Just for fun, I purchased a zither banjo on Ebay about a month ago.  I am pretty sure it is a Windsor "Ideal" Model 8, which cost 4 pounds 15 shillings in 1931.  (Sorry, I don't know how Americans write the L for pounds :))  There are no markings on the banjo that I can see.  It is in near pristine condition, a little linseed oil polished it right up and even swelled some of the gouges and digs on the back.  It is much smoother now than when I got it.  The action was spot on and I have no reason to try and improve it.  The head seems a little tight to me, but I'll play with that at some later time.  I've restrung it properly with 3 steel and 2 nylgut strings and it is just a fun instrument to play.  Even though it was towards or at the bottom of the Windsor range, it still has a nice quality to it.  It has a sweet, ringing sound with a lot of harmonics.  I just printed out Ellis's Bell Chimes that Carrie Horgan recently posted.  It seems likely that Ellis played it on a zither.  (I will play sitting down, thank you, and the shape of the zither banjo does look like a clock's pendulum.) 

Since then, I've been searching ebay for zither banjo items.  A copy of the Advanced School for the Banjo and Zither Banjo by Ellis was recently listed and was not in the Tutor books, so I purchased at a very reasonable cost.  The zither-banjo.org indicates it was published in 1900.  The condition was listed as acceptable and

"Great old instruction booklet!
Considerable marks, folds, stains and tears as can be seen in the photos.
Material tape along spine holding booklet together and has started coming off.
Poor condition."
The binding was essentially gone and a good portion of the pages had been split off the thread binding, but all the pages were there and intact.  I have scanned it and TheReallyNiceMan has put it in the Tutor section.  While the entire document was scanned in black and white, I left a few of the pages in color so you could get a feel for the original look.  Of course, I don't know if the color is original or the result of 114 years of sulfur oxidation. 
For those who have not actually seen some of these original works, I was interested in the size.  I normally print what I use in US Letter size, 8-1/2x11, but this is 10.25 x 14 inches.  It is about the size of printed lute music of 1600's.  I don't know if this was the standard size for the other tutors, but it is very easy to read, even with my old eyes.  I really hadn't thought about it before.

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 On a Mac hold down the alt/option key and the 3 key simultaneously and you'll get £.

On a PC hold down Alt +156.on the keypad. Voila: £

Keep that head tight! If it's lasted this long at high tension it is unlikely to burst now. If you loosen the head you are likely to get sonic mud. Even worse, with an old banjo like this it's best when dealing with the vellum to adopt the strategy of If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It. Replacing a zb head is an annoyance. If it ain't broke now, it may well become broke if you mess with it. On the other hand if this banjo had previously been in a more humid climate than where it is now, then lack of humidity has already "messed with it" and applying a gentle corrective may be called for.

Thank you Thomas for all the effort involved in scanning your Tutor Book for the site. I know just how time consuming it is!

I have added the Ellis to the TUTOR BOOK page for free download for everyone.

Thanks Jody.  It's just one of those things that doesn't come up very often.

I live at 7200 feet in Wyoming, so everyplace is dryer than where I am.  In fact, that was the primary reason for the linseed oil.  My dad was a violin dealer and really hated bringing violins when he would come to visit, even with humidifiers in the cases.  I spoke to a luthier friend about cracking and that was his suggestion.  The head is tight, but I don't think it overly so, therefore, I'll leave it as it is for a while (6 months or so) and think about it then. 

Jody Stecher said:

 On a Mac hold down the alt/option key and the 3 key simultaneously and you'll get £.

On a PC hold down Alt +156.on the keypad. Voila: £

Keep that head tight! If it's lasted this long at high tension it is unlikely to burst now. If you

Thanks for making the tutor available, Thomas.  It looks really comprehensive in terms of playing techniques. I really like Ray Andrew's harmonics on 'BlueBells of Scotland' but couldn't work out what he was doing but I've just spotted a section on 'artificial harmonics' for this piece on p57 - result!  Thanks again.


- whether I can play it or not is another matter :)

thx Thomas ;Herb J Ellis 's one of my fav_compositor ( Mendelssohn , too )

+ a new old picture in the tutor i didn ' t know

Sorry about the tardy reply.  I also thank you for scanning this and sharing it.  From the little bit I looked at it seems to be a solid work with interesting information on playing.

I find the thimble comment v. wire strings interesting as most of the folks who use the thimbles I make are wire players.

I am constantly shocked to find the stream of books coming out of the woodwork that are now available at the click of a mouse.  I feel sorry for the banjoist of 15 years ago!

Hi Joel, I thought about emailing you when I read about the thimbles. Sorry I didn't. I was surprised that a book written in 1900 even mentioned them.

And I agree about the number of books available. And the variety and depth of coverage. Kind of like language and computer books now. "Learn Arabic in a Day" to "The Complete Bible of c++ Programing for iPhones".

I don't know how well they sold but thimbles were still listed in jobber catalogs into the 1920s.

Reminds me of the pitch pipes I found for eAEG#B. I emailed the company and found that they still make 'em in that tuning for banjo. They didn't know it was a 'dead' tuning until just recently...

That's called inventory control, isn't it?  "Let's see, Jimmy, how many of those A-banjo pipes have we sold in the last, ah, 70 years?"  I guess you have to applaud them for their tenacity to serve the banjo public!

It was a funny email exchange. They had no inventory control at all, couldn't tell me if they'd sold any...ever. They make pitch pipes in batches and send 'em out. The lady I talked to said she could remember making some up recently though.

She also said that usually the large orders cover everything in their catalog. Since they still catalog the eAEG#B banjo pipe, off they go!

She said the electronic tuners cut their work force down to three little-old ladies, most of whom had worked for the company since the 50's.

Heck, I found some new ones on ebay. Who knew? ;-)

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