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B is really for banjo

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There are a lot of B’s in the Music Section. Bach, Bax, Beethoven, Brahms, Britten, Barber, Bartok, and Bernstein, not to mention the very note B –in every octave. We can’t forget Beer, Berger and Belcher, or Badarzewska-Baranowska.

Instrumentally, we have the bass guitar, string bass, bass drum, the bari and the bamboula. The bongo drum, bagpipes, bassoon, bugle, bari sax, balalaika, and the BANJO. The banjo! The banjo cello, bass banjo, four-, five- and six- stringed banjos, the tenor banjo, the zither banjo, the banjo mandolin and the banjo ukulele.

More seriously and just as true, the banjo has a unique sound, a lot of fans, players, and a very interesting history. A significant part of that history is banjo player Bill Keith. He died, unfortunately, a couple of weeks ago. But as the New York Times noted on October 26, 2015, he “transformed banjo playing,” and “modernized [the] instrument and expanded its musical reach.” This development was an extension of the “rolling style popularized by the pioneering bluegrass banjoist Earl Scruggs in the 1940s and ’50s.” “Mr. Keith rethought what the instrument was capable of as a result of his desire to play classic fiddle melodies like “The Devil’s Dream” in linear, note-for-note fashion. In effect, he transformed the banjo from a largely percussive instrument into one with previously unforeseen melodic potential. “

“Bill Monroe, the acknowledged father of bluegrass, invited Mr. Keith to join his band, the Blue Grass Boys. The arrangement lasted only eight months, but it afforded Mr. Keith the opportunity to record with Monroe and to perform with him at festivals and at colleges throughout the Eastern United States.”

The Music Section is lucky to have some of Bill Keith’s work in its collection.

In the audio title Bluegrass Banjo (DBM00414), Keith introduces the traditional bluegrass sound as well as his own style of banjo picking. He teaches tuning, basic right hand patterns, scales and fiddle tunes, back-up rhythm, and lead techniques. The audio title also includes information about scales and chord theory that is helpful to the banjo student.

In Keith Tuners (DBM00406), he guides the reader in the use of the tuning devices needed to achieve a bluegrass banjo sound.

Both titles are audio productions of Homespun Tapes, Inc., Woodside, NY.

Beyond our Bill Keith titles, the Music Section has several dozen audio titles for the banjo player. Some are basic method books, such as Happy Traum’s 5-string banjo (DBM00426), or Béla Fleck’s Banjo picking styles (DBM02197), or Bill Brown’s Intro to the 5 string banjo for the visually impaired (DBM02266).

Other audio titles include numerous songs to learn on the banjo, all from Bill Brown. I mention only a few of the many: “I’ll Fly Away” (DBM02316); “Amazing Grace” (DBM03218); “Ballad of Jed Clampett” (DBM03219); “Kentucky Mandolin” (DBM03226); “Rocky Top” (DBM02317); “This Land is Your Land” (DBM03234); and “Oh Susannah” (DBM03228).

Although most of our holdings are audio titles, we actually have one braille and one large print title to boot. In braille, there is Bettye Krolick’s Five-string banjo chords: chord position chart (BRM22133), and in large print, we have Dick Fieldhouse’s Tenor banjo : reference book one (LPM00775).

So have some fun, break out your inner Bill Keith and learn a song on the banjo.



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