[Dixielandjazz] More on banjo's
john at jazzbanjo.com
Sat Mar 5 13:57:21 PST 2005
A 5-string is similar to a plectrum. They both have 22 frets and three of
the strings are tuned the same (if you are using the standard tuning for the
instrument). The 5-string has a low 4th string that is a "D" and the
plectrum has a low string that is a "C".
There is more to playing a solo than just picking a single string melody.
The 5-string was a very popular instrument in the late 1800s and early
1900s. It was played finger style that gave it a different style than the
bluegrass you hear today. Chord melody can be played on any type of banjo
whether it be a 4-string, 6-string, mandolin banjo, uke banjo. Everybody
thinks the 4-string banjo should be played like Eddie Peabody, who really
perfected the chord melody style, and that is not the only way to play it.
Using finger picks to pick strings simultaneously, as opposed to a flat pick
strumming multiple strings creates a different sound. I play songs like
Satin Doll, Slipped Disc and Ain't Misbehaving on the 5-string because it
gives more of a swing feel than playing it on the plectrum (which I could
easily play chord melody if I wanted to). There are also songs I play on the
plectrum that I don't like on the 5-string as well.
Now if banjo players only want to copy the banjoists of the past then you
should include in this discussion some of the players that played a 6-string
banjo tuned to guitar tuning. They would emphasize the base line notes on
the lower strings. This style is completely different than that of a
4-string or 5-string banjo. Listen to Johnny St. Cyr, Clancy Hayes, Danny
Barker and "Papa" Charlie Jackson.
The tenor and plectrum are usually the banjo of choice for a "trad" jazz
band because strumming provides percussion, rhythm and chords for the front
line. This is a whole new topic for discussion. How should the rhythm be
played - straight fours or something else. I hear a lot of banjo players
adding up-strokes between the beats. To me this is stealing space that the
soloist wants for their solo.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Craig I. Johnson" <civanj at adelphia.net>
> Why would I have to go to a five string to get a single note picking solo?
> I've heard a number of 4-string banjo players do it. And wouldn't a
> (4 string) be the same thing as picking a 5 ignoring the drone string?
> (Not putting down 5-string, I love 'em, but the comment just didn't sound
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