Masters of the Five-String Banjo

The following comments are from satisfied owners of Masters of the Five String Banjo, from Internet discussion lists devoted to the banjo. The comments were made to encourage the reprinting of the book several years ago:

“The Masters of the Five String” is the most comprehensive book ever published on the evolution of bluegrass banjo picking. It included the banjo set-up info for most recorded bluegrass banjoists along with tabs from some of the most prominent. It is considered, by most, to be THE encyclopedia of bluegrass banjo. Most of the key players have a chapter devoted to them exploring their influences, technique and personalities. There is a section that surveys all the basics of many professionial pickers’ banjos, string preference, pick preference, practice habits, tab reading abilities and more. I have two copies of it and consider it to be the absolute finest book ever written on the banjo. It contains over 400 pages and many people have paid an average of 50 cents a page for it and never regretted it. Nothing else even comes close.

Steve F.

Well, I certainly wish I heard about this before I spent 180.00 on an ebay auction for one. I had one before and it was lost. I found it to be one of the best banjo books out there and not because of the tablature in it but because the way it was written. You could get the feel of what it was like back in the 40.s, the 50.s, the 60’s and on as bluegrass progressed. Even having spent the amount of money I did for the auctioned one I never for a moment regret it because I find it a great book. All the personal stuff on the banjo players that I look up to such as what type of instrument they play, how they got started, what strings they use, their strories of being on the road in cars. It was a great book and I have been hoping they would reissue it. Everyone should have a copy of this book.


I had one of these books on ebay about 14 months ago and here’s the description. If you are into Scruggs style picking, this is a MUST HAVE book. It went for $250 on ebay.

Masters of the 5-String Banjo, by Tony Trischka and Pete Wernick – Oak Publications. This is the absolute bible and technical reference for 5-string banjo players! Currently out of print, very rare, and in high demand. There are large sections exclusively on: Snuffy Jenkins, Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs. Then an in depth overview of 68 leading banjo players: when they started, how much they practiced, their current banjo and how it’s setup, their influences, records, and many other items including lots of pictures. Then there are sections with several pages each on: Don Reno, Ralph Stanley, Sonny Osborne, Allen Shelton, JD Crowe, Bill Keith, John Hartford, Ben Eldridge, John Hickman, Alan Munde, Larry McNeely, Butch Robins, Pete Wernick, Tony Trischka, Bela Fleck, and Pat Cloud. Each of the sections has a few songs (with tablature) that represent the picker’s “signature”. 

D.C. Teal

From Beginner banjo list 3/05:

To simply recommend this is a huge understatement. If you pick, even if you just enjoy the banjo, you ought to have this book. Over the years I have taken it to various picking classes, seminars, festivals, etc and have gotten the autographs for many of the folks who have a chapter in the book. I guess you could say my copy is pretty personalized.

Dave T.

I whole-heartedly agree with you, Dave. I have read my copy probably twenty times now, and still find it interesting. You can learn so much just looking at the photos. Yesterday in VBS we used it to analyze a student’s string height over the 12th fret. It is a *must* – a work of tremendous importance to any 3-finger style banjo picker. The cost is barely over that of two lessons from me, and worth a whole lot more!


I bought the first edition copy as soon as it hit the market. It was my banjo ‘bible’ for some time. The interviews, information about individuals set-up preferences, and tabs of signature tunes is invaluable to bluegrass banjoists or those who just love the
instrument. I can’t recommend it enough. My copy has been USED and looks that way, but I wouldn’t take 500 dollars for it.

John B.