I have been doing this for the last ten years on and off. I am primarily a guitar player but do not like using 6 string banjos. So some time ago I figured that if I just used the top four strings of a regular guitar on a tenor banjo I would be able to get the desired sound of a banjo in my arsenal without really having to learn a new instrument. Turns out it has been done for years and it is called CHICAGO TUNING (for its obvious blues advantage and connection). But I would like to know if a Dixieland or Ragtime player would or could use Chicago tuning? I would think because of its connection to the guitar and its myriad amount of pentatonic scale offerings it would be an ideal way to proceed. Of course I would imagine that a Dixieland Chord Melody player would not prefer the Chicago tuning format. Keep in mind string instruments lend themselves to many tunings (unlike brass or woodwinds) and do not HAVE to follow one set option. Any thoughts? Any Dixie players using Chicago tuning? Let us hear from you.
Edited by - Vince Dees on 11/20/2019 10:14:38
Many players have and do use Chicago tuned tenors, myself included although I'm at the beginning of my "journey". I have played guitar since 1970 and earned a BA in Music Theory as a Percussionist. Had been playing bass in an Americana band until recently (reformed as duo) and I also am learning mandolin. I also have played ukulele but not much lately.
So, the way I look at a Chicago tuned tenor banjo is that is functionally an oversized baritone banjolele. Great for folk, pop and of course, jazz. I mostly play fingerstyle (no picks) or plectrum.
Play what you want and have fun! Check out Eddy Davis on YT, he is a prominent member here.
Thanks for the input. Baritone Ukes are also tuned to the top 4 of a guitar. You are correct, a string is a string and sliding up or down produces a musical tone. Choices depend on the scale structure as it relates to the tuning. Ditto for the chord positions. What ever comes natural and comfortable. Play on.
Well, turns out I was mistaken about Eddy Davis using Chicago tuning. Sorry.
Originally posted by Ondrej
In the Czech Republic, we have one banjo player who started out on Tenor Banjo and then switched to Chicago tuning. His name is Ivan Mladek.
Edited by - Vince Dees on 11/21/2019 10:57:58
it is nice to see that jugband music from America's past has spread all over the world.
I'm a banjo and music newbie, retired, and enjoying a framus tenor I found. I love the sound and I tune it exclusively chicago, so I can build on the few guitar and baritone ukelele chords I'm familiar with. I play with a folk and country group with many guitars, so the banjo adds to the sound nicely. Because the chords are familiar I can work on strums, rolls, picking, and have even started adding a couple licks. It's going slow, but did I mention that I'm no spring chick with little musical experience? There is definitely an important place for Chicago tuning for me and I would love to see some instructional videos using this tenor tuning.
This sub-forum is for ITM so there are two avenues relating to DGBE tuning (IMO). I do not play ITM but plan to work up my sight reading to play folk tunes so that might be the focus of someone playing a tenor tuned Chicago. Practice reading the melody lines from anywhere you can find and get better every day.
If you are like me and are more focused on pop & jazz, dig into the chords (which are good to know anyway and can "anchor" melodies) and have fun!
BTW, I found several books for Baritone Ukulele on Amazon, including fiddle tunes. The Bari Uke is also tuned DGBE so any book for that will be good for your purposes.
Thanks, Bob. I do need to practice sight reading instead of picking out a string from the chord. Will also explore the baritone uke books. I wonder if it is worthwhile to attempt any frailing or claw hammer type techniques on 4 string? There are so many u tube videos on those subjects.
You can play any instrument any darn way you please but I would say just decide what style you want to play and focus on a few tunes to get you moving.
That is one of my problems, I imagine all kinds of cool things I want to do instead of focusing on one.