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Welcome to bluegrass and Delta program of all time American music. Today's program rounds out our series of programs given to the individual instruments commonly used in old timey music. We've heard about the mandolin autoharp and guitar. And today we'll pay some attention to the banjo and the fiddle. The origin of the five string banjo has been debated by musicologists much as the issue of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin has been debated by theologians. Some accounts favor an Asian origin for the banjo probably in India. Some theories hold out for Arabia or Ethiopia in 1781 President Jefferson declared that the instrument was actually descended from the African banjer at any rate. The banjo is familiar enough now to most people to enable us to skip a detailed description of the instrument. The American five string banjo
utilized as a top string tuned an octave above the other four as a drone. The drone effect is very similar to some styles of playing of the drone pipe of the bagpipes. In fact early banjo music was transcribed directly from bagpipe music by the settlers from the British Isles. There are a number of styles of banjo playing ranging from frailing which is closely based on the chordal structure to Scruggs style picking which is most popular in bluegrass music frailing is by far the older and more traditional. While Scruggs picking which was developed by one Earl Scruggs is a dazzling and super charged style full of adornment and syncopation. We'll hear examples of both today. Let's listen first to an old tune called Soldiers joy perform for us in fine style by John Cohn on the five string banjo.
The banjo and folk music traded some of its bright and spankie sound for the sophistication of modern styles. Roger Sprong is a champion of progressive bluegrass and utilizes a banjo in some very interesting ways. Let's hear his treatment of the Christmas carol Little Drummer Boy. Be on your toes because halfway through he has a little fun with the song and bluegrass style.
Wow I had. A head. Wound. Up the have. To have. I had. With the I have.
The violin is also an ancient instrument belonging to a whole family of boat instruments which became popular in Europe as early as the 15th hundreds. By the time the instrument reached the New World it shaped and tonal characteristics had been pretty well studied and set nonetheless a style of playing indigenous to American music developed in the colonies and particularly in the Southern Appalachian Mountain region. An excellent example of old time fiddling is perform for us next on two fiddles by Mike Seeger and Tracy Schwartz. The song is called Jenny on the railroad. Was. Lou Lou Lou O'HOY.
To hear how the banjo on the fiddle sound together let's turn to Don Stover and Xabi Anthony playing cricket on the hearth. As you can tell from the introduction the song is pretty typical of older amount and styles of music. Here's an old time number of years as the granddaddy of all of them with a fiddle in Bandra TV called Cricket on the hearth. Six six six. Thank you out. To our thanks to our.
Two hour two hour. To hour. Without.
Those funny sounding notes played by the banjo were harmonics created by holding a finger just slightly above a fret at a nodal point on a vibrating string. The harmonics called chimes by banjo players are usually the first harmonic or twice the fundamental frequency of the UN fretted strings. Next week's program is going to be about hymns on religious songs and old time music.
Bluegrass and mountains
Banjo and fiddle in old time music
Producing Organization
University of Michigan
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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This program focuses on the banjo and the fiddle, as well as their roles in old time music.
Recordings of and talk about a wide variety of old time American music.
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Host: Fidell, S. A. (Sanford A.)
Producing Organization: University of Michigan
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 66-36-5 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:14:34
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Chicago: “Bluegrass and mountains; Banjo and fiddle in old time music,” 1966-10-04, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed August 4, 2021,
MLA: “Bluegrass and mountains; Banjo and fiddle in old time music.” 1966-10-04. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. August 4, 2021. <>.
APA: Bluegrass and mountains; Banjo and fiddle in old time music. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from