View Full Version : String tension and capo

May-01-2008, 4:27am
Already posted on "Banjo Hangout":

I play Scottish/Shetland/Irish etc on GDAE tenors and mandolin.
I have a 23" scale tenor banjo, a short scale 19+" tenor banjo and a 23" scale tenor guitar.

My question is:
If I wanted to play one of the 23" instruments for a while with a capo on the second fret (due to current reach difficulties), but wanted to keep it in GDAE, would it work to put on a set of strings that sound lively enough on the short scale banjo, and tune it FCGD before capoing?

Would the tension then be about right to give a decent sound? I've tried tuning the existing strings down and then capoing up, but the sound is dull.

I'll get round to trying a set of the short scale strings (E = .013) in a few days, but would appreciate any comments in the meantime.


Greg Ashton
May-01-2008, 9:41pm
My guess is that the 19" strings tuned down 2 semitones on the 23" would be on the heavy side side. If you measure from the the bridge to the 2nd fret on the 23", what do you get? Perhaps 21"? 21" is a long scale for 19" strings. Try a string tension calcualtor. Graham Mcdonald's is pretty easy to use:


May-05-2008, 4:45am
Thanks CrispinFT.
I suspected I'd seen something like that on the internet but couldn't think of the appropriate search terms.

Martin Jonas
Jun-05-2008, 5:02am
If you put the strings you have for your 19" banjo on the 23" instruments, and then tune them so that you get GDAE when capoed to a 19" scale length, then your string tension will also be the same. I'm not sure why you would want to do that on the 23" banjo, though, unless you don't like your 19" banjo -- you just end up with a more awkward version of what you already have.