Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

Banjo Lovers Online

 All Forums
 Other Banjo-Related Topics
 Other Banjo-Related Topics
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Acoustic guitars set up with 5-string banjo 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:

peterl - Posted - 01/23/2024:  09:44:21

I'm interested in hearing from banjo players who have experimented (or thought about it) with acoustic or electric guitars that are set up with 5-string banjo tunings. I've bought several over the years including a Doc Martin and a Goldtone Dojo resonator guitar. Of course I still enjoy
playing standard bluegrass banjo but I've found that placing the same tuning on other acoustic instruments has expanded my use of the standard tuning as well as becoming an "instant" guitar-player that doesn't sound like other guitarists.
Anyone else out there?

and enjoy playing

Gallaher - Posted - 01/23/2024:  11:47:28

Wow! That’s a mighty big blank spot on your post.
Five string open G guitar? Acoustic or electric. Listen to The Rolling Stones!
Keith Richards thinks he invented it. He didn’t but he may have perfected it.
He wrote and the Stones recorded a huge number of tunes in open G on guitar.
For me the greatest song intro in RR history is “Can’t you hear me Knocking” by the Stones.
G tuning on a cranked telecaster.

GrahamHawker - Posted - 01/23/2024:  12:59:09

It's not unusual but when I've tried it the 5th string gets in the way and I found it a bit pointless. However I have a baritone uke tuned DGCD and it sounds great playing my banjo stuff but differently with more strumming.

Culloden - Posted - 01/23/2024:  13:46:16

There was a post on this subject recently. Someone wanted to tune an electric guitar like a banjo. In the past, I have replaced the top E string with a fine gauge string that can be tuned to G. Tune the fifth string down to G and the first string down to D and you have a guitar tuned like a six string banjo.

I also tune the first string down to D and leave the others in standard tuning. I can play banjo chords up and down the neck and make people think I am a really hot guitar player.

Edited by - Culloden on 01/23/2024 13:49:08

peterl - Posted - 01/24/2024:  07:51:02

I have no idea why there's so much space between my initial post and the replies.

I need to clarify what I'm advocating by setting up guitars with a variation on standard banjo tuning.

I'm well aware of Keith Richard's five-string electric guitar work but he certainly did not install a short string tuner at the fifth fret. I do not strum or use a flat pick on my guitars with banjo tunings, I use the usual thumb and two finger picks.

My tuning is actually a 6-string variation on the usual bluegrass tuning, there's much less customization by retaining the six-string bridge and tailpiece. Both my acoustic guitar and my Telecaster have had their fingerboards narrowed below the fifth fret on the bass side, they're tuned to an open G with the high E dropped to a D and a low G installed on the bass side of the fretboard - an octave below the usual third string G. So there are 5 strings at the nut rather than the usual 4. A typical fifth-string tuner and nut have been added at the fifth fret, rounding out the full 6-string tuning.

Since both the acoustic and electric versions have the sustain of a guitar I do not use constant bluegrass style finger rolls on either instrument but I do incorporate scales, arpeggios and licks that I have always used in bluegrass playing. As Culloden noted - this transforms a traditional bluegrass banjo player to a "hot guitarist". Another plus is that the acoustic guitar version is much quieter than my BG banjos for when the occasion calls for that. The only drawback to these arrangements was that I had professional luthiers make the alterations which ran about $500 for each guitar. But the luthiers loved the challenge....and I've composed a bunch of instrumental pieces that I could not have come up with on a usual guitar tuning. I know there are other banjo players who have experimented with the same guitar alternatives and I wanted to reach out to see what others have done - and to recommend these hybrid instruments highly to those so inclined.

GrahamHawker - Posted - 01/24/2024:  08:09:13

One option would be a used banjola.

250gibson - Posted - 01/24/2024:  10:52:35

Most people that do this just spike the 6th at the 5th fret and leave the tuner where it was. No modification needed that can’t be undone like reshaping the neck, screwing a tuner into the side, etc,

writerrad - Posted - 01/25/2024:  18:58:06

Tunings that have become standard on the five string banjo over the last 130 years were often standard tunings for popular music and folk guitar in the 19th century.  There is instructional guitar literature for popular muisc and parlor guitar playing in open D and open G for the guitar as well as folk players who continued playing in open G or open D from the mid 19th century on.

 20th century Black and other Southern guitarists especially in the Blues the open G tuning was called "Spanish" after the "Spanish Fandango" which was the culminating piece in the most influential instruction book for the G tuning for parlor and popular music guitar of the mid 19th century, and the D tuning was often called "Sebastopol" after "The Seige of Sebastopol"  the culminating piece in such books or course for D.   

An older generation (I am 76) of Black musicians in the South that I have known both Blues and church centered musicians would use these expressions to describe their guitar playing, as in "I only play Spanish" as a coworker I had in Miami said about his guitar playing for his church abut 30 years ago.

If you go through the recordings of Roscoe Holcomb of Kentucky, you will find a number of thrilling guitar pieces where he plays guitar in these open tunings.


Edited by - writerrad on 01/25/2024 19:13:55

Joel Hooks - Posted - 01/26/2024:  06:44:51

In the Briggs' Banjo Instructor of 1855, p. 30:

"A good imitation of the banjo can be made on the Guitar, by removing the Sixth String and putting the first string in its place, then playing banjo style."

By "Guitar" the author (which we believe was Frank B. Converse) means "Spanish Guitar", or the then current Americanized version that for some reason are now called "parlor guitar."

I've never tried this but it would seem to work if someone had a nylon string guitar laying around.

Ira Gitlin - Posted - 01/26/2024:  07:02:42


Originally posted by Joel Hooks

In the Briggs' Banjo Instructor of 1855, p. 30:

"A good imitation of the banjo can be made on the Guitar, by removing the Sixth String and putting the first string in its place, then playing banjo style."

By "Guitar" the author (which we believe was Frank B. Converse) means "Spanish Guitar", or the then current Americanized version that for some reason are now called "parlor guitar."

I've never tried this but it would seem to work if someone had a nylon string guitar laying around.

I have! That's how I started learning to play banjo, back in 1973.

Paul R - Posted - 01/26/2024:  08:34:11

Keith Richards rightly credited Ry Cooder for giving him the open G tuning on guitar. I picked up open G from a friend who showed me "Last Thing on My MInd" (Tom Paxton) in that tuning. I use it for slide, too.

I now also use double C banjo tuning on guitar, with the strings tuned C G C G C D. I thought I'd "invented" it, but found it somewhere else with a proper tuning name (I forget where and what).

The thing is, you can use all manner of tunings, including drop D, D, double D, DADGAD, and others. Just find what suits you and go for it. I don't remove or replace any strings.

Joel Hooks - Posted - 01/28/2024:  11:40:58

Thinking more about this, I have a Doff “romantic” guitar that I bought on an impulse a few years ago. At that time they were dirt cheap, practically the cost of shipping alone. I noticed they went up considerably shortly after I bought one.

This was before the recent unpleasantness with Russia.

Anyhoo, I’ve done nothing with it. So a little bit ago I followed the directions in the Briggs’ book and sure enough, perfectly playable this way (though I run out of fingerboard at 12 which limits what I can play).

I think I’ll keep it this way.

peterl - Posted - 01/28/2024:  17:49:07

In response to 250Gibson:
Actually, that's what I did initially - installed a spike at the 5th fret to try out how it would work and sound. Of course I used a second rate guitar, there was string buzz without a dedicated nut and I frequently fret that 5-6th high string with my middle finger. As guitar necks get ever wider above the 12 fret, its became a stretch for my middle finger to get over there on a reliable basis.
At that point I already had a Doc Martin guitar which was a very nice step in the direction I wanted - a quality instrument. However I always was wondering how a high-end dreadnaught guitar would work with good pickup electronics. So part of the work the luthier did was to make the neck more narrow on the bass side to the fifth fret and the treble side equally to the body. And the guitar came with a wonderful built-in pick-up system. I later did the exact same thing with a Telecaster. This all took place over about 5-6 years and I'm really pleased with the results.

Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Privacy Consent
Copyright 2024 Banjo Hangout. All Rights Reserved.

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories