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Banjo anyone? (4 string Tenor, I think)

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While cleaning out our front porch, which was loaded with stuff from us and our inlaws, we found what we believe is a 4 string Tenor banjo. It seems to be in good shape. Mil told me I could have it, and that it belonged to her father. I thought it would be neat to try to learn with ds. I briefly started looking for books/videos online but most of what I saw was for 5 string banjo. Can anyone recommend any resources? I don't have the money at this time for lessons.

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I think The 4th and 5th string on the 5 string banjo are tuned to be the same note. I'll have to check with Dh but he's asleep. So a 5 string banjo instruction manual should be fine but you might want to check on line. Also if you live on the east coast you can find many music stores that carry banjo's and banjo music in the mountain regions. You also need to know that there are two kinds of banjo playing, Claw hammer and finger picking. Claw hammer banjo is easier to learn as its mostly learning chords and the fingering is a lot easier. The other playing involves not only strumming but picking with the first 3 fingers of your hand in different ways depending on how the music is arranged. If you live in a mountain area you might could try to find someone to teach banjo to you. That would make learning a lot easier. IF you live in a rural area there may also be a bluegrass band that would have a banjo player that might be willing to teach you. If you were going to teach yourself I would say find a book on playing claw hammer style, as I said it's much easier to learn especially if you don't have anyone to actually help you with your finger positions. If you want to learn banjo you will also want a tuner and perhaps some picks. Most tuners are okay but we prefer a digital kind that has a green light when you're on pitch and a red light when you're off pitch and a digital reader that tells you which way to tighten the strings. If the banjo has been sitting around for awhile the strings are probably fragile and may need replacing. As to the pick, that will be your chose. Some people just use their fingers but that can be tender at first until you build up some calluses. You can use a guitar pick. They come in different sizes and shapes and each size will make a different sound. If you want to go that way I'd say buy several and see which one you like best. There are also finger picks you can buy. They slip over the tips of your fingers and you use them to pick with. These are mostly used when you do finger style picking not necessarily claw hammer.

Edited by Alyce
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A couple of things, then I'll ask my daughter in the morning if you need me to for specifics on what she knows.


First, I must clear something up so you don't spend money on something that will not work for you. 4 and 5 string banjo books are *not* interchangeable, especially with Scrugg-style picking. The rolls are designed for the 4 string and the 4th and 5th are generally not tuned the same. Even claw hammer and old time generally use the 5-string, though I'm not as familiar with those styles as with the Scruggs style.


The wikipedia article has some specifics on 4-strings. I'm not as familiar with them. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banjo If you can identify what it is, you can then select the best method and books. I have seen 4 strings tuned like the first 4 notes of a guitar, some smaller ones tuned like the mandolin, and another one running around in some of the gospel jams in the area, that is tuned like a viola. They're actually pretty versatile!


Go to Janet Davis Music (google will bring it up) and I think it will help you select a banjo book and strings for the 4 string.


The world needs more banjo players. :001_smile:

ETA: Gah. No, not Janet Davis. I forgot they mainly do bluegrass. Elderly tends to other folk style instruments. Try them. They do seem to have options for the 4-string. http://elderly.com

Edited by CLHCO
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