View Full Version : converting a 5 string banjo to a 4 string uke

Mike M3
10-14-2010, 02:18 PM
Hello,I am new here and am not real sure if this is where to post this question.I just ordered some baritone strings to put on my 5 string banjo.It has a 20" scale so I am hoping they will fit.Can these baritone strings be tuned to the g c e a tuning that the other ukulele's are tuned to.I never got far on my banjo and just thought I would try this however lame an idea it might be.Thanks....Mike

10-14-2010, 05:05 PM
Tune it like a Baritone Uke: DGBE. Nothing much new to learn - sound will be lower (and chord names different), but fingering will be the same.

10-14-2010, 06:45 PM
This is a fun idea- could you repeat one of the notes (high d and low d maybe)?

10-14-2010, 07:01 PM
There are a lot of ways you can tune a banjo. With those Baritone strings Mike ordered, you have to stay down in the key of G to get proper tension, but you can set it up in high or low re-entrant tuning, and unlike ukuleles, where tuning to too high a pitch can mean a loss of volume or projection, the "drum body" of a banjo produces so much volume that on his 20" scale banjo , you can use thinner strings, go up to key of C if you like, and still get decent volume. (I wouldn't suggest it on the longer ones, and of course it would be handier to have a tenor instead of a 5-string).

10-14-2010, 11:40 PM
20" scale is short for a banjo, most are around 26 1/2". Those baritone strings will be kind of slack on it, might not be a bad idea for the twang factor.

You would not be far off from using tenor strings on it and tuning it to GCEA (normally tenor is 17" scale).

If you play by yourself, you could just tune it to whatever tension sounds best and not worry if it's G, Ab, A, or whatever.

Mike M3
10-15-2010, 03:14 AM
The OA length of the banjo is 38" but the scale is 20" from the nut to the body of the head.When I ordered the baritone strings I overlooked the different tuning,I wanted the GCEA tuning but thought the tenor strings would be too short.I will probably order some tenor and see how they fit.Thanks for the help....Mike

10-15-2010, 05:07 AM

You were correct on your length. 20" is unusual for a 5 string, but a lot of tenor banjos (like mine) come in that size. Tenor uke strings may very well be too short. There are Baritone Strings made for C tuning, however. I beleive Aquila is one source.

10-15-2010, 06:07 AM
A pony. or short-scale, banjo would be just fine with baritone uke strings. I've used Aquilla strings on mine and they are a perfect match. \

Aquila has baritone strings in two different tunings - regualr DGBE with a low D, and GCEA with a high G.
Elderly.com usually carries both kinds of strings.

Have fun!

10-15-2010, 09:50 AM
The OA length of the banjo is 38" but the scale is 20" from the nut to the body of the head.When I ordered the baritone strings I overlooked the different tuning,I wanted the GCEA tuning but thought the tenor strings would be too short.I will probably order some tenor and see how they fit.Thanks for the help....Mike

The scale length is from the nut to the saddle. If you are measuring to the side of the body closest to the nut then your scale length is longer than 20". If you are measuring all the way to the far end of the body then your scale length is less than 20".

Mike M3
10-15-2010, 05:11 PM
ooops! kinda looks like the baritone strings won't be long enough.It is 30" from the nut to the saddle.That is if the saddle is where the strings hook on below the bridge.The 20" was the length of the fretboard.I will post my results when the strings come in tomorrow.Thanks for clearing that up for me...Mike http://i97.photobucket.com/albums/l224/michaelknifenut/000_1220.jpg

10-15-2010, 09:23 PM
That silver thing where the strings tie is called the "tailpiece" The saddle/bridge is the thing near it that lifts the strings off the head. On a guitar or uke the saddle is the bone or plastc thing that the strings lay on and the bridge is the wood piece that the saddle sits in. On a banjo the saddle and bridge are sort of the same thing. Scale is from the nut to the saddle. It is the length of the string that can freely vibrate. Your scale looks like ~ 26 inches.

Mike M3
10-16-2010, 04:02 AM
thanks for clearing that up for me,it measures 27 1/2".Any chance the baritone strings will cover that distance?...Mike

10-16-2010, 09:40 AM
I have no idea if they will be long enough, sometimes strings are outrageously long, other times you barely get enough.

Mike M3
10-16-2010, 10:02 AM
Hopefully they will come on moday,I will post results...Mike

10-16-2010, 04:01 PM
First, with a scale that length, there is almost no chance your Baritone strings will be that generous. In addition to the 7 extra inches of scale length, you have to add the extra distance to tie to the tailpiece.

More importantly, you don't even want to attempt this. As a scale gets longer, the strings for any given note get thinner. With classical treble material, your string will have to be so thin you'll be constantly breaking it.

You can do it GCEA with metal strings (very thin / very bright), or you can do it with classical treble material in key of G (where a Baritone is), either linear or high re-entrant. Let me know if any of these options appeal to you and I can let you know how to get there.

10-17-2010, 07:05 AM
If you really want a short scale banjo, I have a pny 5-string openback with a scale that's about 19-3/4". It's got excellent tone.
Let me know if you're interested in it, as I would sell it.
I've got way too many instruments and I just want to keep the ones I play all the time...

Mike M3
10-17-2010, 10:41 AM
Thanks for the help and thanks for the offer.I don't have the cash now but hopefully at Christmas I can aquire a tenor Uke.If I can't trade my banjo for a shorter scale tenor I will just keep it with metal strings and hope to learn to play it.I have way to many instruments but only one uke....Mike

10-17-2010, 10:59 AM
Woohoo, have fun with your isntruments now, and with the hoped for tenor xmas present!

Mike M3
10-19-2010, 08:27 AM
I found a remedy for my problem.A friend brought me over a tenor banjo that needed new strings and head.And he brought me a Vega Artheur Godfrey baritone uke that needed strings too.Traded for both.I already have the baritone strings to put on it.The head on the banjo is measuring a kinda odd diameter,abot 10 7/8",I might be measuring wrong...Mike