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Thread: Tenor banjo help

  1. #1

    Default Tenor banjo help

    I have an old tenor banjo open back that I never play as such. It sounds a bit muddy. It is tuned in CGDA. My question is whether I should try Octave mandolin tuning or re-entrant Chicago tuning. I play guitar and Uke and only some Mandolin. It's a 17 fretter. Would I need a set up to do so? Thoughts, suggestions?

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Tenor banjo help

    My first thought is to replace your current strings. You don't mention how old they are but, that might brighten the sound considerably.

    Secondly, if you'd like to tune it like an OM, pick up a set of Irish Tenor banjo strings. The gauges will allow you to tune it as such.

    Deering Banjo has 2 articles about Chicago-style tuning as well. (DGBE not re-entrant)

    Best of luck!
    Last edited by Huck; Nov-11-2019 at 8:30pm.

  3. #3
    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Tenor banjo help

    If it is sounding muddy in CGDA you might want to tighten the head a bit. A 17 fret will only sound muddier tuned to OM tuning.
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

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  5. #4

    Default Re: Tenor banjo help

    Ok, thanks. I wondered if the head was a bit too loose. There is a slight tear, maybe, where the bridge is placed, so I wonder when they sold it they kept the head a little loose to avoid further damage. Anyway, there is what looks like a very small patch on the bottom of the head under the middle foot of the bridge. It looks real cool, though, the whole unit.

  6. #5
    Harley Marty
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    Default Re: Tenor banjo help

    Quote Originally Posted by icuker View Post
    Ok, thanks. I wondered if the head was a bit too loose. There is a slight tear, maybe, where the bridge is placed, so I wonder when they sold it they kept the head a little loose to avoid further damage. Anyway, there is what looks like a very small patch on the bottom of the head under the middle foot of the bridge. It looks real cool, though, the whole unit.
    A new head is the way to go, to get the best sound out of it it needs to be really really tight. Some people tune the head up to the pitch of A, some say you should have it one quarter of a turn from breaking. If you're thinking of GDAE tuning be sure to get the right strings to suite your banjos short scale. Most of the packaged tenor banjo string sets are for 23" scale banjos. Another option for you could be to go for nylon strings & tune it as a baritone ukule.

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  8. #6
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tenor banjo help

    Quote Originally Posted by icuker View Post
    I have an old tenor banjo open back that I never play as such. It sounds a bit muddy.
    How old it this tenor? Does it have a skin head on it? An old loose skin head would definitely sound muddy.

    In any case—skin or plastic—see how it does with the head tighter. Hopefully that patch would hold bit replacing the head is not complicated on most tenors unless the fretboard goes over the head. My ex-Gibson TB-Junior had that extended fretboard and I had to take the whole thing apart to replace the head. Wasn't too bad though.

    When you tighten the head tighten each nut a bit at a time them go to the one across from it and back and forth a few rounds until it feels pretty solid.

    Yes, definitely replace the strings and decide what tuning you prefer. When I tuned down to octave (Irish tenor) I had to try a number of gauges. Ther lower strings needed heavier gauges. You ca start with a standard set though. I think Elderly has a custom set for shrt-scale Irish tenors.
    Jim

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    Default Re: Tenor banjo help

    I’ve also found a clear head can brighten the sound dramatically on an old muddy sounding banjo, whether it’s 17 or 19 fret. I’m not wild about that look, but in the long run it’s good tone I’m after so it’s worth it.

  10. #8
    Registered User Jill McAuley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tenor banjo help

    Make sure to put heavier gauge strings on it if opting for GDAE tuning since it's a 17 fret tenor. When I played 17 fret tenors my preferred gauges were 40w/30w/20w/13 - John Pearse Strings do a set in those gauges.
    2018 Girouard Concert oval A
    2015 Ome Juniper 19 fret open back tenor banjo
    2015 JP "Whitechapel" tenor banjo
    1969 Martin 00-18




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