It depends on what you want to play.
I like Double C tuning (gCGCD) for tunes in C or D (capo II) and prefer Drop C (gCGBD) for songs.
I like open G (gDGBD) for tunes and songs in G or A (capo II).
I also use Sawmill (gDGCD) and open Gm (gDGBbD).
While you can play a fiddle/banjo tune in any key, there are traditional keys to play each in and if you want to play with others, learn them in the traditional key.
Hi Banjokatt! Hey All!
I am glad you asked the question and must thank you for your support and this lively polite discussion! I would say that the folks here have answered as well if not better than I have and even given you some alternatives and ideas to pursue down the road. Jim (last post before mine) lists probably the 3 most common tunings used these days and I would second the motion of learning them for most occasions. There are good chord positions in C/D to use for song accompaniment as well. I think I remember Pete Seeger calling C the People's Key as a singing key so I like to refer to D as the Old Time People's Key.
Double C/D is the starting point not the final destination and there is SO much to learn and so many tunes in all of the tunings mentioned that you should have material to work on for as long as you want to!
If you like the feel and sound of the banjo in C, there is no reason for you to tune up or capo up to D. If you are going to play with a fiddler, they usually play the tunes in the book in D as that is were they lay out well on that instrument. The capo, however, does shorten the scale length as well as changing the key so some people like the shorter reach afforded by the capoed banjo. I used to tune the whole instrument up to D without a capo and while that made it stiffer to play, the open notes ring better than a capoed open string. Some of this also depends upon the natural (uncapoed) scale length of your banjo to begin with.
SO many choices! So many great friends here over the years. It is good to hear from you.
Again thank you and all of you for the support of my method and materials. I am glad it is working for you. Feel free to pm me questions as they arise. I try to answer promptly. And if you might be interested, I am accepting a few new students this fall.
Stay safe and ...
Dan Clawdan Levenson
'Resin' 53 min
'One Banjo Tuner' 4 hrs
'Weymann Guitar Banjo' 4 hrs
'Banjo Baseball Caps' 5 hrs
'Pickin & Flickin again' 6 hrs