Rob MacKillop

Bach for the Tenor or Cello Banjo – New Book/CD

In Music on January 9, 2014 at 12:01 am

My arrangements for tenor banjo (or any 5ths-tuned instrument) of the first three cello suites by Bach, is now available from Mel Bay and other outlets.

The book has a CD recording of my performances of the suites on three different banjos.


Bach’s cello suites are among the most famous solo instrumental works of all time. The cello and the tenor banjo share the same tuning, and banjo players might be surprised at how well this great music fits on the fretboard.

Here is a chance for tenor banjo players to explore Bach on their instrument, which could be tuned to either regular, CGDA, or Irish tuning, GDAE.

Accompanying audio is included, using three different tenor banjos: a regular tenor (Deering Eagle II), a gourd tenor (Jaybird Banjos), and a cello banjo (Gold Tone) which has the same low pitch as the cello. A ‘suite’ is a collection of dances of varying speeds and time signatures, conceived to be performed as a whole, and preceded by a prelude. Bach’s Prelude to the 1st Suite is magnificent and justly famous. The Bourree from the 3rd Suite is also very popular.

Enjoy playing Bach on the Tenor Banjo!



  1. I came upon your website as I was reminiscing about Harry Volpe. I was a student of Sal Salvador for quite a few years. Sal told me many stories about Harry – most of which I cannot remember. Years later, after I moved to South Florida, I met Volpe during the 1980s. he was still gigging at a Hotel in Coral Gables, FL. Harry embraced me because I was a student of Sal’s and gave me a copy of the famous photo with Django, and autographed it for me. Anyway, I remember learning (much later), that harry’s grandson was a blues guitarist. Would you happen to know the name of Volpe’s grandson? I can’t remember his name. And by the way, have you ever seen the “home movie” of Volpe greeting Django upon Django’s arrival in NYC. I once found the video on the internet, but later it appeared to have been taken down. Can’t find it anymore. Thanks – Richie Summa

    • Hi Richie. Great story. I think Harry wrote some very fine guitar music, and I would have loved to have met him. Lucky you. No, I haven’t heard of his grandson, but I’ll keep a lookout for him. And, no, I haven’t seen the home movie – sounds interesting! I hope it gets back online soon.
      If you get a moment, what was it like studying with Sal?

      • sorry to keep you waiting – Studying with Sal was an incredible experience. He was one of the best teachers, and a second father to his students. I studied with him for about 10 years, the latter part at University of Bridgeport, when it was only one of a handful of universities to offer jazz guitar as a major – graduated in 1974. We covered massive amounts of material, both technical and performance. And he told endless stories about his buddies, like Jimmy Smith, Tar Farlow, Harry Volpe, and Stan Kenton. He let me take home records from his massive library every week for years – to introduce me to jazz history. And yes, we did cover the Harry Volpe books, and the George Van Epps method, and Jimmy Smith picking technique. He paid me one the greatest compliments when he said: “I know only one guitarist who can read as well as you, and that is Jimmy Smith.” I knew his family, because I studied at his home in Stamford, CT, where he relocated in early to mid sixties. Also met and got to know his partner Allen Hanlon quite well – and I frequented Hanlon’s weekly guitar ensemble in NYC (then the Ed Sullivan Building, where Sal shared space with Hanlon and Barry Galbraith). His loss was a terrible one, but his many students are among the best in the business and are carrying on all over the damn place! You will run into Sal’s students everywhere you find a jazz guitar presence.

  2. Fantastic, Richie. You studied with the best, it seems. Lucky man! Thanks for that. Much appreciated.

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