I’ve been doing some duo shows around Nashville lately with the lovely and talented Jenni Lyn Gardner. We’re having lots of fun arranging traditional material to fit the duo instrumentation, and working up some new original material too. And of course, no acoustic duo is complete without a little instrument swapping!! You’ll have to catch us in person to hear my dazzlingly executed mandolin solos, and Jenni Lyn crackin’ that 5 just like her Granny taught her. And we’ve got another project together in the works, so keep your ears out!
I’ve been having fun playing an electric banjo this year. It was built by Ian Davidson in California. It’s a very cool instrument. With an acoustic pickup under the bridge and a humbucking electric pickup in the neck position this banjo has a pretty wide range of sounds. I mostly alternate in a 60/40% ratio in either direction, depending on what type of song it is. The neck feels great, thinner than most banjo necks, easy to play fast. I run it through a Fender Deluxe tube amp right now, with the occasional wah-wah pedal, which you’ll hear near the end of the video below. I spent my teenage years playing electric guitar in punk rock bands, mostly in basements, and very loud. So it’s nice to get to plug in and make some real noise again.
Check out Ian’s website for more electric banjos, he has some really cool looking stuff on there.
Here’s a compilation of footage from FrazierBand shows where I’ve played this instrument at The World Famous Station Inn and The 5 Spot in Nashville TN, and The Grey Eagle in Asheville NC.
Back in November a rather unfortunate series of events involving a weak gig bag, concrete, and UPS resulted in the breaking of my only banjo neck multiple times. Shortly thereafter I purchased a new ‘Hot-Rod’ of a banjo from Robin Smith. I’ve been playing that while Robin re-built the neck on the ODE that had been destroyed. I got the ODE from Robin in the mail a few weeks ago, and couldn’t be happier with the neck he made. I’ve been keeping it tuned in E ( a minor third below typical G tuning, the notes are: e B E G# B).
I had the idea to record something with both banjos, and began to ponder the possibilities. We’ve all heard a double-banjo tune before, usually a melody with a higher, mostly tertiary harmony. Its the same harmonization technique that’s typically used for Bluegrass and Folk vocals. And it works well with human voices; but something gets lost in translation onto the banjo. So I figured, why not try to get the banjo’s as far apart as possible. It starts with 2 different tunings (G and E), but there’s still a lot of overlap there. You really need a key where the chords can be voiced differently on the 2 instruments. The lowest string on the E banjo is a B, which happens to be one of the highest capo positions on a G banjo: so B is the key. And what better banjo tune in B than Herschel Sizemore’s “Rebecca”.
So I climbed into the control room at Studio 94 and went to it.
This recording is what came out.
Ok friends and neighbors, I’ve been hard at work on 2 new lessons and the sheet music/tab to accompany them. And now, for the first time ever, here they are:
Both about 20 minutes long.
Also, my LESSONS page has been updated to include some info on my teaching philosophy and practice techniques, and what my “Advanced Banjo Curriculum” can do for you, Today!! (at least starting today!)