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I love my two banjo ukes, and they've always been welcome at Old Time jams, but when the big banjos come, I am drowned out. I was wondering if anyone has adapted a tenor banjo to the ukulele tuning? DGBE or GCEA or something that works for ukulele chords. I know five string banjos are tuned like a taropatch uke, so they should be not-so-hard to figure out, but I feel more comfortable with four strings. I'm also more comfy with the shorter neck of a tenor banjo.

So, has anybody restrung their tenor as a giant banjo-uke? Could it be done, and sound good?

Pat

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Hi Pat,
I play two tenor banjos that I've restrung with nylon strings. One in each tuning you mentioned. I also play a cello banjo in low C G E A tuning. There's a great string company in Boston called Catlines that will get you strings for anything. You tell then the length from nut to bridge and they'll get you the right strings.
If you want to see the cello banjo here are some youtube links.
The Buffalo Girls/Puncheon Floor
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NOYYCheJV38
Coleman's March
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_bBRhaN6v8
Cello Banjo Blues
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mp_xeqLh2vk

There are a few more if you're interested. Going back to tenor from cello seems to make everything easier to play.
Ukulele to tenor may be a little harder. My tenor banjos are old and don't have tone rings. They're plenty loud and not overpowering in an Old Time jam. The cello banjo is made by Gold Tone is a gem! It's a new banjo modeled after the CBs from the banjo orchestras from the 1910s through about 1925. If you'd like more info on the cellos go to google and type Marcy Marxer cello banjo and some interviews come up. They're cool!

All the Best!
Thanks for the information, Marcy. I think the old banjo orchestra instruments are fascinating, and I like your cello banjo. It's great for ukuleles to play with a bass instrument - just what we lack and need to balance us out.

Do some models of tenor banjo adapt from metal to nylon strings better? I would like to try doing that, but I'd like to try it with an inexpensive, but playable banjo in case I don't like the sound. I'm sure I wouldn't want the quality of instrument you have, because they'd be too precious. I thought I might find something at a second hand music store that I frequent. I have to make sure I'm not buying junk, however. What would you suggest I look for? Is it risky buying a second hand banjo? I can check to see if the neck is straight, if it has a good vellum, and if the action seems right. I'd also make sure there was no missing hardware, and that the tuners work well. Then I would check for cracks or bad repair jobs. Anything else? Of course, I'd play it a little just to see if it was in tune all over the fret board.

I can't wait to google 'Catlines". Thanks for referring me.

BTW are you going to be on the staff of any West Coast music camps? Preferably the Upper Left Coast as in Pacific NW?

Sincerely,
Pat
I tune my tenor banjo F Bb D G - a tone lower than C tuning, with a low 4th. I use a light guage set of 5-string banjo strings. I suppose if you wanted a high 4th you could use the fifth string for the fourth (I keep it as a spare 1st string). It's great for jazz and Dixie groups, because the open-string keys are the ones that those guys like to play in. (For old-time, you might be better off tuning down another half-step eac#'f#'. )You can get C or D tuning with a capo, if you like, which also makes the neck shorter and more uke-like.

Using baritone uke tuning, dgbe', on a 4-string banjo is very common - it's sometimes called "Chicago tuning". On my banjo, it sounded a little dull and plunky but C was too high, the Bb tuning suits it much better.

I also used nylon strings for a couple years, but for me on this banjo the metal seemed happier. If being louder is what you want , you might at least try steel strings. A good banjo uke is as loud as most tenors with nylon strings, I'd imagine.
Marcy Marxer said:
Hi Pat,
Time jam. The cello banjo is made by Gold Tone is a gem! .... They're cool!

All the Best!

They ARE cool! I just played one the other day.
John Kavanagh said:
I tune my tenor banjo F Bb D G - a tone lower than C tuning, with a low 4th. I use a light guage set of 5-string banjo strings. I suppose if you wanted a high 4th you could use the fifth string for the fourth (I keep it as a spare 1st string). It's great for jazz and Dixie groups, because the open-string keys are the ones that those guys like to play in. (For old-time, you might be better off tuning down another half-step eac#'f#'. )You can get C or D tuning with a capo, if you like, which also makes the neck shorter and more uke-like.

Using baritone uke tuning, dgbe', on a 4-string banjo is very common - it's sometimes called "Chicago tuning". On my banjo, it sounded a little dull and plunky but C was too high, the Bb tuning suits it much better.

I also used nylon strings for a couple years, but for me on this banjo the metal seemed happier. If being louder is what you want , you might at least try steel strings. A good banjo uke is as loud as most tenors with nylon strings, I'd imagine.
Pat Nelson said:
John Kavanagh said:
I tune my tenor banjo F Bb D G - a tone lower than C tuning, with a low 4th. I use a light guage set of 5-string banjo strings. I suppose if you wanted a high 4th you could use the fifth string for the fourth (I keep it as a spare 1st string). It's great for jazz and Dixie groups, because the open-string keys are the ones that those guys like to play in. (For old-time, you might be better off tuning down another half-step eac#'f#'. )You can get C or D tuning with a capo, if you like, which also makes the neck shorter and more uke-like.

Using baritone uke tuning, dgbe', on a 4-string banjo is very common - it's sometimes called "Chicago tuning". On my banjo, it sounded a little dull and plunky but C was too high, the Bb tuning suits it much better.

I also used nylon strings for a couple years, but for me on this banjo the metal seemed happier. If being louder is what you want , you might at least try steel strings. A good banjo uke is as loud as most tenors with nylon strings, I'd imagine.

Thanks for sharing, John. I'm excited to try a ukulele tuning on a tenor banjo. I think I'll try the steel strings first.
Am I correct in believing the difference between an Irish tenor and a tenor is the number of frets to where the body joins the neck? I think the Irish is 17 while the regular tenor is 19. What is the purpose of that? Does it allow the Irish tenor to be higher pitched? Would one style of tenor banjo adapt better to an alternate tuning?

Pat
It's odd, but the Irish guys prefer a shorter neck for a LOWER tuning. They want to tune Gdae', an octave below the fiddle, because they play mostly fiddle tunes. But they want the shorter neck because it makes the longer stretches in a fifths tuning easier. I understand why - some of those tunes go really fast and you want that high b' on the e' string all the time. But most "Irish banjos" sound pretty tubby on the bottom string. If tone was the only thing, they'd be better off with the long-neck plectrum banjo in that tuning, all things being equal.

But for your question - my opinion only - if you're going to use C or even G uke tuning on a tenor banjo with metal strings, the 17-fret one with the shorter neck will probably sound just as good (once you find the right strings) and feel considerably more familiar and comfortable to a uke player.

I'd look for a 4-string banjo I liked at the right price, though, and not just in a certain neck length. The 19-fret tenors are the most common, but there's also the 22-fret plectrum banjo and I've seen some 20 fret in-betweeners. (Since the pot is usually the same, more frets usually means a longer neck) If you get one that's too long for comfort or the tuning you want, you can always use a capo. Then you have the option of going lower once in awhile to transpose a tune or make a certain key easier to play.
Hi John and Pat,

John Said...cello banjo is made by Gold Tone is a gem! .... They're cool!

All the Best! They ARE cool! I just played one the other day.

The whole cello banjo thing is such an extraordinary fluke! I'm really happy about it. Mike Seeger let me borrow his for a couple of months. I put two cuts up on youtube and Gold Tone called and wanted to make them! The whole story is longer than that but not much. I had never seen one before Mike brought his over andI almost lost my mind looking for one. I found my old CB and a matching TB at Intermountain Guitar and Banjo in Utah and they are really good! They do a great job on set up.
A great old banjo is the Gibson TB Jr. but get them quick if you want one. I have a feeling they're just about to be discovered, too.
I have to say that the Gold Tone banjos play and feel great and the price is a lot less that a vintage banjo.

BTW - You two might like another site I put up at the same time as this one but haven't worked on much yet. I plan to put some time into it next week.

www.banjonation.ning.com

It works just like this one. Easy! I would like to encourage all styles of banjo players with a slant toward the more unusual.

Take Care
The banjo I play most is a six-stringer; not a guitar-banjo but one with two thumb strings at different lengths. (There have been banjos made like that but mine is a modified 5-string.) That would qualify as slanting towards the unusual, I guess.
Wow John, I never heard of two thumb strings. Cool!
Hi Pat,
How's that banjo? Are you having fun with it?
Hi Marcy,

My banjo hasn't arrived yet. I've arranged for Jere Canote to set it up for me. Do you know him? He makes some fun and comical banjo ukes. Besides that, he's a really nice guy.

Thanks for asking. I'm sure I'll want to show and tell everybody when it comes. I'm going to try nylon strings on it - and re-entrant tuning, so I can frail if I want to.

Pat

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