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Nov 28, 2020 - 11:38:42 AM
4 posts since 11/28/2020

Is there a difference between the way a tenor banjo is setup up vs how an Irish tenor banjo is setup? Not as far as tuning each one, I know that difference, but is the Irish tenor banjo physically different from a regular tenor banjo as far as the bridge, construction, etc are concerned?Thanks.

Nov 28, 2020 - 11:53:19 AM

1886 posts since 2/12/2009

there is no such thing as an Irish tenor banjo, they are essentially the same thing ! it is possible to use a slightly higher bridge for Irish to allow the fatter strings to vibrate freely and, due to the fact that fewer chords are used all over the neck a higher action is not such a problem, standard tenor banjo for playing jazz and so forth will require strings and action that enable good clear chords to be played up and down the neck , otherwise it is possible to play both on the same instrument .

Nov 28, 2020 - 12:17:36 PM

10998 posts since 10/27/2006

Slightly taller bridge, slightly less tension in the truss rod with a tiny bit more relief (if possible) to compensate for lower string tension. Slightly wider nut slots if binding.

Other than that, it's a banjo.

Nov 28, 2020 - 12:22:21 PM

4 posts since 11/28/2020

Thanks, that's the impression I've been getting just looking around on the internet. I know a fair number of folks have a regular tenor banjo that they just change the strings on and turn it into an Irish tenor. I want to by a tenor banjo but the Irish tenor is $30 more. It could be worth the extra cash to get the Irish tenor, which comes already setup to play as an irish tenor. That would save some effort, and extra expense if I have to buy a new bridge, strings, and change it myself.

Edited by - Fishsticks on 11/28/2020 12:25:42

Nov 28, 2020 - 12:44:16 PM
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8032 posts since 8/28/2013

$30 more for a so-called Irish tenor sounds like marketing B.S to me. Strings are certainly not an extra expense, because they need to be changed regularly anyway, and it's not a given that you'll need a taller bridge. You can also easily learn to do any required set-up work (which may be needed no matter what if you are buying from an online outfit).

Nov 28, 2020 - 1:17:30 PM

4 posts since 11/28/2020

Yeah, I'm not sure there's much of an advantage to buying a "Irish" tenor banjo versus a regular tenor banjo. Strings are easy enough to change, and I have yet to see a strong opinion on the internet about needing to pay extra for an Irish tenor instrument.   quote:
Originally posted by G Edward Porgie

$30 more for a so-called Irish tenor sounds like marketing B.S to me. Strings are certainly not an extra expense, because they need to be changed regularly anyway, and it's not a given that you'll need a taller bridge. You can also easily learn to do any required set-up work (which may be needed no matter what if you are buying from an online outfit).


Nov 28, 2020 - 2:14 PM

1886 posts since 2/12/2009

I stood two feet away from Barney McKenna many times while he played his old CE Paragon and his David Boyle banjos, with either instrument he sounded like Barney, albeit he was slower in his dotage, nonetheless his technique and tone were the same on both ! Barney also told me more than once that he played his Paragon because when he was looking for a banjo back in 61-62 that was the one he found at a price he could afford ! All the mystique that has grown up about that banjo amused Barney, it is the same nonsense that says you need a pre war Granada to play proper bluegrass ! Barney could and did play Irish music on anything with four strings, all the nonsense about "Irish tenor banjo" is just that, nonsense.

Nov 28, 2020 - 2:28:55 PM

37 posts since 12/2/2006

Which banjo are you looking to buy?

Nov 28, 2020 - 3:25:26 PM
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rcc56

USA

3268 posts since 2/20/2016

The essential difference between "Irish tenor" and standard tenor is the lower tuning and the heavier gauge of the strings used to make that tuning possible.

Any tenor banjo can be used as an "Irish tenor." Many, but not all Irish players do prefer tenors with short scales, 19" to 21", but the longer 23" will work also.

For optimum tone and playability, a banjo previously set up for standard tuning may benefit from a head adjustment, and possibly a nut and bridge adjustment to play and sound its best with the heavier strings necessary for the lower "Irish" tuning.

Anything about it being necessary to have a new banjo "designed" as an "Irish tenor" is a bunch of malarkey. Manufacturers are just trying to take advantage of the fact that there is once more a demand for tenor banjos, and they want you to buy their brand new shiny special banjo for $1200 rather than buying a used Tubaphone, Little Wonder, Orpheum, or Gibson trap door for under $1000.

An $800 Tubaphone style M with a good set of strings and a decent, well adjusted head makes a very fine instrument for playing "Irish" style, and much better than some of the new "Irish tenor" instruments available from certain popular manufacturers.

Edited by - rcc56 on 11/28/2020 15:28:38

Nov 28, 2020 - 4:15:43 PM

4 posts since 11/28/2020

quote:
Originally posted by sgarrity

Which banjo are you looking to buy?


I'm just looking for a tarter tenor banjo at this point. See if I like playing it, then if I use it a lot I'll look into getting a better one. Currently lookingone of the Goldtone tenor banjos, I've got a good deal on one lined up, just trying to confirm what I've read on various websites about tenor v Irish tenor banjos. Also looking at one of the Deering tenor banjos. This would not be my main instrument anyway no matter what.

Nov 28, 2020 - 4:48:12 PM

37 posts since 12/2/2006

I've been down this road. Tenor banjos are super difficult to shop for. You have the vintage stuff that usually needs some kind of work unless you get it from a reputable shop that has done a full set up to it. You have Gold Tone which can be a nice introduction to the instrument with their mid to higher level banjos. And then you have the few companies making high end custom banjos.

I'm going to disagree with Bob above about the scale length. 98% of Irish players play a 19 fret 22-23" scale banjo. Very very few Irish players use the 17 fret 19-21" banjos. Angelina Carberry is probably the best known modern player using a 17 fret. Barney McKenna from The Dubliners also played some shorter scale banjos.

The 17 fret "Irish Tenor" thing picked up steam here in the US because Gold Tone was trying to market banjos to mandolin players. The shorter scale might make fretting easier but you get such better tone from the 22-23" scale. The little stretch is worth it.
Not sure what model you're looking at but the IT-19 would be a good place to start or one of the more expensive models depending on your budget.

Nov 28, 2020 - 6:16:34 PM

rcc56

USA

3268 posts since 2/20/2016

Be advised that any of the Deering Artisan or standard Goodtime series banjos are student grade instruments with a lower quality of construction than either the Gold Tone IT-17 and IT-19 or an old Vega Tubaphone or Little Wonder. You would have to buy a Deering Sierra model or better to get the quality of construction of the GT or Vega, and it would cost well over $2000.

For me, it's a no- brainer. The old Tubaphones were professional grade instruments and can be had for $800 to $1000. Even if they need a bit of work, they are worth it-- the only reason they are priced so low is that the market wants new tenors right now. Bear in mind that the old Tubaphone 5 strings bring $2500 and up if they are in decent condition.

Nov 28, 2020 - 10:21:10 PM

64 posts since 5/31/2009

The most important thing is buying a instrument that plays well right away. Unless you have good common sense and mechanical aptitude, get one that plays out of the box. Meaning buy from somebody who is reputable and does good setup work.

Nov 29, 2020 - 1:08:17 AM
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Polle Flaunoe

Denmark

5474 posts since 3/7/2006

quote:
Originally posted by spoonfed

I stood two feet away from Barney McKenna many times while he played his old CE Paragon and his David Boyle banjos, with either instrument he sounded like Barney, albeit he was slower in his dotage, nonetheless his technique and tone were the same on both ! Barney also told me more than once that he played his Paragon because when he was looking for a banjo back in 61-62 that was the one he found at a price he could afford ! All the mystique that has grown up about that banjo amused Barney, it is the same nonsense that says you need a pre war Granada to play proper bluegrass ! Barney could and did play Irish music on anything with four strings, all the nonsense about "Irish tenor banjo" is just that, nonsense.


Nick - an additional info - back in time dear late Barney´s choice of strings was sometimes discussed here at BHO.  A member somewhat close to him did then claim that Barney used Thomastik-Infeld strings - in order finding out more about this I contacted the owners/leaders of the T-I company - their reply was that they´ve never manufactured tenor banjo strings meant for a GDAE-tuning!  Mysterious - or what?

But then three years ago I got the chance to work on some of Barney´s banjos and mandolins - now owned and played by his stepson - also a skilled and well known ITM player - taught by Barney - I even made some video recordings with him playing one of Barney´s favorite banjos.

I did of course take up the debated string question with him - and he did of course have the solution to the mystery. LOL!

Barney used nothing but Thomastik-Infield strings for all of his instruments - BUT - for his banjos he used their standard 1244 set - with the gauges 010-015-021W-031W - originally by the factory meant for a CGDA tuning of a 23" scale tenor!

Indeed a big surprise - I did of course at once test these strings for a GDAE-tuning - both on a 23" scale banjo and a 21" scale one as used by Barney in his last years (due to increasing arthritis) - an even bigger surprise appeared - these strings turned out being indeed suited for GDAE also!

Only - do have in mind - T-I strings are rather special - don´t compare them with strings of other brands - with the same gauges.

Here´s Barney´s mint VEGA Style X No. 9 "Big-Pot" - in my workshop for an overhaul, an electrification and a set-up my well known way:

PS!  As ALL of Barney´s instruments this banjo has a custom built case - by Mike Mullen in Dublin.

Edited by - Polle Flaunoe on 11/29/2020 01:17:54

Nov 29, 2020 - 8:04:11 AM

1886 posts since 2/12/2009

Polle, I have to be honest and say. I know nothing of Barneys string gauges, they all sounded good to me ! Quite a surprise though to learn that the same strings were used on the DB as the Paragon. I never handled any of Barneys instruments although I did play Lukes Merlin, it was horrible !

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