Emile Grimshaw

How To Master The Tenor Banjo

Emile Grimshaw (1880-1943) was a leading player and composer in early 20th-century England. He wrote four brilliant tutors for the banjo – two for the 5-string, and one each for the Plectrum and Tenor

Here Grimshaw turned to the tenor banjo, an instrument he played superbly well with The Savoy Band and Orchestra. Despite a chapter on ‘Dance Orchestra Playing’, Grimshaw’s early experience as a fingerstyle, classic-banjo maestro comes through, with quite a few of the exercises here being reworkings of exercises from his earlier fingerstyle books. [I made this video in 2010. I can see that I was searching for a variety of dynamics, and also a sweet sound. The instrument is definitely capable of both. I can also see that I was not as rehearsed as I could have been for the first of the three short pieces].

Grimshaw’s book is an excellent publication, providing the student with a good technical grounding, and good sight-reading skills, but he was writing in a period before the Tenor banjo really took off as a solo instrument, finding its own voice as musical fashion changed. The book can be used by modern banjo players as a supplement to modern techniques and styles, and is also of great interest to those of us interested in historical playing styles.

If you know the dates of the first publication, please let me know.

Here is Emile, third from left, with the Savoy Quartet, described as an important transition group between Ragtime and Jazz:



And here is a recording of Emile Grimshaw’s Banjo Quartet playing

Whistling Rufus and Swanee Sing Song

Line up: (Left to Right) Stan Hollings, Emile Grimshaw, Ivor Mairants and Monty Grimshaw.

The quartet included the famous guitarist, Ivor Mairants, on tenor banjo. Although Mairants studied banjo with Emile Grimshaw for ‘only 12 lessons…his interest in my career went far beyond that of a teacher…my guardian angel.’ (See Mairants’ autobiography, My Fifty Fretting Years).

Other recordings with Emile Grimshaw:

Jerry Hoey on Picadilly
Jack Hilton on HMV B1838-B5575 and C1021-C1616
Cecil and Leslie Norman on World Echo A1001-1040 and B1004-1016
Savoy Dance Orchestra on Columbia 2971
Savoy Quartet on HMV B692-B1154