Category Archives: Banjo

Tale of the Nail

First of the year I really got back into playing the banjo.  Twenty-ten was a rough year but having a short on-line lesson with Patrick Costello really got me motivated again.

I’ve been playing the banjo every spare moment I have until Friday when we had the horrible storm.  I worked like a dog in the foulest of weather.  That didn’t bother me until I broke a nail.  Don’t laugh!  I broke the nail on my middle finger on my right hand.  The nail that allows me to frail on the banjo.

At my lunch break I normally play for a half-hour, so I grabbed a sandwich and coffee and grabbed my old banjo.  It was horrible.  I tried switching to my index finger and it partially worked but all of the fun went out of it.  I needed to fix it.  That night I talked to the wife and we decided to go to a nail salon.

I got up late Saturday (due to playing poker until three in the morning) and spent the next two hours shoveling snow and ice off off my driveway.  The broken nail slipped my mind and I spent the rest of the night catching up on one of my favorite shows on BBC America, Being Human.

The next day I took the wife out for lunch and she reminded me that I needed to get my nail done.  We were in Oberlin but couldn’t find a nail salon open so we headed to the wilds of Elyria.  We found a salon and went it.  They seemed amused by me and I had to explain to each person why I needed a nail.  The woman told me the price and said that I could have color on it for free.  I declined her generosity.

I sat down and the guy started to work on my nail.  I was surprised at the softness of his hands.  He applied a fake nail using glue and after it dried he cut off much of it.  He then used a dremel type tool to rough up the nail and then applied a mixture of powder and strong smelling liquid.  He scraped off much of it and did it again.  Much shaping and buffing and work go into a perfect clawhammer frailing nail.  Finally he finished and I paid the four dollars.

I got home and picked up the banjo.  I played Little Sadie on the banjo and life was good.  It doesn’t take much to make me happy.

Wish You Were Shady

My wife is truly adorable.

I’ve been playing a lot of banjo and this morning I was playing Cluck Old Hen and Shady Grove, both in Sawmill Tuning (also known as Mountain Minor, G-Modal, etc.).  The wife said, “What was that song you played before the Plucky Chicken?”  I told her it wasn’t Plucky Chicken but Cluck Old Hen and the one before that was Shady Grove.  She said that Shady Grove sounded a lot like the opening to Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here.

I thought about it and she is right.  They are similar so I started playing around and trying to combine the two into Wish You Were Shady.  When I get a reasonable version up and playable I will post on YouTube and here.

Here is a nice version of Shady Grove played on a Ramsey Bacon by Donald Zepp.

And of course, Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd.

I’m also going to work on a wild variation of Cluck Old Hen and call it Plucky Chicken.

UPDATE:  The wife says that I played Shady Grove a lot slower so it is easier to see the similarities.  Need to get my drop thumb a bit smoother.

Banjo Porn

As my skill with the banjo slowly improves I’ve been looking to reward myself with a new banjo.  Originally I had decided to get a Bart Reiter Whyte Ladie but he has stopped making them.  I like the sound of the Whyte Ladie tone ring andalso the look his version.  You can see a picture of one here.  The one you see is in stock but I won’t be able to get one for a while.  Plus there are some things extra that I want, like a frailing scoop and personalized inlays and such.

I played a banjo recently that exceeded my expectations, a Buckeye Banjo.  The ability to customize the banjo what really attracts me to it.  While I save up money for it I can decide what kind of wood, whether I want half-fretless or what kind of frailing scoop.  Take a look at some of his banjos and you will see real works or art.  This is something I have to have.

Take a look at these pictures and also here.

I am saving up my money.  I already have the best guitar money can buy.  Now it is time to get the banjo that I want.

Jeopardy and the Banjo

I love the tv quiz show Jeopardy even though I know I would do poorly on it.  I know nothing of sports and little about European rivers.

I found this post about Tony Fox winning big money on the show.  I love the last line in the newspaper article.

Fox won’t receive his prize money for several months, but this much he knows: he plans to buy a banjo and wife wants to install a new patio in their backyard.

At least he has his priorities in order.

Raleigh and Spencer

I’ve been spending a lot of time playing banjo on this vacation.  In the breaks between practice I often search for musicians playing in the clawhammer (frailing) style on YouTube.  Today I found Hunter Robertson.

I love his clawhammer style and his vocals are very primitive.  I love the banjo he’s playing!  It’s a half-fretless banjo, giving that fretless sound but giving you the frets in the upper neck where you need them.  I’ve been wanting one of these for a long time and this is only sparking that desire.

Check out his playing and let me know what you think.

Standing Stones, Banjo & The Isle of Lewis

When I retire I want to go to the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.  All my life I have been fascinated by Megaliths.  I’ve read every book and researched every website I can find on standing stones, stone circles and dolmen.

The Isle of Lewis has The Callanish Stones.  It is hard to pinpoint when the site was constructed but I’ve read anywhere from 1800 -2600 BC.   Here is a great picture I found on Flickr by someone calling himself Randomdam.

Here is another one showing scale.  It is from someone called The Ewan.

There are many megalithic sites in the area and you can read about the Callanish Stones here.

The other day I was reading a banjo blog and came across a twenty-minute video of some guys bicycling through the Outer Hebrides.  The video is titled, The Outer Hebridean Ice Cream Adventure.

The video is a lot of fun as they are cycling, playing the banjo and making ice cream along the way.

Around the 14:30 mark they enter Carlabhagh and proceed to make ice cream in the middle of The Callanish Stones.

This video is a real treat.  If you watch the video be sure and go to their website and read about the adventure.

I must go to Scotland and see this.  I have friends who can’t imagine retiring.  They say, “What will you do with your time?”  Watch the video.