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 Playing Advice: 4-String (Jazz, Blues & Other Trad Styles)

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jan huizing - Posted - 05/10/2021:  14:39:17

I like to play my Plectrum Banjo in a DGCE tuning. Than then intervals between the strings are the same as the middle four strings of a guitar (ADGB). I think that I can make jazzier chords this way. Does anybody use the same tuning? I cannot find any information on the internet.

guitarbanjoman - Posted - 05/10/2021:  18:32:41

As far as I know, Jan, that tuning is unique to you.


Please give us a sample of what it sounds like sometime.

Lew H - Posted - 05/10/2021:  19:39:49

In old time 5-string banjo, a common tuning is similar to yours:gDGCD. It goes by the names of modal, sawmill, and mountain minor. It could be called Gsus4 tuning, of course. With the drone string going on a tune, it makes a wonderfully bluesy sound.

jan huizing - Posted - 05/11/2021:  00:15:30

Here is a song by Tom Waits: Temptation (e.g. performed by Dianne Krall)

5533 5533(Cm) 5453 5453(G7)
5453 5453 5533 5533
5533 5533 5453 5453
5453 5453 5533 5533
6754 6754(Fm6) 5533 5533
5453 5453 5533 5533
6754 6754 5533 5533
7865 7865(Adim) 5453 5453

guitarbanjoman - Posted - 05/12/2021:  03:48:43

How about a recording, Jan?

craig wood - Posted - 05/28/2021:  13:55:12

Jan..we are dealing with four strings on the plectrum..Regardless of the tuning you cannot really make jazzier chords. Only different fingerings. As long as the four strings are all different, then its fingering.
Really a jazzier chord needs more notes, as in more strings..
And personally, for plectrum banjo, to move the C to a D
is like sawing off the neck...sorta of! The classic 5 string banjo style in it's early days (1900) was a C tuning, sometimes G.

G Edward Porgie - Posted - 05/31/2021:  18:32:31

I disagree with anyone who says that you can't make "jazzier" chords with only four strings. One simply needs to decide which notes to leave out when playing 9ths, 11ths, 13ths, or flatted or raised intervals. Many guitar chords also leave out a note or two and nobody seems to mind.  It may be more difficult with limited strings, but it isn't impossible. A listener's ear and brain will fill in more sounds than a person might realize. And when one plays in an ensemble, it become less important to play every note, as other instruments can fill in some missing intervals.

Although I've never heard that particular tuning, I see no reason why it can't work. I do wonder if it's any more effective for jazz than the usual tunings, though. (I'll also [point out that the middle four guitar strings are actually tuned DGBE. 

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