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:
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.