Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

488
Banjo Lovers Online


What are the challenges of switching from five-string banjo to tenor?

Jun 22, 2021 - 3:27:39 AM
107 posts since 4/29/2011

I'm thinking of switching from clawhammer banjo to tenor, and I have heard two contradictory things about that process. One is that the all-fifths tuning makes the tenor banjo easy to play, because, as this guy says, "All the notes are right where you expect to find them." The other is in forum threads like this one, where someone alludes to a "steep learning curve" arising from the fifths tuning. I imagine the truth lies somewhere in the middle. What should I expect as I make the switch? What do clawhammer players tend to struggle with in this process?

Jun 22, 2021 - 5:22:33 AM

4145 posts since 10/13/2005

Hey, it is an effort to learn ANY musical instrument well. I do not see any extra "struggle" peculiar to CH players beyond any one else trying to learn a musical instrument.. I've played tenor in the past but mostly play CH now, It is your choice what appeals to you most so follow your muse and forget "CH to tenor struggle." banjered

Jun 22, 2021 - 6:25:29 AM

YellowSkyBlueSun

Virgin Islands (U.S.)

202 posts since 5/11/2021

If you've been playing CH for a while, you probably have already learned how to play in a few different tunings. The tenor tuning will just be another tuning, so while it will take time to learn you probably already have the skills required to learn it quickly.

In my experience, the more difficult part is in the right hand. You're going from a CH style downstroke and finger strum to a flat pick that you must hold with your fingers and move back and forth. It'll probably take you longer to get your right hand rhythm smooth than anything else.

Jun 22, 2021 - 7:36:59 AM
likes this

2523 posts since 5/2/2012

Short story long. When I retired I wanted to learn how to play a stringed instrument. Started with guitar (we had one in the house), then on to others. Finally settled on banjo. A few years in (clawhammer, then 2ftl), I bought a really old, cheap tenor on ebay. Had no trouble with the pick (because of my short times with the guitar, then mandolin, then dulcimer). I played Irish tunes and there are certain fingering patterns with the fretting hand that are similar across tunes. So for me, a person with little innate musical talent, the transition was not too challenging. Go for it.

Edited by - thisoldman on 06/22/2021 07:38:04

Jun 22, 2021 - 8:37:12 AM

Omeboy

USA

2876 posts since 6/27/2013

Since you already play clawhammer, you would be far better off by taking up plectrum banjo, which is tuned CGBD (as opposed to CGDA---tenor tuning). You would already know most of the chords and this tuning would allow for both single string and especially chord-melody playing. Of course the musical repertoire would be a complete departure from folk and bluegrass towards more popular styles of music. This link might be helpful: https://www.banjohangout.org/blog/34982

You can also slacken the fifth string, so you don't strike it and lower your bottom D string to C: that will immediately convert your five string into a plectrum banjo for all practical purposes.

Edited by - Omeboy on 06/22/2021 08:39:53

Jun 23, 2021 - 3:06:19 PM
likes this

1355 posts since 1/28/2013

It would be like learning a different instrument. The two really don't have anything in common.

Jun 23, 2021 - 8:36:30 PM

antlerriver

Canada

4 posts since 2/22/2021

quote:
Originally posted by YellowSkyBlueSun

If you've been playing CH for a while, you probably have already learned how to play in a few different tunings. The tenor tuning will just be another tuning, so while it will take time to learn you probably already have the skills required to learn it quickly.

In my experience, the more difficult part is in the right hand. You're going from a CH style downstroke and finger strum to a flat pick that you must hold with your fingers and move back and forth. It'll probably take you longer to get your right hand rhythm smooth than anything else.


Def agree with this. The challenge would be mostly in learning the picking style. Tremolo picking takes a lot of practice. Its pretty fun though, I do it a lot on guitar but have yet to make the leap to tenor banjo

Jun 27, 2021 - 11:20:55 AM

5 posts since 6/27/2021

I just started learning 5 string. But I’m definitely interested in learning tenor at some point. Going to bookmark this discussion and comeback to it later.

Jun 27, 2021 - 11:35:55 AM

m06

England

10317 posts since 10/5/2006

Some 12 years after I learned to play a 5-string I got myself a tenor banjo. Admittedly my approach was more idiosyncratic and not the usual ITM plectrum technique. In addition to clawhammer I already also 2-finger picked a 5-string and transferred/adapted that technique to the tenor tuned (almost - GDAD) as for ITM (GDAE). It took a fair bit of woodshedding but the transition wasn't a big deal. I remember it being a lot of fun. And effective too. You don't have to play a tenor 'machine-gun' fashion with a plectrum or in traditional CGDA tuning.

Edited by - m06 on 06/27/2021 11:49:16

Jun 27, 2021 - 12:20:46 PM

1514 posts since 2/9/2007

quote:
Originally posted by jan dupree

It would be like learning a different instrument. The two really don't have anything in common.


Yes indeed.   They're both banjos like a ukulele and a mandolin are both wood boxes with 4 courses of strings.

Jun 29, 2021 - 6:52:26 AM

539 posts since 8/14/2015

Depending on what kind of music one is playing with a tenor banjo, there are lots and lots of chords. Chords are definitely my weakness. I try to limit my use of ‘em.

CH has fewer and less troublesome ones, and my Irish music has almost none. Nowadays, I play 2 finger, which does have some chords and Irish which I thoroughly enjoy.

If one has no trouble playin’ chords, one could make the change or mebbe play both.

Jun 30, 2021 - 9:33:31 PM
likes this

stanger

USA

7349 posts since 9/29/2004

While I've played mostly the 5-string for the past 59 years, I can play the tenor in a few different keys but prefer the plectrum for a flat picking banjo.

Finger style 5-string is definitely not every aspiring player's cup of tea. I've known students who were far happier strumming with a flat pick than they were struggling with learning all the more difficult and very counter-intuitive finger styles used on the 5-string.

The tenor's tuning does hold lots of advantages. Each string has so many notes before the next nigher string is needed that the left hand doesn't have to jump around all over the neck to play most tunes.
It can be played as a single-note melody instrument like the fiddle, or as a chord-melody instrument like a mandolin, and sounds equally good either way.
Everything you learn on the banjo can be used on the entire mandolin and violin families.
Learning to read notation is very easy on the tenor. Learning music theory is easier on the tenor.

If you are finding yourself at a dead end trying to play clawhammer well, learning tenor, which will be both familiar and very different, may actually help your 5-string playing.

Nothing on any type banjo is any harder or easier than on any other banjo type. Each has its difficulties, and each has its rewards.
Personally, I never thought in terms of 'easy' or 'hard' at all. Anything I learned on any banjo was something that was a good thing.
They all have unique qualities, and each has its strengths and weaknesses.
regards,
stanger

Jul 1, 2021 - 9:09:58 AM

banjopaolo

Italy

1399 posts since 11/6/2008

I play love to play both of the... Just try it And you will find your way!

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories

0.203125