Monday 14 March 2011

Banjo strings and memories

Tonight I put new strings on my banjo. My best beloved gave me this instrument as an engagement present about 4 decades ago, and I think this is the first time I’ve re-strung it. Something’s going on!

It’s a long neck, Pete Seeger style with a mellow sound, good for accompanying singing (pity about the voice). I’ve always loved having it – the problem was the transition from the guitar. Younger brother is perfectly comfortable on either, so it can be done. But the finger memory wasn’t there and I never took the time to build it in.

Coaxing musical sounds out of almost anything is one of my ideas of fun, and retirement will bring opportunities for getting my fingers around some new instruments. If they’re to spend half the year on the Erin Mae, however, they’ll need to be of a size to suit, especially having to share a cupboard with the guitar. The penny whistles will come. I’ll probably find a blues harp that I can try to bend like older brother number one does. There may even be room for a melodeon if I can work out which system I want. But the banjo’s been staring at me all these years with a sad, neglected look, and this may be its opportunity.

When we started on the journey that led to the Erin Mae, one of the motivators was the potential for building memories for our Norwegian grandchildren. It seems I may be working just as hard at building memories for my fingers.


  1. I have a B/C melodeon, basically designed for Irish music. All the established melodeon hacks tried to persuade me to go for the D/G English variety, but then most of them are Morris dancers and I hate Morris dancing.
    Glad I ignored them.

  2. @NB Willawaw

    From what I've read, if I do take the plunge, a B/C or a C#D would be the best option for me as well. I think it's more flexible, and i would want to play Irish/Scottish tunes. It would be very different from the piano accordion, which I'm used to. I can blow/suck on a harmonica, but not sure how the technique will transfer to the hands and fingers! But a usable button accordion is (I think) smaller and lighter than a usable piano accordion. Anyway, at some point I'll find an instrument shop that knows what it's doing, and do some hands-on experimentation.