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Sep 19, 2019 - 10:12:54 AM
237 posts since 5/30/2010

  I picked up a Gold Tone tenor this year and have it tuned GDAE. Am wanting to get into country,western swing,hillbilly music. Anybody else play these styles on a 4 string?

Sep 19, 2019 - 10:15:33 AM



2726 posts since 1/15/2014

A lot of country and Western swing was historically played on the tenor and plectrum in the 1920s-1940s. They tuned to standard though (cgda on tenor and cgbd on plectrum). You have your banjo tuned to the modern "Irish" tuning.

Sep 19, 2019 - 10:45:41 AM

10844 posts since 4/23/2004

Smokey Montgomery and Scott Whitfield playing "Washington & Lee Swing" back in 1992. I was about 5 rows back from the stage. Smokey played all week in almost every sesssion...whether it was Bluegrass or traditional or whatever.

Now that I see this video again, I realize that the first hot fiddler (Jim Wood) is still playing locally for dances.

Edited by - trapdoor2 on 09/19/2019 10:46:21

Sep 19, 2019 - 11:34:43 AM

237 posts since 5/30/2010

I've played & taught mandolin before,so went with the "Irish tuning" to avoid having to learn new chords,etc. (I also play guitar,uke,fiddle & 5 string banjo) Love that video! 

Sep 19, 2019 - 11:51:40 AM

110 posts since 4/8/2019

The thing is that most of the playing on old hillbilly or western swing recordings was chordal, and the plectrum tuning is much better suited to chordal playing in that the intervals between the open strings are closer together than the octave mandolin tuning. You can think of plectrum tuning as similar to the first four strings of the guitar. The difference is that the first and fourth strings are a step lower.


Sep 19, 2019 - 12:27:53 PM

10844 posts since 4/23/2004

Originally posted by BanjoBelle

I've played & taught mandolin before,so went with the "Irish tuning" to avoid having to learn new chords,etc. (I also play guitar,uke,fiddle & 5 string banjo) Love that video! 

There is no reason you can't use GDAE tuning to do what you want with the tenor banjo. The most obvious benefit I can think of for CGDA tuning is that standard jazz tenor strings tend to be lighter and softer on the fingers as well as more balanced tonally than IT strings (which usually suffer from very thick 4th strings). Playing chordally up the neck will be much easier with the standard jazz TB sets.

With CGDA tuning, if you ever find a TB teacher in the WS tradition, you won't have to convert. Also, all of the tutors you are going to find (vintage tenor tutors are dime-a-dozen on ebay) will be using the CGDA tuning.

OTOH, both tunings are in fifths...chord fingerings are going to be identical, just named differently.

Oh, last thing...don't hesitate to drop the 5th string off the edge of your 5-string banjo. I cut a notch in the bass side of my bridge to "park" my 5th string when I want to do some plectrum-style playing. You can keep the Bluegrass-standard tuning (DGBD), explore Chicago tuning (DGBE) or "plectrum tuning" (CGBD).

Sep 19, 2019 - 12:35:34 PM

2685 posts since 4/19/2008

Here's some of Along The Navajo Trail by Quebe Sisters I had done for standard guitar, I outputted it to Irish Tenor Banjo, notice the stretches.

Edited by - mmuussiiccaall on 09/19/2019 12:39:08

Sep 19, 2019 - 12:51:06 PM
likes this

10844 posts since 4/23/2004

Here's a good "Western Swing" comparison between plectrum and tenor...

Sep 19, 2019 - 4:42:36 PM

237 posts since 5/30/2010

I gotta say I appreciate everybody sharing their know how with me and to hear the difference has helped a lot. I do have a set of tenor strings for CGDA (viola) tuning and will be putting those on shortly. Looks like I'll be learning new chords! Thank you for sharing. Luckily,my Gold Tone AC 4 can be strung to either GDAE or CGDA. And I like the idea about the 5th string to the side- in fact- I have an Aria 5 string that needs a new 5th string tuner.....I could simply take the 5th string off and tune it in plectrum!

Sep 24, 2019 - 12:20:22 PM

34 posts since 1/20/2015

Some interesting ideas for sure! I'd be down for jamming some WS in a small group setting but where I am (SE Florida) I have never heard of anyone playing WS. I play a Chicago tuned tenor ta boot! Sigh . . .

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