I finally got around to looking up the key signature for Temptation Rag and it turns out it's in C minor, which means it would probably lend itself to standard gCGBD tuning 👀 youtube.com/watch?v=c-7rf4yKe5

It's banjoist, publisher, manufacturer, and all-around hustler George C. Dobson :georgecdobson:

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I present to you Mr. Franco Piper, the greatest soloist on earth

Here is Frank Converse's :fbc: "Operatic Jig" from his 1865 book "Banjo Without a Master," arranged and transposed to modern gCGBD tuning.

"The Yellow Book," as it is often called to distinguish it from Converse's other 1865 book, was an interesting attempt at _truly_ instructing an aspiring player how to play every note of every song without the benefit of a teacher.

Instead of the usual tutor format of some "rudiments of music" frontmatter followed by straighforward arrangements of tunes, Converse breaks every measure of every tune down in *excruciating* detail, painstakingly describing in plain English what the standard notation means.

You can see what he was going for, but you can also see why he dropped this approach for all of his future publications.

This is a stroke style arrangement, and the `+` and `1` instructions under the staff are right-hand instructions, indicating whether the note is to be played with the thumb ("+") or the index finger ("1").

Here is 'Firefly Jig' by Herbert J. Ellis, :hje:, circa 1900, played on a Bay State made in 1896.

This is an arrangement of a quadrille called "Jim Brown" from Elias Howe's 1851 "banjo preceptor" instruction book. :eh:

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Frank Converse :fbc: wrote a few pieces in non-standard keys; because of the drone string, most of the music written for the older gCGBD tuning is in the key of C or G (A or E eAEG#B in the mid-19th century when banjos were tuned lower)

The shapes always feel all wrong, muscle memory is a hell of a thing

Here is "Spring Jig" by Frank B. Converse :fbc: for five-string , from 1865.

Good morning! This will eventually be released under the @magicians umbrella, but in the meantime enjoy Violet Mazurka, composed for 5-string by James Buckley :jb: in 1860.

I've had William J. Ball's LP on my Discogs wantlist for a while but apparently never thought to look on youtube...?

Anyway, it's a real cracker, and I'm still going to get the LP someday:


Good morning, I just added a WARC of the late Hal Allert's very good classicbanjo dot com to archive.org.

Hal's website was a very nicely curated collection of sheet music, MP3 files generated from MIDI generated from said sheet music, tutor books, photographs, and other information generally related to classic style banjo.

Hal was a good guy and put a lot of work into this site, and he was very generous with his own arrangements, and general knowledge of the subject... I don't *think* he would mind.


CW: all of the racism you would expect from predominantly white composers of popular music in the early 20th century.

To be clear: I don't think that Hal was racist (nor are most people still interested in classic style banjo), but popular culture in that musical era sure was.

The is alive and sounds pretty damn good for what wound up being a thirty dollar . Will try to post a clip soon.

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Yeah, my fretless banjo chops are pretty rusty, and I never did much chording out of first position. Also it's wicked humid which is no fun with a real hide head

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While working on it occurred to me that I might finally be able to come up with a relatively painless solution for expressing 5th string notes in standard notation.

... on a five string banjo, the 5th string is pretty much always played as an open string; in the older "stroke" style and more modern clawhammer and scruggs styles, it often functions as a drone. In the classic fingerstyle era, the fifth string is often cleverly used as a way to facilitate left-hand jumps up or down the neck; you don't have to fret it, so a note on the fifth string gives you a little extra time to move your left hand.

Back when banjo music was published in standard notation, the convention for communicating "play this note on the open 5th string" was to engrave the note+duration as usual, but add an upright stem with a sixteenth note flag.

A few years ago a kind soul on the mailing list showed me how it is possible to achieve this by using multiple voices and overriding the beaming/duration for the 16th note, but as you might imagine it's a bit of a pain in the ass when you've got multiple 5th string notes in a given piece; it's exciting to think I might be able to implement a tag to do most of the dirty work.

Anyway, on to the tip: While thinking about logic for such a tag, I found myself wondering how one would handle a half or whole note on the fifth string; When Lilypond encounters the same note with different durations in two voices, it engraves the two side by side, which makes sense... but not for this highly specific fringe case.

Poking around for solutions, I found that Lilypond has two helpful commands for exactly this situation, '\mergeDifferentlyHeadedOn` and `\mergeDifferentlyDottedOn`.

For the example in the graphic, the Lilypond markup that lets the sixteenth and half notes occupy the same space is:

\fixed c' { \once \mergeDifferentlyHeadedOn \once \mergeDifferentlyDottedOn \once \autoBeamOff g16*8\5 }
\fixed c' { g2\5 }
>> d4 b

... so to automagically generate everything within << >>, I'm imagining a tag like:

{{banjo5thStr dur="2"}}

...with logic to calculate the duration override for that 16th note, and an optional 'pitch' attribute to support the older so-called 'Rice' and 'Briggs' tunings.

... the tradeoff here is that MIDI output from this markup will have that note doubled up; when writing Lilypond "by hand" I've adopted a practice of putting 5th string notes in a separate part with silences between them and then just omitting that part from MIDI, but I'm not about to try to implement support for *that* pattern here. I can live with it.

I should say that I don't think I've ever actually seen a banjo piece with a half or whole note sounded on the fifth string, but I like handling fringe cases when they occur to me.

Got a wild hair to do the over on Instagram. I barely learned it and it's pretty slow, but it was a chill Friday night and I havn't recorded a clip in forever so here's "Betty Baker" with some parlor guitar for good measure.

I spent the first half of the day wrangling the piano accompaniment for Brooks & Denton's 'Tyro Mazurka' (1890) into ABC format, and the second half of the day playing along to it. Still rough around the edges but the piano part makes it more fun to practice.

It feels downright perverse to post creative content on , but it's a habit I'm going to try to cultivate because I get the impression that the signal to noise ratio is actually quite high in terms of people actually looking for specific types content being able to find it.

(For example, I used the tag to share Cupid's Dream Waltz, clicked through a few other banjo posts and learned that someone on the board of Fender Instrument Corp. is a 2nd degree contact, so, why not?)

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