File of New Items Formerly from Home Page
Paul was "blogging" before blogs became fashionable. He simply placed notes and opinion on his home page. This is a collection of all the "new" items I could find.
Paul marked all these entries with this animated icon. I've removed all the icons. I have also reformatted dates so they are meaningful internationally. The use of a sans-serif font on this page is accurate; Paul used Arial for these items and Times New Roman for almost everything else. Paul used italics for these items, which I've removed for readability.
Paul was taken ill on August 8, 2006. After his surgery he did make a few updates to the site, but the August 4 posting directly below was his last "new" item.
04 Aug 2006 - If you are a user of Windows XP and have installed Windows Genuine Advantage (aka WGA, available since late April) be appraised it is without a doubt spyware, calling home to an external server (MS) with personal information regularly, and rewriting code on your machine without telling you. For a clear discussion please see these pages:
Paul placed four links here to articles at the Windows Secrets newsletter. I have removed the links because they no longer exist. Windows Secrets is now AskWoody.
- 1. A new worm has hit the ether that masquerades as Windows Genuine Advantage Validation Notification.
- 2. A class action suit was filed on Monday 6-26-30 alleging that WGA violates consumer protection laws in California and Washington states as well as other laws against spyware.
10 Jul 2006 - It is always a welcome surprise in today's marketplace to encounter a company which has excellent products and puts the customer first long after the sale. I offer the Spanish fountain pen manufacturer Inoxcrom as one of these. Fountain pens tend to be either very good, or very bad.... I write about 3 pp. a day in longhand with an Inoxcrom fountain pen similar to the one linked above, and after 8 years of smooth daily use had a minor and self inflicted problem with it. Without going into details, Robyn Insetta at the USA branch of the of the company more than went the extra mile for me, and I am back on track again. I also now have a new Inoxcrom Atlantic pen as I lurk on the edge of PenAquistionSyndrome. Quality fountain pens feel good to use, unlike nasty cheap disposable pens.....
07 Apr 2006 - The Don Reno Workshop is online at Tony Geoghegan's Banjo Hollow, authored by Jason Skinner. It is not a collection of Don Reno tabs, rather a true workshop into Don's thinking and creativity. You will have to think too, and this can result in luring out more of your creativity. Tab junkies and those stuck in the idea of the "right" way to play a tune may exempt this course.
03 Apr 2006 - Added The Underground History of American Education to the reading list.
04 Mar 2006 - Added Paul Kovac's name to the Monroe banjo player's list.
15 Jan 2006 - Over the last 10 plus years, you may have met Todd Wright, one of the real good guys of the banjo/ bluegrass instrument business as a representative at the Gibson booth at festivals around the country. I first met him in Palo Alto CA about 1992. Todd is now working with Deering Banjo Company and is the Director of Artist Relations and Events. He will be doing festivals and working with artists and continues to be based out of the Nashville area. I wish him well in his new venue, and believe, like Slartibartfast, that "great things are afoot."
16 Dec 2005 - Gestalt Banjo Vol. 1 is now completely out of print and out of stock, pending revision to the second edition. It is out of print because I can present the material more wisely now with 7 years more life experience, and I will not offer anything but my very best to the market. "Good enough" isn't, that is settling for mediocrity and is an insult to the learner. The old sample pages are still on the site as a courtesy, and may be revised there.
My thanks to all those who purchased and hopefully benefited from the first edition. I would also like to thank Dan McIntee, Stan Werbin and all the folks at Elderly Instruments who were the sole retail source for the last few years. The final and most abundant printing was the 9th (see the bottom of p. 2) which also has the color cover with a vellum overlay. These were almost all sold through Elderly Instruments.
Until the Second Edition (GBv1SE ??) is released if ever, if you want a copy, I suggest signing on to the discussion group at the Banjo Hangout and asking to purchase a copy there including how much you are willing to pay. I'll suggest putting "I will pay $xx" in the thread header, which starts the negotiation. The number can always be edited. This is very different from the nebulous message of "I want to buy a copy", right? Judging from the results of those who have been successful, persistence is needed, just as in actually learning to play.
I have watched the used market, and a fair percentage of those who say they want to buy are unsuccessful, their queries unanswered. I see this as caused by caution and lack of clarity of purpose, where the more important agenda is to not pay too much or sell for too little, whatever that nebulous amount is. Simply put, they have not actually offered anyone enough value to obtain one, that's all. Saying "I want to buy" is not at all the same as saying "I will pay $yy," in the thread subject by choice, and then monitoring and raising the offer until the trade is consummated. It is just like the stock market, bid and asked.
It is the way it is.
05 Dec 2005 - Added playing dates for Harley Bray to the Monroe player's list. Thanks to Harley for writing and supplying the information.
08 Nov 2005 - Here is the restoration the real thing, the Gibson RB-75 that was Don Reno's main banjo for about 30 years. One point I do not agree with in this webpage is the phrase "...pioneered by Earl Scruggs...." implying he invented the bluegrass picking style and Don copied. This is a common error. In fact both the two knew each other, both learned from Snuffy Jenkins, and Earl used to come down to WSPA in about 1940 to listen to Don play on the radio and learn from him. This is documented in Don's interviews and autobiography. Also, Monroe offered Don the first shot at being the final piece of the Bluegrass sound, but Don was on a patriotic bent, and went into the Army by first choice, went to Burma with Merrill's Marauders, and amazingly survived. By the time he got back home and recovered from his wounds, Monroe had found Earl.
On returning to the states, Don was bitterly disappointed, and resolved not to be known as a copyist of Scruggs. When he played with Monroe after Scruggs, he played in a similar style to Earl, because it was what Bill wanted. He described it as "Old hat to me."
His lifetime output of music is testimony to his success in that goal. Studying Reno and grasping what he did, how he thought, how he continued to innovate and grow until his death in 1984, is a graduate course after learning basic Scruggs style.
11 Nov 2005 - Added another provisional section of Gestalt Banjo Vol 2: What is Don Reno Doing?
19 Oct 2005 - Added a provisional section of Gestalt Banjo Vol Zero: The Map.
17 Sep 2005 - Added another provisional section of Gestalt Banjo Vol 2: Music Theory Isn't.
08 Sep 2005 - What the hell actually happened to engender the anarchy that happened in New Orleans? This link has the most clear thinking, plausible explanation I've seen for the core problem, and it is still not being reported on the main media. I feel the Administration screwed up too, they are all part of a morass, and the outright blaming of Bush for the murder, rape and looting is not correct.... http://tiadaily.com/php-bin/news/showArticle.php?id=1026
01 Sep 2005 - I've posted a quick and dirty cutaway sketch of a new design Gotoh 5th string banjo tuner. This comes from actually disassembling and assessing one. It is very cleverly designed and well made, and is a major step forward into the new century as it were..... it solves the problems and drawbacks of the 70's worm and peg design like Schaller, Waverly, etc. The action is very smooth and the choice of materials is excellent for both wear and function. The housing is brass, not weaker/ hard to plate to / wear prone die cast zinc, and is machined on a 4 axis CNC.
The USA agent for these tuners is Bobbi Geyer at WindyStrings.com, pricing is excellent. And no, you can't just do it your way yet, use your online credit card ..... you will need to send money by mail or PayPal.. Her shipping cost is real too, $4 S&H for $3.51 postage to me plus a box.
As an aside, I still like the concentric Waverly/ SM 5th peg design, esp for left hand banjos. There is a rumor there is tooling for left handed 5ths string new design Gotoh ones, and a few actually exist.......
The peghead tuners have been recently redesigned too... smooth, nice. I have not disassembled one of these....yet.....
08 Aug 2005 - Pat Cloud has outlined a non traditional banjo learning approach he is developing on the Banjo Hangout and plans to offer in a few months. Pat is one of my mentors by example, not by direct lessons. He was around in LA during my formative banjo years, and was breaking the limits. He blew away my excuses by example.
Candidly, Pat is at the top of my very short list for most complete, accomplished banjoist on the planet.
Any new and well though out approach deserves careful scrutiny and test, because while everyone learns to speak, a conservative 95+% of those who begin to learn to do music fail and quit. Results count, and this failure rate is abominable.
For those who are quick to point out the parallels to Suzuki, and where are all the Suzuki kids, the answer is after a while they got shoved into real lessons, had their enthusiasm and joy killed, and most bailed out in favor of more satisfying use of their lifetime.
Paul respected Pat Cloud so much that he kept an Easter egg on his site. If you found it and clicked on it, you would be taken to Pat's site. He never told anyone about this and never wrote about it on his site; only those of us who found it knew. I have removed he Easter egg but you can just go to Pat's site.
05 Jul 2005 - This is one of the best threads yet on the Banjo Hangout. Kudos to Ryan Herr, who seems to have the needed grizzly in salmon season viewpoint. ;^)
An intrinsic flaw in the way bluegrass banjo is actually commonly taught/ studied is the avoidance of listening and structure, rather jumping right to procedure..... tunes, tunes, tunes, training human CD players with little depth of understanding or feeling and internal hearing of what they are doing. This discussion, just started as I type this, may shed some light on solutions and paths you can take to change the situation for yourself.
02 May 2005 - Updated 5-2-05 There are now over 1000 copies of Gestalt Banjo vol 1 in print. The growing acceptance of the strategies and concepts as a way of getting past some of the traps and flaws in the way banjo is usually taught is gratifying. One thrust is to have people internalize and understand the system of music and the instrument. This then provides a solid foundation for playing, and they can apply tunes, procedures and motifs wisely on this foundation, becoming one with their music. As a small gesture of my thanks to the banjo learning community, I decided this copy would be provided free to the purchaser.
Copy #1000 included a bound in envelope containing a self addressed postal card good for the rebate of the purchase price. The lucky purchaser is in St. Albans, Vermont (lovely country) and the check has been dispatched today. I would not post his name without prior permission, which I do not have.
23 Apr 2005 - Added Wayne Norman's assessment of the Morgan Monroe Archtop banjo..
12 Apr 2005 - A topic worthy of reading and mulling over on the Banjo Hangout: My Banjo is better than yours! neener, neener. See also banjopsych107. As a sidebar, the childlike "neener, neener" sound is a descending minor third and shows up in children of all cultures in the same way. It appears to be hardwired into human beings.....
23 Mar 2005 - FireFox 1.0.2 is released, use the banner at the bottom of the page to get this free (and for today anyway) better browser. It is good enough and popular enough that MS has reversed their position of no browser releases after IE6.01 and will issue IE7, betas to be available probably in the summer, IE7.01 (?) in the late fall. This is good, the entire community can benefit.
FF 1.0pr is still the version of choice for W95, you may need an updated oleaut32.dll, either from 98se or get DC95inst.exe from Microsoft and install.
28 Feb 2005 - Large gallery of Earl Scruggs photos from the Nashville Tennessean.
17 Feb 2005 - Added a page about FireFox 1.0 for Win95 (the easy way).
This page is missing. It may become available to me at a later time.
August 2020: I have Paul's hard drives and examined them exhaustively looking for this page. It is not there. But it doesn't matter - if Paul was alive today, he'd still be recommending Firefox as the best, most private browser.
25 Jan 2005 - CAVEAT EMPTOR eBay banjo scams are on the dramatic rise in the last 2 weeks, usually copies of an eBay instrument listing within the previous few months. They tend to be offered from Europe, want a cash payment that is untraceable like cash, cashier's check, credit card, wired money...no PayPal, no USA escrow (check the phone,... is it in the USA?.) Other clues are a seller with no history, who has just signed on to eBay, a 2 or 3 day auction (take the money and run).....
Here are some discussion on these on the Banjo Hangout... Bottom line, if it seems too good to be true, and especially if it is outside of the USA/Canada, it probably is...too good to be true.
There will be more threads, this is not going to go away soon.
Synopsis: Elsewhere on this site I implore people to travel and actually play the instrument that interests them. You can make all the justifications you want to avoid this, travelling and trying as needed. If you handle the instrument first hand, you will never be the victim of this kind of scam.
It's your money. And we are talking thousands of dollars, not to mention your pride if you get duped.
08 Oct 2004 - I received 2 Gibson style resonators today from Gill Manufacturing for some projects I have. Scott Zimmerman put me onto this source, and I am grateful. I bought a mahogany and a figured walnut one; they are excellent in construction and surface finish, especially the inside. They also came packed in the very smooth wood turnings from making them...a nice touch.
Steve's service was good, his prices more than fair, he kept me appraised of progress as the parts were being made, and he obviously cares about what he does. Recommended.
30 Sep 2004 - The time has come to get clear of MS Internet Explorer and it's documented and unfixable (ever) security flaws. The US Dept. of Homeland Security has even come out in early summer after the June 2004 Russian Hacker incident and said this.... use some other browser. This is an unprecedented public statement. I've been using earlier versions of FireFox for several months now and recommend them as a free, full featured, up to date and open source browsers with lots of nifty add on extensions, etc. A sojourn through the Mozilla/ FireFox site will be a revelation if all you have ever used is IE.
Put FireFox in as your primary browser, and keep IE in the system as the non default browser, because you will need it for Windows updates, Microsoft will only recognize their own IE browsers for this. For everything else, use Firefox. Available for Windows, Mac, Linux, other O/S too.
28 Sep 2004 - YAHOOOOO! - Wanted, first issued as King 718 on LP (vinyl) by Reno and Smiley is back in print, now on CD as Gusto/King KG-0541.copyright 2003. This is one of the must have recordings for someone who is ready to move beyond the confines of Scruggs style and continue developing as a musician. Don Reno is the man who actually WROTE most of the book on bluegrass banjo picking exclusive of the across the strings Keith/ melodic/ chromatic approach, and continued to innovate at least into the 70's. There is also hope to have the superb King 787 and 861 reissued soon on CD by Gusto/King/Hollywood too. King 1065 has been reissued as Hollywood CD HCD-227. Get all 4 whenever you can.
There is a superb compendium of Don Reno recordings in Excel on Will Fastie's site.
26 Sep 2004 - Added Gene Roberts to the list of Monroe banjo players. This info courtesy of Bill Gokey, who was around Nashville at the time.
15 Aug 2004 - It appears that Gibson is changing their acoustic instrument marketing strategy. I am very much in favor of inducing people to actually play the instrument FIRST which they are contemplating buying. Crying about the cost of gas to drive a few hundred miles when you are contemplating spending several (2-8) thousand USA dollars on a banjo is being stuck in poverty thinking. It also puts the onus squarely on the dealer to provide a set up, well adjusted instrument, and for the buyer to be responsible for their choice.
Paul usually kept a tune on his home page that would play automatically when a visitor arrived. He had several notes here about those tunes.
15 Aug 2004 - Changed the tune again... the last one was temporary. This one is musical and rolls right along too.
13 Aug 2004 - Added some comments about the very useful TablEdit tabbing software to the banjo software page.
03 Aug 2004 - Banjo Hangout is raffling off a new Gibson Earl Scruggs Golden Deluxe banjo this month.
21 Jul 2004 - There is a beta version of TablEdit (v2.64 beta 05 ) which will open TabRite (*.bjo, *.gui) tablature files. It was sent to the anointed TE beta testers on 7-19. It has not been released to the general public yet. Watch the TablEdit site for the release, probably soon. This is a very worthwhile feature, there are a lot of TabRite files out there.
19 Jul 2004 - I agree with Joe Z. Emphatically......except for the thing about having or not having innate musical talent..the end of item 6, in the parentheses.
05 Jul 2004 - 7-5-04 Added Bill Mathieu's book Harmonic Experience to the reading list. I am Grasshopper. Not for dabblers.
03 Jul 2004 - Added Wayne Sowers to the list of Monroe banjo players.
16 Jun 2004 - I want to thank my ISP SierraTel and give them kudos. A few days ago I had a minor email problem, and it was fixed quickly and easily. Today one of the technical staff at STI gave me an unexpected follow up call called to confirm that everything was working well. This is significantly more personal and caring service than I have heard of at some other servers...... If you are in Central California and displeased with your ISP, consider STI.net who include excellent virus and spam filtering in their service.......
11 Jun 2004 - The next batch of Gold Star reissue banjos will ship to the dealers the starting week of June 14.
07 Jun 2004 - Janet Deering mentioned to me at the January NAMM trade show that they would convert existing Deering banjos over to the Tenbrooks (traditional bell foundry tone ring) configuration. Starting in January 2005, Deering will retrofit your Deering neck and resonator (Sierra and above) with the entire Tenbrooks drum assembly for US$2880. Janet tells me that the initial customer response to the recently shipped first Tenbrooks banjos has been "terrific" and gave specific examples which I suspect will show up on the Deering Banjos website.
01 Jun 2004 - There is a review of the new Gold Star GF-85 in Banjo Newsletter for June 2004. It was done by Mike Kropp, who has a '34 RB3 and an '81 Gold Star JDC. This puts him in a good position to assess.
31 May 2004 - On p. 5 of Gestalt Banjo I wrote "When you make progress it will be shown by an external event, often a seemingly odd coincidence. I enjoy noticing these events." I had one happen last night and I am very pleased...nay, excited and enthused......
I was playing fiddle tunes on the guitar last night while the pasta was cooking... very into the feel and the sound. The notes were clear and clean, I was rocking and foot tapping with the meter..all very precise....When I stopped I happened to look at the pick... and the tip was gone! It was lying on the floor. I had automatically adjusted for the breakage, and the sound was still clean and bright and in time... I like this.
As an aside, I did have one similar unexplainable instance in a banjo contest 22 years ago where the fingerpicks were coming off, and I got them back on my fingers tightly while still playing ... in time... I think Dillard was a judge, come to think of it... I have no conscious idea how I did either of these things.
29 May 2004 - I have tried out Bob Perry's cobalt plated fingerpicks with a pair of unused reissue Nationals (NP-2) in comparison with an un-plated set of the same. The plated picks ARE slicker. The plating job is very well done, and compared side by side with (new) un-plated picks the surface is considerably bluer in caste. This works. Inexpensive too. Elderly Instruments among others has some.
07 May 2004 - It occurred to my while driving today that the reader may jump to the conclusion on reading my feelings about Gibson (below) that I am anti Gibson. This idea could be strengthened by my write ups on Asian banjos. To put it in the clear, I am not anti/pro Gibson, anti/pro American, anti/pro Asian, or anti/pro Antarctican banjos. I like good, emotion grabbing, easy to play, pretty, well made instruments. Period. Even if they are made in Zimbabwe by migrant Iraqis. FWIW I have owned 3 Gibson banjos and still have one I have owned for the last 26 years.
I feel the discussions linked below are very valuable. They are a part of the research you need to do in buying a new instrument, no matter the brand. I urge you to become a very educated consumer, and travel as needed to physically play as many instruments as you can. One will speak to you.
04 May 2004 - I believe that service is what earns profit, and a company that truly puts the customer first will prosper beyond their wildest dreams and projections by word of mouth advertising...The reverse holds also. Gibson's business model has been the subject of talk and often dismay for a long time, probably since the group of Kalamazoo businessmen bought out Orville Gibson in 1903. See http://www.banjohangout.org/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=11479 for a discussion.
If you have had a problem with a new Gibson banjo or customer service on one, I urge you to go to and read the entire ongoing discussion here (http://www.banjohangout.org/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=11109). Here is where to talk about your experiences and make contact with men who say they are committed to fixing problems. The Internet is new piece of the company/ dealer / customer puzzle, and offers venues where you the end user can put any dirty laundry (if it exists) on the line worldwide for all to see. Gibson has demonstrated a record of not caring about the condition of instruments as sold by their dealers to customers despite their protestations to the contrary. The statements of the Gibson representatives on this Banjo Hangout thread that they are committed to quality, but once it leaves the plant and is at the dealer's it is no longer their problem are at odds to one another, i.e. it is doublespeak.
In my view the corporation finds it cheaper to move them out, including to the mass marketers of their guitars where the money really is as well as to the shops that do understand banjos. It is shown on this thread that it is far from unknown for new Gibson banjos at mass market retailer's mega stores to be in somewhere between mediocre to unplayable condition, a sad state of affairs for all parties. The ongoing business model reported in the thread is to maybe fix them afterward if the customer is dogged enough....except unlike a faulty car, the selling dealer who got the profit may not be competent to fix any problems. Gibson claim on the Banjo Hangout that everything that goes out the door passes a 3 person QC committee... if this is so then the reported 21 fret banjo (when normal is 22) that Gibson sent to Australia must have passed the quality test... See the last post on the page at http://www.banjohangout.org/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=10068. Gibson initially denied it existed when contacted by the dealer.
The banjo part of Gibson is very small in comparison to the electric guitar volume, and exists mostly for image. CEO Henry Juszkiewicz (a.k.a. "Henry") of Gibson is a Harvard MBA and has aggressively taken the company he bought for $5MYN in 1986 to a $250MYN a year company today, introducing new innovations to the industry like the recent digital guitar. It is very unlikely any change in the way Gibson/ Henry does business will occur until banjo sales fall dramatically. The customers can only speak with their pocketbooks. The discussions on the Banjo Hangout can help to catalyze change, making things better for everyone. If the presence of "Gibson" on the peghead for associative image is sufficient to cause the public to continue to support a 20% a year growth in Gibson banjo sales, nothing will change. Henry is the only one that can actually change things materially. The guys answering for Gibson now are pretty sure to have their hands tied.
On 05/01/2004 at 14:12:56 A spokesperson speaking for Gibson/OAI posted on the forum that he feels company private business practices are not addressable in the forum, only consumer problems are. I submit that they are effectively one and the same. It is the sum of Gibson's business practices that are at issue and need to be unfurled for all to understand. Then potential customers can make an informed decision to purchase or go elsewhere. That is my entire purpose...allowing the customer to make a wise choice based on their needs and values. FWIW I have owned 3 Gibson banjos and still have one I have had for 26 years. One caveat to this entire subject: any poster can change what is on the Banjo Hangout thread that will be viewed....so what is said at one time may be gone tomorrow. This is a manifestation of the shifting sands of propaganda control which is possible in world we now live in.
22 Apr 2004 - I got hooked in to answering a typical customer inquiry about GF85's recently about the "prewar sound" and comparison to other instruments. It won't happen again. My answer is very to the point and applicable to any new banjo purchase. It is not what you get from the average retailer.
11 Apr 2004 - Added the feedback comments of banjo instructor Michael Telzrow of Richmond Hill, GA to the Gestalt Banjo ad page.
08 Apr 2004 - Now even better with additional info from cognoscenti: the history of the National fingerpick.
29 Mar 2004 - The first 20 or so Gold Star reissue banjos are in the country and will be at the dealers soon. I have received an email from a man who has picked up and now has GF-85 #0300015 in his possession. He purchased it through Gryphon Music in Palo Alto, California. They got 2, have kept one in the store for display.. If you are near there, you might want to check it out. Hands on, ears on testing counts. His exact quote is "It sounds pretty sweet."
27 Mar 2004 - NON BANJO ITEM. NASA has successfully flown the X-43A, a scramjet (supersonic combustion ramjet) vehicle. This accomplishment is well termed a Holy Grail of aero technology leading to faster, higher flight. It has been a long time coming, since the 50's anyway. The air breathing vehicle flew at slightly over Mach 7, about 5,000 mph (8,000 km/h).
A few hours after the successful flight of the X-43A today, one of the safety guys at NASA Dryden told me about it... (he is a 2 old Gold Star and new BR260 Blueridge owner too). He was driving home from Edwards AFB, stopped in at the local music store.
NASA as a business needs a win, this is very good. I don't recall ever hearing of a successful scramjet flight before. It also means follow on X-43C may not die. Continuing work on the X-43C is on the chopping block as part of the revisions arising from the president's unwise announcements about changing the foci of NASA. Major shakeups are in the planning stages. This triumph will help funding issues for a lot of programs. Please write your congressman in support or continuing the X-43 program, since NASA has proven this long dreamed technology of flight which could lead to hugely faster transport between continents, and to faster development of non atmospheric projects.
I think the first major scramjet was the Republic XF-103, a very science fictioney looking bird with both turbojet and scramjet engines. Never built. By '58, it had been dead a bit, because a chief aerodynamicist at Republic told me a little about it when I asked. This was prior to my graduating from high school and going to RPI in Aero. Eng'r'g.. My father knew the guy because dad got him a job teaching math at Hofstra College briefly while he was a target of McCarthy era witch hunting and his security clearance was pulled. My father taught math there from '46 to '56.
24 Mar 2004 - Added sighting of a 5 string Canora banjo to the entry level Asian banjos pages, with a tip of the hat to Wayne Robinson of New Zealand.
12 Mar 2004 - I just got a copy of my long time 5 string mentor Bill Knopf's latest CD Begin the Beguine, and I'm going to plug it here. No hard core bluegrass, rather swing, fiddle tunes, 20's, a Beatles tune (When I'm 64) and a Creedence Clearwater Revival one (Looking Out My Backdoor). Pushes the limits of the genre again, ... and good, enjoyable music. I was very lucky to encounter and learn from him in the 70's.....he was instrumental (pun) in helping me push back my self imposed limits.. like, here was this regular guy who played things like Nola, Follow the Leader, and Maple Leaf Rag right in front of me...was 'way beyond the Scruggs limits.....a lot of times over three years... From Elderly.
04 Mar 2004 - Spread the 3 pages of quality Asian banjo descriptions onto 4 pages, so that each page is still under 32k.
25% or so of the Windows users worldwide are still using W9x, and if still using FAT file system under W95 the clusters are 32k. The average connection is around 40k too. Keeping the pages under this size speeds loading and lessens slack. I'm still using W95a/FAT to maintain this site too, though my move to triple booting of W98SE and separate SuSE Linux installations with KDE and Gnome desktops on their own dedicated HDD's is very near. See bottom of this page about this too.
There is a lot under 'G'.
Paul was very concerned about the ability of folks to gain unfettered access to his site, so he tried to make all his pages as "light" as he possibly could, an admirable goal.
I wanted to make sure I kept true to this spirit but I wanted to do it based on fact, not guesswork. I instrumented the site with Google Analytics, which provides a statistical analysis of traffic. As of March 2007, only 5% of visitors use Windows ME or earlier; 2% already use Vista and almost all the rest use XP. Paul would be disappointed to learn that a trifling 0.5% of his visitors use Linux. Just over 12% use dial-up and the rest use some form of high-speed connection.
Clearly, the vast majority of visitors will not be affected by larger pages.
A concern that Paul did not express publicly was the limited bandwidth provided by his hosting company. Breaking up the Asian Banjo pages, his most popular, helped him to reduce the impact on his bandwidth and stay within his hosting limits.
I have plenty of bandwidth and the number of visitors affected by larger pages is small, but I will do my best to keep the site accessible and fast for everyone. Most of the pages I've converted so far are either the same size or smaller than the original even though the content is identical, one of the great benefits of CSS.
Update, October 2007: Dialup is now used by less than 5% of all visitors. 87% use Windows, with less than 4% of those using Windows ME or earlier. Vista is up to 8%. Macintosh users almost hit 10%. Paul would be pleased at the increase in Linux-based visitors, now up to 3.5%.
Update, January 2009: Dialup is now used by less than 4% of all visitors.
Update, August 2020: Dialup is now insignificant; Google no longer measures it. Devices running iOS or Android make up a larger portion of visits, while Linux has fallen off dramatically. Pages remain light and thus the performance of the site is high, as Paul would have wanted.
06 Feb 2004 - Corrected the URL's to the vintage Japanese banjo catalogs online on the Asian banjo catalogs page. They will work now, I just checked ...
21 Jan 2004 - Added pictures of the first new Gold Star to the Asian banjos pages, and this page (above).
18 Jan 2004 - Deering has announced the Tenbrooks series of Deering banjos at NAMM, which have at their core a flat head tone ring cast in the 600 year old Swiss Rüetschi Bell Foundry. Jens Krüger has been in the middle of this project interfacing with the foundry, and the result is wondrous.... I played them and they are very musical and very quick to respond, sort of like a lyrical old flathead with the response of a 20's 40 hole archtop.....a joy to play. The premium for this tone ring alone is a bit over $2000. All Tenbrooks models have the lovely and balanced Paramount peghead shape. It also has a Greg Deering redesigned and neat adjustable tailpiece and new design Deering tuners, both just announced at the show.
I played 2 different ones (mahogany and maple) it for about a hour or two yesterday....it is the real thing.
04 Jan 2004 - Added Highland Big Sky banjos to the Asian banjos list.
03 Jan 2004 - While I personally am disinclined to use Windows XP (see bottom to this page), there are some plusses. Windows Media Player 9 has a speed control to change speed without changing pitch, making transcribing easier. It only works with Windows XP variants, Win95 tops out at WMP 6.4, W98 at ??, for these I suggest using Chronotron and Winamp 2.xx. Screenshot of WMP9 speed control. The feature can be controlled from this panel or using keystrokes -- Ctrl+Shift+S for slow (.5), Ctrl+Shift+N for normal (1.0), and Ctrl+Shift+G (Gadzooks, that's fast?) for fast (2.0).
01 Jan 2004 - Banjo Hangout thread on learning to play by ear. Impatience is the enemy, learning to hear the necessity. Hearing and discerning is a learned skill...as is knowing where a sound is on the banjo, without looking. An analogy is someone can speak a letter sound or word to you and you can type that on a keyboard... without thought or looking, instantly. You did all the individual pieces of work to make that happen......
"A man can swallow many beliefs, but until he digests them they do not become a part of him". - Persians, AKA Iraqis.
Here is how to move toward this, a specific strategy. Either right click on the Hangout page and put a link to your desktop (in Windows), or copy the entire discussion and save it as a document file, txt or doc or whatever. Read and reread the entire thread twice a day for 30 days. What is over your head at the beginning will be gradually processed by your brain, and you will gain insights. It won't be all over your head any more, this is the process to demand your mind unravel the new and different. The ideas in the thread come fast and furious. To grasp this stuff is going to take interrupting your normal habits, and 2 readings a day is doing just that. This thread will be gone and forgotten in a few days... unless you take conscious steps to latch on to it and the wisdom it contains.
There are some real jewels of wisdom there to mull on. One is
"As crazy as all of this might sound don't forget that the tab-based approach seems to operate under the assumption that if you emulate the finger movements of some veteran banjo player you can bypass all of that time developing as a musician and go right into playing lead." (Quoted with permission)
31 Dec 2003 - Added banjomaker's discussion group (which includes a large archive of posts) to the links page: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/banjomakers/.
29 Dec 2003 - There is an interview with Earl Scruggs in the NPR Fresh Air archives for 10-16-03. Very surprisingly he takes credit here for inventing/ developing the Carolina (bluegrass) style of 3 finger banjo playing all by himself, which just is not so. He did not live in a vacuum. Specifically, both he and Don Reno learned a lot from Snuffy Jenkins, whom, according to Reno, was playing Dear Old Dixie on the local radio stations just as smooth as anyone in 1935. Snuffy was the first one to put on metal fingerpicks and play the style on the radio in the area. Reno was always very good about remembering his influences and mentors, but the Scruggs publicity machine has not always been so mindful.
Bill Keith mentioned in a 2 day workshop I attended in January 1979 that Earl heard Fischer Henley play Home Sweet Home in Earl's front room in Flint Hill NC when Earl was 6 ( i.e. in 1930). He said that Earl's recording of HSH 30 years later on the Foggy Mountain Banjo album is for all intents and purposes identical to Fischer Henley playing it on a 1930ish recording that is in the Library of Congress. It is played with 3 fingers, has syncopated melody, but is built out of the backward roll with the melody in chords on the first string as a 20's plectrum banjoist might play it. It is the only tune in Earl's repertoire that works this way, and is a tribute to his musical memory. It seems the best description of what just "came to" Earl when he was playing Ruben is realizing the 3 finger thing...not inventing the Carolina style..........
Earl also alludes in the interview (though does not actually say) the current production Gibson banjos are just like the old ones (prewar) which is not so either. They are good, and not the same.... and he undoubtedly gets a commission on each Earl Scruggs model sold.
29 Dec 2003 - Added The Banjo: Your Battle Buddy by Mike Moxley. This guy writes well..... :^)
05 Nov 2003 - There is a very good and passionate thread going on the Banjo Hangout Advice discussion list, which sprang up on the thread titled Describing setup/tone of Bela Fleck's banjo?...... it is about the value and effect of Talent and Practice as catalysts to achieving great things in playing. There is food for thought here...not to be embraced or discarded at once, but rather chewed on and digested. The discussion shifts focus about half way down the first page, with the post by banjoboyone on - 11/03/2003 : 09:16:06, from Fleck's instrument features to Fleck's accomplishments.
10 Oct 2003 - The added pages of Gestalt Banjo as mentioned in the October 2003 issue of Banjo Newsletter are at Hand Position and the new Appendix 6. These are plain html versions which do not include tables or the unnecessary colored background.
If you have the book already, you can get the update free. These 2 links include 4 of the 5 pages of the expanded printing, the other changes are mostly in the references, and I think the reading list more than covers the added items. There is also a corrected typo p. 52. The 8th line down needs to read;
counting - ONE ee and ah two ee and ah TWO ee and ah two ee and ah THREE ee and ah two ee and ah. etc
Elderly Instruments is now shipping the new printing.
Last updated 04 Aug 2006 by PJH
Updated 03 Aug 2020 by WF