| Here are some comments.
I just finished reading your book that my wife Deb got me for Christmas and I wanted to tell you how much
I enjoyed it. I liked the chapter about your trip to Ohio. That was the first time I got to hear what could be
done with the banjo. I knew then what I wanted to do on the banjo and what I hoped to do in life. I was
very lucky to get to do that for 24 years.
Fred Dodd, Ohio
I'm only on page 30 of your book "My Life"and "wow" it is a FASCINATING story! And so well told! All
the juicy details, and all the boring stuff left out! I could say a lot about your adventures, but for now . . .
just let me say that I am ever impressed with your positive spirit, your ability to "land on your feet" no
matter what, and like I said, I'm only on page 30!
Lou Posner, Indiana
I have just finished reading your new book "My Life" and have enjoyed it immensely. You have led a very
interesting and fulfilling life, and I wish you and Carolyn and your family many more happy years
Dean Bennett, Maine
You still continue to be a great inspiration for me. I wish I had your program of instruction, arrangements,
and solos back when I started learning to play the plectrum banjo in the 1950s. But as they say, better late
than never. Dean Bennett, Maine
Sorry about the hackers. Here's another photo and just for fun I threw in a couple of old ones to show that
I've been trying to learn to play the banjo for a long time! No doubt with your video program I'll now
succeed. The banjo in the 1977 photo is an old Vega "White Lady".
Denis Orser, CA
Just a quick word to mention once again how much I'm enjoying your Lesson Programs. I think the way
you demonstrate virtually everything - in very slow tempo as well as normal tempo - is invaluable to the
student. I'm very happy that I rediscovered you on the internet and I congratulate you for putting together
such a wonderful learning program.
Denis Orser, CA
It has been over a week now that I have been in receipt of your Solo Book #1 in e-book form. I have to tell
you that I love it!
Although I did have reservations as to its convenience and adaptability to my needs when I ordered it, these
concerns quickly faded once I started using it.
The e-book format allows for easy access to the music without the need of unstable music stands, cluttered
coffee tables, or wobbly knees. Once you load it onto the computer, it opens up access to conveniences
impossible to duplicate in paper book form.
I use my wide screen TV as a monitor and a magnifying feature on my wireless mouse; I did put it to use on
a standard monitor with similar success.
After entering the content of the book into my PC, I found it presented in visual form with each page
miniaturized, as the computer would normally display photographs. By clicking on a single page, the full
presentation can then be viewed, copied, or blown up. What I found to be most beneficial, was the ability
(with a magnifying mouse) to isolate an individual line or measure; the reader then has the capability to
focus on complex chord formations and alike without the distraction of ambient clutter.
I highly recommend this format to those equipped with computing resources.
Thanks again Don.
"Thanks Don. My act for retirement communities is working out. I'm averaging about one per month. I'm beginning to
get over my nervousness, which always used to tighten me up and prevent my muscles from relaxing so I made more
mistakes. But I decided at 75 going onto 76 that if I was ever going to pursue this dream I'd better do it now, and what the
heck, at this age the future is now and so what if I make mistakes. I had a banjo teacher in the 1950s, then in his late
years, who said to me, "If you make a mistake, make it again as soon as you can, and they'll think it belongs there."
Anyway, you're the person who made all this possible, and for that I am most appreciative. (Dean Bennett, Maine)
"Hi Don, This is for SOLO BOOK SEVEN. Thanks so much. You made so many things possible for me to learn this ...
instrument. My fingers are even longer now! (Stephen Adkins, CA)
"Hi Don, Well, I received the lessons the other day and had a chance to review the whole course. What a wonderful job
you have done in cutting through a lot of the bs that usually accompanies such things.
Correct me if I am wrong, but since I am familiar with most of the chords (not by name or note, but by feel and blend), I
am concentrating on lesson 3 in order to build up chalices, especially on my little finger. I have a decent hand span and
my reach is good. Once that is accomplished, I can bite the bullet I have avoided all my life and digest the basic rudiments
of music. I am also using a tenor banjo tuned plectrum, and thus limited by the shorter neck.
I ordered a new banjo from Richelieu and await delivery in sixteen weeks. I'm wondering if they begin the construction
process by sending a man into the forest with an ax!
Once again, thank you for such a fine product that is both instructive and entertaining." (Charlie Fox, CA)
"Hi Don, I just wanted to say how impressed I was with your advanced technique DVD lesson #3. The elements are
broken down very clearly and in such good progressive order. I especially enjoyed the inspiring quotes. And thanks so
much for including your wonderful "Alive and Pickin' " CD and your very kind responses to my e-mails.
(Marek Sapieyevski, actor/singer/musician, Brooklyn, NY)
"I sometimes hear from students who have to give up playing the banjo because of carpal tunnel or arthritis. They ask
me if I've had those problems because of my age and the many years I've been playing. I tell them that has never been a
problem for me because my wife who is a Kinesiologist takes care of me. She says that keeping toxins out and getting
proper nutrients in is basic health care. She's able to test me for the exact nutrients my body needs. I have had some
problems over the years and she has solved them all!" (Don Van Palta, AZ)
"Hi Don, I received the corrected DVDs. You threw in the CD with Charlie Khedarian. Thanks you!
That was a treat. The solo books are great. I plan to learn or relearn a bunch of these oldies and keep
working on the arrangements so I can conquer my nemesis (syncopation!) Thank you for letting me come
down and study with you for two days. It was delightful." (Patrick Blakely, Utah)
"I have been using Don Van Palta's plectrum banjo lessons and arrangements for the past several months.
They are truly unique and superior to any other teaching aids I've come across. To see and hear and repeat
the info as often as you desire and to play along with Don's accompaniment is superior to face to face
lessons in many ways. The tapes are so well done that Don seems to anticipate questions and answers them
before they become a problem. Thanks for making this material available."
(R.T. Dooley, OK)
Hello Don,I am an 80 year old retired surgeon. Always liked the banjo - Picked up a tenor and learned a
few chords - Mickie Finn TV show was my introduction to you and your banjo playing, and later, your
banjo lessons. Never had too much time to really become proficient - but since retirement the banjo has
been a "God sent". I play every day - songs, chords, etc. I play alone and just enjoy it! I'm sure you're
proud of what you have accomplished. Just wanted to say thanks! (J. Zullo, TX)
(I'm proud what YOU'VE accomplished!! Don)
"I owe a great deal of my playing and my career to Don Van Palta. As I travel the world I have met other
banjoists, from Australia, to England, to Scotland, to Canada and all over the United States who, like
myself, owe a great debt to Don for his lesson series which opened up our ears and minds to many
techniques and concepts which are very hard to find for plectrum banjo. He has devoted much of his life to
the teaching and performing of this instrument. If you enjoy plectrum banjo then you owe a great deal of
respect to him for keeping this instrument in the public eye for so many decades. In addition to all of this
he is a true gentleman. Don Van Palta is a man of highest standards personally and professionally. Thank
you Don for all that you have done and continue to do." (Peter Mezoian, ME)
"I just got your CDs and DVDs with the books and started working on the first set of lessons. They look a
lot easier to deal with than the other books I attempted to start with. At least with your lessons I feel like
I'm accomplishing something. I will probably look back over the other books after I finish your courses.
But then again, you have so much material. . . . . . I may not!" (Kyle Ford, WA)
"As someone searching for Plectrum banjo info for years and not finding much until I found your web site
back in 1998, I'd just like to say publicly, THANK YOU! Your teaching materials have instructed and
inspired me to play better than I thought I ever could." (William Miller)
"I just want to wish you and Carolyn a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Thank you for spending all of those years travelling to play the banjo for all your audiences including
myself. I some times stop to think what would it have been like if you hadn't driven across the country to
perform in Maine when I first met you and saw one of your shows. Then there are all those years of
working on the ships and all of the travel that it entailed. Sometimes I think that the other banjoists don't
realise what you went through back then. Not to mention the meticulous work you did to create your
lesson series and all of the arrangements which you made available to us all. You were the first!!
I've always believed that you paved the way for someone like me to have this career. I will always
remember that and always be grateful." (Peter Mezoian, ME)
"Once again, thanks for sharing your musical magic through these great materials, particularly the
arrangements, they make me feel as if I have been admitted to the magician's club, finally realizing the
secrets, but also, the work behind the magic." (T. Coin, PA)
"I'm extremely grateful for Don Van Palta's banjo course. It's easy to follow. You have it right in front of
you on the video monitor. It's like Don is in the same room with you! How can you miss. Don's videos and
books have totally excellevated!! my banjo playing. It's fun, and with a little dedication, easy!"
"Don, I am truly enjoying practicing Nola. I have loved playing and practicing all your arrangements, but
Nola takes the cake. I've got the first section with both endings fairly good, but quite a ways from up to
speed. Thanks for putting together a great arrangement such as Nola. Also, I have received so many
compliments on the Richelieu banjo I got from you." (J. Taber, WA)
"I want to tell you how great I think your cassette and book method of teaching is. I find it all a lot of
work, but the results do come. I think your playing is fantastic and the amount of work you get into the
solos is really exciting." (A. M. Parker, New Zealand)
"I have Plectrum Banjo Books a'plenty, in fact five different ones! One has all possible chords for C
tuning. The catch is that they don't tell you what to do with them! Your book has done more for me in a
few days than the others have in a year!" (Rolfe H. Utz, W. Va.)
"I've listened to The Flying Dutchman CD every day with my morning coffee since I received it in August.
But Clap Your Hands will take its place for a while. Some people play notes and some people play music.
You definitely play music and it's wonderful to listen to." (B. Little, AZ)
"I can't tell you how enthusiastic I am about your lessons! You really cover the mechanics of each stroke
in depth, and with the aid of the video it really takes the guesswork out of it."
"I'm continuing to develop on the plectrum and your arrangements and recordings have been very helpful
and inspiring. Thanks again for all you do." (D. Back, AL)
"The package arrived safely on Friday and I have had a good time with it the past couple of days. I'm
already on my way with the triplet glisses, and there's so much more to do and learn. I'm watching your
moves on the video very closely!" (J. Sandell, CA)
"I have purchased every Solo Book you have offered to date and they have been a great help to me. If only I
could live long enough to really play them as well as they should be played. I bought my Richelieu banjo
from you. I love it and you were right, it's sounding better all the time. My bride says that some of that is
because I'm becoming a better player." (R. Payne, DE)
"THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! I received your material late Friday, had time to watch 3/4
of the first tape, practiced a bit and played a job on Saturday. Got complimented by the leader on how well
I sounded. Easily 50% better than before your inspirational and educational material. It literally "kicked
down the door" to many banjo mysteries! Thanks again, today I am starting from the beginning and plan
to work through your material slowly and thoroughly." (L. Rossi, IL)
"The package containing your instructional videos arrived last week and I am absolutely delighted with
the contents. I have treated myself to an overview and it is obvious that many, many hours have been spent
to produce such a clear, informative and entertaining program." (K. Harvey, Australia)
"I've had a plectrum for about 35 years, but would still consider myself a beginner. Received your DVD
lesson programs last week and was pleased to see that there were just two things I'd been doing wrong over
the past 35 years - - my right hand and my left hand! Your lessons are so well presented that I've learned
more in the past 10 days than I have in the previous 35 years. Now I'm motivated! Thanks so much."
(B. Little, AZ)
"Just a short note to let you know how much I am enjoying taking lessons on video. Your instruction is
great. I received the package on Wednesday, tuned up and went to work. I am on lesson 2. I haven't
touched a banjo in 25 years, and when I did play, I tuned it guitar tuning. Although my 53 year old fingers
don't want to do what I want them to do, they are coming under submission." (Pastor S. McCoy, Florida)
"I used to play with the Peninsula Banjo Band in the 70's under the direction of Charlie Tagawa. I
haven't touched my Gibson Mastertone in over 25 years. I was going through some LPs (big CD's!) and
played a couple of yours. I then got inspired and decided to start in again. I have been practicing for about
two months now. Your VHS lessons are invaluable. I have even used your music when playing my Yamaha
Organ. Thanks again." (J. Blankenship, CA)
"I enjoy playing the banjo very much. My wife Charlene and I love to entertain. Don has really helped me
a lot with his fantastic arrangements and solo books."
(John Taber, WA)
"I am really glad I have the lessons. I've practiced on them at least 2 hours every day and usually more.
Some of the segments I have on a loop and it really helps learn difficult passages - especially on the
tremolo, glissando and solo segments." (B. Little, AZ)
"Your "Arrangements" are fantastic! I'll be sending in for more. I'll send you a picture to hang in the
Rogues Gallery as soon as I can get one taken of my mug. Please send me a "Sing-A-Long Fest". I have
been requested to play at a Christmas party."
(Jim Blankenship, CA)
"About 35 years ago I learned to play the plectrum and was active with an area banjo band for a number of
years. I then made a major career change and stopped playing the banjo. I recently decided to learn how to
play the banjo again and ordered your three video lesson programs. Programs 1 and 2 contain well
presented basics I had once learned 35 years ago. Program 3 is teaching me how to do the tremolo and I am
looking forward to the syncopations you teach later. Seeing these strokes in video is a real help in
understanding how to do them. Your videos are well done and show a lot of work and planning. Your
professional manner and good humor make them fun to watch. Now if you would only do the practice for
me . . . . . !!"
(Linwood Johnson, Corvallis, OR)
"I got the package today. Everything was in excellent condition. I am 100% satisfied. The arrangements
are just great. Again thanks, I really know they will be a challenge, but I will have fun practicing them.
My best to you always."
(John Taber, WA)
"Thank you Don for Program #3. I am enjoying the clear instructions and the face to face DVD lessons."
(Keith Hay, New Zealand)
"Hi Don, very much enjoyed your video of "Al The Things You Are" in this month's edition of Jazz Banjo.
com magazine. Just the motivation I need to get back to playing. Lost interest when advised I had prostate
cancer but since it was removed earlier this month and I'm on the road to recovery, might be just the time to
pick up the old Paramount Leader and get back to those DVP lessons."
(Pete Donaldson, Texas)
"Hi Don, I greatly appreciate your quick response and phone call. I'm deep into the first sixteen measures
of "Heartaches", and enjoying it immensely. You have done a great service to those of us attached to the
plectrum banjo in creating your lesson programs and arrangements. I only wish that I had had this
opportunity in 1956 when I started lessons in Portland, Maine, at the time when I was an apprentice
cabinetmaker a few years out of high school. But better late than never! Thanks again for your interest
and help." (Dean Bennett, Maine)
"Hi Don, The Solo Books arrived today. They’re excellent and I’ll have lots of fun trying out the
arrangements. Thank you for the CD; It is superb and really shows how versatile the plectrum banjo can be
in the hands of a master. I play your CD’s almost continuously in my car, on my PC and at work. They give
me so much pleasure. Best regards." (John Mullen, Scotland, UK)
"Hi Don: I started banjo lessons with a local fellow, Jack Taylor, in 1957. My first inspiration was Eddie
Peabody and I met him when he was doing an Auto Show here in Calgary in 1961 and we corresponded
and visited together for the better part of a decade. When I saw the "Mickie Finn Show" on television, I
came across another banjo player that inspired and motivated me - "The Flying Dutchman" and then I met
you at Klondike Days in Edmonton.
I taught banjo from 1975 to 1983 and when I first started I purchased your audio course. I had been taught
the guitar tuning and I wanted to learn something about the true plectrum tuning. While I never made the
switchover, I still re-tune my banjo from time to time and run through some plectrum chords and play a
couple of tunes - usually Bye Bye Blues and The World is Waiting For The Sunrise. I also showed my
students your course when I'd take them on so that if they wanted to learn alternate tuning to the guitar
tuning, they could order your course directly from you and work on it on their own.
Whenever I'd hear an interesting arrangement on recordings by you or Eddie, I'd take the basis of it, then
see if I could "re-tool" it to make an arrangement of my own.
Thus, if I group Jack Taylor and Eddie and yourself together, I certainly learned things from each of you -
and all interesting in their own right. I don't know if this qualifies Otis and me for your "Rogues Gallery"
photo page but I've sure appreciated your friendship and inspiration over the years, Don. I hope this will
continue for a long time to come." (...Johnny Thorson, Canada)
Addressed to banjohangout.org, I've been working my way through a book of "101 Plectrum Banjo Solos"
by Don Van Palta who is "The Flying Dutchman on the 1966 Mickie Finn TV show.
If you are working on chord melody, these solos are very instructive. He uses some interesting passing
chords, and more importantly, some very creative fingerings that can make things a whole lot easier. Don
has seven different books of these solos, which sell for $65 each, but frankly, just the first book will
probably keep most folks busy for a very long time. Even if you only use two-thirds of the songs in Volume
1, that works out to just $1 a song and is an excellent value, in my opinion.
I also bought Don's Program #3 of plectrum banjo lessons. This covers right'hand technique, and is a
booklet with two accompanying DVD's that show you exactly how to do the different strums he teaches.
Since I never really got any formal instruction on right-hand technique, this information was quite
valuable. Once again, it's $65 and I thought it was money well spent. Don also sells a $10 DVD of himself
in live performance aboard the MS Maasdam, and it's also a good investment. You'll see how a real pro
performs, and also arranges his musical program to include old and new numbers, fast and slow, serious
and funny. Don plays in a revised version of the Eddie Peabody style - mostly chord melody, but not quite
as "wack-a-doo" as Eddie was. Don's website is worth a serious look, and if you like his playing style, so
are his materials. (Seth Briliant, NJ)
Don -- Here's a copy of the review I recently posted on the Banjo Hangout BB. Please feel free to use it on
your own website if you want to.
In addition to the books of sheet music solos described above, I recently ordered two special "sheet
music/DVD combo" plectrum banjo arrangements from Don Van Palta at plectrumbanjolessons.com. These
arrangements are even more intricate than the solos described above (which frankly are pretty advanced
Each "combination" arrangement consists of a medley, is done in full melody chords, and comes in the
form of a detailed lead sheet with the melody line, chord names and tablature. The arrangement also comes
with an accompanying DVD in which Don first plays the number at regular tempo. He then goes through
the entire arrangement bar by bar, in 8-bar phrases, showing you the fingering and the right-hand
techniques at a very slow tempo. It’s just like having a private lesson with Don –- except that you can
rewind and replay it at your leisure. Each eight-bar section is a different numbered chapter on the DVD, so
it’s very easy to find and skip to the particular section you want to work on.