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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Banjo differences


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/91088

riverwindflutes - Posted - 08/17/2007:  18:53:00


Hello!!
Im new to banjo playing, can any one tell me what the differences are between the 5-string banjo, the Tenor banjo, and the Plectrum banjo.
Do they have different scale lengths? are they tuned differently?
I am interested in learning but don't know which to choose.
Thanks
Don


Edited by - riverwindflutes on 08/17/2007 19:24:38

Gibson Gangsta - Posted - 08/17/2007:  19:10:46


tuned (gDGBD to CGDA respectively) and scaled differently (roughly 26.25 to 23" respectively)......and tenor is played using a flatpicking method.....they also make tenor guitars (or used to)

on this link is a nice "whats the difference...." answer by bill palmer...might be worth a read to you...
http://www.4shelties.com/banjos/banjofaq.htm

pickin' aint easy.......or cheap! so hire me for all your art related needs!

BANJO MAFIA......this 5 string thing of ours......

BanjoCritter - Posted - 08/17/2007:  19:22:33


Tenors have 4 strings, and a shorter neck.

----
It'ss hardf too typpe withh fingertpicsd onn

Gibson Gangsta - Posted - 08/17/2007:  20:08:42


so really the only thing they share in common is in the name "banjo" and the pot construction, method of playing, music style played, action preference, tuning, setup is all different.....my how this banjo gets around.....

pickin' aint easy.......or cheap! so hire me for all your art related needs!

BANJO MAFIA......this 5 string thing of ours......

Klondike Waldo - Posted - 08/17/2007:  21:55:01


Tenors have four strings and a shorter neck (19frets?) The standard tuning for tenor banjo is CGDA, same as viola or mandola, an octave higher than cello, but there are other common tunings : CGBD (same as plectrum or C r tuning on a five string), GDAE- for Irish music- often on an even shorter neck (15 frets) and DGBE ( guitar or "Chicago" tuning). Tenor banjops are generally flat picked in strummed chords, chord melody, and single string melodies. Tenors are th emost common banjos in Dixieland and Trad Jazz.

Plectrum banjos have a 22 fret neck like a standard 5-string , but without the shorter fifth string or the widened portion of the neck whee the 5th string would sit. They are usually tuned CGBDl like C tuning on a five string banjo and , like tenor banjos, are played with a fat pick in strummed chords, chord melody and single note melodies. Plectrums are also used in Dixieland and Trad Jazz . I like a rhythm section of one of each and a tuba for a jazz band, but then, I used to be that tuba player. In my opinion, Plectrum banjos are a bit more mellow sounding where Tenors are brighter. (and higher pitched due to the higher tuning of the 1st and 2nd string)

Guitar Banjos or banjitars have the body of a banjo and the neck and 6 strings of a guitar, and are usually tuned the same as any guitar, which could include all thealternative tunings there are for guitar.

deligo ergo renideo,
Bob Cameron

kcjc69 - Posted - 08/18/2007:  00:03:13


Amazing I was just on ebay looking at some of the tenors and was just wondering what the real difference was. Thanks. Am I wrong but aren't some of the old tenors matched with a five string neck? Why? Sorry to sound pathetic but I am definately a novice at all this.

Faith, Family, Football and pickin the Banjo. Could life be any better?

Luke - Posted - 08/18/2007:  04:39:01


It will be easier to choose which banjo you want when you decide what kind of musicy ou'd like to plkay, e.g. Irish, Jazz or Bluegrass,.

Luke

Klondike Waldo - Posted - 08/18/2007:  08:56:55


quote:
Originally posted by kcjc69

Amazing I was just on ebay looking at some of the tenors and was just wondering what the real difference was. Thanks. Am I wrong but aren't some of the old tenors matched with a five string neck? Why? Sorry to sound pathetic but I am definately a novice at all this.

Faith, Family, Football and pickin the Banjo. Could life be any better?



most of the best banjos built in teh 20's and 30's were tenor (or plectrum) banjos which savvy five string players sought out in recent years to convert to five string banjos. The wisest of these kept the original necks with the banjo to keep the value of teh older instrument intact.

deligo ergo renideo,
Bob Cameron

riverwindflutes - Posted - 08/19/2007:  08:25:09


Theres a guy named Willliam Elliot Whitmore who apparently plays a 4 string KAY banjo it dosen't look like a tenor but looks to me to be full sized, has anyone ever seen this type banjo, he may also have possibly modified it and removed the 5th string tuner, Heres a pic of the guy and his banjo,
Anyone have a clue


Edited by - riverwindflutes on 08/19/2007 09:09:35

Klondike Waldo - Posted - 08/19/2007:  11:03:59


quote:
Originally posted by riverwindflutes

Theres a guy named Willliam Elliot Whitmore who apparently plays a 4 string KAY banjo it dosen't look like a tenor but looks to me to be full sized, has anyone ever seen this type banjo, he may also have possibly modified it and removed the 5th string tuner, Heres a pic of the guy and his banjo,
Anyone have a clue



Plectrum banjo has a neck the same length as a standard 5-string (22 frets)

deligo ergo renideo,
Bob Cameron

mando1946 - Posted - 08/19/2007:  14:43:46


That appears to be a five-string with the 5th string peg removed, as you suspected.

coelhoe - Posted - 08/30/2007:  11:35:25


The "Irish" tuning on a tenor usually requires the use of heavier strings which brings the instrument down to the guitar range, same as the octave mandolin.

There were surprisingly few 5-string banjos made during the "Goldern Era" which is one reason why the true intact originals are so valuable. But it also means that most of the "originals" offered for sale are not that at all, being instead tenor or plectrum instruments with newer necks. Sadly, the craziness of this market has led people to cannibalize old banjos and offer them for sale as, for example, "1936 RB-4 Gibson flathead" when only the resonator, or the inlays might be from that date. The buyer in this market should always be very, very careful. The same can said for older Vegas, etc.used for old-timey styles.

Dennis

stanger - Posted - 08/30/2007:  19:35:39


Hi, Riverwind...
Which banjo you choose is up to you. The 5-string is a fingerstyle banjo, and the other two are flatpicked.

The basics of playing all of them can be fast- 6 months or less.

The tenor has a distinct tonality- most commonly associated with 'dixieland' jazz (although the term is generally out of fashion now). The plectrum's true tuning is the same as the old standard tuning of the 5-string, and it sounds more like a 5-string.

The 5-string is the oldest, and most associated with bluegrass and folk styles, although it's used for other styles as well. it nearly went extinct in the 20's and 30's, when the tenor was by far the most favored banjo, but regained popularity in the 60's. This is the reason so many old tenors have been converted to 5-strings; conversion is simple, as a new neck can be easily attached with no damage to the original or to the pot.

There are also many variations of the 5-string, from very small banjos to ones with extra-long necks, and some have no frets. Tenors and plectrums vary slightly in scale length, but both remain basically the same from early models to current models.

Of the 3, the 5-string is most difficult to master and takes the longest time, but it's singular high drone string provides a unique tone that can't be duplicated with the other two. The drone string also makes the 5-string difficult to play in all keys without the use of capos and/or retuning, as the 5th string- the drone- sounds dischordant in some keys. As a result, there are many tunings used on this banjo, but the most common is open G.

hope this helps.. check back often before you buy anything, and decide for yourself which one to go after. The plectrum is usually the most difficult to find.
regards,
Stanger

"Sometimes I like green shade, and sometimes I like dry shade"


Edited by - stanger on 08/30/2007 19:41:32

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