For anyone interested in playing music that predates ragtime, I recommend Harry Turner's 'Melodious Banjo Studies And Exercises', that is in the Tutor Books section.

It was written for 'Young Students', with second parts for a 'Master'.

I have searched the archives and it doesn't appear to have been mentioned before. From this beginner's point of view, it is a very enjoyable and satisfying collection of compositions.

I'd like to know if anyone agrees with me.

Kind regards, Ian.

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I mostly agree. These are useful exercises. If practiced with care and attention they will help establish the skills that each was designed for.  They are not inspired or memorable musical compositions but  I think they are as good or better than the equivalent in some other contemporary and later tutors. However I don't think anything in this book was intended to be a genuine "Banjo Solo" to be performed. These are pleasant learning tools.  There is a sameness to some of the first pieces. That might be an advantage when learning how to play in different keys.  I don't know what to make of the word "harmonice".  Is this Latin? Perhaps a type setters error for "harmonics"? 

I'm particularly interested in the music from that period and spent a number of years playing it on the fiddle. Now that I'm only concentrating on learning the banjo, it is good to find the polka, schottische, march and waltz in the earlier tutors. This book by Turner provides, as you suggested, a useful and very pleasant supplement to Ellis's books from which I'm learning the basic techniques.

My intention is to progress through the available publications in chronological order, to experience the development of banjo playing.

A good place to find such music is the back issues of the American Banjo Fraternity journal The FIve-Stringer. These come from an array of 19th century banjo tutors and have been selected for their musicality as well as for their historical interest. Some has been transposed from G or A notation to C notation. 

IAN SALTER said:

I'm particularly interested in the music from that period and spent a number of years playing it on the fiddle. Now that I'm only concentrating on learning the banjo, it is good to find the polka, schottische, march and waltz in the earlier tutors. This book by Turner provides, as you suggested, a useful and very pleasant supplement to Ellis's books from which I'm learning the basic techniques.

My intention is to progress through the available publications in chronological order, to experience the development of banjo playing.

Hi Ian,  what do you mean by "that period?"

As far as I can tell, the English did not get "serious" about the banjo until the mid 1880s.  This aligns with the pitch change of the banjo up to "Concert C"-- or what we use now.

If you want to study banjo and progress, chronological (which is  pretty much what I did), you will want to start with "Briggs" Banjo Instructor" of 1855 and learn stroke style (with a thimble).

Continue on through Rice, Buckley, Converse 65 "Green", Buckley 1868 (collection of solos), and into the 1870s with the Various Dobson family publications and Converse "The Banjoist".  1879 brings the start of printed music and a lead in to the explosion of the banjo fad with a cascade of instruction books.  By the mid 1880s you have Converse"s "Analytical Banjo Method." 

All of that is in A notation except for "Briggs".

My advice... you can learn that way but I recommend ignoring all of the early right hand fingering info and jumping straight into the correct system of alternate fingering.  Alternate fingering is the key to playing classic banjo smoothly.  Learn it first.

It first shows up in books from the last half of the 1890s but I am sure that pros were using it before and just keeping it from the masses.

For stroke style, Converse's books tend to have good right hand fingering with the best being his Analytical Banjo Method.

After the mid 1880s you can move on to C notation and straddle the "pond".  It is a little weird switching back and forth from A to C notation but it is not impossible as I can do it.

Jody, thank you for that information. I will have a look at it.

Joel, what I should have said was, the period around 1880 which as you say, was when the banjo began to become popular in England.

In 2011, I first took up the banjo when I bought an Eric Prust basic tackhead, put gut strings on it and got a facsimile of Briggs' book. By following the instructions, I made good progress and enjoyed it very much.

However, as I began to read about the history of the instrument, it was its development and export to England that interested me more than the earlier American chapter. With that in mind, I tried to find out if any of the method books that you've mentioned, were also published in England and had been readily available to the amateur musician. As I wasn't able to establish that, I decided to 'jump in' and proceed from the publication of 'Ellis's Thorough School For The Five Stringed Banjo'.

I have had many conversations with fellow musicians on the subject of 'Historically Informed Performance' and how to apply it to vernacular music making. More often than not, I found myself alone in believing that it is a worthwhile pursuit, even if undertaken with a somewhat narrower view than is usual when researching, for example 'Art Music'. 

As I no longer have any interest in playing my other instruments and notwithstanding my current domestic situation, I intend to commit to learning the banjo as instructed by Mr.Ellis, and whilst I won't be donning period costume, I will imagine that if I did, the music I make would be appropriately accurate.

Did wearing period clothes change your approach to the performance of music from different time periods?

Kind regards, Ian.

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