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Thread: Jazz: Banjolele vs Banjo? Help me decide.

  1. #11
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    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.

  2. #12
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    Jan 2009
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jake Wildwood View Post
    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.blogspo...tar-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.

  3. #13
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    Mar 2011
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    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!

  4. #14
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    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.

  5. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jake Wildwood View Post
    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.

  6. #16
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    May 2015
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    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).

  7. #17
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    Apr 2015
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    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?

    Ukes: Alvarez 4- & Kala 6- & O.Schmidt 8-string tenors; 1 Ohana & 2 Kahalo sopranos; Harmonia concert & bari
    Mandos: Celtic (KE Coleman) & Soviet ovals; Kay & Rogue A-types; Harmonia F2 & mandola
    Banjos: Gretsch banjolin; Varsity banjolele; Orlando 5-string; fretless & fretted Cumbus o'uds
    Acoustic guitars: Martin Backpacker; Ibanez Performance; Art et Lutherie; Academy dobro; Ovation 12-string
    Others: Maffick & First Act dulcimers; Mexican cuatro-menor; Puerto Rican cuatro; Martin tiple; electrics
    Wanted: charango; balalaika; bowlback mando; Venezuelan cuatro; zithers

  8. #18
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    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

    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)
    There are those who will wax lyrical about the ability to play a double shuffle with a split fan and a tight G-string ...
    it just makes me walk funny!

  9. #19
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    May 2013
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    Quote Originally Posted by sharpedge View Post
    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

    Pono ATDC Tenor Cutaway
    Vintage Tenor Banjo Ukulele ( circa 1920 )
    Vintage le Domino Concert Banjo ukulele ( circa 1931 )

    If it is worth doing, it is worth doing right.

  10. #20
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    May 2014
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    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.
    ...SteveZ

    Ukuleles: Martin T1K (T)*, Oscar Schmidt OU28T (T8), Lanikai LU-6 (T6), RISA Solid (C), Effin UkeStart (C), Flea (S)**
    Banjo-Ukes: Duke 10 (T)*, Lanikai LB6-S (S)*
    Tenor Guitars: Martin TEN515, Blueridge BR-40T
    Tenor Banjo: Deering Goodtime 17-Fret
    Mandolin: Burgess (#7)***

    Tuning: *Reentrant C CGDA. **DAEB. ***GDAE. The rest are CGDA

    The inventory is always in some flux, but that's part of the fun.

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