Banjo Methods & Ephemera

Sorry, but you won’t find any modern TAB (except 19th century “simplified” methods) here.  But don’t let that scare you, reading music is easy, really.  The current generation of musicians have been bamboozled into believing that reading is impossible.  The reason… I don’t know!  I used to think that music publishers wanted to resell you other’s work, work that is in the public domain.

Now I think it has more to do with modern culture's idea of nostalgia.  The concept that in the “good old days” people “learned by ear” seems very old fashioned— simpler times!

I went for a long time as a music illiterate, coming up with all sorts of excuses for not learning to read.  One of the major catalysts the sent me over the edge is that any modern TABs, unless expressly put into public domain by the author/arranger, is protected under copyright law (see below).  Performing in public any work written after 1923 is (by law) stealing, and could cause the performer all kinds of legal problems.

The best way to learn about subject is to be able to read the written language of the time.  Between 1855 and 1930 there were over 200 banjo instruction book published.  Between 1879 and 1940 there were over 100,000 pieces of sheet music published for banjo.

There is a magic that comes from playing a song directly from the original “dots” as seen 100+ years ago.  That is a sensation that cannot be duplicated by modern TAB.

One widely believed myth is that facsimile reproductions are protected under copyright in the United States.  This is not true.  Only new additions and significant changes to public domain works are protected.  For example, the currently available reprint of the Sears, Roebuck & Co, 1897 catalog  may say that it is copyrighted and protected, but according to only substantial editorial changes are covered.  

Always “search” for a pre 1923 banjo book before buying a download from eBay, Etsy, etc.  There are people (conmen) who have taken my hard work and are selling it in CD or “download” form.  Do not pay them.  It is likely that you can find it for free!

© Joel Hooks 2017