Tenor banjos and guitars are both popular stringed instruments that are used in a variety of music genres. Although they have different playing techniques, some musicians may be interested in tuning a tenor banjo to the same notes as a guitar. In this article, we will explore the question, “Can a tenor banjo be tuned like a guitar?” and provide a detailed guide on how to tune a tenor banjo.
Understanding Tenor Banjos
Before we discuss tuning a tenor banjo like a guitar, it’s essential to understand the basic structure and tuning of a tenor banjo. A tenor banjo is a four-stringed instrument that is typically tuned to fifths, which means that the interval between each string is a perfect fifth. The standard tuning for a tenor banjo is C, G, D, A from low string to high string. This tuning is similar to the tuning of a viola or mandola, making it a popular instrument in folk and Celtic music.
Tuning a Tenor Banjo Like a Guitar
While a tenor banjo is typically tuned to fifths, it is possible to tune it to the same notes as a guitar. Tuning a tenor banjo to a guitar’s notes is an excellent way to add a unique sound to your music. However, it’s important to note that this tuning changes the sound character of the tenor banjo quite a bit from the traditional tenor tuning.
Here’s how to tune a tenor banjo to the first four strings of the guitar:
- Begin by loosening the strings on your tenor banjo so that they are not under tension.
- Use a guitar tuner to tune your tenor banjo. Start by tuning the fourth string of the banjo to the same note as the sixth string of the guitar, which is E.
- Tune the third string of the banjo to the same note as the fifth string of the guitar, which is A.
- Tune the second string of the banjo to the same note as the fourth string of the guitar, which is D.
- Finally, tune the first string of the banjo to the same note as the third string of the guitar, which is G.
- Once you have tuned all of the strings, tighten them up until they are at the proper tension.
It’s important to note that while this tuning method is straightforward, it does change the sound character of the tenor banjo. The banjo will sound more like a guitar and less like a traditional tenor banjo. If you prefer the traditional tenor banjo sound, we recommend sticking with the standard tuning.
Understanding the Types of Tenor Banjos
Tenor banjos come in two main types: the Irish tenor banjo and the plectrum tenor banjo. Both types are tuned to true fifths and have a shorter neck than other banjos.
Irish Tenor Banjo
The Irish tenor banjo is smaller than other types of tenor banjos, and it has a shorter neck, making it easier to play. It is commonly used in Irish folk music, and it is often played with a plectrum or a pick.
The Irish tenor banjo has four strings that are tuned to GDAE. This is the same tuning as a mandolin, and it allows the musician to play a wide range of tunes. The Irish tenor banjo is often used in traditional Irish music, and it is a popular instrument in Ireland.
Plectrum Tenor Banjo
The plectrum tenor banjo has four strings and is tuned to CGBD. It has a longer neck than the Irish tenor banjo, making it more suitable for playing complex chord progressions. The plectrum tenor banjo is commonly used in jazz and Dixieland music, and it is often played with a plectrum or a pick.
The plectrum tenor banjo is larger than the Irish tenor banjo and has a deeper, more resonant sound. It is often used as a rhythm instrument in jazz and Dixieland music, and it is also used in other genres of music, such as country and folk.
Unique Features of Tenor Banjos
Tenor banjos have several unique features that set them apart from other types of banjos.
- Four Strings
Tenor banjos have four strings, which are typically tuned to true fifths. This gives them a unique sound that is different from other types of banjos.
- Shorter Neck
Tenor banjos have a shorter neck than other types of banjos, which makes them easier to play for people with smaller hands. This also gives them a different sound than other types of banjos.
Tenor banjos are typically tuned to true fifths, which means that the intervals between the strings are the same. This makes it easier to play chords and melodies on the instrument.
How to Tune a Tenor Banjo
There are two common ways to tune a tenor banjo: standard tenor tuning and Irish tenor tuning.
- Standard Tenor Tuning
Standard tenor tuning is the most common way to tune a tenor banjo. The strings are tuned to C, G, D, and A, which is the same tuning as a viola or cello.
- Irish Tenor Tuning
Irish tenor tuning is used for the Irish tenor banjo. The strings are tuned to G, D, A, and E, which is the same tuning as a mandolin. This tuning allows the musician to play a wide range of tunes in Irish music.
It is possible to tune a tenor banjo in the same way as a guitar. Although the two instruments have different string configurations and tuning, the same basic concepts of tuning still apply. With some practice, a musician can learn to play both instruments, which can open up a world of possibilities for playing a variety of styles of music.