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Aug 4, 2022 - 10:55:21 AM
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malarz

USA

459 posts since 1/5/2007

Question for you: accepting that tenor banjo (tuned. CGDA) is not ordinarily thought of as an instrument to use as rhythm accompaniment in this music style, how could I change the tonality of the banjo to more closely replicate the sound of the manouche rhythm guitar? I’m thinking strings and tuning would be two approaches: first, change the strings to possibly something like Martin Silk & Steel (is there something similar available for banjo?) for a less pronounced sound (more brushy sounding?), second might be to change my tuning from CGDA to possibly DGBE (Chicago tuning?) to then have all the notes of the chords within the same octave and not spread out as they are in CGDA tuning. I’m willing to try retuning even though I would miss the comfort of 5th’s tuning. Buying and trying new strings has never been a problem for me!

My banjo is a Goldtone openback tenor. I did play an early 1960’s Fender resonator for a while which was great. I just prefer the sound of an openback.

I’m no more than a casual player who enjoys experimenting and trying out new ideas. For a while I retuned to what I think is referred to as the Eddie Freeman tuning which is standard C and G but then the D and A are restrung with heavier gauge strings to put those notes in the same octave as the C and G. I thought it was a very interesting rhythmic sound.

Finally getting back to playing tenor after about almost two years of focussing primarily on button accordion.

Thanks for any replies and thoughts and suggestions.

Ken

Aug 4, 2022 - 11:50 AM

2967 posts since 3/30/2008

I try to keep things as simple as possible. (I'm not great at memorizing different tunings & chording systems). I play jazz guitar & tenor banjo, & keep all my tenors tuned Chicago style w/ guitar strings. When I want to sound more like a guitar, I simply play further up the banjo neck.

Aug 4, 2022 - 12:23:28 PM

91 posts since 7/9/2012

I've been playing around the last few years with an alternative tuning on 4-string tenor scale instruments...both banjo & guitar. It uses "re-entrant" tuning - similar to that used on soprano and concert ukes - but retains the fingering & chord patterns of the standard tuning tenor banjo players have grown accustomed to for years.

The notes from inner to outermost as strummed are F, C, G & D. Note that this tuning simply takes the standard "innermost" 3 strings and moves them one position "outward" across the fretboard. The new innermost string I use is a wound .024 to .025 which is tuned to the F note ONE FULL STEP BELOW THE "G". This creates the re-entrant effect - not identical but similar to the old "my dog has fleas" uke tuning pattern.

From a chordal standpoint, this simply means our traditional tenor banjo chord patterns are offset. For example, if you play the standard tenor chord shape for an "F major" chord, the alternative tuning chord produces the sound of a "B flat major" chord.
I have found that using this tuning on acoustic tenor guitars - especially archtops - fit the classic Django-style rhythm role well. Admittedly, a time investment is involved but is potentially worth considering.

Bob

PS - I'll be playing a gig in Connecticut next week using a tenor guitar with the described tuning. I believe I will be the only chord instrument in the group so I'll see and hear how it turns out.

Aug 4, 2022 - 12:31:40 PM

14 posts since 11/17/2018

Although it decreases the volume by quite a bit, I've found that a mute (the type that rests on top of the bridge like my Mike's Banjo Mute) transforms the sound into a beautifully mellow guitar-like sound. It almost sounds electric. You'd have to amplify/mic if playing with others but it is a fun way to change things up and can be creatively inspiring.
I had not thought of banjo mutes as anything but volume attenuators and now think of them more like a trumpet mute, something that serves multiple purposes and can even be a performance item. It has kept me from switching to a different instrument, especially at 10pm. Some would say you're removing the banjo's essence or even neutering it, but I'm more optimistic in just thinking of it as another sound changing option that can inspire you. ;)

Edited by - LongNeckJo on 08/04/2022 12:37:39

Aug 4, 2022 - 7:04:15 PM
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malarz

USA

459 posts since 1/5/2007

Thanks for your replies and advice. @SunnylandBob your idea is interesting since I really wouldn’t need to learn new chord shapes but only new “place” names. Where will you be performing in CT? I’m near Hartford and would try to make the trip if possible. The last time I saw you perform was at a banjo gathering in Sturbridge when you shared the state with Tyler Jackson.

Aug 5, 2022 - 3:53:47 AM

malarz

USA

459 posts since 1/5/2007

I remembered last night that I have both the Mike’s Banjo Mute and another which I think is a Richelieu. Both of them decrease the volume but do give a really nice sound to the banjo, almost guitar-like and certainly more towards the sound I am hearing in my head. Thanks @LongNeckjo for the advice.

Aug 5, 2022 - 7:05:02 AM

CGDA

Italy

2134 posts since 1/4/2009

Why not to use a tenor guitar, regularly CGDA tuned ? It plays like a banjo and sounds like a guitar.

Aug 6, 2022 - 6:42:06 AM

91 posts since 7/9/2012

@malarz - I'll be playing on August 12th at Bill's Seafood in Westbrook with the "Bill's Seafood All-Stars" - featuring Tom Boates (trombone), Lou Bocciarelli (bass) and the amazing/legendary Noel Kaletsky on reeds. It's an honor and joy to play with such superb musicians. I'd advise to call in advance - it's not a huge venue & getting a seat with a band view may be a challenge - but I guarantee the music will be solid!!!

Aug 6, 2022 - 8:00:04 AM

malarz

USA

459 posts since 1/5/2007

quote:
Originally posted by CGDA

Why not to use a tenor guitar, regularly CGDA tuned ? It plays like a banjo and sounds like a guitar.


Thanks for your reply. I do have a tenor guitar but tuned standard CGDA it still has that wide note spacing. I plan to try the re-entrant Eddie Freeman tuning again and then the tuning the aforementioned FCGD tuning. Just to satisfy my curiosity.

Aug 6, 2022 - 1:54:31 PM

300 posts since 11/22/2009

youtube.com/watch?v=zLh7ueWXt1M

Gypsy Jazz? O-HHHH---Yea!

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