Reply to Thread Bookmark Thread
Posts 1 to 13 of 13
  1. #1

    User Info Menu

    I am starting this thread as inspired by Campus Five’s recent thread in Chord Melody, because I don’t want to derail that with too many impertinent questions.

    I took up tenor banjo four years ago and was immediately struck by the similarities between virtuoso banjo players like Harry Reser and guitarists like Eddie Lang and the other early jazz guitar masters. Compare these, for example:


    https://youtube.com/watch?v=hc1zuJ3VjLI&feature=

    They way both move between chords and single lines is striking. In fact, Lang’s performance here is very similar to “duo style” banjo playing.

    Thoughts on similarities between jazz banjo and jazz guitar?

  2.  

    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by L50EF15

    Thoughts on similarities between jazz banjo and jazz guitar?
    This is a very simplified version of what I've heard:

    Although the banjo was certainly around in the 1800's, the earliest pictures of New Orleans jazz bands show acoustic flat-top guitars. The tenor banjo was relatively new in the early 20th century, and got popular in jazz groups because of its volume and the fact that it recorded well in the days of acoustic recording. Same w/ the string bass, which was replaced by tuba, and then tuba was replaced by the bass.

    The tenor banjo itself has elements of the mandolin - steel strings, tuning in 5ths, played w/ a pick - that were not part of the older 5 string banjo tradition.

    Anyway, at some point the guitar, now typically a new archtop design, was re-introduced and helped the rhythm section transition to the "swing" sound.

    The 4 string guitar was a way for banjo players to get a guitar tone, so you had a few guys like Eddie Condon that began on banjo and stayed with a tuning that they had used before. You also had guys like Johnny St. Cyr, who played banjos with 6-string guitar-tuned necks.

    As far as influences, Eddie Lang obviously grew up during a time period when many changes were happening in music, including the innovations in string band jazz that he and Joe Venuti pioneered.

    They would have heard the various vaudeville string multi-instrumentalists and the specialists like Reser.

    The question I always asked was about the transition from the post-minstrel 5 string banjo to the guitar. There doesn't seem to be a lot of study of that issue.

  4. #3

    User Info Menu

    Look into the Van Eps family.

  5. #4

    User Info Menu

    In Sal's recording, one can clearly hear the Classical-Spanish influence from the early New Orleans musical style. The honesty in early music is not only heard, but felt.

    Jazz has changed much since its inception due to instrument changes, considering the big move from tuba to string bass and then the replacement of the banjo with the guitar, first the tenor four string and then the six string. In both cases, a switch from harsh, outdoor playing to softer, indoor playing. From brash street-marching to softer sweet-music dancing.

    The modern development of electric bass guitar and electric guitar has changed jazz again. The booming bass guitar created Rock, but does not do big band jazz a kind service, especially in its failure to produce swing rhythm. The electric guitar gained a new voice in Rock, but also lost its appeal as a rhythm instrument. In fact, they had to rename jazz to Fusion or Jazz-Rock Fusion, because the paradigm shifted so radically. Big band guitarists, today, need two guitars to fill their position.

    One sure thing in destroying rhythm is loudness/amplification. We seem to need a mystery, when listening, that prompts our nervous system to "fill in" the gaps and feel/experience the rhythm. Quiet music is just more rhythmic than loud music.

    The jazz banjo still shines, and early music, now almost forgotten, sounds spectacular on plectrum-banjo, tuned CGBD. Not far off from guitar tuning, but preserving an authentic voicing for early jazz tunes. Is not ragtime really a piano imitating a banjo? Unfortunately, there arose a purge/pogrom of everything in America that smacked of cowboys, pioneers or "hillbillies", hence, the banjo was cancelled by big media.

    Last edited by StringNavigator; 05-01-2021 at 11:09 AM.

  6. #5

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by StringNavigator
    In Sal's recording, one can clearly hear the Classical-Spanish influence from the early New Orleans musical style. The honesty in early music is not only heard, but felt.

    Jazz has changed much since its inception due to instrument changes, considering the big move from tuba to string bass and then the replacement of the banjo with the guitar, first the tenor four string and then the six string. In both cases, a switch from harsh, outdoor playing to softer, indoor playing. From brash street-marching to softer sweet-music dancing.

    The modern development of electric bass guitar and electric guitar has changed jazz again. The booming bass guitar created Rock, but does not do big band jazz a kind service, especially in its failure to produce swing rhythm. The electric guitar gained a new voice in Rock, but also lost its appeal as a rhythm instrument. In fact, they had to rename jazz to Fusion or Jazz-Rock Fusion, because the paradigm shifted so radically. Big band guitarists, today, need two guitars to fill their position.

    One sure thing in destroying rhythm is loudness/amplification. We seem to need a mystery, when listening, that prompts our nervous system to "fill in" the gaps and feel/experience the rhythm. Quiet music is just more rhythmic than loud music.

    The jazz banjo still shines, and early music, now almost forgotten, sounds spectacular on plectrum-banjo, tuned CGBD. Not far off from guitar tuning, but preserving an authentic voicing for early jazz tunes. Is not ragtime really a piano imitating a banjo? Unfortunately, there arose a purge/pogrom of everything in America that smacked of cowboys, pioneers or "hillbillies", hence, the banjo was cancelled by big media.

    I read everything with interest and understanding until the last sentence. That's hilarious! Cowboys and hillbillies banjo has nothing to do with NOLA jazz, it's a country/bluegrass 5 string, and not only wasn't canceled by 'big' media (whatever that means), it's super popular and played by hipsters/woke crowd in Brooklyn these very days. Which was annoying when I lived around there, as I'm not a big fan of hillbily music.

    Otherwise, yea, I agree the decline of rhythm guitar is real in jazz, and in rock. I mean, not everyone has the skill, even some accomplished jazz players, because it's not taught in schools, and unless you do trad, you dont play at the gigs that required that skill. But actually the popularity of trad jazz has grown significantly in NYC in the last 10 years or so, again by young hip crowd, and more guitarists I know picked up tenor banjo lately. Well, myself included.

  7. #6

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by StringNavigator

    Jazz has changed much since its inception due to instrument changes, considering the big move from tuba to string bass and then the replacement of the banjo with the guitar, first the tenor four string and then the six string. In both cases, a switch from harsh, outdoor playing to softer, indoor playing. From brash street-marching to softer sweet-music dancing.

    The modern development of electric bass guitar and electric guitar has changed jazz again. The booming bass guitar created Rock, but does not do big band jazz a kind service, especially in its failure to produce swing rhythm. The electric guitar gained a new voice in Rock, but also lost its appeal as a rhythm instrument. In fact, they had to rename jazz to Fusion or Jazz-Rock Fusion, because the paradigm shifted so radically. Big band guitarists, today, need two guitars to fill their position.

    One sure thing in destroying rhythm is loudness/amplification. We seem to need a mystery, when listening, that prompts our nervous system to "fill in" the gaps and feel/experience the rhythm. Quiet music is just more rhythmic than loud music.

    The jazz banjo still shines, and early music, now almost forgotten, sounds spectacular on plectrum-banjo, tuned CGBD. Not far off from guitar tuning, but preserving an authentic voicing for early jazz tunes. Is not ragtime really a piano imitating a banjo? Unfortunately, there arose a purge/pogrom of everything in America that smacked of cowboys, pioneers or "hillbillies", hence, the banjo was cancelled by big media.

    Plectrum was only one tuning, and it was a holdover from the late 1800's 5 string tuning in C. Many used CGDA, tenor banjo, and some used DGBE, "Chicago" tuning. I've used all of them!

    Although the bop revolution opened up the guitar and piano to "comping", it also was a negative influence on swing rhythm guitar. You can DANCE to the 4/4 of an Alan Reuss.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive
    I read everything with interest and understanding until the last sentence. That's hilarious! Cowboys and hillbillies banjo has nothing to do with NOLA jazz,
    There was the ragtime banjo style played in the late 1800's on 5 string. Some of the tunes overlapped w/ the early New Orleans repertoire, but like I said, the guitar and string bass were used BEFORE the banjo and tuba for indoor music.

    The famous 1905 pic of the Buddy Bolden band:


  8. #7

    User Info Menu

    String bass and a rhythm guitar... and one (maybe two) more clarinets than most would deem strictly necessary.

    Did you hear much from the old guys about the early days? How common was guitar back in the 20s?

  9. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    String bass and a rhythm guitar... and one (maybe two) more clarinets than most would deem strictly necessary.

    Did you hear much from the old guys about the early days? How common was guitar back in the 20s?
    My impression is that the 20s rhythm sections gravitated to the tenor banjo more than the plectrum. And the swing bands went to the guitar, namely the L5 and its contemporaries. I have wondered if that change would have come if the plectrum banjo had been more common than the tenor during the 20s. The plectrum isn’t as shrill, and it seems to me that Reuss/Green-style rhythm would work well on the plectrum.

  10. #9

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    String bass and a rhythm guitar... and one (maybe two) more clarinets than most would deem strictly necessary.

    Did you hear much from the old guys about the early days? How common was guitar back in the 20s?
    The 20's were mostly the banjo and tuba years; those pre-war jazz bands (not even called jazz or jass in New Orleans yet) often were led by a violin player, and the clarinet was a sub for a violin, so thus 2 clarinets. The guitar was pretty common in New Orleans, between the Latino community, Sicilians, and the instruments' popularity in the African-American community. So was mandolin.

  11. #10

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidKOS
    Plectrum was only one tuning, and it was a holdover from the late 1800's 5 string tuning in C. Many used CGDA, tenor banjo, and some used DGBE, "Chicago" tuning. I've used all of them!...like I said, the guitar and string bass were used BEFORE the banjo and tuba for indoor music.
    Remember that Creole bands predated Dixieland bands. In an article from Don Vappie, an award winning Créole Banjoist guitarist vocalist, one of the best banjoists in the history of New Orleans and credited with preserving Créole culture... Quote: "The very first bands of New Orleans were string bands. From the beginning strings played a big part in New Orleans music. The banjo was a staple of the rhythmic pulse in early jazz just as the the guitar spoke the language of the blues. The string bass took over from the tuba."



    Good Grief! An Attack-Piece. Much ado over nothing, really, as we all know that bluegrass banjos have five strings. And you've twisted my meaning on guitar and string bass vs banjo and tuba. A drama manufactured to inform others that they are some kind of expert or professor. Quibbling over trivia to generate a back-handed self-compliment. If one doesn't want others to say anything, all they have to do is ignore their posts and carry on. A thread is only a discussion piece and not an excuse for the disgruntled to project fentanyl frustrations. Unless you're a famous banjoist or you invented the thing, why the attitude?

    There are many other musicians on JG who are aware of the many banjo and guitar tunings, but I'll mention in passing that I don't play Chicago tuning DGBE, as I already have that on guitar. Chicago tuning is a poor man's tuning. Kind of a cheat, actually. The voicings in Chicago tuning, although a shortcut for some guitar players doing a crossover, just don't sound as good as authentic Plectrum-Banjo tuning CGBD, where the banjo sound shines through the type of voicings available under the hand in that tuning. Anyway, it is relatively simple to convert guitar chords to plectrum banjo chords by mentally raising the C and D strings a whole tone. If a chord tone ends up too far, merely select the closest.

    I'm interested in banjo as a jazz instrument; the stuff that came up the Mississippi from New Orleans. The tone of the plectrum banjo fits right into that, it was made for jazz, think riverboats, and was shown by Eddie Peabody to be an extremely versatile instrument in other styles, like ragtime and minstrel music. I think our Rob MacKilllop has superb videos on it. I'm using a 1930 Leedy Plectrum Banjo.

    The chord grips in CGDA tenor banjo tuning don't appeal to me and its pitched higher than I'd like. I already have enough instruments on the go; a cello tuned in fifths and a double bass tuned in fourths. Playing different instruments gives one the ability to play all musical styles, but time is limited.

    Before thinking oneself to be the sharpest knife in the drawer and anxious to "correct" others, realise that we've all read the same books...
    Last edited by StringNavigator; 05-01-2021 at 09:17 PM.

  12. #11

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by StringNavigator
    Remember that Creole bands predated Dixieland bands. In an article from Don Vappie, an award winning Créole Banjoist guitarist vocalist, one of the best banjoists in the history of New Orleans and credited with preserving Créole culture... Quote: "The very first bands of New Orleans were string bands. From the beginning strings played a big part in New Orleans music. The banjo was a staple of the rhythmic pulse in early jazz just as the the guitar spoke the language of the blues. The string bass took over from the tuba."
    Hey, I went to high school with Don Vappie - he was a great guitar and bass player even then. He did not play banjo then. I'm pretty sure he plays tenor banjo in CGDA.

    The thing is, many players in old N.O. played string bass inside and tuba in the streets.

    Quote Originally Posted by StringNavigator
    Good Grief! An Attack-Piece. Much ado over nothing, really, as we all know that bluegrass banjos have five strings. And you've twisted my meaning on guitar and string bass vs banjo and tuba. A drama manufactured to inform others that they are some kind of expert or professor. Quibbling over trivia to generate a back-handed self-compliment.
    What? I'm not attacking anyone nor looking for "a back-handed self-compliment."

    Quote Originally Posted by StringNavigator
    I'm interested in banjo as a jazz instrument; the stuff that came up the Mississippi from New Orleans. The tone of the plectrum banjo fits right into that, it was made for jazz, think riverboats, and was shown by Eddie Peabody to be an extremely versatile instrument in other styles, like ragtime and minstrel music. I think our Rob MacKilllop has superb videos on it. I'm using a 1930 Leedy Plectrum Banjo.
    Rob has some great stuff on the banjo!

    I see you are pushing plectrum banjo. I always thought CGBD tuning was a "cheat" since it was just a holdover from classic banjo C tuning.

    Have you ever played banjo on a Mississippi riverboat?

    I sure did - many a Union gig on the President, Cotton Blossom, etc. I actually have done it, I don't just talk about it.

    Quote Originally Posted by StringNavigator
    The chord grips in CGDA tenor banjo tuning don't appeal to me and its pitched higher than I'd like. I already have enough instruments on the go; a cello tuned in fifths and a double bass tuned in fourths. Playing different instruments gives one the ability to play all musical styles, but time is limited.
    All 5ths is a great tuning. It has a great spread for chord voicings and cuts through an ensemble.

    Quote Originally Posted by StringNavigator
    Before thinking oneself to be the sharpest knife in the drawer and anxious to "correct" others, realise that we've all read the same books...
    Well, thanks for the put down by an expert like yourself. Frankly I have been polite and you are a bit insulting.

    I am not trying to "correct" you or anyone else. But unlike many of you, in addition to reading the "same books", I actually lived in New Orleans and learned from the old locals like Danny Barker, Dalton Rousseau, Roger Filiberto, Milton Bush, Ellis Marsalis, etc.

    Sorry if I seem to bother you with my responses, but you might realize we are much the same path learning about the history of the guitar and banjo.
    Last edited by DavidKOS; 05-02-2021 at 08:06 AM.

  13. #12

    User Info Menu

    I have a Plectrum Banjo, tuned Chicago style (D G B E). But I played a Tenor Banjo tuned in fifths (C G D A) for the first time the other day. I figured out open position C, F, & G chords, and I found the spacing of the chord voicings to be extremely pleasurable! I may have to get one ... and then maybe a Mandola ... and then maybe even a Viola (all in the same tuning: C G D A)!

  14. #13

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Karol
    I have a Plectrum Banjo, tuned Chicago style (D G B E). But I played a Tenor Banjo tuned in fifths (C G D A) for the first time the other day. I figured out open position C, F, & G chords, and I found the spacing of the chord voicings to be extremely pleasurable! I may have to get one ... and then maybe a Mandola ... and then maybe even a Viola (all in the same tuning: C G D A)!
    Good for you, enjoy playing. Those are 2 of my favorite banjo tunings, even if the "Chicago" tuning is borrowed from the bari uke.