Arthur Black’s Modern Method 1933

I first came across Arthur Black when I found his Practical Plectrum Banjo Method of 1919. Here is a video of a dance from this method, played on a plectrum banjo – hopefully the video will start 2’30” in…

He also published in 1917 a Practical Method for Tenor Banjo In Actual Notation, but it was less popular as it was written at actual pitch – an octave lower than is usual for banjo and guitar music. Players more used to the traditional method of notation were forced to transpose everything up an octave – a not difficult, but certainly tiresome task. Thankfully Black, or his publisher, saw the error of his ways, and all future books were notated with the standard method.

Black’s Modern Method for the Spanish Guitar Plectrum Style, is quite possibly my favourite early steel-strung guitar method book. Unfortunately it is hard to find online, but, like me, you might get lucky.

The book will teach you absolutely nothing about jazz or swing, focussing instead on the popular/classical styles of the 1900 to 1930 period. So, for a 1933 publication, it is quite backward looking. By contrast, the back cover is devoted to the new, exciting style forwarded by its authors, the great Harry Volpe and Frank Victor. I have their book, and hope to review it in due course. Black’s book is very different, possibly less sexy to modern-day players, but should not be ignored on that account. Anyone who carefully works through all the exercises and pieces in Black’s Method would have an enviable technique, and a small repertoire of enchanting solos pieces to hand.

Here are the scores for the items in the following video:

Arthur Black Pieces 1933



As with all early Methods, there is no tab to be seen, so you must be able to read standard notation. Thankfully, Black’s method will teach you to read while ensuring you are developing a strong technique. Recommended.


5 thoughts on “Arthur Black’s Modern Method 1933”

  1. I am 71 years old and started guitar lessons when I was 11. My teacher had me go through first two parts of Gibson Method before introducing me to Arthur Black Book. He woud not move me to next piece until I played current piece with 0 errors. I still am only half way through the book. My favorite piece is Etude in G. Loved hearing you play selections from A Black and I have never heard better tone than your guitar.
    Laurence Katz
    Oak Creek Wis


  2. Arthur Black was my grandfather. I have the guitar pictured on the cover of the Sherman-Clay manual pictured. The guitar is a Martin made in New York and dating from the 1880s. Mark Twain had one like it. My 90 year old sister vividly remembers Arthur practicing and writing music. Delighted to find you on the internet and hope you and your readers keep my grandfather’s name alive.


    1. Great to hear from you, Nelson! Your grandfather was an important figure in the promotion of the guitar and banjo as solo instruments, with their own unique yet popular repertoires. He also taught players how to read quite complex and advanced music. He did this just before jazz and swing took over, so his surviving scores give us a great insight into an earlier style, one which is now being rediscovered and valued. You and your sister can both be very proud of your grandfather! Best wishes to you both from a guitar player in Scotland!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.