PLECTRUM BANJO HELLTHREAD
I'm back on my #earlyjazz bullshit and revisiting helpful links I've found over the years, and as links like this have a tendency to disappear I'm going to try and download copies of these materials as I add them here.
Plectrum banjo is a four-string, 22-fret instrument with a ~26-inch or so scale, more or less the same as a modern 5-string banjo, but lacking the short drone string it's typically played with a plectrum (hence the name, which was originally used to distinguish them from 5-string instruments. Tenor banjos came along slightly later.) They're tuned CGBD, also inherited from 5-string banjos as they were originally tuned. (Some people will also tune them DGBE like the top four strings of a guitar.)
I don't know who andy(at)olive13.net is, but I've had a print-out of their enormously helpful, public domain collection of chord shapes kicking around my desk for over a year now, and refer to it pretty much every time I'm working through a song.
The deal with jazz banjo "chord melody" is that as you play a tune, you try to map the melody to the highest string and find the chords that map most closely to it; so the goal is to
1) Memorize the different movable chord shapes in terms of which note of the chord falls on the 4th string (I, III, V etc)
2) Memorize the I, III/iii, V, and vii notes of the most commonly-played chords, so you can easily figure out which chord shape to play and where
I'm finally checking out Ron Hinkle's book "Beyond Chord Melody: A New Approach to Advancement" and it's giving me whiplash... whereas most 4-string (and early 5-string) books begin with a pretty standard "rudiments of music" section (here's the staff, here are the notes on the staff, here's how the notes on the banjo neck correspond to the notes on the staff,) Ron's book has a "rudiments of tablature" section.
It's also written with the assumption that readers are coming to the material never having done any single-string playing, and that's blowing my mind a little bit; I know that chord melody is the predominant playing style for #plectrumbanjo but I wouldn't have guessed that it was so firmly entrenched as to require a book to couch the introduction of single-string playing like it's controversial or heretical.
Anyway - Ron is a fine player who's made it his mission to elevate plectrum banjo beyond Eddie Peabody/stale dixieland mode, and this looks like the modern method book that the instrument has been missing. (I'll be interested to compare it to the early 20th century Grimshaw book; Ron worked on the revised modern edition of that one.)
"Beyond Chord Melody" and many additional resources and writings can be found at his web site, https://banjosnob.com
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