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RE: Banjo Tunings

Posted by Miguel MC Dowell on Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I am buying a Prust tack-head w/calfskin head and when I asked about the tuning of the banjo this is some of the info I received. (My banjos sound best when tuned down from 3 to 5 half steps from standard tunings. So if you were playing in G tuning you would lower it to E or D). Being new to the banjo tunings I am not sure what this means 3 to 5 half steps from standard tunings. Am I still able to play in the G tuning cords D, C, G-open and E or does this all change. I was told that the Prust banjo plays best in these tunings being they are lower and the head being 13”. So can anyone help me better understand what this all means for tuning the banjo. As always thank you for the help.

1 comment on “RE: Banjo Tunings”

dbrooks Says:
Wednesday, January 5, 2011 @4:54:18 PM

Miguel, you will get more responses if you post your question in the Clawhammer forum. But I will take a shot.

The advice you received is telling you that you can use G tuning (i.e., how the strings relate to one another) dropped 3 (E) or 5 (D) half steps. To drop 3 half steps: G - F# - F - E. To drop 5 half steps: G - F# - F - E - D# - D. In E tuning, your chrom,atic tuner would tell you your strings are: eBEG#B. If you raise everything 3 half steps, eBEG#B becomes gDGBD. You can use the same chord shapes in the lower tuning that you use in the key of G. Each will be 3 half steps lower. (If your Prust is a fretless, chords will probably not be used a whole lot.)

In short, when you get your banjo, you can nudge the tuning up or down to find the spot that sounds best to you. Gourd banjos seems to be tuned lower, as a rule.

The same principle is at work if you want to use double-C or sawmill tuning. The relative string intervals will be the same, though the banjo as a whole may be tuned lower.

Hope this helps.

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