I just got a instructional video from Homespun by John Hartford. He of course uses the Deering JH Banjo with 2 extra frets, BUT he tunes DOWN to Eb. He uses his own brand of John Pearce JH heavy strings [12/24w/20w/14/12]. I've tried to tune my banjo down to E natural with slightly larger strings. Has anyone done this or have experience in a regular neck [ NOT LONG NECK] banjo tuned to E or Eb. My old banjo has a nice growl but E or Eb dosent seem very logical for a banjo tuning.
When all is said and done, the banjo being a musicial instrument, is to back up the voice. John had a nice deep voice and Eb was a good key for him to sing in. The banjo was tuned to his voice, not the other way around.
Hugh Playing since 1964
"If the banjo was any good, The Beatles would have used it."- Bill McEuen
I have the Hartford DVD, too. He actually used two banjos - one with a traditional 22-fret neck and the one you mentioned which has 24 frets free of the rim. Although the neck is two frets longer, the scale is the same (the bridge is closer to the center of the head, giving a plunkier sound). I tried the Eb tuning and liked it for Big Country, but it seemed too low for some other tunes. I have also played it on a Deering/Vega long-neck, but it was too strident, with too much sustain. To me, Big Country sounds great in standard tuning.
i really like the low tuning because i play 3 finger on an open back and you can actually feel the vibrations. Big Country is a great tune that sounds nice whereever its played. Im not sure when Hartford started playing down there. I dont think it was on Aeroplane. Maybe on that steamboat thing. By the way, is Steamboat Whistle Blues by John a variation of the same tune by Flatt and Scruggs? tom
I use Dean Markley mediums (B111318) and tune the four long strings to BEG#B - This is a 26.somethingorother scale standard 22 fret neck. I'm certain the same strings could be tuned a half tone lower for E flat if anyone wished to do it.
The guages are - 011, 013, 018, 026W with an 010 for the 5th string.
Thanks Guys [ and Gals] I still have it in "E" tuning. and it still sounds good. Actually on my old Bacon it sounds better that "G" even capoed up three frets to "G" [ thats weird too- BUT its a wooden rimmed banjo with no tone ring- sort of like a cheap man's JH] I'm thinking of buying more Medium guage strings GHS makes a 11/13/18/26/11 and a 11/13/16/24/10 I may buy both and experiment. It sounds good tuned up from "E" to "F" also. and for some keys the 5th string is a little off. Right now its E/F#/G/G#/A then I run out of spikes. so in "B" its a little off. but since I'm using a #10 on the 5th I guess i can still tune it up to the regular "G"? More comming later. I WISH I could afford the $4k for a Deering JH but thats never going to happen. Thanks again