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Thread: Tenor banjo scale length

  1. #1
    Handle Of Science UnityGain's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Binghamton NY


    Ok, I have recently decided that a tenor banjo will be my next instrument to complement the mandolin. I've started to do some research and I'm cosittering what size and tuneing I want to work with. At least on goldtone's website, I've noticed that banjo's labeled "irish" are 17 fret models with short necks, presumably to be used for GDAE. The models that are just called tenors are the 19 fret longer necks for presumably CGDA tuning. This seems really backwards to me, wouldn't a longer scale make more sense on a lower pitched instruemnt? It seems that 17 fret GDAE would be floppy and a 19 fret CGDA would be tight. Is there something that I am missing? Is it because irish tenors are made short for fiddle tunes and easier fingering?

    As far as what I'm looking for, I'm pretty sure I want 19fret tuned GDAE so it will be a no brainer to play because I'm used to my mandolin. However, I'd also like to try CGDA at times. Would this require a new nut and/or bridge to change back and forth or would a nut cut for GDAE thick strings be ok for CGDA thinner strings? I'm also thinking vintage, but playability is my #1 concern so a new banjo might be best in terms of reliablity.
    Gotta start sometime, might as well be now...

  2. #2
    Registered User Bob DeVellis's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Chapel Hill, NC


    You can string either a long-scale or a short-scale tenor for either tuning. Get the scale length you prefer and then find appropriate strings for the tuning you want. You can change from one tuning to the other on the same instrument just by re-stringing with different gauges. I personally prefer the shorter scale length but it's merely a matter of preference and others prefer the longer scale.
    Bob DeVellis

  3. #3
    aka aldimandola Michael Wolf's Avatar
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    Jul 2003
    Kassel in Germany


    The short scale is somewhat easier to play, but, at least in my experience, the longer scale sounds better with GDAE.
    There were times when I didn't want to do the stretches. Then I tuned down one tone and played with capo 2nd fret. Later I was glad that I could change back to the long scale.
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  4. #4
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Outer Spiral Arm, of Galaxy, NW Oregon.


    easier Short scale would be the Melody Banjo, essentially a mandolin banjo with 4 strings.

    But Irish session music does seem to favor the octave down of the GDAE
    tenor since the fiddles cover the soprano/alto voice like a blanket.
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  5. #5
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    So Oregon


    Irish banjo seems a misnomer as many of the pro Irish players play 19 fret and long scale

    I have owned both and prefer the 19 fret in about a 22-23 " scale length

    There is an Irish tenor banjo discussion on yahoo groups you might check there

  6. #6
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    citrus heights ca.
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    I play the 17 fret but had to change the 4 string to 46 in order to achive the lower G ( play with a banjo band ) Play like a octive mandolin or similar to a bass banjo
    fred davis

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