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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Tempted to get a plectrum 4-string

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abarten - Posted - 04/08/2009:  13:17:22

I'm basically a beginner using a 5-string. My musical interests are varied, so it's tempting to get a 4-string plectrum as well. My reasoning is that it is generally tuned the same way as the 5-stringer, thus I only have to build on the chord set I already know.

Does this make sense or am I overlooking more important factors?

Can I just get by - at least for the moment - with the 5-string and just not strum the fifth string?

Plectrums seem harder to come by. Are there any good sources for beginners?



RJFreeman - Posted - 04/08/2009:  13:35:21

A plectrum is the same as a 5 string without the 5th string. I have a 5 string I use for a plectrum, I just removed the 5th string. If you want to play plectrum and 5 string on the same instrument you can just avoid the 5th string. If you wish to concentrate on plectrum I would remove the 5th, as it tends to get in the way.

Edited by - RJFreeman on 04/08/2009 13:36:57

abarten - Posted - 04/08/2009:  13:43:31

Thanks. You just saved me some money - at least for now. I'd hate to spend a bunch and then find I really preferred the 5-string anyway.

-- Al

NYCJazz - Posted - 04/08/2009:  13:54:04

The standard tuning for a plectrum is slightly different. 5-string is an open G chord DGBD while plectrum is CGBD so there is tons of common ground. Same number of frets, same scale. If you're more comfortable sticking with the open G tuning, do it

Lots of people just drop the 5th string and play with a flatpick. Jamaican Mento mostly uses banjos like this because 5-string banjos are cheaper & more plentiful in the islands than plectrums.

Plectrums ARE hard to find. Keep an eye out on eBay... a lot of sellers don't know the difference between tenor & plectrum, so do what I do... count the frets! Gold Tone and Deering Goodtime both sell great entry-level instruments

Improvisation is the ability to talk to oneself.
~ Cecil Taylor

Banjoman - Posted - 04/08/2009:  14:29:45

Ahhh but remember there NYCJazz, the 5-String is also tuned gCGBD, that what 5-string pickers call "Drop C."

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NYCJazz - Posted - 04/08/2009:  14:48:00


Thanks! I'd heard that term, but didn't know what it meant!

Improvisation is the ability to talk to oneself.
~ Cecil Taylor

fred davis - Posted - 04/08/2009:  14:58:58

I 've seen several that put a spike near the pot on the neck and just lossen the 5 and hocked it in the spike NOw a 4 string good luck

Polle Flaunoe - Posted - 04/10/2009:  23:37:54

I do remember, that Doug Mattocks from Banjomania had a little hook glued onto the head (of the banjo - LOL) - 2-2½" from the neck.

That way he could mute the 5th string and not hitting it with his flat pick, when playing plectrum style.


mainejohn - Posted - 04/11/2009:  15:31:07

Plectrum style on a 5string does work, but if you're going to play both styles, you'll eventually want to add a plectrum to your "tool box." I like to use slightly heavier gauge strings on my plec than on my 5's, and chording up the neck and flatpicking that 4th just works better on a real plec.

John Coleman
Scarborough, Maine

Compass56 - Posted - 04/12/2009:  04:22:45

Just get some kind of 4-string banjo and start playing. Your smile index will rise ex-po-nentially!

DanielT - Posted - 04/12/2009:  09:04:42

Originally posted by NYCJazz

Jamaican Mento mostly uses banjos like this because 5-string banjos are cheaper & more plentiful in the islands than plectrums.

True, NYCJazz, but let me just throw in a little point here: in Jamaica I've seen lots of five strings banjos (for the reason you point out and NEVER with a fifth string), a couple of six-string banjos, plenty of banjo-ukuleles (more than anyone would ever suspect), even one post-WWII photo (IIRC) of a banjo mandolin, but strangely enough I've never even heard of a plectrum banjo in Jamaica. Everyone wants a tenor. (Why, most I know who have 5-string banjos capo them up a few frets to make them easier to play like a tenor.)

matrixbanjo - Posted - 04/14/2009:  05:54:14

Check out the Goldtone Banjos. They make decent plectrums, not too much $$$ for the fun.

frianm - Posted - 04/14/2009:  16:45:12

In the for what it is worth category,
When I started to play banjo in England in the sixties the five string tuning was gcgbd and referred to a "classical tuning." That is the tuning that Pete Seeger's book begins with. As to Plectrum tuning I have swapped between dgbd and gdbe - much depends on which side of the bed I got out of and then what I am playing.
Plectrum is fun and much nicer when it is not a five string minus one. There seem to be plenty of plectrum necks around for building projects. Mine is based on an old Gibson neck. I have found others for sale and made up banjos for guitar playing friends so as to expand their options.
Besides - contrary to my wife's opinion - you cannot have too many banjos!

Hankster2 - Posted - 04/14/2009:  18:04:01

OK, here's heresy... I play five strings, plectrums, tenors, and... ukuleles! Check it out - a uke can be played in either guitar or banjo (they call it Taro patch or slack key) tuning. Hank

"all done with three fingers and a plastic head..."

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