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The Best Glory-Beaming Banjo Posts of 2017

Well, folks, the New Year is upon us. I hope you have enjoyed the holiday season. Thank you all for reading my blog throughout the year, despite my sometimes lackadaisical frequency. This is a hobby,
and I appreciate all of your support. Keep in mind, we do have a Facebook page. Join us there to keep the conversation going. I look forward to what is to come in 2018.

For your enjoyment, here are the Top 5 Glory-Beaming posts of 2017:

  1. The Year of Ward Jarvis: Learn how I decided to put together a project to learn the repertoire of the great Athens County, Ohio, fiddler.
  2. Review: Olitsky and Moskovitz Weave Beautiful Banjo Harmonies on "Duets": A look at the banjo duets album, released earlier this year by two great players.
  3. New Additions to My Old-Time Record Collection: An overview of my budding old-time vinyl collection, including Tommy Jarrell, Ed Haley, Roscoe Holcomb and more.
  4. An Old-Time Smorgasbord in Peninsula: A preview of the wonderful Music on the Porches event in Peninsula, Ohio, which this year included Erynn Marshall, Doug Unger and Olitsky. 
  5. The Year of Ward Jarvis: Using Technology: A look at how technology can aid in learning old-time music, from software to gadgets. 

Happy New Year. Be Safe. Keep picking those banjos.


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Getting Blitzed with Tom Collins

A little more than a year ago, Salem, Massachusetts-based banjo player and teacher Tom Collins embarked on a yearlong project he called Banjo Blitz. The weekly YouTube series provided short banjo lessons on technique. Each video is about five minutes long, give or take, and presents a short pattern — or “ostinato” — designed to teach and improve a specific aspect of banjo playing.

The mission was to get the audience “to practice clawhammer in discrete chunks every day without the burden of trying to memorize tunes,” Collins says. He wanted to build skills rather than repertoire.

“Let’s take the tune off the table,” says Collins, who has been teaching banjo for 11 years. “Let’s focus on a simple, mantra-like ostinato that can train your body how to execute a technique properly, while training your ears how to hear it properly. Let’s also make it so that you can do this every day without it sucking every spare minute from your life. The big dirty secret about learning how to play an ins…

Clawhammer Picks and You: A Review

Clawhammer picks are a useful tool for increasing volume or to overcome fingernail challenges, such as broken, too short or weak nails. There are all sorts of commercial and homemade solutions available for banjo players, but it can be difficult to decide which options to choose. Thankfully, I've already done some of the work for you.
Just to be clear, I prefer my natural fingernail for frailing. However, there was a time when I experimented with regularly using a pick, and there are instances now where I find that a pick is necessary. Today, I'll take you through the five options I've tried. These are all available online at prices ranging from about $1 to $13.

Reversed/Reshaped Dunlop Pick ($0.75)
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The Ongoing Search for Ohio's Old-Time Fiddle Repertoire

Since the beginning of my journey into old-time music, I have sought to find a connection to my home state. After studying the recorded repertoire of a dozen old-time fiddlers who spent a majority of their lives in Ohio, I have compiled a master list of more than 300 tunes. By cross-referencing this list, there were 12 tunes that I identified as “common,” based on their appearance in the repertoire of at least three fiddlers. The results of my findings follow.

This is far from a scientific method or academic study. I do not claim to be a musicologist or folklore scholar. I welcome any feedback.

Common Tunes:
Arkansas Traveler BirdieCumberland GapDurang’s HornpipeForked DeerGrey EagleJune AppleLeather BritchesMississippi SawyerRaggedy AnnTurkey in the StrawWild Horse At some point I would like to put together a list of tunes that are unique to Ohio or have a particular connection to an Ohio locale, such as Lonnie Seymour’s “Chillicothe Two-Step” or Arnold Sharp’s “Anna Hayes.” However,…