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. He was also owner of a banjo and guitar company, and a history of that company can be read HERE.
Grimshaw’s two tutor books were my first contact with the Classic style, and as tutors, those books have not been bettered in my opinion.
The Banjo and How To Play It
Download it here: The Banjo and How To Play It
This book is for complete beginners, teaching you to read music, including Grimshaw’s specific notation for positions and barres. The exercises ate tuneful, and there are complete pieces such as Herman Roland’s famous Sunflower dance (misattributed to Vess Ossman)
I used it to learn to read banjo music without TAB. Recommended.
How To Excel on the Banjo – 114 Melodious Exercises
Download it here: How To Excel On The Banjo
‘The way to learn is to think — to understand’: so begins Emile Grimshaw’s major contribution to 20th-century banjo technique and musicianship. It’s hard not to warm to the man who states in his Introduction that, ‘Players often imagine that because a musical composition is called an exercise it must necessarily be monotonous. It is true that many untuneful exercises have been written, but I cannot see why anything useful or instructive need be dull’. Grimshaw’s exercises are never dull, are always musical and well constructed, and remain after almost a century, both useful and instructive.
The music covers many styles from ragtime to music hall, from classical to early jazz, and, reading through all 87 exercises, I found myself regularly smiling from ear to ear – cool licks, beautiful melodies, ragged rhythms, ear-tingling harmonies, and all beautifully laid out for both hands. In short, great banjo music in miniature bites.
A few years ago I started recording videos as I worked my way through the book. I include them here – the first 17 exercises – to help and inspire. One or two of them are not my best performances, and could be done better – hopefully by you. But I leave them as is, as a record of my early attempts: