Homegrown Music and Homemade Musical Instruments: Instrument Maintenance, Music Magazines, and More

The columnist covers a range of subjects in this installment of Homegrown Music, including instrument repair and music magazines.

| May/June 1980

  • 063 homemade instruments
    Marc Bristol and other Washington State grassroots musicians wail away on a gutbucket, washboard, and jug ( the axe is a gag). Inset shows gutbucket "notch and bevel" detail. 

  • 063 homemade instruments

Even homesteaders need to relax and enjoy themselves from time to time, right? And almost everybody these days wants to cut his or her cost of living. So how about a little do-it-yourself entertainment?

That's what this column is about. Homegrown music... and sometimes homemade musical instruments to play it on.

Well, folks, I've been bringing you Homegrown Music for over two years now! And, in those dozen or so issues of MOTHER, I've tried to share every bit of useful information—about musical products, services, kits, etc.—that I could uncover. Yet there have been some items that reached me too late to be included in a column devoted to their particular subject ... and others that I never got around to classifying at all.

But—while I was sifting through my files recently—I discovered that some of the long-forgotten morsels were simply too good to pass up, so I decided to put together a sort of "soup-to-nuts" column, including all of my up-till-now neglected tidbits and afterthoughts.

More Notes on Repair Manuals: Instrument Maintenance

Complete Banjo Repair by Larry Sandberg (Oak Publications, 112 pages, paperback). As I was reviewing guitar repair manuals for my column in MOTHER EARTH NEWS, I wondered why no one had ever written a similar volume about the banjo. I didn't have to wonder long, though... because very soon afterward I received a copy of Larry Sandberg's book from Oak Publications. (They're the same folks who brought us Complete Guitar Repair by Hideo Kamimoto. . . and--in fact--the firm is the largest producer of instructional folk music books in the country.)

This manual—which fills a large gap in the literature of musical instrument repair—would prove interesting to just about any banjo enthusiast. It pays a lot of attention to the special problems of the bluegrass instrument's unique hardware, woodwork, and tone. And even though Sandberg's publication deals only with five-string banjos, it is applicable to other varieties as well, since most repairs are performed identically regardless of the number of strings.

Still, I'd like to see an even more comprehensive book about the banjo's history, including tuning and chord information for all types of the instrument, plus some photos of its contemporary African relatives. Are there any banjo players and writers out there who are interested, or anyone who knows of such a book that's already been published?

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