Tune of the Week: Breton Banjo

As a way to motivate myself, as well as show folks what i am working on, I am going to strive and post a tune a week here to the blog.  It might be solo guitar, some flute, maybe some overdubbed things once i get my Presonus Mobile interface.  It won’t always be perfect, I am messing around with ideas for an eventual new cd, so alot of this stuff will still be unpolished. 

This first tune is a pair of Breton tunes I play on open back five string banjo, in the clawhammer style.  Yes, I know not a typical use for the clawhammer banjo, but they just fit.  I learned them from my friend Bryan Owens, who plays in the Portland Breton band, Mistral.  He recorded them on an older cd of his entitled Bryan’s Bizarre.  I changed the key of the second tune to fit the banjo. 

  Bretonbanjo by AntonEmery

My banjo is an old Lyon and Healy with a spun over rim. If i can manage to take some decent pictures perhaps I will post them.  Its tuned gDGCD, though these tunes are normally in A minor.  I didn’t want to tune my drone string up to A and risk breaking it.  I string it with Aquila nylon strings.

I enjoy playing banjo alot, the clawhammer style is just plain fun.  One day I would like to have someone build me a banjo, perhaps local maker Brooks Masten.

Comments 4

  1. I was wondering if those were nylon strings. What a great sound!

    I was looking at a friend's great-grandfather's violin, which only has two strings left on it, which are both gut strings 80+ years old. I was surprised at how fat they were. I wonder what they'd sound like, but I wouldn't buy a gut set for myself, and that violin is in such poor shape, I doubt it could withstand having those two strings tuned up to pitch. Maybe I'll see if anyone makes nylon strings for violins…

  2. Thanks William. I am pretty happy with the sound, though I like steel strings too. Nylon makes it harder to drop thumb on the inner strings, due to the lesser tension. At least for me. But steel strings chew up my nail to much, which sucks when i want to fingerpick the guitar.

    Gut strings on fiddle would be interesting. I wonder what that would sound like.


  3. Very very nice. I am a huge fan of traditional Celtic music and discovered you on Marc Gunn's Irish & Celtic Music podcast. Plan to purchase some of your tunes. Am wondering if you plan to record any banjo tunes such as the one posted on this blog?
    P.S. In CA but a former Oregonian from back in the day… way before you were born!

  4. Thanks alot Jane! I am glad you are enjoying the music, that means alot.

    Yea, I will mostly likely be recording some banjo and other things on my next cd, which probably won't happen for a year or so. I would like to record an album with different sounds, some solo banjo like you heard here, perhaps some flute and guitar, and maybe bring in a few other musicians on mandolin or percussion.

    Check back here for more tunes, I am going to try and post something every week.



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