I have recently purchased an Ozark Composite Mini 5 string Banjo which is tuned to C
I would like to have it tuned to G like my other normal sized 5 string as I'm unfamiliar with playing in the key of C.
I'm new to all this and think it would involve changing the strings and possibly the bridge but I don't know what I should be changing them too. I don't want to damage the banjo by putting too much stress on it with larger strings.
Can anyone advise?
Edited by - FishSoup on 04/21/2021 03:06:12
Unless you're playing with another instrument, the absolute pitch shouldn't matter.
Just tune it to cGCEG, and then think of those notes as gDGBD. Everything will work just the same, but sound a fourth higher.
I haven't found a way to make a banjo of that size sound good and play in tune down at standard pitch. If you want to try, the closest you could get would probably be with fluorocarbon classical guitar strings.
I had a couple of customers who ordered C scale banjos to be strung with Nylgut Minstrel strings to play in open G, and they worked fine at that tension. If you want steel strings I think that you'll be better off to do as Dan Gellert says and play in C without having to think about what key it is.
If open G isn't working, you might try open A or double D.
The problem with tuning down that low is that most strings are not flexible enough. The stiffness of the plain 3rd is the biggest problem. Although it’s counterintuitive, heavier strings will act against you as they are less flexible. String companies know this—short scale strings for guitar and bass are lighter, not heavier.
Savarez Red Card with wound trebles were invented so that Carlos Montoya could tune his guitar down a 4th A–a, then capo up three to play D-d. Any other strings are too stiff and go ‘thud’. I had the opportunity to play his guitars more than once. The strings felt like tuned rubber bands but sounded pretty good as his many recordings can attest.
In any case, I would go with the lightest wound 3rd string you can find. Windings exist to make lower strings more flexible. The John Pearse 1950D set is readily available with a wound 3rd. I normally ignore the "low tuned" nonsense since these are a little lighter than the Gibson and Vega Mediums available through the 1960s but here, they might work.
I have a new Saga SS-10P in stock (I'm a dealer) and some custom sets with similar gauges left over from my playing days. I should probably string it up with them and see what happens when tuned to G. I don't expect it to sound good — will shoot for "acceptable".
The first person I made a C scale banjo for tried to tune it to open G with stock medium steel strings and it didn't intonate well, the strings were so loose and floppy that it couldn't be played except in some sort of ultramodern non-musical kind of way. Open A was fine on a C scale with stock strings, but I think to get down to G thicker strings are the only option. This is also why spinet pianos have weak bass, the strings are wound so thick to get them to tension over a short length that they don't sound like much.
I think I will play it in C for now as suggested as it's just G but higher.
In the future I may try nylon strings if I feel adventurous.
Thanks to everyone who replied its much appreciated
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