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Feb 20, 2024 - 8:53:47 PM
151 posts since 2/16/2020

I've played clawhammer 5-string for a while, but just added a tenor banjo to my wall of instruments. My intention is to play rhythm at fiddle sessions. I took the resonator off and use nylon guitar strings tuned EAC#E (open A). That tuning allows me to use very familiar chords from the 5-string. I am starting to practice some basic strumming patterns with a fairly soft pick. I like the sound and the feel of playing with a pick. And I really like the nylon strings. I would be interested in any advice that seasoned players have for me.

Feb 21, 2024 - 2:22:03 AM
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5197 posts since 4/7/2008

I love the fact that you are forging your own trail in terms of tone. The combination of the nylon strings, open back, “fairly soft pick,” and open A tuning is going to produce a tone that no tenor player I know of utilizes. That’s fantastic.

As for advice, I would suggestion inside chords (strings 4, 3, & 2) with no open strings to complement your tone choice and the heavy open string work done by typical old time melody players. The tone you seek and use will work nicely with strumming patterns that lean heavily on beats 2 & 4 and feature some choking on those beats.

I look forward to hearing your playing. I think you have much to offer, and I think that with some good ol’ fashioned trial & error experimentation you’ll have all the tools needed to add much to any old time rhythm section out you find yourself in.

Feb 21, 2024 - 6:21:52 AM
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190 posts since 9/5/2013

Some old-time bands use a banjo-uke to drive the rhythm -- check out Jeff Claus.
Sounds like your set-up would provide a similar sound.
I like the idea.

Feb 21, 2024 - 6:53:43 AM
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487 posts since 1/5/2007
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Good advice from Compass56. No open strings. I play CGDA steel strings open back with what I guess is called a medium thick pick. I like the quick attack of the chords but immediately soften the touch of my chording fingers and touch the strings with the heel of strumming hand so that the chord doesn’t ring out. The result is you hear a harmonic accent on the beat without hearing a strong chord. Not sure where this technique comes from but it is how I hear the music. Not sure if this makes sense!

TimJumper is right that Jeff Claus plays a relentless rhythm in Old Time.

Feb 21, 2024 - 11:55:48 AM

11330 posts since 4/23/2004

I've tuned mine like a banjeaurine: FCEG or GCEG using standard nylon banjo strings. Essentially, it is like being capoed at the 5th fret for a gCGBD or gDGBD banjo. Works fine.

The tenor evolved from the banjeaurine (cFCEG) but the CGDA tuning proved more popular back in the 20s.

There was a time (20s) when the tenor was preferred for old-time stringband recordings. Flatpicked, it is easily capable of keeping up with the fiddle.

Feb 21, 2024 - 4:02:10 PM



3447 posts since 6/27/2013

If you're reasonably new to the banjo world, you may have not heard of the "plectrum" banjo. It was the next banjo to evolve after the five-string. Intended as a rhythm instrument in early traditional jazz bands, the plectrum banjo is your five-string neck without the fifth string.
Just remove the fifth string and tune to your banjo to C G B D and you'll have everything you need-----instant plectrum.

Feb 21, 2024 - 6:54:54 PM

3453 posts since 4/19/2008
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here's something for your soft pick

Feb 23, 2024 - 7:50:14 AM

151 posts since 2/16/2020

Thanks all for your encouragement, input, and advice.

I continue to explore. I chose open A tuning to be consistent with the tuning I most often use on my 5-String. I found that adding an alternate tuning DADE makes playing in the key of D easier and is also a tuning I use with my 5-string.

I broke a soft pick that came in a assortment pack of picks. I'm looking for something a little more durable but still flexiible. I'm also trying ukulele finger strumming but it is quieter.

I do like the sound of muting strings (choking, chucking, chunking). It is less of a pronounced effect with nylon strings than steel, but ukulele players have their own method which is different than mandolin players. This will take some time for me to learn.


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