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Singing with just a banjo

Once Famous 25 Jul 04 - 05:25 PM
dick greenhaus 25 Jul 04 - 05:30 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 25 Jul 04 - 05:35 PM
Once Famous 25 Jul 04 - 05:42 PM
Midchuck 25 Jul 04 - 05:47 PM
Leadfingers 25 Jul 04 - 06:42 PM
Big Al Whittle 25 Jul 04 - 06:45 PM
Charley Noble 25 Jul 04 - 09:55 PM
Amos 25 Jul 04 - 10:37 PM
DonMeixner 25 Jul 04 - 10:49 PM
DonMeixner 25 Jul 04 - 10:49 PM
Bev and Jerry 26 Jul 04 - 12:15 AM
Alex.S 26 Jul 04 - 12:35 AM
GUEST,Jon 26 Jul 04 - 07:36 AM
kendall 26 Jul 04 - 07:40 AM
GUEST,Wesley S 26 Jul 04 - 07:53 AM
Cuilionn 26 Jul 04 - 09:24 AM
Jeremiah McCaw 26 Jul 04 - 10:03 AM
GUEST,Art Thieme 26 Jul 04 - 12:45 PM
Peter T. 26 Jul 04 - 02:14 PM
DonMeixner 26 Jul 04 - 02:23 PM
GLoux 26 Jul 04 - 02:32 PM
Herga Kitty 26 Jul 04 - 02:46 PM
AllanW 26 Jul 04 - 02:57 PM
Ernest 26 Jul 04 - 04:04 PM
Uncle_DaveO 26 Jul 04 - 05:40 PM
Uke 26 Jul 04 - 06:21 PM
Once Famous 26 Jul 04 - 10:20 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 26 Jul 04 - 10:49 PM
The Fooles Troupe 26 Jul 04 - 10:50 PM
darkriver 27 Jul 04 - 02:08 AM
GUEST,Mappa Mundi 27 Jul 04 - 03:50 AM
Dave Bryant 27 Jul 04 - 04:19 AM
The Fooles Troupe 27 Jul 04 - 05:44 AM
kendall 27 Jul 04 - 07:21 AM
Steve-o 27 Jul 04 - 11:32 AM
GUEST,Art Thieme 27 Jul 04 - 11:59 AM
Peter K (Fionn) 27 Jul 04 - 07:34 PM
Leadfingers 27 Jul 04 - 07:59 PM
Dave Bryant 28 Jul 04 - 04:13 AM
GUEST,lemming 18 Jun 05 - 07:09 PM
Frankham 18 Jun 05 - 07:34 PM
thespionage 18 Jun 05 - 10:36 PM
GUEST,Tunesmith 19 Jun 05 - 05:18 AM
PatrickCostello 19 Jun 05 - 07:47 AM
GUEST 19 Jun 05 - 09:00 AM
JedMarum 19 Jun 05 - 09:37 AM
GUEST,JennyO 19 Jun 05 - 11:45 AM
Tradsinger 19 Jun 05 - 04:14 PM
Big Al Whittle 19 Jun 05 - 04:30 PM
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Subject: Singing with just a banjo
From: Once Famous
Date: 25 Jul 04 - 05:25 PM

Whenever I have performed as just a solo, I have always just used guitar. However, I am considering doing a few songs accompanied by banjo. Now I am comfortable playing banjo in a group setting with other instruments, but the banjo by itelf always seemed rather hollow behind a voice. But I think the variety of doing maybe one song per set might break up things and make it more interesting.

Any suggestions on what songs work best, with or without audience participation?


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 25 Jul 04 - 05:30 PM

Go listen to a Frank Proffitt recording. Or anything by Sheila Kay Adams or Helena Tripplett or Bascom Lamarr Lunceford.


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 25 Jul 04 - 05:35 PM

Hey, Martin: Good for you. Banjo seems to have become a band instrument, despite all the great music produced in the south with just a banjo accompaniment. I've always done two or three banjo songs in an evening... some finger-piched, and some frailing. There's a whole wealth of Charlie Poole stuff that suits itself well to solo performing, and much of the old-time string band stuff can easily be simplified just for banjo. I've found that people really respond well to solo banjo with singing because it's something that they hear so rarely.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Once Famous
Date: 25 Jul 04 - 05:42 PM

That's kind of what I am after, Jerry and I not ashamed to use it as a novelty. However, the more I think about it, the more I would like to do some kind of a standard and draw in the club's audience. Goodnight Irene comes to mind as sort of a Pete Singer strummer. I'm really more of a bluegrasser with folk group background. I don't really frail that old-timey stuff. That song is just something that crossed my mind.

Any other thoughts to ponder are welcome.


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Midchuck
Date: 25 Jul 04 - 05:47 PM

Well, at least it's better than playing the banjo and not singing. And your voice will sound better by comparison.

P.


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Leadfingers
Date: 25 Jul 04 - 06:42 PM

MG I do a few Banjo accompanied songs - I do a bit of Blues as well as the odd bit of Music Hall as well as some contemporary songs from people like Jez Lowe and Keith Marsden (UK) and things like Roseville Fair . If you think about how you are working the accompaniment any thing can work . If you are only playing in one key ,there is a serious limiting factor so dont just stick to G - F and C work easily in open G tuning .


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 25 Jul 04 - 06:45 PM

Pete seegers instruction reord was brilliant.

he did a three four time thing called the burgundian carol. then he doubled it up to do the irish washerwoman.. like someone was saying those guys like Frank Profit knew a thing or two - some of them played fretless banjo and did clever sides because the frets didn't get in the way. Also they played without a resonator, so the volume wasn't too strident. Pete Seegers records have many examples of this.

Peggy Seeger used to accompany Ewan on the Banjo - I'm not sure but one song was the Ballad of John Axon.

Finally check out the first album by the Iam Campbell folk group. They had a lovely banjo player who died of cancer much much too young. His name was John Dunkerly and he and Ian used to do The Unquiet Grave - just Ian 's voice and John's banjo. It was so plaintive and pretty.

hope this is of some use


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Charley Noble
Date: 25 Jul 04 - 09:55 PM

Martin-

It's really a question of personal judgment with any one song. I play most Appalacian ballads on the 5-string banjo with a 3-finger style of double-thumbing if that makes any sense to you. I also tend to play out of C with the 2nd string tuned up half a note. If I'm trying for more of a guitar sound I use the same tuning and play out of the F position. And the same tuning can be used to play songs from the Gm position.

If you gave me a list of yur 10 favorite songs, I might be able to offer more specific advice, assuming I were familar with them.

Charley Noble


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Amos
Date: 25 Jul 04 - 10:37 PM

Frank Warner did plenty of recordings with just voice and banjo and they sounded terrific, IIRC...


A


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: DonMeixner
Date: 25 Jul 04 - 10:49 PM

I find when I use the banjo as a singular instrument I use it as spare and simple in arrangement as I can. And I think it works best that way for vocal stuff.

But! Check out Howie Bursen's Folk Legacy recording "Cider in the Kitche" for the other end of the stick.

Don


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: DonMeixner
Date: 25 Jul 04 - 10:49 PM

"Cider in the Kitchen"


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Bev and Jerry
Date: 26 Jul 04 - 12:15 AM

Debby McClatchy does entire concerts with only a banjo for accompaniment. She does everything from gospel to Charlie Poole to Irish to gold rush songs. Check her out.

Bev and Jerry


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Alex.S
Date: 26 Jul 04 - 12:35 AM

Most Ewan MacColl CDs (Scots Ballads is a good one)are just recordings of him singing with banjo accompaniment by his wife, Pegge Seeger, Pete's sister (haybe half sister?). They're all great, and I would highly recommend them for ideas on solo banjo accompaniment.


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: GUEST,Jon
Date: 26 Jul 04 - 07:36 AM

I think the tenor, the banjo I play, has a lot more problems with "lonliness" than the 5 string. The only song I have felt happy doing on it is Johnny Jump Up - I learned a version from a Christy Moore record where he was just accompanied by Barney McKenna.

To move onto 5 string. I can't think of a bluegrass example but it's not an area of music that attracts me much. Of other styles, although I have only heard her with Ellie Ellis on guitar and singing harmony, I think Sarah Grey would have sounded good just on her own with voice and banjo but that's taking us back to a frailing style.


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: kendall
Date: 26 Jul 04 - 07:40 AM

Listen to Sara Grey (Folk Legacy) she plays banjo only and sings. Using the finger picking style, you may want to consider not using picks.


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: GUEST,Wesley S
Date: 26 Jul 04 - 07:53 AM

MG - What are your thoughts on frailing ? Interested - or would you rather stick with the 3 fingered style ? I guess my own tastes on solo banjo songs runs toward medium tempo songs. If you play it too fast it sounds rushed.


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Cuilionn
Date: 26 Jul 04 - 09:24 AM

Aye, Kendall's richt-- Sara Grey's a master o the voice/banjo combination, & wairth studyin. The twa albums Ah'd recommend are teh aforementionit Folk-Legacy album, (Folk-Legacy CD-38: Sara Grey with Ed Trickett: Folksongs & Ballads) and the newer recording on Living Tradition (Tradition Bearers Series LTCD1301: North American Songs & Ballads: Sara Grey).

See her in concert when & if ye hae a chaunce--she presents a thochtfu balance o tunes & sangs & her delivery is exquisite!

Have Fun/Gabh Spors!

--Cuilionn


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Jeremiah McCaw
Date: 26 Jul 04 - 10:03 AM

Solo banjo with voice? Sky's the limit. Songwriter/performer Alfie Smith does "Minnie the Moocher" that way (sorta clawhammer style), and does it brilliantly.


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 26 Jul 04 - 12:45 PM

Probably the best folk style banjo player I've ever heard is Peggy Seeger. She did things backing Ewan MacColl that were pure taste, inventive and complex, as well as being surprising and emotional and inspiringly lovely to listen to. When the two were working together, the result was almost always more than 100% I've always thought.

And banjo-backed vocals were always included on my albums---ranging from Bascom Lunsford's "Mr Garfield" and "Sundown" and Vernon Dalhart's "The Hanging Of Charlie Birger" to Uncle Dave's "In And Around Nashville" and the Pacific Northwest classic "Portland County Jail".

On a new CD I've been working on will be "The Scottish Soldier", Hoagy Carmichael's "Lazy Bones" and an instumental version of Bob Wills' "San Antonio Rose"----all on banjo--and all sung except the last song mentioned.

Right now, banjo is the only instrument I can mess around with and get results good enough that our 3 year old granddaughter wants to sing along or dance along to. The open-G tuning is very forgiving ! ;-)

But be sure to check out Art Rosenbaum's banjo-vocal rendition of "Texas Rangers". Hearing it will open new doors.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Peter T.
Date: 26 Jul 04 - 02:14 PM

One thing that I was taught by Rick Fielding (and I am still pretty much a novice) was to lower the strings (to what I guess would be an open E tuning)if I was going to sing ballads or other similar songs with a banjo -- this cuts the brassiness, and makes it easier to sing with, I find. (Heather Fielding still sells Rick's banjo mutes, though I have been using a sock, mostly).


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: DonMeixner
Date: 26 Jul 04 - 02:23 PM

And stupidly I left out Art Thieme's banjo style. This is a favorite style of mine and I try nd approximate it on a few tunes that I do. On the rare occasion I do "Along side the Sante Fe Trail" I try and play like Art.

Don


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: GLoux
Date: 26 Jul 04 - 02:32 PM

Hey, don't forget Clarence "Tom" Ashley...some of his solo banjo/vocal songs are among my favorites...Coo Coo Bird, for example.

-Greg


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Herga Kitty
Date: 26 Jul 04 - 02:46 PM

Sara Grey frails - in the folk quiz at Sidmouth one year, she was asked to speak for a minute without hesitation, repetition or deviation on the subject of plucking and assumed this referred to turkeys....

I think Sara, Debbie and Peggy all enhance their songs with banjo. I heard Kendall play the banjo when he visited UK in the spring and it sounded great!

Kitty


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: AllanW
Date: 26 Jul 04 - 02:57 PM

Me and Malc Ware, a Doncaster banjo player from the 80s, now sadly departed, used to play a whole load of Doc Watson songs on guitar and banjo, I'm sure the banjo would've sounded just as good without my endless thraping.

We used to do Red Rocking Chair, 15 Cents, Hand Me Down My Walking Cane, Little Birdie, Mole In The Ground (Jackson C Frank had a version called Kimbie) and Handsome Molly, to name but a few.


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Ernest
Date: 26 Jul 04 - 04:04 PM

Derroll Adams did a lot of nice songs with 5-string banjo too, although most of the time with guitarists accompanying him...
Still grat music.
Ernest


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Uncle_DaveO
Date: 26 Jul 04 - 05:40 PM

Although I sing most of my songs with guitar, I frail/clawhammer with a number of them. I don't try to play the song's tune behind the singing, but use the bump-titty rhythm as a background, playing a harmony to the msung tune, and then do a banjo break of the tune between.

I sing such songs as Beans Bacon and Gravy, Worried Man Blues, Oh Dr. Freud, The Frozen Logger, Acres of Clams, and Woodie Guthrie's Talking Dustbowl, with banjo.

I find it very difficult to try to play the tune while singing at the same time. YMMV.

Dave Oesterreich


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Uke
Date: 26 Jul 04 - 06:21 PM

There's some great solo banjo backing on A.L. Lloyd's "English Drinking Songs" too - played by Alf Jeffreys I think. It's in the 'classic banjo' style, which is finger-picking, but less driving than bluegrass - kind of supple and pretty-sounding.

Worth checking out - though I don't know if there's any books around with the transcriptions or anything....

Mike


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Once Famous
Date: 26 Jul 04 - 10:20 PM

Thanks to all who have responded.

Frailing is just not my thing and neither is old timey. I am surprised no one has mentioned any Pete Seeger basic strum stuff, which can tend to have a fuller sound behind a voice and could lend to a more moderate speed song.


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 26 Jul 04 - 10:49 PM

You might check out Art Thieme's work, Martin. I'm surprised that no one has mentioned him. His style is very much indebted to Pete Seeger and while Art doesn't generally encourage sing alongs, his style certainly suits it on some songs.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 26 Jul 04 - 10:50 PM

I've never heard just a banjo sing...


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: darkriver
Date: 27 Jul 04 - 02:08 AM

Martin,

I've heard John Hartford play solo banjo and sing the American Civil War-era chestnut 'Lorena.' His voice style was delicate, and the banjo playing ditto, and it was very melodic without being melodramatic. I think this one is on 'Songs of the Civil War,' so it shouldn't be too hard to find.

Obviously, this is not an example of audience participation.

Regards,

doug


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: GUEST,Mappa Mundi
Date: 27 Jul 04 - 03:50 AM

Gumtree canoe - and if you can learn the "soft shoe shuffle" you'll go down a storm! (John Hartford)

You may want to try Wabash cannonball, i like to put solos in between verses.

Oh yes - my favourite banjo/vocal is "Ruthie" (Wernick)

You can get away with DB's as well; picking the a, part at the bridge and the b, part at the base of the neck.

Good luck.


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Dave Bryant
Date: 27 Jul 04 - 04:19 AM

Why have all your friends deserted you ? - or do you mean that you won't be wearing any clothes ?


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 27 Jul 04 - 05:44 AM

But at least a banjo player can hold it to cover his instrument - whereas a piano accordion player can at least rest his instrument on it, as long as you don't squeeze too tight, or quickly!


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: kendall
Date: 27 Jul 04 - 07:21 AM

By all means listen to Art Thieme.


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Steve-o
Date: 27 Jul 04 - 11:32 AM

"Candy Man", Rev. Gary Davis-style....Wonderful!


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 27 Jul 04 - 11:59 AM

Pete always said thhat his sister Peggy was a better banjo player than he was. What he did was pure taste too---but simpler than peggy who used his basic strum (plus frailing) to get a more musical and emotional effect into her music. That's just my opinion, but I feel strongly that it's accurate. The album Ewan and Isla Cameron swapped songs on, with Peggy on banjo, had one gem after another. Ewan's "American Stranger" on that LP with Ms Seeger's banjo is still one of my favorite arrangements of all time.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Peter K (Fionn)
Date: 27 Jul 04 - 07:34 PM

Just back from the Warwick (UK) festival, where Bob Conroy used banjo-accompaniment to great effect in a number of songs, in his sets with Mudcatter Liam's Brother (aka Dan Milner).


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Leadfingers
Date: 27 Jul 04 - 07:59 PM

The biggest problem with singing to banjo is Volume . If you strum a banjo too hard you can drown out your own voice completely .


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Dave Bryant
Date: 28 Jul 04 - 04:13 AM

Which in some cases could be a good thing Terry   :-)


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: GUEST,lemming
Date: 18 Jun 05 - 07:09 PM

Why for spouteth thee in a strange tongue? Is it because yee have a degree in spouting bollox?


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Frankham
Date: 18 Jun 05 - 07:34 PM

Hi Martin,

I, like you, love the sound of a banjo accompaniment to the voice. One of my favorites is Buell Kazee, a traditional banjo player who had a lovely tenor voice.

A agree that the Pete Seeger approach is wonderful for the following reasons:

1. You can pick bass lines (not unlike guitar) or counter lines with the vocal.
2. Pete adapted his style of playing to fit a variety of song material.
2. Pete used frailing, up-picking, three-fingerand "whamming" styles in his accompaniments.

You might want to check out early recordings of Erik Darling who in my view was one of the masters of banjo accompaniment. His album, True Religion by Vanguard is a classic.

I really like George Grove of the present Kingston Trio, as well.
He has adapted a style of playing suitable for singing.

I think that many of the revivalist old-timey players tend to overshadow their vocals with too much banjo. He has a neat instruction DVD on Homespun Tapes

I believe that the 5-string banjo accompaniment is quite versatile and not just limited to Appalachia or bluegrass. I applaud your choice and am doing this myself. I have a Gibson RB175 seeger model in which I've dropped a Rich and Taylor tonering made by someone whose name begins with K. (Krushner?) I forget. I am trying different tailpieces so that I can get a nice ring.

Playing and singing songs with banjo accompaniment is a very satisfying thing to do. I tend to like a guitar backup because of the solidity of a bass line but again, you can approximate that in the seeger style.

I find that children really respond to the sound of a 5-string banjo accompaniment. It gets their toes a-tapping and puts them in a happy mood.

I can't be sad or mad when I'm playing the banjo.

A friend of mine says, "The banjo sounds like laughing."

Good choice.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: thespionage
Date: 18 Jun 05 - 10:36 PM

I completely agree Frank! (I smiled when I saw your name come up several times in Ed Cray's Ramblin' Man while reading it this week.)

Banjo with a banjo as sole accompaniment is great! I'd suggest many of Woody Guthrie's songs, as I noted in another thread.

Russ


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 19 Jun 05 - 05:18 AM

Hedy West! She was fabulous at backing herself either frailing or fingerpicking. BTW, I'm amazed that Hedy isn't one of the most famous and reverred of folksingers. Is it because she spent so much of her playing days outside of the States?


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: PatrickCostello
Date: 19 Jun 05 - 07:47 AM

Here's a really basic workshop on frailing & singing.

http://www.funkyseagull.com/frailing.mp3


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: GUEST
Date: 19 Jun 05 - 09:00 AM

I agree with Art Thieme that Peggy Seeger is a superb banjo player and accompanist. A few years ago I heard her accompany herself on a song called "The Rambling Gambler" and it was absolutely knockout! Unfortunately, the only recording I can find of her singing this song is an early one on which she uses the guitar. The last time I saw Peggy I requested this song but she didn't have the long-necked banjo with her.
Two more women singers who use a banjo are Shirley Collins and Alison McMorland. They each have very different styles (different again from Peggy's absolute mastery of the instrument) but I find them both to be very effective self-accompanists.
This is a very subjective view, from a non-instrumentalist, but the accompaniment of folk songs on the banjo summons up for me an older, deeper tradition and puts me in mind of those amazing singers from the Balkans and the Middle East who accompany themselves on a variety of stringed instruments.


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: JedMarum
Date: 19 Jun 05 - 09:37 AM

I love to sing with solo banjo as accompaniment. It is very very different style accompaniment from guitar - much more sparse, or it can be - you play lots of single notes, even as slowly picked/plucked line and your accompaniment is complete ...


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: GUEST,JennyO
Date: 19 Jun 05 - 11:45 AM

I noticed Charley Noble posted earlier in this thread. To hear more of his banjo accompanied singing, this page on Charlie's website Songs of Charlie Ipcar has MP3s of a number of his songs - Try Limehouse Reach, All Coil Down, Dead Dog Cider and Pastures of Memories. Just listening to them brings back fond memories of a certain session in our living room under the model trains a couple of years ago.......

Jenny


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Tradsinger
Date: 19 Jun 05 - 04:14 PM

Tunesmith has said it. It was Hedi West that inspired me to get into frailing banjo. I do quite a few with the banjo only now, including 'Boots of Spanish Leather'. I like the sparse sound it gives - very atmospheric. Try Eric Bogle's "Now I'm Easy" with the banjo. That works. Any number of Appalachian ballads sound great on the banjo - House Carpenter, Wife of Usher's Well, Lady Margaret and Sweet William, Bangum, etc.

Gwilym


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Subject: RE: Singing with just a banjo
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 19 Jun 05 - 04:30 PM

Lovely thread. How nice Martin could be when he wasn't setting the world to rights. Probably could be said for all of us!


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