Saturday, 14 November 2015

My new banjo!

So i was surfing the web and came across this rather beguiling looking banjo which I now own! Its a six string banjo, meaning a banjo that has six strings....I suppose the clue is in the name. Not exactly a new concept, these have been around since the Victorian banjo craze. The very earliest example I personally have seen is a six string banjo made in 1881 see BANJO . Not to be confused with a Zither banjo, this is a banjo that has the exact same tuning as a regular guitar but the two lowest gage strings (strings 5 & 6) tend to have lighter gage strings than a regular guitar being anywhere around 42 to a light 35 for the bottom E string. I do have a complete collection of Groves Encyclopaedia of Music & Musicians and it makes for interesting reading on the subject of the banjo and the six string banjo is clearly referenced.

So this banjo was purchased from Thomann, it's a Harley Benton six string banjo. Model BJ-65Pro, it's a heavy beast with plenty of volume much louder than its predecessor Model  HBJ-26 and considerably more ornate with nice purfling detail and decorative inlays on the headstock and fingerboard.

It was a rather odd purchase really, it was listed as unplayable which became apparent when it arrived with a broken head! Still I was able to send it to Stan Gee of Redcar a fine banjo player, collector & seller who was able to give it some TLC to make it whole again AND playable! I must say i'm now rather pleased with this banjo. I paid £70 for it and a little extra to have it fixed. My opinion is that six string banjos are best suited to traditional jazz (dixieland), folk or country style music or possibly some hybrid style of the former.
Finally, please don't call it a banjo's not a guitar! It's a banjo with six strings tuned the same as a guitar, they existed well before its more well known Bluegrass 5 string banjo. Its just a another banjo with six strings. Lots of famous people played these including Johnny St Cyr from Louis Armstrong's Hot Five to Django Reinhardt, to name but a few! 

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Laird Sky Armorial Achievement

   Anyone with more than a fleeting interest in the subject of Heraldry can do no better than sourcing a copy of  'Boutell's Heraldry'. My official Letters Patent were designed and granted by the South African Government. I rather like their egalitarian approach to heraldry.  'Anyone may apply to the State Herald for the registration of Arms, regardless of nationality, race, gender, religion, etc.'      How very different from other Heraldic authorities where one must be 'eminent' or having 'honours'  to apply or belong to a certain 'clan'. The South African  approach to heraldry is Roman-Dutch.  This law allows everyone to assume and bear arms so long as no one else's rights are infringed in the process. Social status, or service to the country, are not requirements as they are in some other countries. How refreshing and modern!
   Here is a rendition of my arms by American artist Michael Richards who is the Executive Director and Chief Heraldic Artist of,  It is a rather simple elegant design with the addition of a helm and mantling.  Michael Richards is a very approachable guy and  tends to deal with commissions in a prompt manner. His fees  are very reasonable if you are looking for a basic rendition of your coat of arms. 
    My final rendition is by English heraldic artist Dr John F. Mueller Esq. In this variation we see my arms within a 16th century style shield and helm, the shield is sometimes referred to as the papal shield, this style was popular with the Italian Roman Catholic church. I requested the colours be more subtle in this rendition. John F. Mueller  captures the achievement in a neo-romantic style with  flowing mantling and delicate attention to personalisation of the charges.
Blazon of Arms 
Arms: Per chevron Vert & Or, in chief a sackbut placed fesswise of the last and in base a thistle slipped and leaved Proper.
Crest:  A bluethroat (Luscinia svecica) Proper, perched upon a wreath of Or and Vert.
Motto:  Less is More
Registration: South African Bureau of Heraldry on 5th May 2015. Certificate number 3850