Hello,

I’m relatively new to classic banjo, having first picked it up a couple of years ago in my early 50s.  I’ve had some success with pieces in collections and method books, but most recently I’ve been working on “A Banjo Oddity” by Joe Morley and so far it’s my favorite piece to play!  It suits my abilities while still being challenging, and musically it’s high quality!  Can anyone recommend other pieces for me to explore that are similar in difficulty (i.e. “easy”-ish) while still musically interesting?  Thank in advance! 

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Hi Jason - here are some that I progressed with when starting out.  They should all be in the music library.

Cannon Jig by Morley

Reckless Rufus by Cheney R Poutry

Sunflower Dance by Vess Ossman

Pink Lemonade; Red Rover March by AJ Weidt 

The Park Crescent March by Cyril Burand

I also remember really loving learning Mississippi Breakdowns and Schaeffer's Jig....so many tunes so little time!

A Banjo Vamp by Grimshaw, Magnolia Waltz by Morley. Violet Mazurka by Morley. 

The banjo solos in the Music Library on this website are marked in the upper right corner as to whether they are easy, intermediate, or advanced.  Perusing the first two categories may provide you with what you are looking for.

Meanwhile, try A Banjo Revel by Joe Morley.

Hi Jason, Have a look/listen to my arrangement of Kerry Mills's popular tune/song 'Red Wing'. I arranged it some years ago and the score and midi can be found in the music library. It's not too challenging to play and is one of my favourite arrangements...Steve.

Thanks very much!

carrie horgan said:

Hi Jason - here are some that I progressed with when starting out.  They should all be in the music library.

Cannon Jig by Morley

Reckless Rufus by Cheney R Poutry

Sunflower Dance by Vess Ossman

Pink Lemonade; Red Rover March by AJ Weidt 

The Park Crescent March by Cyril Burand

I also remember really loving learning Mississippi Breakdowns and Schaeffer's Jig....so many tunes so little time!

Thank you Steve! I will check it out!

Steve Harrison said:

Hi Jason, Have a look/listen to my arrangement of Kerry Mills's popular tune/song 'Red Wing'. I arranged it some years ago and the score and midi can be found in the music library. It's not too challenging to play and is one of my favourite arrangements...Steve.

Thanks, much appreciated! 

Richard William Ineson said:

A Banjo Vamp by Grimshaw, Magnolia Waltz by Morley. Violet Mazurka by Morley. 

Thanks! 

Jody Stecher said:

The banjo solos in the Music Library on this website are marked in the upper right corner as to whether they are easy, intermediate, or advanced.  Perusing the first two categories may provide you with what you are looking for.

Meanwhile, try A Banjo Revel by Joe Morley.

I chose these three solos because they all have something different to  teach you. A Banjo Vamp will get you familiar with 'sliding' on the fourth string' the first time I heard this done, it made me laugh, which is a good thing. This tune will also introduce you to the concept of playing a melody on the bass strings with accompaniment on the treble strings. The notes of this tune lie well under the fingers, the various movements/tunes are very banjoistic and it is a very satisfying solo to play. The Magnolia Waltz is a good introduction to the waltz format on the banjo and it sounds good, the third movement in F major has the melody on the 1st string and the accompaniment on the 3rd and fourth strings. The Violet Mazurka, an early piece by Morley, is a worthwhile solo which is not too demanding but again, sounds well and gives a lot of satisfaction to the player, this solo will introduce you to 'pull offs'. There are literally hundreds of banjo pieces suitable for the beginner but some give more for the  time invested in getting your fingers round them, These three pieces are relatively easy to play and have pleasing melodies and you will learn much from studying and playing them.

Jason Cornwell said:

Thanks, much appreciated! 

Richard William Ineson said:

A Banjo Vamp by Grimshaw, Magnolia Waltz by Morley. Violet Mazurka by Morley. 

Hi, Jason! Welcome to the wacky world of classic banjo! I’ve been thinking about your plea for suggestions of easier things to play, and I hope you find the following useful. Firstly, some observations:

  1. Someone once told me when discussing classic banjo: “If you’re finding a piece easy, you’re probably not playing it right.” The classic finger-style banjo is not an easy instrument to play well – there are lots of easier ones.
  2. I am sure I am not the only player who has spent hours working through some finger-busting disaster only to find that the publishers rated it ‘easy’. The guides published by the likes of Clifford Essex and John Alvey Turner are not to be relied on. ‘Easy’ can be difficult and ‘advanced’ can be simple(ish).
  3. Don’t judge a piece’s difficulty by the key it’s in. Lots of things in Eb, for example, are not hard once you have worked out where the notes are.
  4. Play what you know and like. For example, modern players tend to avoid arrangements of songs and tunes that were once popular, but it’s obvious from the number of arrangements that were written by famous players that these were popular things to play on the banjo. Lots of arrangements were published in the pages of BMG, and if you see anything you know and like, then give it a try as you are already halfway there. If the twiddly bits get in your way, drop them – then it becomes your
  5. Have a look at the works of less well-known player/composers – avoid getting stuck with just one or two composers. Morley did write a lot, but then so did Grimshaw and Ellis, and their pieces can often be fairly straightforward. Have a look at as many works by as many different composers as you can – you’ll soon start to recognise those with an eye for simplicity. Note also that the red-hot players were not always red-hot composers.

So now, here are my suggestions for a beginner’s repertoire: ‘The Gold Diggers’ (Morley), ‘The Red Rover’ (Weidt), ‘The Rugby Parade’ (Oakley), ‘The Return of the Regiment’ (Grimshaw), ‘On The Mill Dam’ (Babb), ‘Queen of the Burlesque’ (Tilley), ’Autumn Leaves’ (Ellis), ‘The Ladbrooke March’ (Skinner), ‘The Trumpeter’ (Bassett), ‘Glitter of Steel’ (Dorward), ‘Federation March’ (Sheaff), and ‘To The Front’ (Cammeyer). But before you start on any of them, try to hear someone else play it in person or a recording – you will only get the incentive to put in the effort if you are going to enjoy the outcome.

Well, that’s it – a long reply to a simple question. I hope it helps.

Regards

Tony

I like how you think, Richard.

Richard William Ineson said:

I chose these three solos because they all have something different to  teach you.

“Vamp” is in regular rotation at the ABF rallies.  It is a solo I enjoy playing but I have found that other people play it ignoring the dynamics entirely.  Perhaps because it is a “standard”, they rip through it at ff. 

Following the dynamic markings makes if much more interesting.

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