Heavy Metal Banjo and other topics
Page 1 of 1

Author:  paulrace [ Fri Dec 26, 2014 11:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Heavy Metal Banjo and other topics

A reader writes:
suggestions: I enjoy your articles with the "did God give rock and roll to you" and "what happened to the banjo?"
comment: I find your site really interesting. I'm a younger man, right around 30. I've been playing in metal bands for the better part of the last 15 or so years. Guitar is my main instrument. Recently, I've gotten into country, and am trying to create a country/metal hybrid sound. Now I understand that this might not be your thing, but bare with me. So, I went out and bought a Dean backwoods banjo, with out really knowing too much about the instrument. All I really knew is I liked the sound of the instrument, and I felt I could be creative with it. Which I have been. That's what ultimately matters as musicians right?

I read your article on the 6 string banjo. I found it to be really informative. I have to agree with the stigmas you mentioned in your "what happened to the banjo?" Even walking out of the store with a 6 stringed version, I was getting some crazy looks. I really don't care actually. I didn't buy it for them.

I'm curious to know your thoughts on Hank Williams Sr. though, and where you think he may have got his influences. I know much of it came from the blues. And there were a few performers from the 20's who were country based. Other than that, I'm sort of at a loss.

------Our Reply -----Please log in and add your own if you'd like ----------

Thanks for getting in touch. I'm glad you enjoyed the articles. BTW, having a heavy metal fan playing a banjo isn't as outrageous as you think. Except for the drawls and the pedal steels half of the "Country" music on the radio today could have passed for "hard rock" in the 1960s and early 1970s.

The button according, not so much. :-) You can probably tell, though, that I'm a fan of all kinds of music, but especially "Americana"

Regarding the ancestry of Country music, the most important precursor was the Carter family. Their earliest stuff was drawn right from the Appalachian sources that were all around them. Bluegrass was a mid-19th century invention, adding "blue notes" and a snare drum. "Texas Swing" added a particular kind of fiddle part that tended to play syncopated parts in parallel thirds, and so on. "Singing Cowboys" like Gene Autry made singing with (admittedly modified) southern accents more acceptable to general audiences.

Early Country music borrowed from all of those influences. To my ears, at least, I think that the most distinctive sounds of early Country were the results of record producers applying "popular music" elements and recording styles to songs and vocal styles that, in many cases, could have predated the Carters. That's a big IMHO - as soon as I make such a statement, someone else will come along and give Tex Avery or someone all the credit.

You're right in a sense that there isn't as much "Country" per se before Hank Sr. as you might think, but that's in part because, except for Carter family, not much was recorded that would be considered "Country" today.

Check out the Carter Family at least, and you'll see how AP Carter & Co may have been a pretty direct influence on Hank Sr. Also, Vernon Dalhart's "Wreck of the Old 97" was a huge and influential pre-Country hit. If you sang it today with a trap set, pedal steel and trap set, you'd be accused of singing "Country," but in Dalhart's day, they called it "Mountaineer Music." Here is it on You Tube:

Back to the banjo. If you got the kind with the big metal flange, and you can get the action adjusted where you need it, your lead skills will give you all kinds of advantages on the thing. I fingerpick mostly, so I found that the electric version - without the metal flange and therefore less "ring" - was more suited to my style.

Either way, I like the nice semi-Dobro sound of the lowest notes. Since I also play 5-string, I've adapted some of my picking patterns to give a general impression of bluegrass banjo, though you can't play Scruggs-style (which most people equate with Bluegrass banjo) on the thing. If I ever get a recording of what I'm talking about, I'll post it on the newsletter, which you have subscribed to. Also, if you make any recordings that would fit into the "Americana," Folk, Bluegrass, etc. genre, I'd love to hear them.

Got to run. Sorry for the long diatribe, but I hope I've given you some ideas for research.

Let me know how things progress for you - Paul

Page 1 of 1 All times are UTC - 5 hours [ DST ]
Powered by phpBB® Forum Software © phpBB Group