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post #1 of 2 (permalink) Old 11-27-2004, 10:09 AM Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: South West England
Posts: 385
Banjos .....

Hello,

Does anyone have any experience with banjos? Ive loved them for ages and I'm soon going to get one but I need a little bit of help.
Ive played a 6 string banjo - and this was just tuned like a normal guitar - which was cool. However what about all the other sorts of banjo? Like, how about 4 strings, how are they tuned? And whats the story with the ones with the little half string on the neck

The reason I ask is because would banjo enthusiasts consider it cheating to use a 6 string banjo? When you should really be able to do it with a 4 string?

And are they tuned differently in different parts of the world?!?! ALSO what sort of finger pics/plectreums are used

Any help would be apprechiated!
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post #2 of 2 (permalink) Old 11-27-2004, 11:37 AM
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Houston, TX
Posts: 472
I have a couple of 5-string banjos. A six string banjo tuned like a guitar won't have that "banjo sound" because part of what gives a banjo that distinctive sound is the way it's tuned, and that "little half string."

The "little half string" on a 5-string banjo, which is the kind of banjo used for bluegrass, is the highest pitched string on the thing, and it is situated where the lowest string would be on a guitar. Typically, you have 3 finger picks, usually a plastic one that goes on the thumb, and usually two metal ones that go on the index and middle fingers. (however, they do make plastic finger picks, and metal thumb picks. Most people happen to prefer a plastic thumb pick and metal finger picks though.) That "little half string" is usually played with the thumb almost every other note or maybe every third note, open, unfretted, so it ends up being a pedal tone a lot, which is why a 6 string banjo tuned like a guitar won't sound right, because that pedal tone will not be natural to duplicate.

A 5 string banjo is typically tuned in open G.
http://www.ezfolk.com/banjo/Tutorial.../g_tuning.html

A good book for learning some bluegrass tunes is this one:
Earl Scruggs and the 5-string banjo

BTW, the tape that comes with it is hilarious. He keeps talking about how your "fangers" might cramp up. Hmm, on further review, it appears the book amazon is selling no longer has the tape with it. Bummer. Still a good book, and I don' think the tape really helps all that much, unless you've never even heard a banjo played before.
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