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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Bought a tenor banjo! Now what?


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/86064

SharonB - Posted - 06/24/2007:  02:03:22


I just came home from a festival with an early tenor Maybell. It's beautiful and has a great sound! My goal is to play ragtime, swing, tin pan alley, dixieland type stuff. (I'll probably learn some Irish too down the line.) But right now I don't even know how to tune it! (My other banjo is a 5-string and I have been playing clawhammer and some fingerpicking rags.)
Any thoughts on:
1. a good person to do a little work on it in the LA area?
2. online resources for playing?
3. tunings?
4. rhythms?

"You can't take yourself too seriously when you're singing about a chicken." - Ruth Ungar


Edited by - SharonB on 06/24/2007 03:26:16

mainejohn - Posted - 06/24/2007:  07:54:37


I can't offer any help for resources in the the LA area, although I lived out there back in the 70's. Go to www.4stringbanjos.com. You might get some help there. I play plectrum in addition to 5 string, and love the swing and dixieland stuff. As plectrum and 5 string necks both have 22 frets and are usually tuned the same (C tuning), the transition from one to the other is easy. The standard tenor tuning is CGDA, but when playing Celtic style, lighter gauge strings are used, and the banjo is tuned GDAE. You might also join FIGA (Fretted Instrument Guild of America), an excellent 4 string banjo resource.

Cheers,
John
Scarborough, Maine

Steve L - Posted - 06/24/2007:  08:06:30


I think John accidently got it backwards. Playing Irish style in GDAE tuning requires heavier (vs lighter) gauges than CGDA tuning.

I just got a 19 fret Maybell myself and really like it. Good luck.

Steve

billmill22 - Posted - 06/24/2007:  11:26:22


You can get a lot of info for Tenor or Plectrum banjo on my site. Also links for others "Pay for" instruction material. Take a look; http://www.banjoseen.com/SiteIndex.html
Good luck!
Bill

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

SharonB - Posted - 06/24/2007:  17:09:13


Wow, thanks for the tips and encouragement. I have a question about tunings - is it best to tune to CGDA and learn new chords etc or tune to C-tuning and transfer chords from the 5-string?
Sharon

"You can't take yourself too seriously when you're singing about a chicken." - Ruth Ungar

billmill22 - Posted - 06/24/2007:  20:08:10


If You are interested in The types of music in your post I would recommend CGDA. You will find the most lead sheets and teachings for tenor in that tuning. However, There is nothing said that you couldn't tune in any manor you wished too.
Bill

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

mainejohn - Posted - 06/25/2007:  10:06:58


I concur with Bill. Although I've read on the HO of tenors being tuned to conventional plectrum/5string c-tuning (CGBD), I think in the long run one would be better off using CGDA or GDAE.

Cheers,
John
Scarborough, Maine

pweller - Posted - 06/26/2007:  11:11:25


If you're looking to get into early jazz/dixieland sort of stuff, go CGDA and buy a chord book. I'd recommend Mel Bay's chord book of tenor banjo chords. It shows several variations of chords and it's quite complete. Good luck with the banjo, it can be a lot of fun, trust me!

SharonB - Posted - 06/27/2007:  18:30:40


I'm so excited about the tenor. I took it to a luthier here who is going to set it up and who said it was all original and in good condition. I had one question though. I want to play Dixieland and early jazz and ragtime. But my 5-string teacher (old-time) says most people do that on a plectrum and that folks mostly use the tenor for Irish. I know that lots of folks use it for Irish and I love Irish music, but I really was hoping to play dixieland etc. Will i sound out of place doing that? Will I be the only person left on earth doing it?

"You can't take yourself too seriously when you're singing about a chicken." - Ruth Ungar

Tim2723 - Posted - 06/27/2007:  21:09:57


No, of course not. There are lots of people playong all those styles on tenors (maybe even most of them). Just tune CGDA and have a blast!

Just keep pickin' at it.

billmill22 - Posted - 06/27/2007:  21:29:49


Of all the types of 4 string banjos made, most are 19 fret tenor banjos and are used for exactly the type of music you are interested in. Look for a 4 string tenor teacher if possible--next best, and as a supplement would be some tenor instruction material for study. I have most listed here; http://www.banjoseen.com/Links/LinksPage.html scroll down to the center bottom of list.
Bill

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

SharonB - Posted - 06/28/2007:  00:28:39


Thanks!!! I'll let you know how I do. Right now the banjo is being set up. I'm supposed to get it back next week. I already ordered some books from elderly and I'm going through Bill's links. Hurray!

"You can't take yourself too seriously when you're singing about a chicken." - Ruth Ungar

Emiel - Posted - 06/28/2007:  03:47:56


In Dixieland bands you mainly use the tenor banjo tuned CGDA, not the plectrum.

Emiel


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

billmill22 - Posted - 06/28/2007:  11:47:58


SharonB, Good luck with your tenor banjo. I know you will enjoy it. Also as you will see by looking at the "Tenor Major Scales" chart; http://www.banjoseen.com/Banjoscales.html the tenor has many of the notes of the scales very close and easy to pick along with the chords.
Bill

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

matrixbanjo - Posted - 06/28/2007:  16:38:52


(my 2 cents) The tenor is used alot in the band situation, the tuning allows for the banjo to "cut through " the other instruments. The plectrum was used more for solo work.

Banjo..? What banjo?

u k sandra - Posted - 06/30/2007:  10:46:48


If you ever want to change to irish tenor, the usual tuning over here, a least, is GDAE. I took Irish tenor lessons for about a year and we hardly ever used chords. The class I took was for Irish tenor banjo and mandolin because the fingering is the same. Just be warned, its very, very loud ( but great fun ).

s donnelly

scotty22 - Posted - 07/03/2007:  01:53:04


I am, like you, a life-long guitarist. I got into tenor playing about a year ago when I first listened to the Preservation Hall Band do Mood Indigo. I became immediately smitten. I also play mandolin, Celtic, etc., so the tenor was inevitable. It's a very versatile instrument. I went immediately to ebay and bought half-a-dozen or so vintage tenors. I first puchased a 17-fret bacon that I don't use much because I have a couple of 19-fret TBs. Anyway, they are a very cool instrument. I entertain a lot solo playing and singing old-time, folk, etc. and the TB opened me up to popular music from the 20s, 30s, 40s, etc.--it's a great instrument for that genre.

BTW, I noticed you like Hoagy--Stardust is a great tune to play on the TB..

SharonB - Posted - 07/04/2007:  00:18:48


Wow, Scotty, I would love to play Stardust. Although at the moment I have only slogged through "Skip to My Lou" and "Aura Lee" in the Mel Bay tenor banjo book! (hahaha). Do you happen to have an arrangement of Stardust for tenor?

Also, another question - this tenor lesson series I bought has you learning the songs three ways - straight rhythm with chrords played essentially as you would play a swing guitar behind a band or vocal, straight melody and the chord melody. In the end, will I be using all three of these methods or do you more typically just use the chord melody? Or do you vamp behind people with the straight chords and solo with the chord melody???



"You can't take yourself too seriously when you're singing about a chicken." - Ruth Ungar

scotty22 - Posted - 07/04/2007:  01:22:38


My guess is that the real players among us here will say, all three. Sounds like you're on the right course. This chart is suitable for both TB and guitar:

http://www.theguitarguy.com/stardust.htm

prossignol - Posted - 07/04/2007:  14:58:21


Highly recomend Jim Bottorff's banjo page. www.jbott.com excellent resource for chord structures and includes lots of simple chorded songs in with midi examples and a few downloads of his great tenor playing. good place to get started with lots of fun old tunes from the 20,s (with lyrics!)

"...where whiskeys' made out of corn and women don't smell like talcum powder."

SharonB - Posted - 07/05/2007:  01:43:50


Thanks to both of you guys. I am printing out the Stardust chart as I type (and actually my printer is making a funny sound - ripped up the paper and started beeping. Now I know some people don't like the banjo, but REALLY!!! I am going to try Jim Bottorf's page too!

"You can't take yourself too seriously when you're singing about a chicken." - Ruth Ungar

SharonB - Posted - 07/08/2007:  22:00:33


You might try festivals to look - it seems that when you buy one from another musician they don't tend to charge as much as in the stores or on ebay. Mine was incredibly cheap and when I took it to have it set up I learned that it was all original and in great shape, with the original case.

On a slightly different note, last night I played a very simple version of Just a Closer Walk With Thee, with my husband on the clarinet and me on the tenor playing rhythm. We did it like they do for New Orleans funerals - very slowly, then really fast. It was so great!! Our kids were asking us to record it! It was really fun. But now - I want to learn a solo part - like a chord melody solo since I will be providing the rhythm when we play. Any arrangements out there???

Sharon

"You can't take yourself too seriously when you're singing about a chicken." - Ruth Ungar

Jacinto Guevara - Posted - 07/19/2007:  13:36:00


I haven't read all the comments and I'm in a hurry.
Try McCabe's on the border of West L.A. and Santa Monica. I haven't been to L.A. in ten years but I think they are still around. There is a "standard" tenor tuning and most string-sets are made for that system. If you have a cheapie tenor you will probably have to buy better tuners because the original cheapies won't hold the steel strings and you have to wrench your hand to twist them. Good luck.

Klondike Waldo - Posted - 07/19/2007:  15:23:56


quote:
Originally posted by SharonB

I'm so excited about the tenor. I took it to a luthier here who is going to set it up and who said it was all original and in good condition. I had one question though. I want to play Dixieland and early jazz and ragtime. But my 5-string teacher (old-time) says most people do that on a plectrum and that folks mostly use the tenor for Irish. I know that lots of folks use it for Irish and I love Irish music, but I really was hoping to play dixieland etc. Will i sound out of place doing that? Will I be the only person left on earth doing it?

"You can't take yourself too seriously when you're singing about a chicken." - Ruth Ungar



Most trad Jazz players I know play tenors, a few also play plectrum. When I was playing tuba for Your Father's Mustache, we generally had two banjos in the band- one of each, later cut down to one banjo, trombone, tuba and washboard ;-). Plectrums seemed to be mor epopular with guys from the Mountain states vs tenor for the East Coast guys- just an observation based on the guys I played with- some from Boston, New York. New Jersey,Chicago, New Orleans, San Francisco, Denver- all over, really.

deligo ergo renideo,
Bob Cameron

JimD - Posted - 07/19/2007:  17:37:55


quote:
Originally posted by Klondike Waldo
[
Most trad Jazz players I know play tenors, a few also play plectrum. When I was playing tuba for Your Father's Mustache, we generally had two banjos in the band- one of each, later cut down to one banjo, trombone, tuba and washboard ;-). Plectrums seemed to be mor epopular with guys from the Mountain states vs tenor for the East Coast guys- just an observation based on the guys I played with- some from Boston, New York. New Jersey,Chicago, New Orleans, San Francisco, Denver- all over, really.

deligo ergo renideo,
Bob Cameron



Very interesting -- I wondered why I have seen so few plectrum banjos out this way (East Coast). I've used tenor for trad jazz as well as in pit orchestras for Cole Porter and Gershwin shows and with symphonies playing the orchestral works of Gershwin or Ferde Grofe.

I keep another tenor tuned GDAE for playting Irish music.

Jim Dalton

http://www.singingstring.org/JD/

yellowdog - Posted - 07/20/2007:  23:53:14


What a great decision you made getting the tenor banjo! I have been enjoying one now 57 years (ouch!) and that's the truth. What is beautiful about the tenor is the logic in the tuning which makes it easy to understand how to form any chord at any fret. - So you can make any chord that you need around any melody note. This will make sense when you understand that all chords have simple formulas that are independent of the key. For example, every major triad chord (usually called a major chord (or just "C", or "F" or whatever) has the formula, 1,3,5 - meaning 1 is the note named in the chord, 3 is the third note up from it, and 5 is the fifth note up from it. All of this and more is explained in my free 31-page book, "Build Any Chord, Anywhere". Go to the links page on my website and to the first link. It will take you to a download page where you can download the book. It will show graphically that the locations of 1's, 3's, 5's, and everything else on the tenor is a SIMPLE FIXED PATTERN that you only have to learn ONCE! The tenor banjo is LOGICAL!

Frank Geiger
www.geigeracousticdevices.biz


Edited by - yellowdog on 07/21/2007 08:27:21

Brett - Posted - 07/21/2007:  16:47:24


ok, let me demonstrate my tenor ignorance, as I bought my first (19 fret Vega Little Wonder) and just setting it up today after massive cleaning, and I only have regular bluegrass sets of strings laying around (I play 5 string), so I left out the 5 string....
Anyhow, which string is "c", because I'm just not getting there? Maybe these strings are just way too light? They're like .11 thru .22 (wound), they are 5 star planetary tuners. Please educate me, I'm not able to tune it....Brett.

yellowdog - Posted - 07/21/2007:  21:11:00


Here are tenor banjo string sizes taken from a pack of Gibson tenor banjo strings: The lowest string ("C") is .029 wound; the next-to-lowest string ("G") is .020 wound; the next-to-highest string ("D") is .012 and the highest string ("A") is .010. The lowest string is tuned to the "C" that is just below "middle C" - should you have a piano handy. The easy way to tune a tenor is to tune the lowest string first and then to place a finger on that string at the seventh fret which will be the "G" you need for the next open string. Any note played with a finger at the seventh fret is, or should be, the note of the next higher string. That is true all across the strings. This tuning is the same as a cello so a cello tuner is a handy addition to a tenor banjo case. All of this is standard tenor tuning and is different than Irish tenor banjo tuning which is G,D,A,E - an octave below a mandolin but still "fifths".

Frank Geiger
www.geigeracousticdevices.biz


Edited by - yellowdog on 07/21/2007 21:13:16

Brett - Posted - 07/21/2007:  21:27:27


Thank you Mr. Geiger. I haven't played a tenor since I was about 16 and it was a B&D Silverbell and the fellow who owned it must've tuned it in fifths, because I remember I was able to play mandolin tunes I knew on it. I need to get correct gauge strings. I was sadly disappointed earlier today when the old Rogers skin head just split, it was just so old and dry, but I happened to have an old Weatherking so old the weatherking was stamped just in black ink like out of a cheap rubber stamp kinda thing, no logo, and it was correct size, so I put that on. So, I need heavier strings. thanks again, Brett.

billmill22 - Posted - 07/22/2007:  12:29:36


Frank, that's a great tenor fretboard road map!
Thanks for sharing.
Bill

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

SharonB - Posted - 07/23/2007:  01:38:37


Frank, your book and method are very cool. I don't entirely understand it yet but I am going to print it out and study it.
Thanks!! And, yes, I am loving the tenor! my only question to you - you mention in your introduction that in Dixieland Bands they want you to play chords only or single notes only - I had thought the tenor was supposed to do the chord melody style. Is that not so???

Sharon

"You can't take yourself too seriously when you're singing about a chicken." - Ruth Ungar

yellowdog - Posted - 07/23/2007:  03:09:10


Hi Sharon
Thank you for downloading my book. It really wasn't meant for beginners and I think if I were a new player it might even scare me! Just look at it occasionally to make sense of the black and white chord diagrams that you will learn. It should help you to remember them and to understand why they look the way that they do. After you get a few chords down pat then the book should help you make fast progress in learning more complex chords. Regarding your question about "Dixieland" bands - the term needs definition. When I think of a Dixieland band I think of a small group of musicians playing different instruments - perhaps a cornet or trumpet, trombone, tuba, banjo (tenor or plectrum), and/or also a clarinet, drums and even a piano. Usually the members take a "chorus", (the lead), in turn. The banjo player is expected to keep the rhythm for the band with chords (or a backup line) when others are playing melody, and only plays chord melody when it is his or her "turn" to take the lead. But over the years the word "Dixieland" has been used by the public to refer to a wide variety of music before rock-and-roll. I'm guilty also, because I advertise myself as a "Dixieland soloist", (whatever that is). - And my Dixieland songlist is mostly Tin Pan Alley stuff with a few real Dixieland tunes thrown in - and everything is chord melody. Years ago I put together a few Dixieland trios but I am not a Dixieland band banjoist and can't even play good chordal accompniment! Why would I want to? Chord melody is too much fun! You're going to love the tenor banjo!

Frank Geiger
www.geigeracousticdevices.biz

Jacinto Guevara - Posted - 07/26/2007:  16:34:46


Where have y'all been? I kind of stopped checking out BHO because I felt like a Martian in Apple-Ashia since I don't do BlueGrass, and won't get near "Country".

I play/perform songs right off of vintage 1920's sheet music, making my own arrangements out of the piano arrangements. My band is The Eskimo Spit Bath Orchestra.

PLEASE visit my webpage and encourage me to finish it. www.EskimoSpitBath.com


Edited by - Jacinto Guevara on 07/26/2007 16:36:07

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