The Classic Banjo style uses a fingerstyle technique, first discussed in print in Tom Briggs’ Banjo Instructor of 1855, and further elucidated in such publications as Frank B. Converse’s Analytical Banjo Method (1887) and Emile Grimshaw’s How To Excel On The Banjo (c.1920).
Converse advocated using ALL the fingers of the right hand – pinkie/little finger included – but almost all his pieces could be played with thumb, index and middle fingers, with occasional recourse to the ring finger.
Frank Converse – Dell Schottische and Boquet Mazurka:
and an example of his more Romantic-period style:
Grimshaw’s style is closer to ragtime, music hall and early jazz. He started life as a fingerstyle classic player, but turned in his later years to the Plectrum and Tenor banjos. His studies to develop a classic-style technique and musicianship are, in my opinion, the best available. Here are three studies from How To Excel On The Banjo:
From Mel Bay Publications:
The Early American Parlor Banjo – Rob MacKillop with CD of performances
The Early Irish-American Banjo – Rob MacKillop with CD of performances
CD – Download from iTunes and CD Baby – The Early American Parlor Banjo
Listen to examples at CD Baby…