Friday, September 22, 2017

A Brief History of the BANJO

Modern banjo-playing has historical roots that go back over 150 years to late 19th and early 20th-century classic banjo styles, mid-19th-century minstrel banjo styles, and even earlier African musical influences.

The idea of stretching a skin tightly across a resonating chamber, attaching a neck, adding one or more drone strings, and playing the resulting instrument in a rhythmical and percussive manner originated with West Africans, who were forcibly imported as slaves to the New World. African and early African-American banjos consisted of a gourd or a carved wood body with a stretched skinhead and usually little more than a stick for a neck.

BF  659
Photo   by MrGaryLarson 

The first banjo-type instruments in the Americas were documented in the Caribbean as early as 1689, and the first mention of the banjo in the American colonies occurred in 1754 (where it is called a "banjer" in a Maryland newspaper).

When Africans and Europeans came together in North America, they had enough similarity in their ideas and attitudes about music for a new musical synthesis to occur despite the dramatically unequal status of black and white populations. In large part, the history of American music, from minstrelsy to jazz, rock 'n' roll to rap music, is the story of this continuing convergence of musical sensibilities.

The mid-19th-century minstrel banjo is one of the first manifestations of the meeting of these musical worlds. Along with the fiddle, the banjo was the most popular instrument in African-American music in the United States through the 18th and into the 19th century. In the early 1800s, white musicians began to take up the banjo in imitation of southern African-American players. By the mid-1800s,

white professional stage performers had popularized the banjo all across the United States and in England and had begun their own banjo traditions as they popularized new songs. Because these musicians usually performed with blackened faces, they came to be known as blackface minstrels.




Because the minstrel stage depicted slaves and southern life in inaccurate and degrading ways, there are many negative aspects to the legacy of blackface minstrelsy. Nevertheless, as part of America's first nationally popular music, minstrelsy served to popularize the banjo and make it an instrument shared by both white and black populations. With this popularity came the publication of the first instruction manuals for the instrument and the first factory-made banjos in the 1840s. Soon after, five strings became the accepted norm for banjos, and five-string banjos are the norm today.




Thursday, September 21, 2017

SWING JAZZ Guitar Solos - George Barnes Had A Unique DIXIELAND Style!

George Barnes was born in Chicago, Illinois on July 17, 1921, and came from a household that was full of artists! He began to play the guitar at 9 with his father who was his very first teacher. Barnes was raised in Chicago, a city that had actually ended up being a major center of jazz music advancement. He stated that his primary musical influences were Jimmy Noone (in whose band he played at the age of 16), Benny Goodman, and Louis Armstrong.

One of several studio portraits of Broonzy.
One of several studio portraits of Broonzy.
(Photo credit: 
Wikipedia)
As a youth George Barnes was associated with the excellent blues guitarist Lonnie Johnson who obviously had a major influence on him. He also listened to numerous records by the French gypsy jazz guitar player Django Reinhardt. At 14 Barnes already had his own jazz quartet. He won a Tommy Dorsey Amateur Swing Contest when he was 16 and at 17 was working on the Chicago NBC personnel staff as a guitar player, conductor, and arranger which was a truly amazing accomplishment!

During the seven years that preceded 1942, George Barnes was regularly included in tape-recording sessions with lots of legendary folk and blues artists including Big Bill Broonzy, Washboard Sam, and Blind John Davis. Upon leaving the military after the war, Barnes returned to a life which ended up becoming one of the busiest in jazz history. In 1951 he moved from Chicago to New York City. Here his phenomenal musical talents won him a job with Decca Records as arranger, guitarist, and composer.

Because of his multiple skills, George Barnes was much in demand for many years as a backing guitar player for top vocalists and jazz artists consisting of Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and Louis Armstrong. He made many historical jazz recordings with his own numerous quartets and quintets however his most important contribution to jazz guitar history was his creative guitar duets with Carl Kress (and later Bucky Pizzarelli after the death of Kress) in addition to the quintet he led collectively with cornetist Ruby Braff.

Always a strong individualist, George Barnes had a really distinct sound partly due to his personally developed archtop jazz guitar constructed without the typical "F" sound holes. This instrument was made specifically for him by the Guild Guitar Company. He likewise utilized an unwound 3rd string which was unusual for a guitarist of his generation. In 1975 Barnes transferred to Concord, California. There he devoted his time to playing in jazz clubs, recording, and teaching until his death following a cardiac arrest on September 5, 1977.




Wednesday, September 20, 2017

HARMONICA * French Harp - Music-Instruments of the World

Harmonica * French Harp- Music-Instruments of the World


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

HARMONICAS: French Harps with International Appeal

The harmonica, also known as the French harp, is a small wind instrument held in hand while playing. It can be played by inhaling and exhaling through several air slots. Kids love playing these because they're easy to learn and provide fun entertainment and lively music. Also, harmonicas are small so they can easily be carried in a shirt pocket or pants pocket. Many adults love them for these same reasons!

Chromatic Harmonica Course
Photo  by Jay Phagan 
The most common key on the harmonica is C. Harmonicas that are played in the Appalachian South only play a diatonic scale, but not chromatic intervals that are between diatonic scale tones. Therefore, these harmonicas are typically sold in various models based on keys. For instance, there are G-harmonicas, D-harmonicas, C-harmonicas, and so forth. 


Harmonica Construction and Sound

In the past, harmonicas were usually made of wood. Today, many harmonicas are constructed from injection-molded plastic. There are also high-end harmonicas that are built from metal alloys, silver, or Lucite. The harmonica's sound is often based on the materials it is made of, with each material giving its own unique sound. For example, blues harps or marine band harps are made of soft wood that resists moisture and create a rich, unique sound.

Types of Harmonicas

Harmonicas come in many different types and styles. These are often chosen by players according to the type of music they would like to play. Some harmonica players enjoy performing at events as soloists or with a group or band. The cross harp is often used in blues music, but can also be used in many types of music. It is a diatonic harmonica that is played in a key that is actually seven half-steps up from the harmonica's main key. For example, if the harmonica were tuned in C, it would actually be played in G.

A diatonic major harp is the most common type of harmonica. It has all the "Major Scale" notes such as C, D, E, F, G, A, B. The chromatic harmonica has the same notes as the diatonic major harp, but with a half-step between each major note.

Common brand names of harmonicas include Hohner, Hering, Suzuki, Bushman, Lee Oskar, and BTI. Tremolo and octave harmonicas are offered by Hohner. Different styles of orchestral harmonicas are also available for those who perform with orchestras.



Find Harmonicas and Accessories Online

There are many harmonica resources online today that sell harmonicas and accessories. There is free tablature (with tabs and symbols) to help beginners and experienced harmonica players learn new songs. Accessories such as amplifiers, cases, sheet music, microphones, CDs, and more are available online at reasonable prices. Beginners can research online to find out how to care for their harmonica. From tuning to cleaning, there are a few definite "dos and don'ts" to follow.

The beautiful music that flows from the harmonica can never be matched. Harmonicas are so diverse that they can be played alone while sitting on a porch swing, at a family gathering for singing and fun, or in a professional concert. They can be played around the world no matter what the country. These hand-held instruments bring joy to any setting!




Monday, September 18, 2017

GUITAR TIP: The Power Of Big Picture Thinking

What would you think about someone who wanted to become an awesome finger-picker but most of their practice was focused on using a pick? You'd think they were crazy right? And rightly so! But believe me, it's more common than you think. Heck...even I've been guilty of this more than a few times! I think we all sometimes fall into the trap of practicing things without thinking exactly WHY we are practicing them.

So what's the cure for this? I can give you the cure in three words...

English: Picture from playing guitar with guit...
Picture from playing guitar with guitar pick by Babak Babali (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Big Picture Thinking

What's this? Put simply it means looking at the WHYs and WHATs before looking at the HOWs. It's looking at the overall picture before becoming focused on the details. Let's take a look at an example to make it clearer...

Let's say that you would like to learn to shred. Rather than just jumping in and practicing some random exercises, let's go through the big picture thinking process.


**Step One** Why

In this step, you write down exactly WHY you want to become a shredder. Think of all the reasons and write them down. This is really important. Your reasons why help keeps you motivated and enthusiastic about working towards your goal. In fact, I can almost guarantee that without a strong, exciting and compelling why you will give up before you reach your goal!


**Step Two** Big Picture What

Write down WHAT you want to achieve. In this case, you would write down a detailed description of EXACTLY how you would like to play. What type of shredder do you want to become?


**Step Three** Detailed What

In this step, you'll write down the specific things that you will need to master in order to achieve what you wrote down in Step Two. Here are some example questions that you would ask yourself...

* What scales would I need to learn?

* What songs would I like to learn?

* What techniques would I have to master?

* What guitar tutors who live near to me teach shredding?

* What licks and exercises would help me achieve my goal?

* What instructional books, videos or DVDs will I need to buy?

The aim of this step is to get a detailed list of SPECIFIC things that you need to master in order to reach your goal.




**Step Four** How

This is where you write down a detailed practice schedule. This schedule will help you systematically learn what you wrote down in the previous step. If you're not sure how to put together an effective practice schedule then you may want to hire a good guitar tutor.

Can you see how this works? Rather than just jumping in and practicing, you start with the big picture first then work your way down to the small details.I guarantee that doing it this way will speed up your progress drastically. The main reason why is you will only be practicing things 100% related to your guitar goals.