The Old-Time Herald Volume 11, Number 12

Trends in Old-Time Banjo Playing Part 2: Schism
By Ray Alden
Peter Hoover. courtesy of Peter Hoover

Perhaps the word "schism" is a bit severe to apply to this section. Nonetheless, there is a certain division among the ranks of old-time banjo players, with sometimes strong feelings, that has developed as to the purpose of a banjo in old-time music. As Peter Hoover, an early Northern exponent of old-time five-string banjo playing styles, wrote:

Double-note banjo playing is only one half of a unique instrumental style which I call "face-of-the- mountain." This name is given because it was best developed along the topographic front of the Blue Ridge from mid-Virginia down to Western North Carolina. The other half is provided by the fiddle , which is always the lead instrument in this combination. The banjo, perhaps repeatedly introduced into a musical situation where the fiddle was the unquestioned leader, provided rhythmic accompaniments as well as some snatches of the melodic line, but never achieved more than a shaky a quality with the fiddle. The clawhammer banjo style has been refined by some musicians to the point that one might feel that without the fiddle the raison d'etre for a clawhammer banjo-style disappears.


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