Vintage Editions

Here I look at vintage methods and editions for the plectrum and archtop guitar, from the 1920s to 60s. If I’m allowed, I will make a pdf available. Some of these books are for beginners, while some are more advanced. Looking at them helps fill in some of the social background and context for the development of the plectrum and archtop guitar in the 20th century, irrespective of the quality of the music.

Wm. C. Stahl’s Popular Selections for Plectrum Guitar [1931]

Stahl 1931 Plectrum Guitar – pdf

Although the publisher’s name appears on the front, the entire contents are by one Tony Nivello, which I suspect is a pseudonym. The contents – fourteen solos – are tuneful, pop pieces from 1930/31, which often sound like a well-known piece, but sufficiently different to ward off any law suit.

The standard is easy, or, as the front page informs us: “A Collection of fourteen characteristic Solos in Easy to Medium Grades. Suitable for Solo Playing, Teaching, or Radio Broadcasting.” Well, there you have it, Radio Broadcasting! I doubt anyone would play these on the radio today, but you never know.

Actually, with careful study you could learn a lot from this book, if you are interested in accompanying a singer, perhaps, of popular songs from the period. Touches of the guitar parts remind me of accompaniments by the great Eddie Lang.

The inside back cover shines some light on the position of the guitar in popular music in the years leading up to the publication. The guitar is only mentioned as a part-player in the Mandolin Orchestra. All the other advertisements are for Tenor and Plectrum Banjos – something that would radically change soon after this publication.

I enjoyed having a quick look through the book, and here is a video of three of the pieces, Won’t You Come Back, True Heart, and Lucky Stone Blues:


And now three more: Charming Lady, Betty Lee, and Lucia Waltz:

More to come…