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Masters of the 5-String Banjo


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The Banjo Bible, the most comprehensive banjo book ever published.

Nothing else even comes close.

By Pete Wernick and Tony Trischka
432 pages, over 200 photos, 50 tablatures of all-time favorite arrangements.

“I spent endless hours reading it in my teen years. It's a wonderful resource for banjo players and essential for anyone who is serious about playing.”
Kristen Scott Benson
Five-time winner IBMA Banjo Player of the Year

About This Book

This book is a treasure trove with: Style, influences, tone, technique, learning, practice tips, improvising, backup, favorite banjos and equipment, set-up, and much much more in this ultimate banjo book — the “Banjo Bible”. It is the most comprehensive banjo book ever written.

See these excerpts from the Earl Scruggs chapter, concerning melody and tone of the Scruggs sound.

Shipping for 1 Book

  • U.S.: $10
  • Canada: $33
  • All other countries except AU/NZ: $44
  • For shipping to Australia or New Zealand, or for an order of the book with other items, please write us at [email protected].


List price: $60. Is the Masters Book Worth $60?

This question came up on the Banjo-L discussion list, and here’s how people responded.

I was looking at the book “Masters of the 5 String Banjo” on line. It looks interesting. Is it worth the almost $60 they are asking for it?

Masters of the Five-String Banjo is worth ten times that much. I am in the banjo book publishing business, and believe me, this excellent book was a labor of love. Peter and Tony did the banjo world a great service by dedicating the hundreds of hours on the unbelievable amount of research and writing, communicating with the artists, collecting of photos and proofing required to publish a book of this magnitude. My advice: BUY it NOW, at ANY price. Buy two and give one to a deserving novice banjo player.”
— Jack Hatfield
“I have read my copy a minimum of thirteen times since I got it. I continually refer to it. In my estimation, the banjo players of the world should kiss the feet of Pete and Tony!!

It’s that good.”
— Julio
“I have a daughter in college – with the prices they want for textbooks these days, $60 for this book is a bargain, and anything less is a great deal. Thanks, Pete, (and Tony) for making the material in this book available to us all. It’s a great resource!”
— Chuck
“Every banjo player should own this book.”
— Mike I.
“I love my copy of the book! Definitely worth the money IMHO. Thanks to John Lawless for getting it reprinted as I lost my original copy.”
— Brink B.
“I like books and I like reading about banjos so it was worth it to me. It also has tab of a bunch of songs, and a lot of neat pickers talking about how they learned and what influenced them. It reads a lot like this list would if it were only populated by professional pickers who had all their posts edited by professional writers.”
— Mike M.
“Well, I for one, certainly prize mine. There is an amazing amount of data and the interviews are priceless. Go for it!”
— Carl
“This book is one of the most important books to have been written on banjo. It obviously took Tony and Pete a long time and a lot of work to complete it. I got mine for Christmas back when it was first published. It’s old and dog-eared now, but it’s been a resource I’ve turned to again and again.

If I can remind some of you, before this book was reprinted, original presses of Masters were selling on ebay for $200 and above. Considering what you would have had to pay for a copy prior to the reprint, $60 is a good deal.”
— Jim

“Cult Classic”

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:

“Originally published in 1988 by Oak Publications, this comprehensive overview of the great three finger players is a must for the library of every serious bluegrass banjo picker – at any skill or experience level. Masters has been a cult classic since it went out of print several years ago, commanding prices up to $150 on auction sites during out of print intervals.

“'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.”
— Jim
“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.
“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
“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!”
— Julio

More Comments from Satisfied Customers

Also see these comments on Amazon. (Please note that this book is no longer available at Amazon or any other online store — only available here on DrBanjo.com!)

“Great book. If you're serious about playing the 5 string banjo, you should own and read this book. There really is no other book like it. As you read it, you will begin to see commonalities among the great players of the past; things that you can focus on in your own playing... It's not an inexpensive book. But buy it instead of yet another how-to DVD. You'll likely learn more.”
“The writing is excellent. Historical facts, the technique of banjo playing and lives of the "greats" are woven into a text that simply invites you to keep on reading. Included are how long each day people practice, what kind of banjo they play, whether they read tab or even use it … Definitely a must for anyone who wants to have a foundation in the history of banjo and bluegrass, both of which are American treasures.”
“Take my word for it---this is the best book out there if you play or enjoy listening to the banjo, and would like to know more about the great artists behind the banjo.”
“Definitely a must for anyone who wants to have a foundation in the history of banjo and bluegrass, both of which are American treasures.”
“For any aspiring banjo picker this book is essential reading… It goes beyond the "ten steps to good playing" approach by showing, in great detail, how so many great players think about, practice, prepare for, developed and performed their craft… Read it from cover to cover then keep it handy as a reference work - excellent.”