How To Excel On The Banjo. Reviews.
How To Excel On The Banjo
By Emile Grimshaw : Edited by Alan Middleton
New Edition Published in Three Volumes by Clifford Essex Music Co., Ltd
‘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.
I am delighted that the revived Clifford Essex Music Company has not only republished this classic text, but, through the excellent editorship of Alan Middleton, has done so in a revised edition with additional comments from the editor, but most surprisingly of all with the inclusion of tablature.
The worlds of banjo, mandolin and guitar have changed radically since Grimshaw’s time, and tablature has become commonplace and accepted by most professional musicians, teachers and publishers. The pros and cons of tab have been discussed in BMG and elsewhere many times, and I need not repeat the arguments here. Suffice to say that this first-rate edition will bring Grimshaw’s music to a whole new legion of banjo players, improving not only general banjo techniques but musicianship as well – and who can argue against that?
The book now appears in three separate volumes:
Volume 1: Part One – Seventeen Melodious Studies Designed To Improve Technique
Volume 2: Parts Two and Three – Melodious Studies For The Left And Right Hands
Volume 3: Parts Four To Seven – Time, Tone, Technique And Effects
Alan Middleton has expanded on Grimshaw’s comments only where clarity had been lacking. His comments will be welcome by all students, I’m sure. He has also added in some extra fingering, being careful always to include Grimshaw’s original fingering for comparison.
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.
I have recorded on video all the exercises from Volume 1 – www.ClassicBanjoRM.com/studies and have plans to record more. Certainly, these exercises form part of my regular banjo practice, and hardly a day goes by when I do not work on at least one of them. I am convinced my banjo playing has improved enormously as a consequence.
So, unreserved recommendation. Purchase your copies now and get to work!