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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Plectrum tuning on a tenor banjo?


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/72107

number8wire - Posted - 01/16/2007:  02:12:59


Hi!
I've been playing a plectrum banjo for about a year, and the band I'm in is getting a few gigs so it's time to upgrade. We are an acoustic 3-piece (banjo, trombone and clarinet) playing old style jazz.

What I'd like your advice on, is whether there is really much difference in the sound between a 19 fret tenor and a 22 fret plectrum banjo if they are tuned the same? (Other things, like tone rings, heads, etc. being equal, of course)

Cheers!

Scarecrow - Posted - 01/16/2007:  05:56:42


Hello Number 8 Wire.
Can't answer your question, except to say that it shouldn't be too different if you choose your string gauges well; maybe less sustain and depth?
Looks like you play what I like. Hope to hear some of it.


Scarecrow

"Music is...a gesture of friendship..." - Malcolm Arnold.

billmill22 - Posted - 01/16/2007:  12:17:50


I'm of the opinion that if you use a set of standard Tenor strings (made by GHS etc.) and tune it to plectrum it will sound fine, so long as you don't expect it to cut thru like a standard tuned Tenor banjo.
Bill

http://www.banjoseen.com
"Where there is a Tu-ba-phone Banjo,
there you will find musical happiness."

Emiel - Posted - 01/16/2007:  15:09:32


So it will not cut through like a standard tuned tenor. But Bill, will it sound very different from a plectrum banjo?

Emiel


http://www.nowhereradio.com/emiel
http://www.bluerounders.com

billmill22 - Posted - 01/16/2007:  16:23:23


Emiel, It's been my experience that it (tenor banjo tuned standard plectrum) will sound very much like a plectrum except you lose the advantage of the C chord (also note) at the 22nd fret. But if that is not an issue then no problem. Of course there are many types and styles of both Plectrum and Tenor banjos made--so they all might not sound exactly like each other. There will be trade off's. One I can think of is the width of the neck at the nut. The tenor might be narrow so fingering might be easer or more difficult--depending on the player.
Bill

http://www.banjoseen.com
"Where there is a Tu-ba-phone Banjo,
there you will find musical happiness."

mainejohn - Posted - 01/16/2007:  17:35:08


quote:
Originally posted by billmill22

Emiel, It's been my experience that it (tenor banjo tuned standard plectrum) will sound very much like a plectrum except you lose the advantage of the C chord (also note) at the 22nd fret. But if that is not an issue then no problem.

http://www.banjoseen.com
"Where there is a Tu-ba-phone Banjo,
there you will find musical happiness."



Interesting...I never thought of tuning a tenor to a plectrum. I would miss that C chord at the 22nd fret, though. Have you tried it, Bill? I think I'll put some plectrum-gauged strings on my very-neglected tenor and give it a try.

Cheers,
John
Scarborough, Maine

billmill22 - Posted - 01/16/2007:  20:50:26


John, I would put standard Tenor guage strings on the tenor, I think the standard gauge plectrum strings might be too thin.
Before My kids were grown I could only aford a Tenor banjo and I tuned it as standard (Plectrum) tuning. I played that banjo for six or seven years like that. Just missed the aditional 3 frets. I ended up giving it to the boy friend of one of my daughters to play in his church group, as a change from guitar.
Bill

http://www.banjoseen.com
"Where there is a Tu-ba-phone Banjo,
there you will find musical happiness."


Edited by - billmill22 on 01/17/2007 09:03:53

number8wire - Posted - 01/17/2007:  00:57:38


Thanks for your comments, everyone!
The answer seems to be that the strings make as much difference as the actual banjo, would you agree? So if the strings are 3 frets longer, so to speak, do they sound any different? I heard somewhere that the plectrum has a more "complex" sound, better for solos.
Cheers!

Emiel - Posted - 01/17/2007:  02:17:36


I would follow Bill here. Put plectrum strings on a plectrum banjo and tenor strimgs on the tenor, even if it's tuned like a plectrum banjo. Bill says: "It's been my experience that it (tenor banjo tuned standard plectrum) will sound very much like a plectrum except you lose the advantage of the C chord (also note) at the 22nd fret. "

Emiel


http://www.nowhereradio.com/emiel
http://www.bluerounders.com

jerryd - Posted - 01/17/2007:  03:02:27


I have a tenor that I tune to standard plectrum. Bill is right, you do lose that last C at fret 22 and the tone is a little higher than a standard plectrum. For ex.. if you have a plectrum or a five string banjo, place a capo at the third fret and make a g chord. This will give you an idea of the lowest tones available on a tenor tuned plectrum. Now remove the capo and make the same chord and note the difference. I believe the biggest difference is the low tones that you lose. However, I havent tuned my tenor to standard tenor tuning, so the highes are probably much higher respectivly.

jerryd

Emiel - Posted - 01/17/2007:  04:38:38


quote:
Originally posted by jerryd

I have a tenor that I tune to standard plectrum. Bill is right, you do lose that last C at fret 22 and the tone is a little higher than a standard plectrum. For ex.. if you have a plectrum or a five string banjo, place a capo at the third fret and make a g chord. This will give you an idea of the lowest tones available on a tenor tuned plectrum. Now remove the capo and make the same chord and note the difference. I believe the biggest difference is the low tones that you lose. However, I havent tuned my tenor to standard tenor tuning, so the highes are probably much higher respectivly.

jerryd



If a tenor is tuned plectrum the low tones are exactly as low as on the plectrum.

Emiel



http://www.nowhereradio.com/emiel
http://www.bluerounders.com

jerryd - Posted - 01/17/2007:  12:53:51


Emiel, I disagree. The tenor neck is 3 frets less than the plectrum neck and when tuned to standard plectrum tuning, the pitch is slightly higher. If you try what I talked about using the capo, you'll see what I mean.

jerryd


Edited by - jerryd on 01/17/2007 12:55:23

Emiel - Posted - 01/17/2007:  13:51:21


Don't understand. When I tune two instruments to exacly the same pitch, the pitch is the same.

Emiel


http://www.nowhereradio.com/emiel
http://www.bluerounders.com

jerryd - Posted - 01/17/2007:  14:29:03


Oh well I can't explain it. I have a plectrum and a tenor sitting side by side. Both are tuned CGBD, using medium five string banjo strings. When a G or a C chord is strumed, the tenor has a higher(only slightly) pitch than the plectrum does when chorded at the first thru third frets. The G chord at the 14th fret sounds the same on both banjos. Go figure?

jerryd

Emiel - Posted - 01/17/2007:  15:48:39


These are artefacts, may still be true though.

Emiel


http://www.nowhereradio.com/emiel
http://www.bluerounders.com

Scarecrow - Posted - 01/17/2007:  16:52:10


Sounds like one of the 'jos has a nut in the wrong place, maybe.

Scarecrow

"Music is...a gesture of friendship..." - Malcolm Arnold.

number8wire - Posted - 01/17/2007:  23:01:35


Jerryd,
I'm interested in how your two banjos sound; A friend of mine took the neck off his Paramount plectrum and replaced it with a tenor neck for the reason that it didn't cut through the band well enough. He kept the same tuning, CGBD, so he would have to learn a bunch of new chords. The resulting banjo, with light to medium strings, sounds like a regular tenor. Is what you mean by "higher pitch"? a difference in the sound quality, not actual "electronic tuner" pitch?

jerryd - Posted - 01/18/2007:  03:31:16


Yes, the difference is in the way it sounds. The best way I can describe the difference is like this; if on a five string or a plectrum you strum a C chord at the first fret, then strum the same chord at the fifth fret, the difference in the sound of those two chords is about all the difference you'll hear between the two banjos tuned the same way using the same gage and type of strings. As you move up the neck toward the 19th fret, the difference isn't noticable, that I can tell.

jerryd

banjofanatico - Posted - 01/18/2007:  16:13:43


I agree. When I tune my tenor to plectrum tuning, it no longer sounds like a tenor banjo. You aren't tuned in 5ths anymore so the chords sound different. It also doesn't sound like a plectrum banjo, even if the notes are the same. I guess it has to do with string resonance, the tenor having shorter strings and not resonating as much ( and sounding "brighter" as well).

David

matrixbanjo - Posted - 01/24/2007:  09:05:50


Are you talking relative pitch, or difference of TONE? I used to take my brother's tenor banjos, and tune them dgbe. I then played with some plectrum players, and I thought the banjo was different in the tone quality.

Goldtone 250 Plectrum-Glen Campbell Ovation re-issue,Martin D-15.

jerryd - Posted - 01/24/2007:  14:32:22


My referral was about difference of tone. Check-out my first post. Even if I'm using the wrong terminology, I think most people can figure out that I mean that it sounds different. Very much for the same reasons that Banjofanatico pointed out.

jerryd

jazzman_NP - Posted - 02/01/2007:  14:31:04


The discussion seems to be about pitch (to be measured in Hz) and tone colour (if that's the proper word), but I've the feeling that things are a bit mixed up. Am I right here?

To complete the setup of my new Goldtone MC150 plectrum kit I followed Roger Siminoff's "How to set up the best sounding banjo". Quite helpfull for me. Learned me a lot about string gauges, etc.. He points out that the place where the string is strummed/picked, more near the bridge or towards the fingerboard, also makes a lot of difference.

The difference in sound - at exactly the same pitch - between this new Mastertone-clone concept and my long lasting Fairbanks with it's Electric (pre-Whyte Lady) tonering is very much bigger then I expect from the difference caused by 3 frets shorter scale length. The Fairbanks is now waiting for a well deserved complete overhaul. After that it will get CGBD tuning, with string gauges like .012 .015 .020W .028W, therefore not standard tenor. Anyone who has any experience with this?

Keep playing!

matrixbanjo - Posted - 02/06/2007:  08:03:13


i have had similar. i used to have a tenor banjo tuned DGBE, with tenor gauged strings on it. Now I have a Plectrum banjo tuned the same way with med. gauged plectrum strings. The tenor was louder, but the plectrum has a more trebly ring to it.

Banjo..? What banjo?

jazzman_NP - Posted - 02/06/2007:  08:37:40


quote:
Originally posted by matrixbanjo

i have had similar. i used to have a tenor banjo tuned DGBE, with tenor gauged strings on it. Now I have a Plectrum banjo tuned the same way with med. gauged plectrum strings. The tenor was louder, but the plectrum has a more trebly ring to it.

Banjo..? What banjo?



Would it be possible to share some more details with us about these two instruments? Things like tone ring (Mastertone, Tubaphone, Little Wonder?), brand and type of head? Could be quite meaningful in my view.

Thanks.


"Oh play that thing!"

(Banjoist Arthur "Bud" Scott, in "Sugar Foot Stomp", with King Oliver's Dixie Syncopators, Chicago 1926)

matrixbanjo - Posted - 02/07/2007:  14:27:56


Both banjos that i have are mastertone clones. The plectrum is a goldtone 250, the tenor is a goldtone also. Both have the factory heads on them, the strings are the same gauge that they came with.( tenor with tenor gauded strings, the plectrum with plectrum gauged strings.)

Banjo..? What banjo?

jazzman_NP - Posted - 02/12/2007:  04:58:58


Hi Matrix,

I'm back from a short hibernation. Woke up for hunger to play banjo.

So you'er playing the chords for the first 4 strings of the guitar? Ever tried tenor tuning at all? I guess your plectrum 250 has the bell brass tonering. Is the tenor of the same type (250)? If it is the Cripple Creek version, it probably has the simple brass rod tone ring, that might explain difference in sound also. Could you put some pictures up?

Mine is a MC-150 kit, but equipped with the bell brass tone ring and a CC-plectrum neck. The latter is plain as far as decoration is concerned and needed a little modification to fit properly on this pot, but in this combination sounds as good as any more sophisticated (and more costly) neck.

Nico

matrixbanjo - Posted - 02/12/2007:  06:53:37


I sold the 250 goldtone tenor. It had the same tonering as the plectrum, I just didn't like the shorter scale , since I also play guitar.I'm not much on technology, I've never tried to post pictures before. I did some modifications to my plectrum recently. I now have a renassiance head, a snuffy smithe 9/16 4-string bridge,new 5-star tuners,an ome harp tailpiece, and switched out the brass tonering for a steel.Now it has quite a bit of snap to it.

Banjo..? What banjo?

jazzman_NP - Posted - 02/13/2007:  13:58:18


I can see your point. I only learned how to do pictures myself recently. I seem to be stuck in the age of MS Dos 5.0. That is why I like banjos: simple, straight forward, transparent technology, but still with a lot of subtleties to discover. I have chosen the brass tonering mainly because tradition hails the qualities of that material. I haven't had a chance to compare it with other instruments, but as soon as I did I will let you know.

As a matter of fact: the plectrum and it's longer scale were a long time wish. I heard that sound in recordings in the 70's, and always liked the singing tone. It shouldn't be too snappy for me. A tenor in a jazzband can penetrate a bit more maybe, but I prefer the sweeter sound of the close chords. However, I only started playing again after some 10 years of silence, and whatever the scale or the sound, it's not easy to get back to the level I used to play on. And even that was not much above grass roots.

Next project: after restoring the Fairbanks, a Vega Tubaphone or derivate of it. If anyone knows parts in deplorable state, I might still have a use for them.

Nico

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