Minstrel Banjo

For enthusiasts of early banjo

Hi Guys,


Sorry it has been a while since I posted here (still one of my favourite places on the net), but I've been busy playing Scottish lute music http://scottishlute.com/ 


Mel Bay have just brought out the first of two early banjo books I did for them. The second should be out very shortly.


The first is American Classics for Banjo, which is not the title I had in mind. Nevertheless, it is out and will hopefully get some exposure for the works of Buckley, Baur and Converse. See all the info and table of contents here: 



I recorded the CD with my Luke Mercier early fretted banjo with gut strings and the early fingerstyle technique. Much of the stuff works with stroke technique as well. Despite this, they put a modern banjo on the cover...well, it might bring this repertoire to a new audience, and hopefully they will follow the link I give to this site.


The second book is (or should be) called The Early Irish-American Banjo. Many of these tunes were played stroke style, so might well be of interest to folk here. I've included tab in both books, but have also transposed the keys to modern notated pitch. However, my recordings are in the old eAEG#B tuning, sometimes with a raised 4th string.


Let me know if you have any questions about the books. 


I've co-founded the Edinburgh Banjo Club, and will be giving them a talk in the not too distant future about the minstrel banjo, and, naturally, this place will get a large plug ;-)



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That's very exciting Rob. Music stores are the only source for many people. You know that of course.

Your second book is VERY exciting sounding to me. My family plays mostly Irish music, my son, the 'son' of

'Bell & Son', Danny, plays a WICKed Irish 4 string and for the last few years, I've been working on making minstrel banjos, learning tunes, and adapting the Irish tunes that my brothers play to my minstrel style.

Thanks so much.

Then you'll love the Irish book, as it has three tabs per tune: 5-string, plus two tenors, CGDA and GDAE tunings. You can all play together :-)

Congratulations on this Rob!.  Much as I like actual books, I think I'm going to try out the PDF download version — just because I've never done that before. 

Yes, there is the download option. I've had a few emails from people already saying they chose that option and it all went smoothly. Hope you like it.

Hi Rob, the link dosn't make clear how much the actual book is,  is it the same price as the e book?

Hi Ian, downloading books is fun, I've downloaded quite a few.    Would have downloaded Rob's before now but not at  home at the moment.

Ian Bell said:

Congratulations on this Rob!.  Much as I like actual books, I think I'm going to try out the PDF download version — just because I've never done that before. 

Yes, Mel Bay charge the same for the ebook...no comment, other than to say it is worth twice the price ;-)

Thank you Rob.

For those of us in small town Ontario (or small town anywhere else) it's not such a bad deal. I would have either have had to pay shipping from somewhere in the US or drive to Toronto to get a paper copy. 

Awesome!  Can't wait for the second book as well. 

Thanks, Rhiannon. I've read the proofs for the Early Irish-American Banjo, and it should be out for Christmas, or very shortly after.

Fabulous!  Hey we're going to be in Edinburgh for a good portion of January (my sister-in-law lives there) - maybe I can catch the next Edinburgh Banjo meeting...it's great you've started that up!

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