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Feb 8, 2024 - 8:00:44 AM
2 posts since 12/2/2023

On a banjo tuned to open G is the second string second fret middle C (C4)?

Feb 8, 2024 - 8:07:31 AM
Players Union Member

Texasbanjo (Moderator)

USA

29961 posts since 8/3/2003

Middle C on the banjo would be the 3rd string, 5th fret. Second string, 2nd fret would be one octave higher.

Edited to correct Second string, 2nd fret (not 1st fret).    That's what I get for trying to remember without the banjo to make sure. 

Edited by - Texasbanjo on 02/10/2024 04:35:49

Feb 8, 2024 - 8:16:34 AM
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8192 posts since 9/21/2007

The banjo as we know it was designed around the string intervals of gCGBD, which would be "G tuning" with the 4th string lowered one step to C. This provides a full three octave range from C (open 4th) to C (1st string stopped at the 22nd fret) and was by design. I am not sure why Bluegrass, and subsequently "folk" and "old time" banjoists changed the standard by raising the 4th one step as default. This reduces the gamut of the banjo and creates challenges for playing in the natural key of the banjo-- C.

The banjo is a tenor voiced instrument but is noted on the treble clef one octave higher than it actually sounds.

In the standard tuning, middle C written notes the 4th string C played open. But the actual tone of middle C would be the second string stopped at the first fret.

This instruction book clearly explains the way the banjo is notated and all the banjo specific edits used in standard notation.

Feb 8, 2024 - 8:58:10 AM
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2165 posts since 2/10/2003

quote:
Originally posted by Peter Case

On a banjo tuned to open G is the second string second fret middle C (C4)?


Concert middle C is 1st fret second string.  Also located at 5th fret 3rd string and 10th fret 4th string. Lowest pitched C available in open G tuning. 

Edited by - 250gibson on 02/08/2024 08:58:32

Feb 8, 2024 - 9:05:44 AM

3453 posts since 4/19/2008

Middle C could be a any octaveof C that you want for example, a piccolo player definitely could not play actual middle C but they could visualize any C on their instrument as that pitch and accordingly play any sheet music that physically looks like it has middle C etc. On a banjo, you could tune down the fourth string to C and say that was middle C it’s all a sliding scale.

Edited by - mmuussiiccaall on 02/08/2024 09:08:05

Feb 8, 2024 - 9:18:12 AM

KCJones

USA

2921 posts since 8/30/2012

In A440 pitch, which is what anyone asking this question is using, middle C is 261Hz(-ish).

However, the Patrician knows that A432 is superior, putting middle C at a pleasing 256Hz.

Feb 8, 2024 - 9:22:04 AM
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5631 posts since 5/29/2011

quote:
Originally posted by Peter Case

On a banjo tuned to open G is the second string second fret middle C (C4)?


Second string, first fret is middle C. Second fret would be C#.

Feb 8, 2024 - 11:19:07 AM
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Alex Z

USA

5769 posts since 12/7/2006

6 responses.  By a vote of 3 to 3, middle C is the 2nd string, 1st fret.  smiley

I'll make it 4-3.

Feb 8, 2024 - 11:20:42 AM
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3453 posts since 4/19/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Texasbanjo

Middle C on the banjo would be the 3rd string, 5th fret. Second string, first fret would be one octave higher.


Sherry you're getting closer, C on the second string first fret would be in unison,

Feb 8, 2024 - 11:35:46 AM

644 posts since 4/14/2014

While Middle C (C4) is located on the first fret of the second string (3rd string at the 5th fret is a unison), standard notation for the banjo almost universally places it as the open fourth string in gCGBD tuning.

So, there is what is sonically accurate, and there is what is accurate within writing.

Edited by - Nic Pennsylvania on 02/08/2024 11:37:48

Feb 8, 2024 - 2:44:32 PM

KCJones

USA

2921 posts since 8/30/2012

quote:
Originally posted by Nic Pennsylvania

standard notation for the banjo almost universally places it as the open fourth string in gCGBD tuning.
 


This would be relevant if it was 1912 when banjo players still cared about standard notation and C tuning. 

Just kidding. But kind of not. devil

Feb 8, 2024 - 3:08:35 PM

644 posts since 4/14/2014

quote:
Originally posted by KCJones
quote:
Originally posted by Nic Pennsylvania

standard notation for the banjo almost universally places it as the open fourth string in gCGBD tuning.
 


This would be relevant if it was 1912 when banjo players still cared about standard notation and C tuning. 

Just kidding. But kind of not. devil


No, you're not wrong. It is definitely a minority of us, although we are slightly bigger than the lap steel crowd who still use standard notation EAEAC#E and EDEG#BE.

Feb 8, 2024 - 4:48:56 PM
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8192 posts since 9/21/2007

quote:
Originally posted by KCJones
quote:
Originally posted by Nic Pennsylvania

standard notation for the banjo almost universally places it as the open fourth string in gCGBD tuning.
 


This would be relevant if it was 1912 when banjo players still cared about standard notation and C tuning. 

Just kidding. But kind of not. devil


"Cause der ain't no notes to da banjer har har har"
 

...same person later.. "why do people not take the banjo seriously?"

banjoists are so funny about being musically illiterate.  The sensitivity about it manifests aggressive comments about how reading does not matter, yet it must hit some emotional trigger to instigate the need to respond about how it does not matter.

Feb 9, 2024 - 6:46:09 AM
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4801 posts since 3/28/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks
 The sensitivity about it manifests aggressive comments about how reading does not matter, yet it must hit some emotional trigger to instigate the need to respond about how it does not matter.

This is a manifestation of a long-running and pervasive trend in American culture. Read more in the book referenced here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-intellectualism_in_American_Life.

Further the affiant sayeth not.

Feb 9, 2024 - 6:48:40 AM
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KCJones

USA

2921 posts since 8/30/2012

Just a joke, simmer down. And anyway, I don't ask "why do people not take the banjo seriously". I know why.

Feb 9, 2024 - 9:14:10 AM
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KCJones

USA

2921 posts since 8/30/2012

quote:
Originally posted by Ira Gitlin
quote:
Originally posted by Joel Hooks
 The sensitivity about it manifests aggressive comments about how reading does not matter, yet it must hit some emotional trigger to instigate the need to respond about how it does not matter.

This is a manifestation of a long-running and pervasive trend in American culture. Read more in the book referenced here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-intellectualism_in_American_Life.

Further the affiant sayeth not.


If we're posting Wikipedia links, I've got one for you and Joel:

Dunning–Kruger effect - Wikipedia

Feb 9, 2024 - 2:47:19 PM

Alex Z

USA

5769 posts since 12/7/2006

Original posted question:  "On a banjo tuned to open G is the second string second fret middle C (C4)?"

Correct and complete answer was in the third response:  "Concert middle C is 1st fret second string.  Also located at 5th fret 3rd string and 10th fret 4th string. Lowest pitched C available in open G tuning."

 

Why the notation discussion entered the picture, don't know.  But, heck, this is the BHO. smiley  Middle C is always in the same place, pitch wise.  How it is written in music notation depends on the clef.  Where it appears on a clef for a  banjo note depends on the clef used, any transposition, and the tuning of the banjo.

There are plenty of hillfolk in the olden days who played the banjo with many different tunings, and to them a debate about "standard" tuning or "standard" notation was irrelevant.  Poster asked about G tuning, and got the right answer.  Different banjo tuning will give a different answer.

Feb 9, 2024 - 6:39:16 PM

644 posts since 4/14/2014

quote:
Originally posted by Alex Z

Why the notation discussion entered the picture, don't know.  But, heck, this is the BHO. smiley 


I brought notation up only because I thought it might be good to know, as I did not know if the original poster was asking specifically because they were referencing standard notation.

What got me reading for the banjo was creating my own arrangements based on fiddle and pipe music. Realizing the fourth octave D was not my open fourth string in G tuning opened-up some doors for me back then. I figured mentioning this may help the original poster. Maybe not, but it doesn't hurt. 

Feb 9, 2024 - 9:27:44 PM

Alex Z

USA

5769 posts since 12/7/2006

All good, Mr. Nic. smiley

You're right -- we don't know why the poster asked the question, and it has to be connected somehow with another instrument or notation. 

Feb 10, 2024 - 8:05:17 AM
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2 posts since 12/2/2023

quote:
Originally posted by Alex Z

All good, Mr. Nic. smiley

You're right -- we don't know why the poster asked the question, and it has to be connected somehow with another instrument or notation. 


The reason I asked this question is when looking at a tune (music sheet) it seems I could not play anything with a middle C or lower note as the banjo does not go that low if the open 4th string is middle C.  How ever if middle C is on the second string first fret then this opens up a lot of tunes that have notes lower than middle C.

Feb 10, 2024 - 8:57:23 AM

15023 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Peter Case

The reason I asked this question is when looking at a tune (music sheet) it seems I could not play anything with a middle C or lower note as the banjo does not go that low if the open 4th string is middle C.  How ever if middle C is on the second string first fret then this opens up a lot of tunes that have notes lower than middle C.


It's my understanding that standard notation for banjo and guitar is written as if middle C was a whole step below the actual middle C (2nd string, 1st fret) so as to minimize the the use of "ledger lines" required when notes are higher than the five lines of the staff. Ledger lines can be cluttered and difficult to read.

I believe standard notation written expressly for banjo or guitar will have the indication "8va" -- which means the music is an octave higher than written. I often get this backwards. Hope I have it correct this time.

So I think the choice for a banjo or guitar player dealing with notation that's not written 8va is whether to play in the register/octave where they'd typically put notation or to play it as literally written, which would be an octave higher than they typically interpret those written notes.

Unless I have it backwards again.

Feb 10, 2024 - 9:10:18 AM

3453 posts since 4/19/2008

Here we go again, I’ve got my bag of popcorn ready ha ha

Feb 10, 2024 - 9:26:23 AM
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4801 posts since 3/28/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Old Hickory

It's my understanding that standard notation for banjo and guitar is written as if middle C was a whole step below the actual middle C (2nd string, 1st fret) so as to minimize the the use of "ledger lines" required when notes are higher than the five lines of the staff. Ledger lines can be cluttered and difficult to read.

I believe standard notation written expressly for banjo or guitar will have the indication "8va" -- which means the music is an octave higher than written. I often get this backwards. Hope I have it correct this time.

 


I think you meant "as if middle C was a whole octave below the actual middle C", and "the music is an octave lower than written". But yes, that's the general idea.

Feb 10, 2024 - 11:30:47 AM
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8192 posts since 9/21/2007

Old Hickory yes, as I wrote in my earlier post, the banjo sounds one octave lower than written. While some people use the “hanging 8” treble clef these days, among publishers (and people who want to present better edited works) that is considered bad form and the regular treble clef is used.

Shortly after the turn of the century the Guild of Banjoists, Mandolinists, and Guitarists proposed a new treble clef for this that had a slash through the top. This was used by some publishers like Walter Jacobs but others ignored it. Eventually it was dropped or forgotten.

The fact is that if you have made it past the basic introduction instruction then you would already understand the octave lower than written rule and no special clef is needed.

It is not just fretted instruments that do this. Chromatic harmonica reads this way too.

Feb 10, 2024 - 11:59:37 AM
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15023 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Ira Gitlin
quote:
Originally posted by Old Hickory

It's my understanding that standard notation for banjo and guitar is written as if middle C was a whole step below the actual middle C (2nd string, 1st fret)  . . .


I think you meant "as if middle C was a whole octave below the actual middle C", and "the music is an octave lower than written". But yes, that's the general idea.


Thanks.

But what I actually meant to write was our 8va notation is written as if middle C is a whole step below the 4th string D and an octave below 2nd @ 1. My fingers can't keep up with my thinking.

Mar 7, 2024 - 5:37:23 AM

4956 posts since 5/14/2007

quote:
Originally posted by Nic Pennsylvania

While Middle C (C4) is located on the first fret of the second string (3rd string at the 5th fret is a unison), standard notation for the banjo almost universally places it as the open fourth string in gCGBD tuning.

So, there is what is sonically accurate, and there is what is accurate within writing.


Exactly.

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