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View Full Version : Using an old kay 4 string banjo as a uku?



jcricket
08-14-2014, 05:13 AM
Hey Folks,
I have found an old kay banjo. It is a vintage 60's model 4 string unit. I believe the 4 string banjo and the baritone uke are very close to the same tuning. Any thoughts on tuning the banjo like a baritone uke? IIRC, the banjo is DGBD and the Baritone uke is DGBE. Maybe put uke strings on it too.

I just fell in love with it when I saw it. I'll likely get it, even if I can't tune it to a uke. It will sit until someday when..................

Thanks in advance for any help or thoughts on this.
Mark

BigD
08-14-2014, 05:23 AM
Someone correct me if im wrong, but having your banjo tuned DGBE is not out of the norm at all. I beleive its referred to as chicago tuning,most tenor guitars also have this. Just do a little research on what string set to buy and ull have your banjo in standard bartitone tuning in no time! As for putting actual uke strings on it you will more than likely want to stick with wound sets because i dont believe nylon will ring out as clear as you'd like.

PhilUSAFRet
08-14-2014, 05:26 AM
If it's a short scale tenor banjo, it's nearly the same size as a baritone banjo uke. You can get strings and even tune it GCEA if you like.

river_driver
08-14-2014, 05:45 AM
Yep, "Chicago tuning" is DGBE (linear).

jcricket
08-14-2014, 06:22 AM
If it's a short scale tenor banjo, it's nearly the same size as a baritone banjo uke. You can get strings and even tune it GCEA if you like.

I think it is a long scale version. 19 frets, would that make it a long scale?
Sorry for my ignorance.
Mark

jcricket
08-14-2014, 06:29 AM
it has an 11" head and about a 15-16" neck.

RichM
08-14-2014, 06:31 AM
I think it is a long scale version. 19 frets, would that make it a long scale?
Sorry for my ignorance.
Mark

Sure sounds like it. Typically, tenor banjos come in short-scale (or "Irish Tenor") 17 fret versions and longer scale 19 fret versions. The other typical 4-string banjo is the Plectrum, which has a scale length similar to a guitar (or a 5-string banjo without the 5th string). I say "typical" because there have been an awful lot of banjos built over the years, and they don't all follow the same rules.

DGBE is standard tuning for the plectrum, while tenors are often tuned CGDA, in fifths, like a viola. But a banjo doesn't know how it's supposed to be tuned, so with the right string set, you could definitely tune to GCEA or DGBE.

southcoastukes
08-14-2014, 06:37 AM
...DGBE is standard tuning for the plectrum...

People string Banjos differently, of course, just as they do Ukuleles. Still there is a dedicated "Plectrum" tuning that is c g b d', and the 19th- early 20th century repertoire for that music is as good as it gets on four plucked strings.

PhilUSAFRet
08-14-2014, 08:13 AM
Yes, a short scale "Irish tenor" banjo is 17 frets, but I've still heard of some folks stringing up a 19 fret model GCEA. Some of them 34" some 37" Here's an older post on tenor banjos. Scroll down for recommended metal string diameters for GCEA tuning:

http://www.banjohangout.org/archive/243140

hoosierhiver
08-14-2014, 08:23 AM
Do it, I've got a 4 string tenor banjo strung up like a baritone. Loads of fun!

jcricket
08-14-2014, 01:36 PM
Do it, I've got a 4 string tenor banjo strung up like a baritone. Loads of fun!

How does it sound? I would love to hear it. A baritone banjolele:D

Maarten
06-02-2019, 01:58 AM
string inches tone string type
1 0,025 G3 wounded, phosofor brons
2 0,016 C4 plain steel
3 0,012 E4 plain steel
4 0,009 A4 plain steel

the mensure of this tenorbanjo is 57,5 cm (fret 0 to the bridge)

this works perfect and with a nice tension on my "modified" tenor banjo (washburn) .
I play now everything as my banjolele but with a full banjo sound

SteveZ
06-02-2019, 02:25 AM
Restringing the banjo is just the start, and it can be tuned to darned near anything. The question is whether one wants to restring with steel strings or nylon. Since the age of the strings could be anything, replacing them is prudent. Changing steel strings to nylon will signifucantly soften the sound.

For a "found" instrument a half-century old there may be more work needed to get it to sound as it should. The drum head especially should be checked for any stretching or cuts. A tuned drum head is a necessity for decent sound. Also, the tuners should be checked that they are indeed keeping the strings properly tensioned.

I envy the OP. Finding such an instrument in decent shape is a thrill and getting it to sing again is fabulous.