Reproduction 19th Century Tack Head Fretless Banjos

The Banjo Factory

How to Build a Banjo

Here's a nice project for a rainy Saturday...

"A Boy's Own Paper" was a publication for English boys intended to provide edifying stories and ensure representation of an underlying Christian morality during their formative years. This weekly paper originally cost one penny and went on sale September 18th, 1879. The following is a December 1888 article on "How to Build a Banjo". Victorian youth must have been quite resourceful craftsman to have completed this project. The previous article was "How to Build A Steam Engine"! It involved sheet brass and fabricating various valves. I'll stick to banjos.

Click on the photo of the paper below to open a readable size PDF facsimile of the paper.

Briggs Banjo Method


In 1855 this was the first widely circulated instruction booklet for playing what came to be called the Minstrel style banjo. There were obscure predecessors and other instruction booklets would follow, but this was the beginning of the “codification” of the stroke method of playing which would be adopted by many of the mid-19th century minstrels.

We offer a modern reprint of this important historical book providing additional explanations and tablature transcriptions not in the original.  This provides instruction in a user friendly way for a present day student of the banjo trying to learn to play in the old way.

Though there were still a great deal of self-taught improvisational styles, this method became common among the professional entertainers. By the 1860s, classical picking styles (resembling classical guitar techniques) gained popularity among banjo players, but the old stroke style remained common throughout the 1800s and even into the 20th Century.

Original copies are extremely rare and even reprints can be difficult to come by. Being in the public domain, it offers limited profit potential to commercial publishers. With this in mind, we offer this 52 page facsimile free of charge.  Enjoy!

Click on a image below below to open a PDF of the complete 1855 edition.

Learn the Banjo in 10 Minutes
Briggs Banjo Instructor

Click on the logo for tablature, lessons, discussion groups, links - Good source for what contemporary banjo players are up to.

Learn to Play the Banjo in 10 Minutes


Learning to play the banjo at a basic level is a relatively easy manner. If you are already familiar with another string instrument like the guitar, it should only take you about 10 minutes.  If you haven't played an instrument before, but can hum a tune, it shouldn't take more than an hour.

Click on the Minstrel to the right to get a copy of my super simple banjo method.

Here is a good resource on banjos of the 19th Century.  Click on the picture to be taken to the Banjo Data Base

Boy's Own Paper