Hello Banjo People!

For your isolated enjoyment I present "The Prize Banjo Instructor" by Jean White, 1884.

This A notation book takes an interesting approach to teaching the banjo.  Included are four and a half pages of "Diagrams of the Finger-Board".  Ah, the old fingerboard chart strikes again, this time with in a different way.  

You are to study each diagram and easily master your scales by following the notes left to right, bottom to top of each finger-board diagram (at least that is what I think you are supposed to do).

After you memorize all of those charts, there is a half page explanation on how to play and tune the banjo.  Now you can play banjo!  I guess you win a prize if you are successful? 

All kidding aside, the book has lots of "early" style short pieces, some familiar to stroke style banjoists. There is also a cool "Yankee Doodle with variations" (featuring the one hand crank organ gag) included.  Plenty of waltzes and schottisches as to be expected. 

As always, do what you want to with it.  The material is in public domain and you own it.


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Oh, the "Spanish Fandango" is nearly note for note of the earliest sheet music I know of that was published for banjo.

Probably  not. I never heard of the Committee. What is it?

Richard William Ineson said:

Jody, do you have any influence with the Committee?

Yes, I was looking at "Buzz of the Wheel". Hot topic for 1880s was bicycles and there are a few classic banjo tunes with bicycle or "wheelmen" themes. Rosey's "Scorcher" comes to mind...

Joel Hooks said:

I was waiting to see what you came up with.  I could not get it to sound like anything but a mess.

The Yankee doodle is fun.

I was excited about "Texas Ranger's Waltz" but upon playing it was disappointed.  "Buzz of the Wheel" is a great title of a tune as well.

It seems the only thing this book did well was yank pieces out of earlier tutors.

Jody, it is the committee that issues the prize from this tutor.  

Well, if you want to learn playing tuplets, here's an App from an old teacher of mine:


Of course, if the music is misprinted, no amount of feel for tuplets will be helpfull :-)

OK, I have made an attempt to untangle this "Flying Cloud" oddity. I don't know why, it isn't really worth the effort. However, in the end, I ended up learning better how to enter tuplets into musescore. Yah, time not wasted...sure.

Cha's D'Albert composed "The Flying Cloud, A New Schottische" in 1855, it is a relatively simple piece, lies conveniently on the fiddle and after being reprinted in several "collections" (esp. Elias Howe's "Musicians Omnibus" in 1884) it passed into tradition as a fun dance tune. A local fiddler used to play it on occasion (back in the 1980s) and I remember dancing Contras to it.

There are a couple of extant "Flying Cloud" banjo tunes, a march and a waltz (I think). They bear about as much resemblance to Mr. D'Albert's composition as this piece of (ahem) from the Prize Method. Frankly, I think they're early clickbait. "Oooh, it has Flying Cloud! Mom! Buy me this one!"

So, it is a train-wreck. Since the upper voice in the first two measures cannot be resolved with the lower voice (on the beats), the note values being wrong and then the tuplet values being simply whacko, I attempted to fix it basing everything on the rhythm of the lower voice. After the A part, the rest of the piece is straightforward, albeit mundane-tending-to-lunacy. The last part (F, I think) is atonal and well, just plain weird. I have no doubt this has never once been played by any student anywhere. Like Joel, two measures in and it is obviously a mess; better to find a sharp stick and let someone poke you with it.

Just for fun, I have included an mp3 of Mr. D'Albert's original, which I keyed in from the 1855 piano score I found in an online archive. It could easily become a nice little Classic Banjo tune...and as it never dips below G (above C), it might lay nicely on the Banjeaurine.

PS: The "Prize" version was converted to C-notation and plays in G...rather than the original E. Mr. D'Albert's composition was originally in C and F.


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