I was today years old when I realized that ABC notation is actually pretty powerful :eye:

I do not remember when or why I wrote it off as a tool for music notation (years ago at this point), but I'm feeling pretty sheepish for having done so.

LilyPond is still where it's at for generating nicely engraved sheet music but I think ABC is going to be a lot faster for actually inputting music once I get the hang of it... and then the toolchain of abc2xml > musicxml2ly results in a surprisingly clean and human-readable LilyPond file.

And of course there is a *ton* more ABC content floating around on the internet than LilyPond.

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 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, banjosnob.com

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When generating , LilyPond's default behavior is to place the notes as low on the fingerboard as it can, and also to use open strings whenever it can.

I was glad to find just now that you can override both of those behaviors if you're trying to arrange something further up the neck:


\set TabStaff.minimumFret = #[n]
\set TabStaff.restrainOpenStrings = #

(where [n] is the lowest fret you want to LilyPond to consider when calculating where to put a note on the fretboard)

This and more about LilyPond tab basics:


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Still trying to whip my brain into mindful practice mode vs “eh, guess I’ll play through this a few times.” I need to find some warmup exercises and make a ritual without going overboard

Lino cutting 

@Louisa aaaaaaaah you're making me want to do printmaking, I can't drop everything and do printmaking right now!!!1!

Lino cutting 

I made a stamp today to make labels for garlic hot sauce

This is just a test print so it's a little blotchy but I think it'll look nice when it's done (I still have to make the hot sauce, peppers are fermenting at the moment)

I'm glad I saved a copy of this Shakey's Pizza ad a while back, because it has disappeared from YouTube and seems to exist nowhere else on the internet.

One of the reasons it's taken me so long to make a serious attempt at four-string banjo is the weird filtration that happened to early jazz music (what everyone thinks of as "dixieland" now) starting in the 1950s, where it went through a rose-colored distorting lens and came out the other side as what you see in this ad, the "bunch of dudes wearing good old days boater hats and stripey blazers playing the same dozen songs that everyone likes but is also kind of sick of" vibe. Four-string banjo players in particular seems to have willingly pigeonholed their instrument as suitable only for playing this specific kind of music, and suitable only for playing in this specific hyper-frenetic strumming style.

And I get it! My grandparents took my family to a Shakey's Pizza in Bethesda, Maryland in the late 1970s, and they still had a house band playing dixieland. I would have been about 5 years old, and it's the first time I can remember seeing or hearing a banjo.

It is not an exaggeration to describe it as electrifying. I never forgot the sound of that banjo (probably a tenor, might have been a plectrum, it was loud and bright whatever it was.)

But because we did not have Shakey's near us, and because my parents weren't into old jazz music, and because as a five year old kid it hadn't really yet occurred to me that you can learn about new things that you think are interesting (and I wouldn't have known where to even begin) banjo was just one of those things that I grew up accepting as a thing that existed, but not in my universe. The dixieland nostalgia phenomenon pretty well died out by the 1980s so you just didn't encounter them in rural whitebread Massachusetts.

It kills me now to realize that I had *two* childhood near-misses that could have set me on a path decades sooner; there was a guy at our church who was a trumpet player in a dixieland band. I think maybe they played a summer concert on the town common one time? He always seemed really nice, and we even had an LP of their music that I don't remember ever hearing.

Also, my grand-uncle was a plectrum banjoist during prohibition. He lived a few hours away and I only met him a few times, and that was always in the context of family gatherings which he mostly spent catching up with my grandfather, so I never really got to know him. I didn't learn he played banjo until years later.

Years later, when I realized that I, a grown-ass adult, could simply buy a banjo and learn how to play it, most banjo-related content and information on the internet (there wasn't much in the early aughts) was about 5-string banjo, and I rode the 'O Brother, Where Art Thou' wave into old-time music, which begat the 19th century stuff, which begat classic fingerstyle.

And then I went to a dear friend's wedding in New York City in 2016. It was an intimate ceremony, and an intimate reception with music provided by a pickup band comprised of half of the wedding guests.

I had no idea until I got home and looked them up that I'd spent the day hobnobbing with some of the finest young trad jazz musicians in New York. Like, no joke, those guys will inherit Vince Giordano's throne. There was no banjo that night, but the music got under my skin in a big way and it's been itching ever since.

...but jazz banjo remains an incredibly niche thing and most of the learning materials out there are firmly planted in that 1960s second-wave sensibility, and it's taken me a while to figure out if that's what I even want to learn.

When I got my first plectrum about 3 years ago I took a suuuuuper helpful lesson with Cynthia Sayer, but I couldn't make a regular thing of that because her rates are commensurate with her expertise and status as one of the only high-profile pro plectrum players around. But I should take another one once I get a bit further with chord melody, because I like her hybrid single-string/chord approach to solos.

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Starting a string quartet with the lads, we're called Bachstreet Boys

@kat it's the latter (fingering instructions,) so because the standard open tuning is "C-G-B-D", if you had a measure with a C-E-G chord and a "5th barre position" instruction you'd know to look for those notes starting at the 5th fret, and find them on the 3rd, 2nd and 1st strings.

@kat Oh, thank you! One of the things I need to do is update the footer to make it clear that it's released as Creative Commons Attribution, so feel free to fool around with it if you want!

This is actually composed for classic fingerstyle 5-string banjo (classic-banjo.ning.com/page/f-) and "B.P" stands for "Barre Position"; for instance "5. B.P." indicates that you would play those notes with your index finger on the 5th fret. It's a convention you see a lot in banjo sheet music from the mid-19th century on.

One of those fussy details I still need to do for this piece is to add another banjo-specific notational convention, which is to decorate G notes to be played on the open 5th drone string with a raised stem and 16th note flag. You'll also sometimes see fret numbers!

Follow-up: I did actually write a trio section for this with the intention of recording and releasing it yesterday (mostly as a nod to myself for putting the first version out 4 years ago) but I decided I didn't feel like

1. doing the fussy last-pass details on the sheet music (it's pretty close but not 100% yet) and

2. putting in the time in to learn my own composition

...not for yesterday, anyway. This should be released as a footnote.

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Because I am getting too many strange signups in the last 24 hours and most people don't read the Terms of Service, I added a Temporary Notice to Masto.host Pricing page: masto.host/pricing/

"If you are looking for an alternative to Parler, this is not it. Please look elsewhere. Thanks."

I hope that's clear enough :)

If you start out as a guitar band, you shouldn't be allowed to make a bleep-bloop record, that should be illegal

I made a MIDI for the melody as well and, for the hell of it, pulled everything into because the synths are generally a lot better. I sent the melody to the "MK I Clarinet" Mellotron voice in Streetlytron Pro and it's really pretty nice. No audio to share yet because Auria is still somewhat broken in , but I'll probably mess with it some more tomorrow.

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huh... is there really no command-line utility that can take two files and merge them?

Like, take the tracks from one midi file and layer them onto the other, so if you've got two files containing different parts of the same tune, you can combine them into one file.

Probably an oversimplification on my part, I don't really know much about the MIDI format, but I'm surprised. I guess in most situations you'd need to do some editing to get everything to line up, which is why internet answers tend to be "use a DAW"

I'm sure it's only a matter of time before I try this stackoverflow suggestion: stackoverflow.com/a/53981529/3

...not sure where I got the notion that Elmer Snowden played plectrum. According to Cynthia Sayers he played a tenor tuned a 5th lower than usual (GDAE) on 'Harlem Banjo'


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Thinking about putting steel strings back on my Paramount, nylon sounds fine but isn't well-suited to rapid chord changes; too easy to accidentally bend a string here and there

Also, if I'm committing to this jazz banjo bit for the next year, I'll get my callouses back (vs. picking up a steel-strung instrument once every couple of weeks, saying "ow my fingers," and putting it back down)

I'm reasonably sure steel strings were already the norm by the time my instrument was made, and it had steel strings on it for years before I owned it with no apparent ill effects, but I'll probably do a bit of research for my own peace of mind. A laminate neck lends any instrument a good bit of strength.

...and an ebay seller just gave me a good offer on a copy of Emile Grimshaw's plectrum book, which was written in the really interesting interregnum as the classic 5-string fingerstyle was giving way to early jazz. Clifford Essex currently publishes a revised/updated edition of the Grimshaw book with tablature but I've been holding out for the original.


(that video is a good demonstration of how the scale length of an instrument affects overall timbre; you can tune a tenor banjo like a plectrum but it won't sound quite the same)

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