I've been playing around with a 7 string banjo for about 6 months now and I'm am now looking for some 7 string sheet music. I'm currently working through what is available for the scan of  Ellis' Thorough School for the 6 or 7 String Banjo which is missing pages but is still a pretty solid Tutor. I already found posting with The Devil Still Pursues Her and Horace Weston's Grand March which are both great pieces if anyone ever wants to tackle them on the 7. Grand March is looking to be a little demanding especially when I'm playing on a fretless but I love Weston's compositions. Anyways, any help in locating some pieces would be greatly appreciated.

Views: 318

Comment by Joel Hooks on December 14, 2020 at 18:28

This tutor I recently posted claims to cover the 7 stringer...


The only music I have run across that was obviously for a banjo with lower bass strings have been some early British published duets, the second banjo part having lower notes than middle C.  If memory serves, we came across it during a sight reading workshop at an ABF rally.  We were reading Ellis pieces.

That said, the lower notes were superfluous (if I remember correctly) and the second banjo part could be played, ignoring those low notes, on a regular banjo.

I would be interested to learn a documented timeline for these 6, 7, and 9 string banjos. 

We have a pretty well established timeline for pitch, placing C notation at about 1885.  I have often wondered if these 5+ string banjos mostly predated that date.  I also suspect there is some sort of class association that I will have trouble understanding. 

In my low level of imagination I have often speculated that one would use these lower strings to play root notes for added harmony much like a guitar.  These banjos are something I know nothing about but would happily read a thoroughly referenced work on their history (that might be a good project for someone).  Were they played stroke style?

As far as music, you might reach out to Michael Nix (google him) who plays a sort of banjo/guitar hybrid of his own invention.  Basically, he plays a 7 string banjo but often uses scordatura or tunes it like a regular Spanish guitar with a short octave string.  He has composed for the instrument as well as teaches it so it might be worth reaching out to him.

Comment by Joel Hooks on December 15, 2020 at 0:45

The piece I was thinking of by Ellis is called "The Advance".


Comment by Edward Bettega on December 15, 2020 at 3:31

Ballantine's Banjo Method is written for 5 and 7 string banjo. It has a number of tunes in it.

Comment by Edward Bettega on December 15, 2020 at 3:57

Briggs Banjo Instructor was written for a banjo tuned 5D 4G 3D 2F# 1A. It may be worth a look as the range is close to what you would have on the 7 string. I have a pdf if you can't find it on-line.

Comment by Byron Thomas on December 15, 2020 at 19:41

Wow thank you so much for the responses. Ellis says that one should play guitar style but also gives the instruction for thimble use. I use both styles but as such I don't wear the thimble since it prevents me from up picking with my index. As far as the Low G and C strings they pretty much are used for the harmony. Just from my exploring I've found that some chords sound fuller when playing the root note. Being able to play a C major as gCEGce sounds so great. As far as playing briggs songs, the 7 does give me the range but the magic of the briggs tutor is that it was made to take advantage of the octave string. So those I just play on my low tuned 5 string or I play them pitched in C. Ballantine's Banjo Tutor looks like its gonna be fun. Thanks again for showing me this gem Edward. Hopefully this read will bring me to be a decent 2nd banjoist.

Comment by Byron Thomas on December 17, 2020 at 20:13

Just found this in the 1954 October BMG. Might help to establish the time line on playing 6 and 7 string banjo. From what this says I'm assuming that the circulation would have been at least 1880-82. That way Ballantine would have time to get acquainted with the instrument plus develop a tutor. On the same page it also mentions that he is thought to have published the first banjo music in England.

This is on Page 3

"Among W. E. Ballantine's other instruction books (on the cover of one of which
is an etching of him) were (I) a Tutor
for banjos with 5, 6 and 7 strings, published by John Cameron, of 83, Dunlop
St., Glasgow, in 1883; (2) a Tutor published by John Alvey Turner in 1884; (3)
·' Ballantine's Banjo Treasury,'' containing 20 original compositions; and (4) a
Banjo Journal."

Comment by Joel Hooks on December 17, 2020 at 22:10

That is interesting!  Ballantine's JAT tutor is on this website.  

How accurate are those dates?  That would mean he was publishing C notation tutors earlier than Brewster.  The copy that we have on this site has an advertisement for Rosey's "The Scorcher" which is from 1897.

For some reason I have been lead to believe (based on all the Tumbridge ware banjos floating around) that these 6/7/9 stringers were from the 1870s and that by the 1880s they started to fall to the side.

Comment by Richard William Ineson on December 18, 2020 at 13:19
I may have copies of Ballantine's book published by Cameron and also his 'Banjo Gems' I'll try to get away into the attic later today and look for them (Head Office is in Christmas stress mode so must tread carefully to avoid matrimonial conflict, always a problem at this time of the year)
Comment by Byron Thomas on December 18, 2020 at 14:06


I guess the dates are as correct as Brewer recollections. I remember that Joel mentioned somewhere that the U.K. publications didn't include publish dates on the tutors so It was interesting to read that W.M. Brewer had dates of publication that he say he pulled from "The Daily Telegraph" and "The Jo'" magazines. Richard I appreciate your willingness to brace the frontlines for a good cause! 

Comment by Joel Hooks on December 18, 2020 at 17:26

Oh wow Richard!  I 'd love to see those.  Banjo Gems, is particularly interesting, with a Date of 1880.  If written in C notation that would predate any mention of using the pitch of C in the US (that I can find).

First and foremost, keep the wife happy!!!

Add a Comment

You need to be a member of Classic-Banjo to add comments!

Join Classic-Banjo

© 2021   Created by thereallyniceman.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service