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 Playing Advice: 4-String (Jazz, Blues & Other Trad Styles)
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Just bought a 4-string


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/374718

Ldelin - Posted - 04/30/2021:  23:26:13


Gentlemen,
I'm 69, and I've just bought an old four string. My goal is to learn to play a few old tunes before I go to glory; and be able to play and sing them loudly and badly with a big grin; like the late George Segal.
So, my question is, what's the shortest route to this goal?
I'm particularly interested in "Rufus Rastus Johnson Brown", and "Goodbye Mama, I'm Off To Yokahama" .
I don't have a lot to time for a learning curve; and I've heard that 3-6 chords on a 4 string will give access to hundreds of songs.
So, aside from tuning the banjo, where should I begin?

Thank you,
Les Delinski

guitarbanjoman - Posted - 05/01/2021:  03:56:34


Do you have any photos of your new banjo, Les?

Ldelin - Posted - 05/01/2021:  05:23:47


1930-ish May Bell


guitarbanjoman - Posted - 05/01/2021:  05:36:42


Cool!

Les, do you already play guitar or uke?

If so, you might want to tune your banjo DGBE... aka “Chicago” tuning... this seems to be the tuning which George Segal used.

But usually the tenor banjo is tuned in fifths, CGDA.

This is the first decision you will need to make on your pathway to “ loud and bad” banjo supremacy...

... I might suggest that Chicago tuning is going to be more listener-friendly for such playing... and possibly offers easier chord fingerings for you as well...

Good luck!

Will

Ldelin - Posted - 05/01/2021:  11:45:07


Thanks for the replies.
I don't play guitar, but I've heard of them.
Thanks for the tip on Chicago tuning. I really do want to play like George.
Are you familiar w/ his music?

pasdimo - Posted - 05/01/2021:  13:35:01


Sorry, I disagree about Chicago tuning. A tenor banjo will sound better tuned in CGDA, and the chords are easy to learn and play;
Enjoy !

guitarbanjoman - Posted - 05/01/2021:  14:57:33


I hadn’t been familiar with him at all, so I googled him and watched some old tv clips.



And I recognized all his chord fingerings since I also play guitar.



He's not really what most players around here would strive to sound like, but I would say that if you really want to play like he does, it's actually a fairly low bar... you'll just have to learn 6 or 7 chords and try to get your right hand coordinated for some very basic strumming.



Good luck!


Edited by - guitarbanjoman on 05/01/2021 15:00:49

Ldelin - Posted - 05/01/2021:  16:46:24


Will,
You've got it, amigo. 6-7 chords to becoming family legend, or amusing old anecdote.
I wonder, what might those cords be, and how can I learn them.
I can strum, and keep time. I have a good ear. Two, actually. I already have a Panama hat and a mustache.
How would I get started?
My thanks to you and the others for your interest and time.

Les

Ldelin - Posted - 05/01/2021:  17:40:13


Gentlemen,
I think I should clarify.
I know I'm setting the bar low compared with most here. Here's why.
In my mis-spent youth, I saw George Segal play banjo and sing ragtime music on the Tonight Show. He was so visibly mega-happy while doing it; I was really moved. Some years later, I bought a five string Jap banjo at a Lowe's building supply, and took some lessons. I replaced that generic ax with a Bradley 5 string. This was all 40 years back. I found that the music I was learning was nothing like the jazz I'd heard George Segal play; and I eventually lost interest and sold the Bradley years ago.
I should'a bought a tenor.
Well, old George died a few weeks back. You might know him as the grand-dad on "The Goldbergs" TV show. His passing awakened this decades old need in me to someday play and sing those cool old songs badly, with a big grin, to the sing-along delight of family and friends before I die. Out of a captive audience at some future family function, some odd, young turk in the group is going to be moved by the music and fun, and the banjo, the same way I was moved by George 40 years ago. Later, (not so far off) when I go to glory, he'll be surprised to hear that I left the banjo to him, with a short note.telling about George and me; and now, you guys.
So, please don't think I discount, or lack full appreciation for the time, dedication, and practice it takes to play the banjo well. I just don't have the years left to complete the learning curve; but I still want to strum and sing with a contagious grin like George. That's the thing about banjos. Banjos = happy. If you're listening to one, or playing one, the odds are that you're smiling. Heck man, just looking at a real pretty one makes you smile. So amigos, help me out if you can.
Les Delinski

sethb - Posted - 05/01/2021:  17:48:31


Les ---- You need a book of chord fingerings to get those basic banjo chords.  You can get Mel Bay's "Tenor Banjo Chords" for $7 from Amazon, which has all the major, minor and seventh chords, plus the lovely augmented and diminished chords.   In addition to fingering charts that show you where each finger goes, there are photos of each chord showing you how to place the fingers properly, which is very helpful.  If you know just C, F and G7, it's true that you can play a lot of songs, but you might have more fun if you also know just a few more chords! 



Since you don't know any fingerings at all at this point, I agree that you might as well learn the standard CGDA tenor tuning.  Chicago tuning is nice, but that's mostly for guitar players who want to double on tenor banjo.  They already know their guitar fingerings and don't want to learn a whole new set of fingerings in a different tuning.  If you learn tenor tuning, you'll be able to play with and learn from other tenor players as well. 



I also suggest you take a look at the "Creole Jazz Band Fake Book," which has over a hundred fine pre-1925 tunes that are copyright-free and in the public domain, and can be copied and played without any royalties, licenses or fees.  Each song has a lead sheet with the melody line, lyrics and chord symbols included.  And the music book itself can be downloaded for free as well.  Here's the link: simplyearlyjazz.com/store/p92/...sion.html 



Good luck to you, and here's hoping that you play as well or better than George Segal!  SETH


Edited by - sethb on 05/01/2021 17:53:29

Ldelin - Posted - 05/01/2021:  20:35:38


Seth,
Thanks very much for your reply. It's just the sort of info I'm looking for.

Les Delinski.

guitarbanjoman - Posted - 05/02/2021:  05:26:59


Les, you will have to decide which tuning to use on your banjo, but here are some of the basic chords which you are going to need to learn in first position (ie frets 0 - 3 )

Major chords: C F G

Minor chords: Am Dm Em

Dominant chords: C7 E7 A7 D7 G7

Is your voice roughly in the same baritone range as George Segal?

aintbrokejustbadlybent - Posted - 05/02/2021:  06:05:18


@Ldelin

Hey Les,
I would like to offer a suggestion to your original post,
"So, my question is, what's the shortest route to this goal?"
Get a banjo teacher, someone like Steve Caddick banjopa . He gives zoom lessons, affordable, great teacher.
He could figure out your vocal range, that is the key where you are most comfortable singing and then teach you the chords of the song, strumming pattern, mechanics (so you don't develop bad habits) help you put it all together. With your determination and Steve's teaching ability he could have you playing songs and having fun in no time.

In addition, there are numerous you tube beginner videos.

Are there others in your household? If so, you might want to find a secluded place to play or your end of time might come sooner rather than later ;), .

Wish you well on your journey.

mike gregory - Posted - 05/02/2021:  06:18:47


Welcome to the wonderful world of banjo strumming.

My first banjo was a four string, back during the "Great Folk Music Scare" of the Sixties.



On tenor, in traditional tenor tuning, if you can play C, A minor, F, and G, you can play over a thousand songs.



As to vocal range, that's why they make capos.



Clamp the capo on whatever fret you need to, in order to match the fingering of a C chord to whatever range you need, and whomp and wail 'til your heart's content.



My personal preference is the KEYSER





although the simpler BILL RUSSEL works just fine.





And, in an emergency, a pencil and some rubber bands will do the job!

banjopa - Posted - 05/02/2021:  06:45:35


 Hi Les, Yes, taking some lessons with me will give you a good foundation to play, I can get you up and running on the songs you want to learn and show you the most efficient way to play the chords while you sing badly to aggravate your family and even your neighbors!


shoot me an email for details etc: banjopa1@yahoo.com


ain't broke, Thanks for thinking of me to teach lessons!


quote:

Originally posted by aintbrokejustbadlybent

@Ldelin



Hey Les,

I would like to offer a suggestion to your original post,

"So, my question is, what's the shortest route to this goal?"

Get a banjo teacher, someone like Steve Caddick banjopa . He gives zoom lessons, affordable, great teacher.

He could figure out your vocal range, that is the key where you are most comfortable singing and then teach you the chords of the song, strumming pattern, mechanics (so you don't develop bad habits) help you put it all together. With your determination and Steve's teaching ability he could have you playing songs and having fun in no time.



In addition, there are numerous you tube beginner videos.



Are there others in your household? If so, you might want to find a secluded place to play or your end of time might come sooner rather than later ;), .



Wish you well on your journey.






 


Edited by - banjopa on 05/02/2021 06:46:15

CGDA - Posted - 05/02/2021:  07:27:19


Somebody told only 3 chords are sufficient to play everything: Maj, Min, 7th. smiley



 

sethb - Posted - 05/02/2021:  08:31:38


Les --- The suggestion of other folks to get a music teacher is a good idea.  You'll get where you want to go faster and learn fewer bad habits at the same time. 



After I posted my initial reply, I saw your post about you starting out on a 5-string and then giving up because it wasn't the kind of music you wanted to play.  If that 5-string is still around and it was tuned gCGBD, and if you still remember any of the chord fingerings for it, you might want to consider removing that fifth string and continuing on with it.  You would then have a 4-string plectrum banjo that could be strummed rather than fingerpicked, and it would be perfect for the kind of music you want to play.  There's a Mel Bay 5-string/plectrum CGBD chord book available, too, if you need it. But if this isn't the case, then just go with the tenor and have a good time. 



The suggestion of a capo is OK for a quick and dirty way to change the key of a song.  However, it does have a few disadvantages.  First, you can only raise the key, not lower it, because you can only put the capo further up the neck (towards the head).  And when you capo a tune, you throw all the position markers on the fretboard out of whack, so you either have to ignore them (!) or relearn the new positions, which seems like a lot of wasted effort to me.  And especially on a tenor banjo, where the frets are pretty close together to begin with, when you start capoing up 2, 3, 4 or 5 frets, it's going to get very crowded pretty quickly!  



I think it's better to learn enough chords so that you can manually transpose the chords yourself on the lead sheet if necessary, and then play the song on the full fretboard in whatever key you need.  Since different songs have different ranges of notes, you will probably find that there isn't just one key that's right for your voice range, and different songs will probably need different keys in order to accommodate your voice.   



If you want to see how much can be done with so little, take a look at this YouTube clip of Arthur Godfrey on a tenor banjo; it's pretty impressive!  Here's the link: youtube.com/watch?v=fojavTxVZas



FYI, 69 is still plenty young enough to play the banjo.  I'm 71 and still strumming along!  SETH


Edited by - sethb on 05/02/2021 08:46:13

Ldelin - Posted - 05/02/2021:  09:49:11


Again, many, many thanks to all of those who have replied.
This is exactly the kind of info and help I hoped to find here.
As to my vocal range and key; my wife says it's roughly the same as cats fighting.
FYI - After some banjo-playing appearances on the Tonight Show, George Segal went on to form the "Beverly Hills Unlisted Jazz Band"; and also cut several solo albums with those 7 chords.
He did all this at the height of his impressive acting career; for fun. I found several of his albums on Amazon. And, yeah, he's certainly no virtuoso; but he's obviously having a lot of fun.
Ain't that what it's all about?
Thanks again, sincerely!
Les Delinski

Ldelin - Posted - 05/02/2021:  10:20:42


Hey Seth,
Man, that Arthur Godfrey video is EXACTLY what I'm talking about!
Just strumming along with a couple of chords; but it sounds great!
Note the smiles all around. That's exactly what I'm after.
Thanks for this, amigo. After watching Arthur, even my wife agrees that I could do this.
Les

sethb - Posted - 05/04/2021:  14:57:03


Just out of curiosity, I watched a few more Arthur Godfrey videos on YouTube. 



His instrument of choice was apparently a baritone ukulele, which is tuned D-G-B-E.  That happens to be the same as the top four strings of a 6-string guitar's standard tuning.  So if he was doubling on the tenor banjo, it's not inconceivable that he was using that same uke/guitar tuning on the tenor banjo. And of course, this type of tuning is referred to as "Chicago tuning," which was discussed earlier. 



More curiously, the DGBE Chicago tuning isn't very far from the standard CGBD plectrum banjo tuning.  When I started to double on guitar, I took an Ibanez archtop 6-string, removed the two bass strings and recentered the remaining four strings on the fretboard, making it into a 4-string tenor guitar.  Then I retuned it from DGBE to CGBD and I was ready to roll, without learning any new fingerings.  No harm, no foul, as they say!



And Les, I'm pretty sure there's a lead sheet for "Poor Butterfly" in that Creole Jazz Band fake book that I gave you a link for in a previous post.  Have a good time with it, it's a fine tune.  SETH  

Ryk - Posted - 05/04/2021:  16:53:59


All 10 thumbs up to the suggestion of getting in touch with Steve Caddick. Highly recommended and probably just who you need.
Ryk

rockinstephen - Posted - 05/26/2021:  05:15:45


Although I don't play one of these banjos (I play a 6 string), I'm guessing that it's similar to playing guitar. By that, I mean that once you learn a few simple chords, you'll be able to play hundreds of songs. This is certainly true of Country music...

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