What are the "Old" and "New" styles of Irish Tenor Banjo?

What are the "Old" and "New" styles of Irish Tenor Banjo?

Howdy all, long time lurker, first time poster-

I’ve read several mentions online of an "old" and a "new" style of playing the Irish tenor banjo- I can’t find exactly where right now, but I remember one place was in reference to Charlie Piggott’s work in the early incarnations of De Dannan as that of an old style player. Piggott on the banjo-
https://youtu.be/tuXMz5GOgjc


I was wondering if there is an established/accepted paradigm shift of some sort in the history of the instrument (besides the popularizations of it by American-based players in the 1920s and later with Barney McKenna in the 1960s).

I’ve been playing for a few years and am always trying to expand my perception of what has changed about my instrument over it’s relatively short history in ITM. I’ve read the article by Don Meade and a few other things, but I’m always trying to fill in the gaps. I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts!

Re: What are the "Old" and "New" styles of Irish Tenor Banjo?

Hi this question interests me too, but I can’t add any real insights, so I’d be keen to hear people’s thoughts.

To my ears I can hear a different style in playing from musicians like Paraic Mac Donnchadha, Sean Casey and Mick O’Connor, and I’m sure there are many others. It’s difficult to define but I’m hearing less use of ornamentation and more emphasis on flow and a solid rhythm. It’s a style of play that really appeals to me.

Re: What are the "Old" and "New" styles of Irish Tenor Banjo?

I’d say there’s "before Gerry O’Connor" and "after" 🙂

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Re: What are the "Old" and "New" styles of Irish Tenor Banjo?

I’d say you’re bang on the money Kenny. I have always been a supporter of the "less is more" philosophy. That coupled with the fact that the De Dannan recording is from the seventies, when Banjo technology was far removed from the precision instruments of today. I find that I admire the incredible technique of Gerry, We Banjo 3 etc. but I prefer to listen to Angelina or
Kieran Hanrahan . It’s an age thing maybe..

Re: What are the "Old" and "New" styles of Irish Tenor Banjo?

Where do you put players like Cathal Hayden, John Carty and Brian McGrath?

Re: What are the "Old" and "New" styles of Irish Tenor Banjo?

"Old", all 3. And that most certainly does not mean inferior.

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Re: What are the "Old" and "New" styles of Irish Tenor Banjo?

“ … from the seventies, when Banjo technology was far removed from the precision instruments of today.” What am I missing here? None of my banjos were made after 1929 and I think that at least some of them would be considered “precision instruments”.

Re: What are the "Old" and "New" styles of Irish Tenor Banjo?

What about regional styles? Like fiddle has Sligo style and Donegal style, etc. Does banjo (or pipes, flute, or anything else for that matter) have regional styles?

Re: What are the "Old" and "New" styles of Irish Tenor Banjo?

Here’s Darren Maloney talking to the Irish Times about Banjo style: https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/who-s-company-1.1169507

"There’s just no regional style on a banjo at all. If you put a banjo into, for example, a Sligo or Donegal set of tunes, it takes on its own life-form. It’s a very innovative instrument, and because it’s relatively new to Irish traditional music, it lends itself to a wide range of styles and sounds," he says.

I believe that Flute and Pipes have a history of regional styles yes

Re: What are the "Old" and "New" styles of Irish Tenor Banjo?

@Fred Sleator
"What am I missing here?"
In Ireland, in the seventies, decent banjos were not available widely.