There are many ways to tune your banjo to achieve new sounds and playing styles. Although each type of banjo has its generally accepted standard tuning, unlike many other stringed instruments, there are no hard and fast rules to abide to. The banjo offers a variety of alternate tunings which further enhance your exploration of the instrument.
4-String Banjo - 17 & 19 Fret Tenor Tunings
C, G, D, A – Standard Tenor Tuning: The most widely used 4-string tuning. As with viola and mandolas, the banjo is tuned in intervals of fifths.
G, D, A, E – Irish Tenor Tuning: An alternate tuning also using intervals of fifths. Commonly used in traditional Irish, Gaelic and Celtic music, as the name suggests. Sits lower in pitch than standard tenor tuning and is the same tuning as a mandolins and violins.
D, G, B, E – Chicago Tuning: A great tuning option for guitarists who are discovering the delights of the banjo as it’s the same as the top four strings of the guitar.
5-String Banjo Tunings
G, D, G, B, D - Open G: Standard and commonly used 5-string banjo tuning. This tuning is referred to as "Open G" tuning as a G chord is produced when removing all fingers from the fingerboard and then strumming.
G, C, G, B, D - C Tuning / Drop C: Referred to as "C" tuning. Also known as ‘Drop C’ tuning because -quite simply – you drop the D string in Open G tuning to a C note.
G, C, G, C, D – Double C: Regularly used in North American folk music. It gets its name because the B string is tuned to a C note - meaning the banjo has two C strings.
G, D, G, C, D – G Modal / Sawmill Tuning / Mountain Minor Tuning: A tuning close to Open G tuning with the exception of the second string which is tuned to C. Commonly used in many Old Time songs. The note change of the second string to C produces a G sus4 chord when played open which gives this tuning its modal sound.
F#, D, F#, A, D – D Tuning: Used in some select bluegrass songs, this tuning was a favourite of Earl Scruggs and produces a D chord when played open (not strings fretted).
6-String Banjo Tunings
E, A, D, G, B, E – Standard Guitar Tuning: This offers the best way for guitarists to transition to playing the banjo as it’s tuned exactly the same as a guitar. Guitar players… you can easily transfer your existing understanding, skill set and licks to the banjo this way.
Banjo Ukulele Tunings
G (high), C, E, A – Standard Ukulele Tuning: In exactly the same way as a ukulele, the G string is tuned higher than the C and E string giving this a bright and unique character.
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