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Author Topic: finally got a tenor banjo!  (Read 5158 times)

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Offline johnnie40coats

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finally got a tenor banjo!
« on: Jun 15, 2007, 11:38:25 PM »
After a flurry of dog training clients this spring, I finally have enough money to splash out on a few things - first up was a tenor banjo, it just got here today and I haven't stopped playing it. Got a "Grafton Popular #2" from AndyBanjo at the BanjoWorks in Kent. I think it's the business and much nicer than some of the overpriced entry level banjos I've seen in the shops round these parts. And just to completely push the boat out, I also have a deposit down on a mandolin, should be picking it up in a few weeks -  decided to go for a Buchanan folk mandolin. Will post a review of it once I have it and get a chance to play it for a bit.

Johnnie

Offline Crofty

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Re: finally got a tenor banjo!
« Reply #1 on: Jun 16, 2007, 05:04:58 PM »
Hi Johnnie
You made a good choice with Grafton,I had one for a while and was impressed,thinking of getting a Grafton 5 string from Andy.He has chosen good great parts for the Grafton range,plain but a great sound for the price.
Another great choice is Buchanan mandolin,I have a KD1 Sycamore and Spruce,great sounding mandolin.I had some other British makers before the Buchanan but for the price I don,t think it can be beat,just dont put heavy gauge strings on though as it can pull the bridge and top.

Crofty

Offline johnnie40coats

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Re: finally got a tenor banjo!
« Reply #2 on: Jun 16, 2007, 11:21:24 PM »
Thanks for the tip about the heavy gauge strings Crofty! Just curious, what strings do you put on a fixed bridge mandolin? Do they sell mando strings for fixed bridge, or did you use guitar strings?

Johnnie

Offline Crofty

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Re: finally got a tenor banjo!
« Reply #3 on: Jun 17, 2007, 04:44:07 PM »
Hi Johnnie
Most of the major manufactures make then with a ball end option which is what you need for Buchanan.Personally I use Newtones, their low tension guitar strings are great BTW.
Crofty

Offline Luther

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Re: finally got a tenor banjo!
« Reply #4 on: Jun 20, 2007, 08:43:28 PM »
My wife plays claw hammer banjo and mandolin and has always wanted a tenor banjo. We're just looking for the right one.  She too is a dog trainer... small world

Offline chaoscat

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Re: finally got a tenor banjo!
« Reply #5 on: Jun 22, 2007, 02:06:06 PM »
I've been kicking around the "idea" of a tenor banjo myself. I picked up a mandolin a few months ago and have loved playing it. I'm just not sure what I can "do" with a tenor banjo. If I tune it GDAE am I just going to end up with a twangy sounding mandolin, or is it possible to get the rhythmic plunky banjo roll type sounds out of it? Do you/can you play the tenor with finger picks or do you just use a regular pick?
I've also heard that it can be a little tough to make the transistion from Mando to Tenor banjo, due to the increased distance between the frets. The nice thing with the mando is that songs learned on it can be easily translated to fiddle, or vice versa, as the fingering is so close.

If I'm gonna have to retune it to DGDG and attempt to use something like the Patek style to achieve roll type sounds, would I just be better off to go straight to a 5 string?



Offline Luther

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Re: finally got a tenor banjo!
« Reply #6 on: Jun 22, 2007, 04:42:13 PM »
The tenor players I know have it tuned CGDA, I think that's like a viola and mandola isn't it? So tunes played on the mando in D or G would be pretty much the same on the tenor. The reach would be a bit longer. They use a flat pick playing melody or rhythm, but I have heard of finger picks and claw hammer, I guess its picker's choice.

Offline johnnie40coats

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Re: finally got a tenor banjo!
« Reply #7 on: Jun 23, 2007, 12:20:25 AM »
My tenor is a short scale tuned  to GDAE. I just got a book/CD on the tenor banjo by Gerry O'Connor, and in it he says that he tunes his tenor CGDA, which is the standard tenor tuning, but for the purposes of the book he used "irish" tuning of GDAE, which I think I recently read somewhere was popularised by Barney McKenna of The Dubliners. Most of the tenor banjo players I've seen here in Ireland use a normal plectrum to play, though I did see a programme on TG4, our Irish language station, last week that featured Pecker Dunne, well known Traveller/banjo player and he played with a thimble.

Johnnie

Offline chaoscat

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Re: finally got a tenor banjo!
« Reply #8 on: Jun 23, 2007, 02:26:19 PM »
You say the that the players you've seen in Ireland have plectrum banjos, not tenors. Do you know if they are tuning these to GDAE? I just got a line on really good deal on an old plectrum banjo with a case and am thinking about picking it up. Banjo's are really friggin confusing. I've never seen an instrument with so many different ways to tune and use.

Offline johnnie40coats

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Re: finally got a tenor banjo!
« Reply #9 on: Jun 23, 2007, 11:24:53 PM »
Oops, need to clear up the misunderstanding - I meant that they use normal plectrums a.k.a "picks" to play their tenor banjos with, as opposed to finger picks.

Johnnie

Offline chaoscat

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Re: finally got a tenor banjo!
« Reply #10 on: Jun 25, 2007, 04:21:48 PM »
As I said, banjo's can be friggin' confusing. A Tenor banjo has 4 strings, but just because a banjo has 4 strings- it's not necessarily a tenor banjo. Depending on the scale length, it may be something called a Plectrum Banjo instead. (which is supposedly more suited to jazz and dixieland than to Irish music)

Not to be confused with a 5 string banjo, which may be used as a Plectrum banjo if the 5 string is removed and the other 4 strings re-tuned(but probably won't work as a tenor replacement). Aaauughhh

I think I'll just go back and play my fiddle.

Offline Crofty

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Re: finally got a tenor banjo!
« Reply #11 on: Jun 25, 2007, 04:49:27 PM »
My Tenor was a short scale a 17 fret tuned GDAE and I played it with a plectrum.I found I could play all my mandolin tunes on it but swapping back and forward I would occasionally miss a note/fret on the mandolin and I got worried that I would lose the muscle memory for the mandolin and fiddle so i sold mine.
I have spoken to other fiddlers who play banjo as well and they say that the 5 string is okay as it chords more like a guitar,kind of fancy one but don,t think I would give it the time it deserves.
What do people think about this mixing (too) many instruments.

Crofty

Offline peakfiddler

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Re: finally got a tenor banjo!
« Reply #12 on: Jun 25, 2007, 06:02:52 PM »
I have spoken to other fiddlers who play banjo as well and they say that the 5 string is okay as it chords more like a guitar,kind of fancy one but don,t think I would give it the time it deserves.
What do people think about this mixing (too) many instruments

A five string works quite well for irish style tunes if it is tuned to double c tuning with a capo on the second fret.
The short fifth string needs a pin to hold it in position. The tuning ends up as   a D A D E
I used this tuning for years and played most irish tunes that way.

I now own a tenor banjo tuned GDAE which is great fun and easy to play.

Regarding the mixing of instruments, I would suggest that you play as many instruments that you have time or the inclination to learn. However, the cost of replacing strings can be a regular financial burden if you have lots of instruments + a fair amount of storage space is required.

Advice: Wait till one of your kids move out and nab their room.

Offline chaoscat

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Re: finally got a tenor banjo!
« Reply #13 on: Jun 25, 2007, 06:32:21 PM »
I have spoken to other fiddlers who play banjo as well and they say that the 5 string is okay as it chords more like a guitar,kind of fancy one but don,t think I would give it the time it deserves.
What do people think about this mixing (too) many instruments.

This is something I've wrestled with as well. I can barely find time to practice the instruments I have now. That's why Tenor Banjo sounded attractive. Another GDAE instrument, so I wouldn't have to learn a whole new fretting scheme. I already play guitar, fiddle and mandolin. I practice the Mando during my lunch hour and the fiddle at night after I get home from work. When I'd have time to play the banjo I don't know -- but I want one.

I actually picked up the Mandolin in an effort to help me with playing the fiddle. I thought that being able to physically see/touch frets would help me with position memorization for tunes.

What I really would love to be able to play is 5 string banjo. I've always loved the sound of bluegrass banjo. But, that IS a whole 'nother fretting scheme that would require a LOT of practice hours, and I think it's getting to the point, "Do I want to be a decent fiddler or a half a**ed fiddler/mandolinist/banjoist/guitarist ?"

Offline Crofty

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Re: finally got a tenor banjo!
« Reply #14 on: Jun 26, 2007, 11:51:30 AM »
Hi Chaoscat
Your situation is a bit like mine.I work at a weather/rescue station and have lots of free time,I keep a fiddle and a guitar at work where I have some time to play.I also play guitar and fiddle at nights with my pals/sessions etc.I play the mandolin lounging in front of the TV and it is great for practicing and getting the tunes off by heart.
I fancy the 5 string banjo and would like to have one around just for the "craic" really.What i thought was that since it is tuned gDGBD it is like the top 4 strings of the guitar in dropped D tuning so the chords would,nt be so difficult,it would be great to accompany tunes in G,capoed at the second fret would cover A so that just leaves the key of D to learn, which just about covers most of the trad music I am playing.
Any banjo players like to comment.

Crofty

Offline chaoscat

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Re: finally got a tenor banjo!
« Reply #15 on: Jun 26, 2007, 08:15:48 PM »
Well, I did it. I went completely off the deep end last night and bought a 5 string banjo off of ebay. Hadn't planned to buy it. Just went to "look". Lo and behold, somebody was selling the exact banjo I was looking at (a Goldtone CC 100R) , barely used, with a nice case and beginner videos - all for about $60 less than what the banjo alone sells for new. Like I told my wife, it's like it was on SALE...a real steal.....priced out separately, it would have cost me $200 more....see how much money I saved?

Heh.

Offline Crofty

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Re: finally got a tenor banjo!
« Reply #16 on: Jun 27, 2007, 08:36:41 PM »
Great choice,that's the model I fancy as well.
Crofty

Offline johnnie40coats

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Re: finally got a tenor banjo!
« Reply #17 on: Jun 27, 2007, 10:09:41 PM »
See, chaoscat, that's what I'm like - one minute I was just "looking" at the Banjoworks website and the next thing I was hitting "Buy Now"!! It was worse when I was living in the States - the Elderly Instruments site was my downfall!

Johnnie

Offline saintjohnbarleycorn

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Re: finally got a tenor banjo!
« Reply #18 on: Sep 11, 2007, 01:02:51 PM »
what is the string length for the short and long tenor banjo? I have one but I am not sure what length it is, and wonder what tuning I should use, I had used a while back and used cgda tuning, I also had a lot of trouble with the a string breaking a lot. thanks for any help.

Offline johnnie40coats

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Re: finally got a tenor banjo!
« Reply #19 on: Sep 16, 2007, 05:38:05 PM »
If your banjo is a short scale it'll have 17 frets and if it's a standard tenor it'll have 19 frets. The tuning you choose to use will depend on what kind of stuff you play - the majority of irish trad players use GDAE tuning, whereas CGDA is used for other types of music (dixieland, jazz etc) Gerry O'Connor uses CGDA and I read an interview with him in Irish Music Magazine this month where he said that "99.9% of irish trad players use GDAE" and that he liked CGDA because it sounded different, kind of bluegrassy to his ear and made him "stand out". Where is your A string breaking? At the nut? or the bridge? or somewhere else?

Johnnie

 




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