I love James Laurie’s blog. It’s a joy to watch his progress with the banjo and to read his poetry.
Recently James posted about they way a line from The How and the Tao of Old Time Banjo helped him change they way he was approaching learning how to draw. It’s worth a read no matter what you are trying to learn: Disposable Drawings.
We leave for Johns Hopkins tomorrow morning around 3:00 AM. I have not been there for a long time because every visit turns into an exercise in pain. In fact, I used to call Johns Hopkins The House Of Pain after the classic 1932 horror film Island of Lost Souls.
So after a three hour drive into the nightmare landscape of Baltimore I’ll have a doctor up to his elbows in my ears in the House Of Pain, and then a three hour drive back to Crisfield.
It’s gonna be a long day. At least Dear Old Dad is going with me
I think every musician has an instrument in his or her imagination that they can’t get their hands on. It could be a pre-war Gibson banjo, a classic Martin dreadnought or some other rare fantastical combination of wood and wire.
At this moment, my daydream banjo does not exist anywhere but my imagination.
I would like to get my hands on a seven string banjo. Six melody strings like a guitar and the seventh similar to the fifth string of a banjo.
Why seven strings? Well, an instrument such as this would expand the range of sounds you could draw from the instrument. You would have the option between open tunings or tuning like a guitar.
It would be a heavy instrument. The pot would have to be larger and heavier to accommodate the wright of the neck. A 12″ block-laminate rim would probably do the trick. A flathead or tubaphone tone ring for projection. A tube and plate flange to attach a heavy resonator. The rim hardware should be top-tension to simplify maintenance and setup.
The seventh string should run the entire length of the neck with some sort of capo system to make it easy to adapt to any key. the tailpiece could be patterned after the no-knot. No inlays other than a Celtic knot at the fifth fret, side position markers and a Pennsylvania Dutch hex sign on the back of the resonator..
This idea is not entirely new. Banjos made during the classic banjo era sometimes had six or seven tuners on the headstock – but these extra tuners were rarely used.
I will probably never get my hands on this dream banjo, and that is okay. I already play an amazing banjo. My cup isn’t just running over, it’s practically a fountain! This imaginary banjo is just a thought experiment. Something to daydream about.