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Oct 19, 2021 - 12:27:37 PM

andantino

Canada

56 posts since 12/13/2012

I am considering trading in one of my guitars at a music store on a tenor banjo. I used to play clawhammer on a 5 string years ago. But I would be a total newbie on the tenor banjo. I think I would mainly like to learn Irish reels and such rather than jazz. I am wondering is it better to get an actual Irish tenor banjo for this? Can you just use a regular tenor with the GDAE strings?

Edited by - andantino on 10/19/2021 13:10:17

Oct 19, 2021 - 12:32:19 PM

1544 posts since 4/13/2009

A plectrum banjo is not the same as a tenor banjo, and is usually not tuned the same.
Do a little research first.

Oct 19, 2021 - 1:18:43 PM

andantino

Canada

56 posts since 12/13/2012

quote:
Originally posted by deestexas

A plectrum banjo is not the same as a tenor banjo, and is usually not tuned the same.
Do a little research first.


 

My bad, sorry. I guess basically what I am wondering is more about the distinction between tenor and Irish tenor.

Oct 19, 2021 - 1:19:01 PM
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100 posts since 5/8/2021

quote:
Originally posted by deestexas

A plectrum banjo is not the same as a tenor banjo, and is usually not tuned the same.
Do a little research first.


Where in the world does OP mention plectrum banjo? And OP IS doing research, it's why he posted here. 

Oct 19, 2021 - 1:20:39 PM

andantino

Canada

56 posts since 12/13/2012

quote:
Originally posted by struggle_bus
quote:
Originally posted by deestexas

A plectrum banjo is not the same as a tenor banjo, and is usually not tuned the same.
Do a little research first.


Where in the world does OP mention plectrum banjo? And OP IS doing research, it's why he posted here. 


 

I did mention a plectrum banjo and edited my post. So he was correct. In my mind I assumed a tenor banjo was a plectrum banjo because people use picks on them.

Basically, I will have to order in the banjo from the music store in order to do the trade in. I see tenor banjos and irish tenor banjos, and I guess what I was mainly wondering is would one be able to use the GDAE strings on a regular tenor. Would it be a more versatile instrument?

Edited by - andantino on 10/19/2021 13:24:50

Oct 19, 2021 - 1:27:19 PM

33 posts since 12/23/2019

Tenor banjos are 4 string banjos. They come in 17 and 19 fret versions. They can be strung CGDA for jazz, Dixieland, etc or GDAE for Irish or most anything you can play on a mandolin or fiddle, using the same music or tabs. About the only modication to change from CGDA to GDAE is to of course change the strings which will likely require filing the bridge slots and possibly the nut to accept the "fatter" strings.

Oct 19, 2021 - 1:34:58 PM

2047 posts since 2/4/2013

quote:
Originally posted by andantino

My bad, sorry. I guess basically what I am wondering is more about the distinction between tenor and Irish tenor.


There is no difference except tuning. GDAE for Irish tenor but you are allowed to play other music with that tuning. There has been a marketing thing calling 17th fret tenors Irish tenors but it's really down to preference for scale length. I assume the strings will have somewhat different tension which again is a personal preference thing.

Oct 19, 2021 - 1:44:58 PM

andantino

Canada

56 posts since 12/13/2012

quote:
Originally posted by Boblamoy

Tenor banjos are 4 string banjos. They come in 17 and 19 fret versions. They can be strung CGDA for jazz, Dixieland, etc or GDAE for Irish or most anything you can play on a mandolin or fiddle, using the same music or tabs. About the only modication to change from CGDA to GDAE is to of course change the strings which will likely require filing the bridge slots and possibly the nut to accept the "fatter" strings.


Thanks for your help!

 

With the fatter strings do chords still sound alright?

Oct 19, 2021 - 1:47:30 PM

4635 posts since 3/6/2006

I have a 19 fret 1930 B&D Silver Bell tenor. The previous owner played it for five decades tuned CGDA for jazz, Dixieland, etc. When I acquired it I set it up for Irish/Celtic tuning (DGAE) with the appropriate, heavier strings. I didn't have to do any modification to the nut. I play both single string and chord melody styles. I love the "throaty" sound that the heavier, lower tension strings give it.

Edited by - mainejohn on 10/19/2021 13:50:45

Oct 19, 2021 - 1:54:44 PM

andantino

Canada

56 posts since 12/13/2012

quote:
Originally posted by GrahamHawker
There is no difference except tuning. GDAE for Irish tenor but you are allowed to play other music with that tuning.

 

That's good to know.

I have all acoustic guitars here now, and I just felt like learning something different. As I said I used to do some clawhammer on a 5 string. Doubt my hands would do it now, it's been quite a while. But yeah, I wanted to get a more folky instrument again. And I keep tossing between tenor banjo or a celtic style mandola.

Oct 19, 2021 - 2:00:24 PM

58450 posts since 12/14/2005

Dang!
Bob's tenor banjo is on the HangOut classifieds, and I've just put it there as a favor to his widow.

If you want a GOOD tenor,  make an offer.

https://www.banjohangout.org/classifieds/search.asp?m=byposter&v=8805

Oct 19, 2021 - 2:10:07 PM

33 posts since 12/23/2019

Yikes! Not this Bob!

Oct 22, 2021 - 2:50:11 PM

andantino

Canada

56 posts since 12/13/2012

quote:
Originally posted by GrahamHawker

There is no difference except tuning. GDAE for Irish tenor but you are allowed to play other music with that tuning. There has been a marketing thing calling 17th fret tenors Irish tenors but it's really down to preference for scale length.


I am still mulling this decision over. As I said I used to have a five string which I used to clawhammer on. I loved learning it. I think if I got a tenor I would want to get one with 17 frets. I have small hands so a lower scale length might suit me better. It's also one of the things I am kind of concerned about. It seems like with the fifths tuning that playing reels with dexterity probably requires a decent reach. I am starting to feel the temptation to get an open back five-string again. It's been a while so I would have to kinda retrain myself. But it was fun and I think it suited my hands in spite of the scale length because of the tuning. There is also an amazing feeling to playing clawhammer.

That said, I also kind of want to try something entirely new to me. I was originally thinking of getting a mando. On guitar I play mostly fingerstyle. And a little bit of folky flatpicking. My reach seems to be lessening the last few years. And I thought it would be fun to do more flatpicking and learn some reels on something smaller, hence the mando. But that said, I prefer the volume and lower pitch of a banjo. I also find that it sounds much better as a solo instrument. When I watch people play banjo reels on youtube with no accompaniment, I don't find anything lacking. It's something I like about the banjo in general. It's such a mighty instrument with so much character. Even a simple melody played on its own sounds great to me. Almost like a battle horn.

Anyways, I am so torn.

Edited by - andantino on 10/22/2021 15:07:44

Oct 22, 2021 - 4:19:32 PM
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Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

25389 posts since 6/25/2005

Note that Gerry O’Connor, one of the greatest Irish tenor players, typically tuned his banjo CGDA. The left hand positions are the same; the difference is what keys/chords you’re playing.

Oct 25, 2021 - 12:27:36 PM

andantino

Canada

56 posts since 12/13/2012

quote:
Originally posted by Bill Rogers

Note that Gerry O’Connor, one of the greatest Irish tenor players, typically tuned his banjo CGDA. The left hand positions are the same; the difference is what keys/chords you’re playing.


So, if I buy the Irish tenor, which would be set up for GDAE, and I wanted to use CGDA string gauge, would it be easy to switch? Would it just be a matter of adjusting the neck for the different tensions or would I also be looking at using a different bridge and nut?

Where I live there is nothing in the way of tenor banjos available and looking online it seems like a lot of them are on back order. The Gold Tone CC Irish Tenor happens to be in stock online. So that is pretty much what I am looking at getting.

Edited by - andantino on 10/25/2021 12:30:26

Oct 25, 2021 - 12:48:22 PM
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4140 posts since 12/3/2008

I haven't tried the CC Irish Tenor, although I'm a Gold Tone dealer. I'd recommend the IT-250.

Oct 25, 2021 - 1:02:53 PM

andantino

Canada

56 posts since 12/13/2012

quote:
Originally posted by Paul Roberts

I haven't tried the CC Irish Tenor, although I'm a Gold Tone dealer. I'd recommend the IT-250.

 

 

That sound's really nice. Very smooth playing as well. I see you use a fingerpicking technique rather than flatpicking.

I appreciate the recommendation, but from what I have seen that model is out of my price range.

Oct 25, 2021 - 2:01:14 PM
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Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

25389 posts since 6/25/2005

Tenor banjos are tenor banjos; you can set them up and tune them as you wish.

Oct 25, 2021 - 2:14:22 PM

andantino

Canada

56 posts since 12/13/2012

quote:
Originally posted by Bill Rogers

Tenor banjos are tenor banjos; you can set them up and tune them as you wish.


 

Would I have to change the nut? I am guess I am just wondering if I wanted to switch to the regular CGDA strings would it be bad for the nut slots?

Oct 25, 2021 - 2:21:25 PM

4140 posts since 12/3/2008

quote:
Originally posted by andantino
quote:
Originally posted by Paul Roberts

I haven't tried the CC Irish Tenor, although I'm a Gold Tone dealer. I'd recommend the IT-250.

 

 

That sound's really nice. Very smooth playing as well. I see you use a fingerpicking technique rather than flatpicking.

I appreciate the recommendation, but from what I have seen that model is out of my price range.


Thanks. Yes, I use thumb/1st lead. I switched over from flatpicking after seeing Irish tenor player Gordon Johnston using fingerpicks. He uses 3 fingers with a braced pinky. I like 2 fingers in a raised hand position; it's a freer feeling, and there's no head dampening to diminish the tone. 

Oct 25, 2021 - 2:28:41 PM

andantino

Canada

56 posts since 12/13/2012

quote:
Originally posted by Paul Roberts

Thanks. Yes, I use thumb/1st lead. I switched over from flatpicking after seeing Irish tenor player Gordon Johnston using fingerpicks. He uses 3 fingers with a braced pinky. I like 2 fingers in a raised hand position; it's a freer feeling, and there's no head dampening to diminish the tone. 


I use my thumb and three fingers playing fingerstyle on guitar, but when I owned a 5-string banjo the skill did not translate. But I managed to pick up clawhammering. And I've never become accustomed to using fingerpicks.

Oct 25, 2021 - 2:34:04 PM

11810 posts since 10/27/2006

quote:
Originally posted by Bill Rogers

Tenor banjos are tenor banjos; you can set them up and tune them as you wish.


Yep.

There's no such thing as an "Irish tenor banjo". There are generally 16–17 fret tenors with 19"–21" scales and 19 fret tenors with scales around 23". Both sizes can be found with resonators and without aka open back. Celtic fiddle tunes are played on all styles both sides of the pond. Nowadays, the 16 fret with the large pot is rarely found new but plenty of vintage banjos that match the description .

In addition, there are players who consider even the 23" tenor too short for strings tuned GDAE (octave mandolin) to sound good. Those players use plectrum banjos with 26"–27 1/4" scales. Robert Schmidt of Flogging Molly is one of those players (I was another). I bet there are a few who play vintage Gibson PTs (24 1/2" Plectrum Tenor).

You'll read a lot of discussion about which are easier to play. With the right technique, it doesn't matter. Plectrum players who learn cello (27.4" scale) fingering can play as fast and as easily as anyone else. 

Then there are the many who use 5 strings such as Jem Finer (Pogues), Luke Kelly (Dubliners) and many others. 6 string banjos are not uncommon as well.

Lots of options out there. If there are players whose sounds you like, let us know and that will help to point you in the right direction.

Edited by - mikehalloran on 10/25/2021 14:35:01

Oct 25, 2021 - 2:46:58 PM

andantino

Canada

56 posts since 12/13/2012

quote:
Originally posted by mikehalloran
quote:
Originally posted by Bill Rogers

Tenor banjos are tenor banjos; you can set them up and tune them as you wish.


Yep.

There's no such thing as an "Irish tenor banjo". There are generally 16–17 fret tenors with 19"–21" scales and 19 fret tenors with scales around 23".


 

I realize that. This banjo is marketed as an Irish tenor. I have no idea of how much thicker those strings are. I was mainly wondering what changing string gauges would entail if I wanted to. It may sound like an ignorant question, but I am wondering would you have to swap out the nut?

As for the style, I am thinking of something where I could flatpick a reel (a la Barney rather than Luke) or possibly do a chord melody.

Edited by - andantino on 10/25/2021 14:51:50

Oct 25, 2021 - 3:11:58 PM

11810 posts since 10/27/2006

Don't worry about the nut. You may have to have a couple of slots slightly enlarged. No big deal and if you ever went back to CGEA, it won't require any work as long as the widening was done with a proper nut file so the slot is half-round at the bottom.

Barney played both 17 and 19 fret tenors and favored resonators. Other than that, he was seen with both flat topped and archtop tone rings. An archtop will have a sharper, crisper tone all else being equal (which they never are) but…

So you want a tenor with a Mastertone style tone ring if you wish to shoot for his tone. Plenty out there. Most of these will have the longer 19 fret neck. I don't know anyone making a 17 fret 'masterclone' although any of the custom builders can certainly accommodate you in this. My favorite player uses a 19 fret Orpheum and she gets pretty close to his tone.

There are plenty of great sounding 17 fret openback banjos but they might not do what you like.

Oct 25, 2021 - 3:35:11 PM

andantino

Canada

56 posts since 12/13/2012

quote:
Originally posted by mikehalloran

Don't worry about the nut. You may have to have a couple of slots slightly enlarged. No big deal and if you ever went back to CGEA, it won't require any work as long as the widening was done with a proper nut file so the slot is half-round at the bottom


So you want a tenor with a Mastertone style tone ring if you wish to shoot for his tone. Plenty out there. Most of these will have the longer 19 fret neck.

Looking online here there does not seem to be a lot available in the way of tenor banjos at all. A lot of the stuff I see online on the sites here in Canada are out of stock, and some say they are expecting quite a long wait period for them. I see some stock is not expected to be available until May 2022. So basically the Gold Tone CC-IT is my main option under a grand. I assume the fact that it's an Irish tenor mean it basically ships with the GDAE strings. So I guess the nut slots would be enlarged already. It's a 17-fretter, and I think I would like that since I am small in stature and I have small hands.

I don't think I need Barney's tone or that I particularly want to sound like him. I am a beginner at this. I don't think I will ever be Barney. smiley But I am looking to learn some reels, but also maybe have the flexibility to do something else like some simple chord melodies. But yeah basically, melodic flatpicked leads. So basically more like Barney than Luke Kelly or Jem Finer. But yeah, I am not performing or anything. Winter is almost here and I am just thinking it would be fun to start from scratch on a new instrument and learn some stuff on youtube or whatever.

Edited by - andantino on 10/25/2021 15:40:29

Oct 25, 2021 - 3:52:26 PM

10 posts since 6/14/2020

I purchased a Vega style N, simple, plain 4 string, 17 frets, plays nice. I think it was $300, from here on the BHO. I have a 22 3/4" scale octave mandolin, a regular mandolin, and the 17 fret vega. The Vega is just the right size to make either the two fingers per fret mandolin, or one finger per fret octave fingering awkward, lol.

If you go with a shorter fret tenor, you will have to more than likely futz with the strings a bit, to get the gauges that work well for you. I ended up going with chrome steel flatwound singles on mine, and if I remember, barely worked one slot on the nut. I messed with the bridge some, probably cut too deep in a slot or two, but good enough for me, ha.

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