  Download them all for a 'period' album. Explains the various kinds of acoustic guitar and what to look for in each.
Look to Riverboat Music buyers' guide for descriptions of musical instruments by people who play musical instruments. Learn 5-string banjo at your own speed, with many examples and user-friendly explanations. Explains the various kinds of banjos and what each is good for. Learn more about our newsletter for roots-based and acoustic music. Folks with Bb or Eb instruments can contribute to worship services, but the WAY they do depends on the way the worship leader approaches the music. A page devoted to some of Paul's own music endeavors.
- Trains and Hobbies -
Free building projects for your vintage railroad or Christmas village.
Visit Lionel Trains. Click to see Thomas Kinkaded-inspired Holiday Trains and Villages. Big Christmas Train Primer: Choosing and using model trains with holiday themes Building temporary and permanent railroads with big model trains Click to see HO scale trains with your favorite team's colors.
- Christmas Memories and Collectibles -
Visit the FamilyChristmasOnline site. Visit Howard Lamey's glitterhouse gallery, with free project plans, graphics, and instructions. Click to return to the Old Christmas Tree Lights Table of Contents Page Click to sign up for Maria Cudequest's craft and collectibles blog.
Click to visit Fred's Noel-Kat store.
Visit the largest and most complete cardboard Christmas 'Putz' house resource on the Internet.
- Family Activities and Crafts -
Click to see reviews of our favorite family-friendly Christmas movies. Free, Family-Friendly Christmas Stories Decorate your tree the old-fashioned way with these kid-friendly projects. Free plans and instructions for starting a hobby building vintage-style cardboard Christmas houses. Click to find free, family-friendly Christmas poems and - in some cases - their stories. Traditional Home-Made Ornaments

Click to trains that commemorate your team!

Powered by phpBB® Forum Software © phpBB Group