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Mar 12, 2019 - 4:58:35 AM
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malarz

USA

384 posts since 1/5/2007

I read the article in the recent All Frets magazine about Chicago tuining and am wondering if any of you have switched from tenor or plectrum to Chicago, or vice versa, and your thoughts and why.I had never thought about the claim in the article that the harmonies are closer (than that of tenor). I play strictly rhythm/chords and tried the Eddie Freeman tuning on the tenor to minimize how the A string rings out in a chord. Personal preferance for a chord sound is why. I did go back to standard CGDA because, I think, I did not care all that much for the low octave of the A, prefering the more standard low-to-high chord arpeggio.

Of course, making the change from CGDA to Chicago might not be a smart move at my age since its taken me long enough to get to a more-or-less comfortable point with this tuning. But, I am interested in your thoughts. And,, if I want to try the Chicago tuning what string gauges would I need?

Thanks.

Ken

Mar 12, 2019 - 9:34:02 AM
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434 posts since 9/6/2014

Interesting post, Ken. I am long used to Chicago (DGBE) tuning because guitar was my first instrument (I've been banging away on guitars since I was 12, and I'm now north of 60). But on tenor banjo I learned with CGDA tuning. Like you, I tried tuning the A string down an octave for the same reason you did, and also like you, I changed it back to high A again because playing melody, or chord-melody, just doesn't work when the octave changes from second string to first string.

Since CGDA tuning spans a wider range of notes from low to high, you can get some interesting harmonies that aren't possible in Chicago tuning where the strings are tuned closer to each other. But it also works the other way too; in Chicago tuning you can get some close-harmony chords that are difficult if not impossible in CGDA.

If you have more than one banjo, you could try keeping one in each tuning, so you can compare them.

Keeping the tunings straight might be difficult for you at first; I have several guitars and a baritone uke in Chicago tuning, and my tenor banjo and tenor guitar in CGDA. Once in awhile I get confused and have to take a moment to remember which tuning I'm in. But I think this is good brain exercise for me, as I advance through my 60's. It's like knowing two languages and using them both. Difficult for me, but worth the challenge.

Sorry I can't give advice about string gauges, since I haven't tried to put Chicago tuning on my banjo. But I'm sure others here on the Hangout could give some advice on this.

If Chicago tuning on the banjo interests you, I say give it a try. Even if you don't like it in the end, it's fun to experiment, and you can always learn something in the process.

Mar 12, 2019 - 2:44:50 PM
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malarz

USA

384 posts since 1/5/2007

johnstephen Thanks for your thoughts and advice. I do have a second banjo (who doesn't!?) and will restring it with recommended gauge strings for Chicago tuning. I searched and found recommendations for .010/.012, .014/.016, .022/.024, .028/.030/.032.

Its not that I don't like CGDA but when I play rhythm I find myself muting the A string most of the time. So far I have't gotten to the point where I have started to learn chord melody.

I, too, can use the brain exercise (66 now) and I don't mind the challenge. Better than sitting watching tv (at least for me).

Mar 12, 2019 - 8:31:58 PM
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104 posts since 10/8/2018

I play guitar and plectrum banjo and have experimented a few times with Chicago tuning.

Ive various heard players at Allfrets who can do a lot in this tuning.

If i were ever to get seriously into it, i think i would tune down a whole step from DGBE to CFAD, because most dixieland tunes are in the flat keys and having that open C string like a plectrum banjo has can be very helpful at times.

One interesting and unexpected thing i discovered is that if you play Chicago tuning with a dixieland band, it actually sounds, to my ear at least, more like a tenor banjo than a plectrum... the chords have that more “ tense” feeling... im not explaining that ver well but maybe youll understand when you hear it.

Mar 18, 2019 - 8:31:07 AM

jlmyers

USA

103 posts since 2/18/2007

quote:
Originally posted by guitarbanjoman

Your post strikes a chord for me [sorry, I couldn't help it]. When I was playing at Your Father's Mustache in the 1960s, I met fellow employee Buzz Podewell at YFM New York, and he tried to convince me to use his personal tuning: CFAD! It's simply Chicago tuning dropped 2 frets.  I was in the process of switching from tenor to plectrum (most guys played plectrum, as did ALL bandleaders) so I declined, but he loved it. To me it sounded just like plectrum.

If i were ever to get seriously into it, i think i would tune down a whole step from DGBE to CFAD, because most dixieland tunes are in the flat keys and having that open C string like a plectrum banjo has can be very helpful at times.

One interesting and unexpected thing i discovered is that if you play Chicago tuning with a dixieland band, it actually sounds, to my ear at least, more like a tenor banjo than a plectrum... the chords have that more “ tense” feeling... im not explaining that ver well but maybe youll understand when you hear it.


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