Posted by KenBirmingham on Saturday, January 19, 2013
As A newcomer to bluegrass banjo playing I want to learn as much as I can about different types of banjos. What is the difference between a long and short necked banjo, are they tuned the same.
Saturday, January 19, 2013 @6:04:36 AM
so-called "longneck" banjos have 25 frets, or 3 more than the standard 22 fret configuration and are usually tuned open to eAEAbB (same as standard C tuning with the capo placed at the 3rd fret of the longneck) or eBEAbB (same as standard G tuning when capoed at the 3rd fret) The longneck was supposedly invented by Pete Seeger back in the 40's to give an extra range allowing the banjo more flexibility in accompanying his voice, and became the configuration of choice during the folk revival of the 50's, and almost always was an openback. Now are you thoroughly confused?
Saturday, January 19, 2013 @12:33:35 PM
To continue John's excellent review of the "longneck"cconfiguration, there are several "shortnecks" worth distinguishing. I will only talk about 5 strings, mainly because I know next to nothing about 4-strings. "Open back" five strings were certainly the first banjos, evolving from the instruments played by slaves in the 1700's. They are often sold today as either relatively inexpensive "starter banjos", or more sophisitcated instruments popular among "Old Time" and/or "Clawhammer" players. While each unique instruments has its own sound, I generally hear these types soundin "plucky' or "plunk-y". I personally like this sound a great deal, when played with even a modicom of skill.
The "open back" banjos are relatively quiet, and can get buried in the sound of other instruments. Sometime around the turn of the century, banjoists began attaching resonators to the back of their instruments; this focused the sound energy outward, and made the instrument easier for the audience to hear in a string ensemble. Thus what we now generally identify as a "bluegrass" banjo came about well before the term "bluegrass" was applied to the type of musice Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys popularized with their playing from the late 1930s onward. Today's bluegrass banjo is optimized to play loud and fast, alongside several other loud and fast players in a bluegrass-style ensemble. Its sound differs from the 'open back"; to me a good resonator sounds "hard as nails", not much softness to the "pluck" at all.
These days I believe the most common tuning for both open backs and bluegrass banjos is probably "open G": gDGBD. Some songs are traditionally played in other tunings, for various reasons, and they are not exactly rare, but if you see a 5 string banjo, chances are it will be tuned in open G, unless it is a longneck; then it will likely be tuned as John has described.
Saturday, January 19, 2013 @11:07:09 PM
Thanks Guys, That really gives me the info I required. Great.
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