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Feb 23, 2020 - 10:52:12 PM
28 posts since 2/16/2020

I have a couple 5-string banjos and want to try playing Irish music on a 4-string. I don't want to invest in a tenor banjo before figuring out whether I like playing a 4-string. After much googling I concluded that I probably can't play Irish banjo music on a 5 string. BUT the neck and scale length of an Irish Bouzouki (GDAE) are about the same a 5-string. I'm wondering if I can string my 5-string with Bouzouki strings and play music developed for the Bouzouki, and what it would sound like with Bouzouki strings. Robert

Feb 24, 2020 - 6:33:01 AM

681 posts since 2/19/2012

This is going to be interesting. After a fair amount of clawhammer experience, I tried reels (6/8 timing) on the five string, and while a few play that way successfully (Ken Perlman, Janet Burton for example) it just seemed like the wrong tool for the job. I even considered three finger style, but was advised to invest a lot of time in that style before taking on Irish.

If your bouzouki idea doesn't work out, maybe you could try removing the fifth string so you have a plectrum banjo and then capo up to something around a 22 inch scale to play in GDAE. I think Enda Scahill (We Banjos 3) often plays with a capo'd plectrum banjo.

Feb 24, 2020 - 7:28:19 AM

506 posts since 7/10/2012

You can remove the 5th and tune the remaining four strings to bouzouki tuning with regular banjo strings. However, the bouzouki is double strung, so four sets of two strings each to get that bouzouki sound.

There is a great book on Irish tunes by Tom Hanway, he plays Scruggs style, but I've played out of it using three finger style for years. Also, I've been working through some clawhammer Irish tunes and, though challenging, I feel I've picked up some skills in the thumb area of my picking that feel like an accomplishment.

Finally, bite the bullet and get a bouzouki! I love playing the bouzouki! You play it with these tiny plectrum picks and pick staccato style, one of the most fun instruments I ever played. I had never played one, but got picked up by a Greek player after an open mic show and recruited into a Greek band playing one of his bouzoukis and did gigs for years with them. It took a bit to get the picking down, but totally worth it.

David

Feb 24, 2020 - 11:47:54 AM

173 posts since 8/25/2009

Not a direct answer to your question, but Tommy Makem (The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem) played a 5-string (a long neck I believe). There was another Irish group back around then that also featured a 5-string banjo -The Irish Rovers or The Dubliners?

Good luck,
Bill

Feb 24, 2020 - 2:58:26 PM

DSmoke

USA

820 posts since 11/30/2015

quote:
Originally posted by Half Barbaric Twanger

Not a direct answer to your question, but Tommy Makem (The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem) played a 5-string (a long neck I believe). There was another Irish group back around then that also featured a 5-string banjo -The Irish Rovers or The Dubliners?

Good luck,
Bill


It was Luke Kelly with the Dubliners.

Feb 25, 2020 - 4:19:49 PM

28 posts since 2/16/2020

It might sound crazy but I am interested in learning to read music too. A stringed instrument tuned to fifths like the violin, mandolin, Irish tenor banjo, Irish Bouzouki should be better suited to learn to sight read with. I'm hoping that there will be sheet music for Irish tunes to learn with.

I also want to flatpick a banjo (a really different experience than clawhammer). I'm wary of trying to tune a 5 string banjo strings to fifths (either an awful lot of slack on the fourth string or a lot of tension on the first or both). But I will check out the Irish artists who play a 5 string.

Feb 26, 2020 - 1:56:58 AM

464 posts since 1/30/2019

quote:
Originally posted by rkdjones

It might sound crazy but I am interested in learning to read music too. A stringed instrument tuned to fifths like the violin, mandolin, Irish tenor banjo, Irish Bouzouki should be better suited to learn to sight read with. I'm hoping that there will be sheet music for Irish tunes to learn with.

I also want to flatpick a banjo (a really different experience than clawhammer). I'm wary of trying to tune a 5 string banjo strings to fifths (either an awful lot of slack on the fourth string or a lot of tension on the first or both). But I will check out the Irish artists who play a 5 string.


Hi Robert,

I've played five string banjo for a while, but have tried tenor banjo recently, tuned GDAE. This means you can use mandolin tabulature too. 

I read music slowly, but better than I read tab, so now more often than not I'm reading a tune and learning it on tenor banjo, then maybe putting it back on to my 5 string. Or maybe not, depends what it is.

It's easier with the tenor tuned in open 5ths to remember what note is where on the fretboard. With all the different five string tunings it's harder.

Stick to GDAE though as true Tenor tuning  would put a lot of tension on your banjo neck. 

Cheers,

Andy

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