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View Full Version : Jazz: Banjolele vs Banjo? Help me decide.



R2d2qa
03-29-2012, 01:43 PM
Hey guys! I could use some help.

So here's the problem, I love New Orleans/Dixieland Jazz and I've been really wanting to learn to play jazz rhythm parts on either Banjo, or Banjolele.

I play ukulele well, so transitioning to Banjolele wouldn't be hard, however I don't know if I should choose banjolele over learning the 4 string tenor banjo, the type usually used in jazz. I'm fine with learning new chords and scales, and I'd love to have experience of playing banjo but I'm not sure if it's the right choice. Therefore I want you guys, The ukers (or if somebody out there plays tenor banjo, too) to help me with the decision. Give me some advise of which to play and back it up with reasoning, please.

I've posted this on Banjo Hangout forums, so the banjo players can give their opinion, too.

Also, what if I were to play other genres.. what should I pick?

ukecantdothat
03-29-2012, 01:49 PM
Good question... Mark Twain said a gentleman is someone who knows how to play the banjo and doesn't, but he didn't mention the banjolele. On a serious note, they are two different animals. Different sounds, different technique, different strings, etc. My suggestion: Get both!

cb56
03-29-2012, 02:36 PM
I play uke, banjolele, 5 string banjo and trombone. I love dixieland music too. IMO the banjolele can do anything the tenor banjo can do. but it is a different sound. You'll have to judge for yourself and go with whichever calls out to you. Here's some videos of me with my banjo uke.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SIgqFEFQhrQ&list=UUWRunHLE3YWp5yQq4xfjaqg&index=5&feature=plcp


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69pyBRDxuQ8&list=UUWRunHLE3YWp5yQq4xfjaqg&index=1&feature=plcp


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UfcQPaYTqA&list=UUWRunHLE3YWp5yQq4xfjaqg&index=19&feature=plcp

R2d2qa
03-30-2012, 06:16 PM
Thanks guys, I think I'll try out banjo at a music store and see how it feels. Thanks for responding.

zac987
03-30-2012, 08:05 PM
Mark Twain was likely talking about the 5-string :)

I'd go with the tenor banjo. It has more of that jazz sound and quite a bit more range...but it's whatever you prefer.

fernandogardinali
03-31-2012, 02:42 AM
I play in a New Orlens/Dixieland Jazz band. We have a tenor banjo/tenor guitar player and I play the uke. I mostly use my resonator, my banjo and one ADF#B soprano. They are not exclusive, they are complementary.

You should buy MORE ukes.

kissing
03-31-2012, 03:17 AM
Unless you really really want to learn a whole new instrument.. I would go with what I know.

For instance, if I joined a rock band, I would play my electric ukuleles, not learn to play a 6-string electric guitar.
Why relearn a whole new instrument when you've already got skills in one that can totally be used in the setting?

A banjolele will fit perfectly well in that band setting, and you will be able to shine immediately since you can already play it.

Jnobianchi
03-31-2012, 06:31 AM
Well...you could always get a tenor banjo and tune it in "Chicago Tuning" which is DGBE - same as the treble four strings of the guitar and the same as a baritone ukulele. Then you'd get the sound of the tenor, and you don't have to lear the chord patterns for the tenor, which are formidable and require a large finger spread for basic chords. It is a LOT easier if you already play uke, because essentially, you'll be playing a really big uke.

Use lightest gauge guitar strings if you go that route. Some folks use nylon, but the sound is very different. You may decide you like it, just be aware it will sounds very different.

PhilUSAFRet
03-31-2012, 09:54 AM
For a little extra, Goldtone will put a tenor banjo or baritone banjo uke neck on an 11 1/2" standard banjo.....best of both worlds

Jake Wildwood
03-31-2012, 11:38 AM
Keep in mind that tenor banjos can easily be tuned to GCEA just like a low-G uke and sound fantastic that way. I recently put together a gauges list for alt. tenor tunings:

http://antebelluminstruments.blogspot.com/2012/03/gauges-alternate-tenor-guitar-tenor.html

Pondoro
03-31-2012, 01:22 PM
I played Tenor Banjo in the jazz tuning but two finger injuries made the wide spread of the tenor banjo chords difficult. The large thick tenor banjo strings didn't help. I switched to uke and I can play the tenor banjo with light guitar strings in Chicago tuning. It doesn't sound quite the same but it still sounds like a banjo.

Teachers and advice for learning tenor banjo (in the jazz banjo tuning) are a lot rarer than teachers and advice for the uke.

PhilUSAFRet
04-01-2012, 03:12 AM
Keep in mind that tenor banjos can easily be tuned to GCEA just like a low-G uke and sound fantastic that way. I recently put together a gauges list for alt. tenor tunings:

http://antebelluminstruments.blogspot.com/2012/03/gauges-alternate-tenor-guitar-tenor.html

Because of fret spacing near the nut, I understand it may be hard for someone who does not have long fingers to play certain uke chords......not sure how many they are talking about though.

Lalz
04-01-2012, 10:17 AM
I agree, get a tenor banjo to get that Dixie sound and tune it Chicago to get to play it like a uke.
Oh no... why did I read this thread? Now I want one of these too!

Jake Wildwood
04-03-2012, 03:43 PM
The only issue I've had with "Chicago" DGBE tuning is you don't get the chirp of that high A string which is so much a part of that spanky tenor banjo chordal sound, though you do gain a few extra lower notes over low-G uke-tuned tenor jo. Fortunately, capo on 5 and you have GCEA anyhow. :)

Jnobianchi
04-04-2012, 08:13 AM
The only issue I've had with "Chicago" DGBE tuning is you don't get the chirp of that high A string which is so much a part of that spanky tenor banjo chordal sound

True - there's something really unique about the sound of a tenor tuning. Great for melody playing and I think chords, too, though all my friends who play plectrum tuning are always trying to extol the virtue of playing chords with that tighter, asymmetrical tuning. I realize its true that it's easier, but doesn't sound as good to my ears.

sharpedge
07-01-2015, 11:17 AM
Bought a tenor banjo from Ebay and put nylon guitar strings on - guitar 1st, guitar 2nd, guitar 3rd and guitar 1st. Tuned it G,C,E,A like a ukulele! Ended up changing the tailpiece for a no-knot as the original was cutting the strings. Sounds good - I now have the best of both worlds (banjo and ukulele) without being too loud (my banjo has no resonator).

k0k0peli
07-01-2015, 12:10 PM
I play my 1920's banjo-uke (usually tuned gCEA) when I know I can't get away with the volume of my 1970's resonator-back 5-string (usually tuned to gDGBD) or my 1980's dobro guitar (usually tuned DGDGBD). I'm mostly a guitarist; I play the 5-string in a blues-oldtimey style, and the banjo-uke in a folky-bluegrass style, all with familiar chordings. I've not really been tempted to go to a trad-style tenor, either guitar or banjo -- my old hands don't like to stretch to fifths tunings on fretboards larger than a mandolin or soprano 'uke. Maybe I need to build a cheap comfy-for-me trad-type banjo. Just bolt a tension rod and soprano- or concert-uke neck to a thrift-shop tambourine, add steel strings, tune to fifths, and wail!

Back to the OP question: banjolele or banjo? With a banjolele you get quiet and familiarity. With a banjo you get volume and maybe a new set of chords to learn. How are you on challenges?

kypfer
07-01-2015, 09:20 PM
Just my tuppence worth ... from similar experience.

Many years ago, having learnt to play guitar, I bought a 6-string banjo to get "that banjo sound" without having to go to the effort of learning a whole new set of chords, technique etc.

For me, it didn't work! Too easy to slip back into the "old ways" and never did get that "banjo sound" I was after!

Eventually, some 30+ years later, I bought and bothered to learn a "real" 5-string banjo and behold ... banjo sounds :music:

The nearest I've got to a tenor banjo is a baritone ukulele tuned in fifths ... to my mind I get more of that "tenor-banjo sound" from that than I get from my gCEA-tuned banjolele. I'm guessing that a lot of the "sound" is down to the actual sequence of chord inversions ... arrangements that have been tried and tested on a tenor banjo may not be optimum on a banjolele.

Obviously, YMMV (as always) :)

NOTLguy
07-02-2015, 01:29 AM
Bought a tenor banjo from Ebay and put nylon guitar strings on - guitar 1st, guitar 2nd, guitar 3rd and guitar 1st. Tuned it G,C,E,A like a ukulele! Ended up changing the tailpiece for a no-knot as the original was cutting the strings. Sounds good - I now have the best of both worlds (banjo and ukulele) without being too loud (my banjo has no resonator).

Sounds interesting. Do you have any videos or sound samples of your tenor?

Regards,
Bill

SteveZ
07-02-2015, 02:36 AM
Tried nylon strings on my tenor banjo (Deering GoodTime 17-fret). Never could get it to ring well, so went back to steel strings. The banjo ukes are all nylon strings and definitely are "plunkier" than the tenor banjo, but for whatever reason they sound right for what they are - a hybrid instrument with a unique voice. They are all fun and tuned the same, so jumping from one to another is easy and each acts as a "trainer" for the other.

sharpedge
07-13-2015, 06:32 AM
Update on my tenor banjo into uke tuning. The nylon guitar strings sounded great but had problems with buzzing sometimes. Took it along to Eagle Music (near Huddersfield in Yorkshire). That place is banjo/ guitar/ ukulele heaven! matt was very helpful - said the tension on the nylon strings was the problem and that I should go back to metal strings. After a lot of discussion in the workshop they came up with suggested strings. To me it did not sound good so I went online and found this site - http://antebelluminstruments.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/gauges-alternate-tenor-guitar-tenor.html So today I have ordered the ones suggested from Eagle Music and we shall see what happens. Now there are two good things in Yorkshire - the M6 motorway back to Lancashire and Eagel Music!

sharpedge
08-02-2015, 09:05 AM
Latest update - all sounds good and I am playing it with the Uke3A group in Cockermouth. There's some jealous folk who want the same instrument. Actually one of the members is getting a surprise this weekend. His wife bid for a tenor banjo last week on Ebay and won the auction. It was being delivered to his mothers where he was going this weekend! At least he wont have the problem sorting out the strings - I have done that part for him!