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  1. #1

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    Recently I was looking for an approach to play rythm banjo instead of rythm guitar in a bigband. I think I found my own way. I bought a 4 string Ibanez Artist plectrum banjo and installed a Goldton humbicker pickup. Now most people that use alternative tunings on a plectrum banjo tune it to DGBE. Just like the first 4 strings of a guitar.
    In the bigband I play most shell chords (3 note chords on the 4 lowest strings). So, I tried the EADG tuning on the plectrum banjo. That took too much string tension in the 1st string. What I did is tuning it down to
    DGCF. That worked nicely. All I had to do next was rewriting the sheet music And voila, playing plectrum banjo without changing the familiar chord shapes and position at the neck. As if I am playing guitar.

    Bigband rythm banjo instead of rythm guitar-ibanez-artist-jpg

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    I recently used a tenor banjo for "Mack the Knife" with a big band and a singer. Not many of the guys liked it. I think part of it was that the leader counted it off WAY too slow, so the banjo did sound kind of plodding.
    Last edited by Woody Sound; 03-19-2018 at 09:12 AM.
    -- Isn't it crazy that "archtop" and "luthier" are spelling errors on this forum?

  4. #3

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    Recently I worked in the pit band for the show "Chigago" - nearly all of that was banjo or mandolin.
    I don't actually play it but I tuned it the same way as you did and that sounded good. I don't have a mandolin but I used a 12 string guitar.

    For early swing and jazz the sound of banjo is great.

    I reckon a resonator guitar would sound good for early jazz too.

  5. #4

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    I've always felt that the dividing line between traditional jazz and swing was the replacement of the banjo and tuba with the guitar and string bass, but my big band has a few charts with a "dixieland chorus" in them; I just use the bridge pickup on my guitar, play staccato close to the bridge with a Tortex pick, and call it good enough.

    Danny W.

  6. #5

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    I have a Deering Plectrum Banjo, tuned CGBD, the tuning required for the early solo repertoire. I have tried Chicago tuning, DGBE, as you mention - the top four strings of a guitar. But it never dawned on me tune to the lower four strings of a guitar. Never heard of that, let alone tuning the whole thing down a tone from there. But if it works for you, it works for you.

    Doesn't it sound a bit low for a banjo? The usual role for a banjo in a trad or New Orleans-type band, is to provide rhythm and some harmonic context, cutting through the ensemble sound, sometimes taking a rhythmical chord solo. I fear your approach might sound quite different, no?

    Mind you, Louis Armstrong's Hot Five used a six-string guitar banjo, in quite a unique way.

  7. #6

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    PS What strings do you use for this low tuning? I might give it a try!

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by entresz View Post
    Recently I worked in the pit band for the show "Chigago" - nearly all of that was banjo or mandolin.
    I don't actually play it but I tuned it the same way as you did and that sounded good. I don't have a mandolin but I used a 12 string guitar.

    For early swing and jazz the sound of banjo is great.

    I reckon a resonator guitar would sound good for early jazz too.
    Yea, that's what I do, the reso. It's the loudest acoustic guitar, a banjo-like sound, but can be used without bass, in a duo settings for example. Banjo doesn't sound too good without tuba or bass to my( and all people I played with) ears.

    I have tenor banjo too. I practice it, but no one particularly likes the sound of it, and I feel pretty limited by the CGDA tuning. I tried the Chicago tuning once, and didn't like it at all. IMO if you play tenor banjo, you gotta tune it in 5ths for it to open up.

  9. #8

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    I just finished doing a week-long gig playing the Cole Porter show Anything Goes, and it called for banjo and archtop guitar.
    I used my Gretsch tenor banjo, which I bought at a yard sale for $25, and went out and bought Irish Tenor Banjo strings.
    It turned out Irish Tenor Banjo strings can't support the DGBE tuning I use, and two of the strings popped when i tried to tune them, while the fourth string couldn't get close to the pitch D.

    I went back to the music store where I bought the strings, and managed to talk my way into getting a free replacement set of regular banjo strings, which tuned perfectly and easily to the DGBE tuning. I left the second string from the Irish Tenor Banjo set on, the only one that i managed to tune to pitch.

    The conductor for the show loved the sound of the banjo so much, she folded her hands together in prayer to thank me for bringing it!
    I could've used the stick-on banjo pickup for the show, but the acoustic sound of the banjo cut right through the large orchestra on all the rhythm parts.
    The DGCF might be a good idea for fingering Freddie Green chords, but i don't like the sound of the low strings of the tenor banjo, and base all my voicings on the two highest pitched strings.
    Even Jay Berliner tunes his banjo, mandolin and uke to DGBE.

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob MacKillop View Post
    PS What strings do you use for this low tuning? I might give it a try!
    What I did use were the 4 highest strings of a set 9-9 Elixir five string (bluegrass) set and tuned it into DCGF. The problem is that it is tuned in fifths. The high string does need to be a nine (9) for tuning up to F. The lowest string in the set was a wound 20. That seemed to me a bit on the thin side. I need to find me a long, single loop ended coated string in a heavier gauge, say 25 or so.to replace the 20. But, all in all it worked for me in the bigband in four in a bar chord amplified playing.

  11. #10

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    How it sounds in the bigband setting. Any comments?


  12. #11

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    I think the balance is okay in that context. In a smaller ensemble you would be louder, of course. Were you amplified?

  13. #12

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    Yes, the sound was taken from the PA. The banjo was amped and the amp was miked into the PA.

  14. #13

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    Doesn't really sound like a banjo with the amplification and the voicings, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

  15. #14

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    Guitar would have sounded better, IMO.