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Cheating on my fiddles

Posted by bj on Saturday, April 17, 2010

Last Tuesday Ty brought an extra instrument to the jam. He had gotten a bunch of stringed instruments given to him, and this is one he doesn't play. He's been playing my banjo every time I bring it to the jam, while I rarely touch it. We have been talking for months about possibly trading, if he had something that I might have an interest in.

What did he bring?

It's a sweet little banjolin, probably 1920's, with what appears to be a real skin head. DAMN it sounds cool!

Mike, our mando maven, played it through most of the jam, and it just really has a great OT sound, very funky and sweet, but with a lotta punch when you want it. And that was with ancient strings on it that are dead beyond belief. That combination of mando scale and chop and banjo tone is magic, I swear! It really is a fabulous sound for OT.

Ty usually leaves around ten, and as he was leaving he whispered in my ear that I could take the banjolin home with me for a few days if I wanted, and left the case next to my chair.

Now, when I got my banjo, I tootled around with it a bit, but all that up and down the neck stuff, with that yard-long stinkin' neck and those huge spacings between frets, just wore me out, and it just doesn't feel intuitive, I don't "get it" easily. Forget the right hand, that bump diddy stuff just doesn't happen without a whole heap of concentration, I have to really THINK about what I'm doing, when  I try to play that thing, and half the time the Bump Diddy is more like a Bump Dump. I'm already straining my brain with the fiddle, so doing it with two instruments just doesn't hold much appeal. It just sits in the case and rarely comes out, though I do bring it to the jams with me for others to play around on. The others translates to Ty, since he rarely lets it out of his hands once he picks it up.

So I brought that little banjolin home, and it sat in its case until Thursday, when I had some time. Within a couple minutes I was playing it passably, the scale is close enough to the fiddle scale that it's just a slight mental adjustment to get things working. I can already pick out most of my fiddle tunes on it, even the ones I have trouble playing on the fiddle!

The only issue is that I'm trying to treat it like a fiddle. That's hard to do since there's no sustain for "slurring", you have to pick every note. So I guess I gotta find mando chord charts and starting to treat it like what it is instead of like what I'm used to. But it's already sounding like something without me having to strain my brain at all. YAY!

It's already got pride of place out of the case and is always ready to play, and it's in the play rotation, I'm putting in at least ten to fifteen minutes a day with it, sometimes more.

I have a feeling Ty is gonna end up with a banjo and I'm gonna end up keeping this sweet little banjolin.

8 comments on “Cheating on my fiddles”

brya31 Says:
Saturday, April 17, 2010 @12:11:42 PM

I know the fiddles are jealous, but what about the cat?

bj Says:
Saturday, April 17, 2010 @4:44:13 PM

Just another thing for Mr. Briggsy to glare at. He already figured out that he can't fit on my lap while I'm playing it, which he considers the ultimate insult. Ms. Diva just yawns. Or sings along. Depends on her mood.

Ozarkian DL Says:
Sunday, April 18, 2010 @5:20:19 PM

The banjolin is a great lil instrument. They sure beat them palm slidin, callous fingered-end causin long necks. IMO

janepaints Says:
Sunday, April 18, 2010 @11:23:48 PM

this is good....a lot of fiddlers remain too long (or permanently) in the dark about harmonic structure, since they always so obsessed with them durn melodies but melody (aka tunes) without harmonic structure is kinda like sex without genitals--you can imagine it but not without getting a look out below headache. or something like that. Anyway, the point being that the more one learns about ALL aspects of music (and there's only three: melody, rythmn, harmony) the sooner one arrives at the realization that they're all one and the same thing BUT one is now able to know WHY they're one and the same thing, leaving one able to both play music AND understand it, at which point you discover the black keys on the piano and then waste about a decade playing jazz before you realize it''s time to get serious about banjo (okay there's a classic oxymoron if ever there was one: 'getting serious about banjo') after which--oh about another decade oughtta do it--you realize that just toting a guitar around is as good a nuisance as any, so ya might as well just stick with the fiddle because it's lighter plus nobody ever steals fiddles. Meaning ya can just leave it out on the porch along with the old washing machines and the rusting pontiac transmissions. Then, before you can say "vaya con dios!' they cart ya off to a Golden Years Home' where music will be the least of yer worries. Anyhow, any instrument that expands one's horizons is all for the better. Unless ya get a crush on the bassoon. Then you deserve whatever comes next , which usually is sad and dreary, like Mahler or Chopin, but minus the ivories.

bj Says:
Monday, April 19, 2010 @4:23:47 AM

Re learning harmonic structure, I already play guitar. Have for years. Funny how you forget that all the time. ;-) And I started out in a choir, singing harmonies, both alto and contralto.

Re the bassoon, I think they make great tomato stakes out in the garden . . .

janepaints Says:
Monday, April 19, 2010 @7:20:52 AM

re: yer guitaring: i did not mention yer guitaring BECAUSE i've heard yer guitaring....i.e. guitar and you are not the best match fit....while fiddle and you has been a match made in heaven so since mandolin/banjolin are fretted fiddles they're probably THE portal into chordal calculus for ya....p.s school-days choir is to harmonic calculus as maud hauber is to virginia wolff..anyhow ya LOVE the banjolin so SWIM IN IT and be glad, i sure am about it... Next week: spot quiz on Earth Science. Q: What is an isthmus? A cirrus cloud?Cumulus? Please explain in the space provided: _______

M-D Says:
Monday, April 19, 2010 @2:21:28 PM

Answer: If BJ is at a jam, then isthmus be an old-time jam.

janepaints Says:
Monday, April 19, 2010 @5:27:57 PM

correct! you gits a gold star!

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