What's the absolutely "best" available instruction for classic?

Hi All,

I'm an old bluegrass player, recently enamored of late 19th century banjo playing. The more I dig into today's resources, the most overwhelmed I become... Assuming I'm a rank amateur when it comes to this style, what's the absolutely "best" available instruction for classic playing?

I don't need "how to tune," or "banjo parts" or history stuff. I'm way past that. But that said, I'm less than certain how to best proceed.

Any comments appreciated!


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HI :  some tutors available here in the tutor books

or some TABS  of simple melodic tunes here  in the Music Library ; they are classified / easy ; intermed ; difficult ; sometimes with the video which 's gonna help you for the positions on the neck

BTW ; you can start by reading the Tabs ; but 's gonna be helpful to read the dots of the originals scores

Best R @+m

Thanks, Marc. I hadn't explored the tutor books section. Heading there now...

So, in the Tutor section there are endless books. Are there one or two that are sort of commonly considered to be essential? (Thanks!)

I would strongly recommend these updated versions re-written and fully explained by Clifford Essex Music Co. These include Tab and CD too.


Thanks again. I've downloaded the tutor books by Grimshaw and Morley. Now, time to practice!

I agree with Ian, the modern reprints are both excellent. Also, take a look at the latest version of Mel Bay's Banjo Method, by Frank Bradbury. Been in continuous publication since the 1920's...and Rob MacKillop (member here) has produced demos of all the tunes.

As Marc D. sez, you can also just dive right in and start with some of the tunes here in the library.

More great advice. Just found the Mel Bay's Banjo Method (Bradbury) on eBay. You guys are great. In short order, I'm drowned with good stuff. 5 stars to Classic-Banjo.

The Bradbury book is really good for instruction.  Sadly the music is a little flat and uninteresting.

You wrote "late 19th century banjo playing."  Most of the good late 19th century tutors (and almost all the American books pre 1908) were written in "A" notation.  So, you'll have to decide if you want to deal with that.

Work though the great instruction videos here.

Sorry to be vague, but any of the books in the "Tutor" section here will work.  With the exception of A notation vs. C notation, they will all teach you the rudiments of reading music, basic chords, accompaniments, "banjo" like technique and provide interesting bits of banjo info.

What kind of music do you like?  Ragtime?  6/8 marches?  Morley type stuff?  Light polkas and schottisches?  Knowing this will give you an idea where to go.

Farland is going to be stuffy.  Ellis is basic.  The "E-Z Method" book is pretty clear.  I looked through the Recently posted Ellis "Zither Banjo" book and liked the exercises on alternate fingering.

All those are in C.

In "A" notation I really like the A. J. Weidt books as well and the Jennings book.  Both teach alternate fingering have interesting music that is not too difficult (or easy) and are well edited.  They also provide solid accompaniment parts.  Weidt will get you playing ragtime.

Early stuff can be good and bad.  Converse's stuff is good but he completely ignores alternate fingering (though he was likely using it).  I love the Analytical Banjo Method but it does have it's short comings for guitar style.  For stroke style it is the best instruction ever written! 

Do yourself a HUGE favor and do learn to read notation.  It really is easy (heck, I learned how) and it puts thousands of pieces at your fingertips.  It is worth the effort.

Thanks, Joel (once again). I agree that reading music directly is critical. I'm 60% there already. And realistically, it'll be several months before I can say with any certainty which music I like most. I tend to be an omnivore and am enthralled with the pre-ragtime into ragtime tunes, but also love general old time stuff including southern American mountain brew (music, that is). Perhaps I'll figure out how to incorporate it all into something listenable!

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