If you’ve ever been on the Celtic section of the Mandolin Café forum, or the 4-String Banjo board on Banjo Hangout, chances are you’ve seen comments by, or perhaps even corresponded with, Mike Keyes. I’ve never met Mike, but he did offer me some very helpful advice when I was buying my first instrument – a 1920’s Bacon and Day tenor banjo – back in 2006.
A few years ago Mike Keyes was doing the occasional article for Mel Bay’s online Mandolin Sessions publication and even had his own site where he wrote about Irish music and the Irish tenor banjo. Both of those are now defunct, but in late July of this year Mike started up a new blog called, quite simply, Irish Tenor Banjo Blog, where he posts in-depth and intelligent instructional material about playing Irish music on the tenor banjo, with the beginner in mind.
There’s a wealth of information to be found on this blog, including tips on gaining speed, playing triplets, learning by ear, how to practice…even building your own banjo from commercially available parts! Mike has studied with many of the experts in the field, including Enda Scahill, John Carty, Angelina Carberry, Gerry O'Connor and Martin Howley, so he knows what he's talking about.
While I tend to focus on my experiences learning to play the GDAE tuned tenor banjo across a variety of genres, including Irish, Appalachian, Caribbean and early jazz, Mike’s blog is focused entirely on the Irish tenor banjo, with some side trips into the world of Celtic mandolin and tenor guitar. He’s been updating the site rather frequently, so it’s worth bookmarking and checking back often!
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