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 Playing Advice: 4-String (Jazz, Blues & Other Trad Styles)
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Help with finding proper string gauges? (CGDA and Plectrum tuning)


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.banjohangout.org/archive/351682

Movark - Posted - 03/01/2019:  10:55:07


I purchased an old 20 fret tenor banjo sometime ago, but only recently have begun practicing. I figured I would just use CGda tuning as that seemed to be the standard for jazz, and I picked up the D'Addrio Tenor Banjo Nickel-Plated Steel ones. The gauges are as follows:
C: 0.030in / 0.76mm, to 130Hz
G: 0.023in / 0.58mm, to 196Hz
d: 0.016in / 0.016mm, to 293Hz (wound string)
a: 0.009in / 0.23mm, to 440Hz (wound string)
The scale length is 25 1/2in in length (65~cm).
The C and G would get nicely tuned, however 'd' and 'a' would make the banjo creak, and then the strings would snap. I considered it a faulty pack, so I tried it again and the same happened. I don't feel comfortable with the banjo making these noises, and am worried if I try again I might damage the instrument. Would Plectrum tuning (CGbd) be a good alternative, or should I just shelve this banjo to a life of Celtic tuning?



 

johnstephen - Posted - 03/01/2019:  11:04:17


So there were already strings on the banjo, and you then tried to replace them, right? Were they tuned to CGDA?

Were you able to tell where they snapped -- by the nut, for example (which could mean there is something in the nut slot that is catching them), or somewhere else?

Movark - Posted - 03/01/2019:  11:19:59


quote:

Originally posted by johnstephen

So there were already strings on the banjo, and you then tried to replace them, right? Were they tuned to CGDA?



Were you able to tell where they snapped -- by the nut, for example (which could mean there is something in the nut slot that is catching them), or somewhere else?






When I got the banjo from the seller there were no strings on it, and they had no information on the banjo besides it was very old and hadn't been touched in a while. The first time they snapped I didn't make note of where it happened, but took a friends advice and put some pencil lead on the nut, as they said it'd help with breaking. Didn't question it, not sure if it was a good idea or not in retrospect. When they snapped it wasn't by the nut or bridge, but usually  up near the pegheads, which makes me think it's just there's too much tension.


Edited by - Movark on 03/01/2019 11:20:19

johnstephen - Posted - 03/01/2019:  11:22:41


The photo looks like the banjo has four strings on it. What tuning do you have on there now?

Movark - Posted - 03/01/2019:  11:27:01


quote:

Originally posted by johnstephen

The photo looks like the banjo has four strings on it. What tuning do you have on there now?






Currently it is out of tune after sitting in celtic for a week. (The strings are CGda, but my friend needed a celtic banjo for a minute so I just tuned it back down real quick. I rarely do this.) I was tuning back up to CGda just before I posed this thread, and C and G came back up as usual, nice and tight. 'd' was beginning to be tuned, when it sounded like it snap and all tension left the string. The string is fine, and the gear tuner is still working, but I'm fairly certain that's not supposed to happen. I did not bother with the 'a' string, and right now it's sitting out of tune.

johnstephen - Posted - 03/01/2019:  11:32:08


Got it. Hopefully one of our expert banjo mechanics here on the Hangout will weigh in on it. I haven't used D'Addario tenor banjo strings myself, but perhaps others here can shed some light on the tension issue.

deestexas - Posted - 03/01/2019:  11:35:15


Try tuning an octave lower.

Movark - Posted - 03/01/2019:  11:41:41


quote:

Originally posted by deestexas

Try tuning an octave lower.






I tried this, and while it technically works all of the sound is soft, hard to hear, and kind of just muddy. At an octave below, there's not enough tension on the strings. Far from a desirable sound. At that point, I'd be better off at Celtic, and then capo on 5 (A method I did use, but is very awkward and silly)

Movark - Posted - 03/01/2019:  11:46:26


quote:

Originally posted by johnstephen

Got it. Hopefully one of our expert banjo mechanics here on the Hangout will weigh in on it. I haven't used D'Addario tenor banjo strings myself, but perhaps others here can shed some light on the tension issue.






Thanks for the input!

majesty - Posted - 03/01/2019:  12:42:52


Scale length is 25 1/2" ? A tenor scale length is usually about 23". A tenor/plectrum a bit longer. You are describing a scale length of a plectrum banjo. Your photo does only show 20 frets, but 25 1/2 scale length would break the A and, quite possibly the D.

Movark - Posted - 03/01/2019:  15:16:59


quote:

Originally posted by majesty

Scale length is 25 1/2" ? A tenor scale length is usually about 23". A tenor/plectrum a bit longer. You are describing a scale length of a plectrum banjo. Your photo does only show 20 frets, but 25 1/2 scale length would break the A and, quite possibly the D.






Alright, so sounds like this is just a case of misidentification. I'll get my hands onto some plectrum strings and see how it goes.

Mike Floorstand - Posted - 03/02/2019:  14:57:55


WIth a 25inch scale you could probably put those D'Addario Tenor Banjo strings on but tune it to AEBF#, then capo at the third to get CGDA tuning.

Omeboy - Posted - 03/02/2019:  15:46:32


Movark

You were right the first time. Your banjo is a 20 fret tenor, which makes a bit of an odd duck. Most tenors are 19 fret necks with a scale of around 22.125 inches. Plectrums banjos have 22 frets with scales of 26.25 inches. (An authentic plectrum player would never buy a banjo with only 20 frets. Such a neck would curtail a plectrum players range in the CGBD tuning. (Ideally a plectrum should have 24 frets to include the high D, IMHO.)



Mike Floorstand probably has the best solution for you right now, because your scale simply won't allow you to tune up a standard set of tenor strings without breaking them. If you could find a extremely light gauge D and A string, you'd be fortunate, but that might be tough. And even if you did find them, they might break too with that 25.5 scale.



If I were you and I was serious about the banjo, I'd trade that banjo in on a good well made banjo of the proper scale (either tenor or plectrum). Since you already play a five-string, a plectrum might be a logical choice for you. But for now, you own an odd duck with a very inconvenient scale for tuning in 5ths. Good luck.


Edited by - Omeboy on 03/02/2019 15:48:35

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