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Piccolo Banjo Tunings?

Geoff the Duck 13 Jul 01 - 04:38 AM
chip a 13 Jul 01 - 02:45 PM
Geoff the Duck 14 Jul 01 - 06:19 AM
clansfolk 14 Jul 01 - 02:58 PM
Geoff the Duck 15 Jul 01 - 07:37 PM
GUEST,Bill in Alabama 16 Jul 01 - 08:47 AM
clansfolk 16 Jul 01 - 09:20 AM
GUEST 15 Mar 11 - 03:32 PM
JohnInKansas 15 Mar 11 - 04:21 PM
GUEST,Banjiman 15 Mar 11 - 04:24 PM
Geoff the Duck 16 Mar 11 - 03:07 PM
Rex 16 Mar 11 - 05:49 PM
Geoff the Duck 17 Mar 11 - 05:47 AM
GUEST,KLR 19 Jan 14 - 07:34 PM
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Subject: Piccolo Banjo Tunings?
From: Geoff the Duck
Date: 13 Jul 01 - 04:38 AM

Hi there Folks and Catters!
Two years back I was given a 5-string Piccolo Banjo as my Birthday Present. In the intervening time I have been too busy to really sit down and get to grips with it. Part of the problem is that I cannot decide which notes to tune it to.
I play a standard size 5-string banjo, usually in open G tuning, and the equivalent open tuning for the size of the smaller piccolo banjo would seem to be about open D. If I tune to D - then all the fingerings for tunes I play have to be transposed, and if I am going to that trouble I might as well learn another tuning entirely.
I am looking for advice or suggestions for tunings which suit the particular instrument, and which might be useful for particular songs/tunes. Are there any Baby Banjo players on the 'Cat - Does anyone know what this smaller cousin of the standard banjo was traditionally tuned to - Any thoughts!
Anticipating!
Geoff the Duck!


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Subject: RE: Piccolo Banjo Tunings?
From: chip a
Date: 13 Jul 01 - 02:45 PM

How about aGDAE? Just a thought. I also play a standard 5 string. I use G, C & "sawmill" mostly. Will it tune to open G an octave above your 5 string's standard G? Sounds like it would be fun to fool around with.

Let us know what you come up with.

Chip A.


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Subject: RE: Piccolo Banjo Tunings?
From: Geoff the Duck
Date: 14 Jul 01 - 06:19 AM

Come on 'Catters. It's HOURS since I posted this!!!!!!!!
Surely some of you must have accidentally put your banjo in the wash with your overalls, and shrunk it! - we all do it sooner or later!!
What sort of tunings would you use if you capoed your standard banjo at the 7th fret?
I know that the Piccolo Banjo is a fairly obscure instrument, but somebody must have some useful ideas! It is certainly FUN to play, I would just like to make better use of it.
If you can't help with info, perhaps the odd crap banjo joke might keep the thread active until somebody who does know reads it!
Quack!!!
Geoff the (hopeful)Duck.


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Subject: RE: Piccolo Banjo Tunings?
From: clansfolk
Date: 14 Jul 01 - 02:58 PM

I bought a piccolo banjo last year from Hobgoblin at Bristol UK - Zither style, it arrived and was originally tune to octave G. however when I tried it with light gauge strings they were too "tight" for me, I tried extra light which were ok but I wasn't over keen on the plinky sound and the George Formby comments! and as a lot of the stuff we do is in "D" ish I restrung it and tuned it to "D" even adding a 5th string capo!!!!!

It made a great back packer and a nice novelty item when I played bluegrass instrumentals on what people presumed to be a uke/banjo!!! even working out a routine with "Ain't she sweet" ala uke to start then going into a bluegrass instrumental of the tune...

It's a great little instrument and I'm sure they sounded great in the banjo orchestras of the day - but I wasn't around to hear them (Honest)

Have fun

Pete


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Subject: RE: Piccolo Banjo Tunings?
From: Geoff the Duck
Date: 15 Jul 01 - 07:37 PM

Mine is an ORB, made by Helmut Rheinegans (I think that is the spelling) in Eyam, Derbyshire. It is a beautiful instrument with a lovely tone. I just wish to sort out a tuning to show it off at its best!
GtD


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Subject: RE: Piccolo Banjo Tunings?
From: GUEST,Bill in Alabama
Date: 16 Jul 01 - 08:47 AM

Geoff--

I almost bought one of those critters a couple of years ago. I was told that they were normally tuned in 'C' tuning, but I didn't find out WHICH 'C' tuning, and there are several different ones among clawhammer players. Bill


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Subject: RE: Piccolo Banjo Tunings?
From: clansfolk
Date: 16 Jul 01 - 09:20 AM

The Piccolo banjo can be either seven frets shorter than the Standard, and tuned in "D," or it can be about the same neck length as a Banjo-Ukelele and tuned one octave higher than Standard Banjo (G-C-G-B-D)

Piccolo Banjo: The smallest member of the banjo family. Banjo orchestras popular before the turn of the century used the piccolo banjo as the soprano voice. The scale is short, on the order of sixteen or seventeen inches and the pots are around seven inches or so.

The TAYLOR - LIVERPOOL 5-string banjo has a very ingenious built in capo. It converts the regular banjo into a piccolo banjo, one octave higher. At the 12th fret there is a brass bar with slots for the strings inlayed flush with the fingerboard. There is a separate hook for the fifth string on the 17th fret. The whole shebang is spring loaded with a lever at the back of the neck. When pressed it raises the brass bar to permit the strings to be hooked into the slots. When the spring is released the strings are held in position at the 12th and 17th fret.

Some bits I found lying on the net - might be of interest

Pete


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Subject: RE: Piccolo Banjo Tunings?
From: GUEST
Date: 15 Mar 11 - 03:32 PM

A true piccolo banjo is one octave higher than standard G tuning, so it's still G tuning with lighter gauge strings. A travel banjo, like the Saga Pony Banjo, is tuned to open C, but I can tune mine down to the key of A when needed. THe two are sometimes confused. A piccolo banjo usually has about an 8" diameter head.


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Subject: RE: Piccolo Banjo Tunings?
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 15 Mar 11 - 04:21 PM

Since the piccolo banjo is not particularly common, it's unlikely that you'll find strings labelled as "piccolo banjo" in most music shops. (It's close to impossible to find strings specific for "tenor banjo" in my backwater village.)

Although strings half as long will give a note at twice the frequency when tuned to the same tension shorter strings of similar diameter & tension generally do give the "stiffer feel" described, and you probably need to go to somewhat smaller string diameters, and lesser tension, to get the octave higher while retaining a similar "feel." Light and ultra light generic banjo strings may not be light enough for what you want.

A string length of around 17 inches approximates fiddle or mandolin scale length. I would suspect that mando strings would be higher tension than you'd want on the banjo, but fiddle gages might be about right, or at least closer.

Numerous web sites have "string gage (or guage if you're that British) charts and formulas. Trial and error string swaps is one way to do it, but "playing with the numbers" via the charts probably will get you closer to what you want at less expense before you start buying handsful of strings.

Asking someone who has one - which you've attempted here - is of course the quickest method, but you'll have to (try to) pin them down about accurate string weights in addition to tunings before you'll know whether they know what they think they're telling you.

John


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Subject: RE: Piccolo Banjo Tunings?
From: GUEST,Banjiman
Date: 15 Mar 11 - 04:24 PM

Mines tuned to open C.

Just normal G tuning 5 steps up.

Paul


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Subject: RE: Piccolo Banjo Tunings?
From: Geoff the Duck
Date: 16 Mar 11 - 03:07 PM

I had completely forgotten I had asked the question (it WAS 10 years back after all...).
I eventually came to the same conclusion as GUEST who just refreshed the thread. I decided that the scale length was pretty close to half that of my "big" banjo, so reasoned that according to Pythagoras on string length, it ought to go up a full octave. I tuned to the full octave and found that standard gauge strings didn't actually break, but the top string was close to snapping point. I replaced it with a lighter gauge string and it worked fine - sounds beautiful.
It was very useful to have when we managed to travel to The Getaway on our 2005 trip to the USA and Canada as I could take it in the overhead locker on the plane, although it did confuse the x-ray scanner people at the airport.
Quack!
GtD.


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Subject: RE: Piccolo Banjo Tunings?
From: Rex
Date: 16 Mar 11 - 05:49 PM

I missed this the first time around. Was just playing one for a show this past weekend in Tucson. As stated before these were intended to be tuned an octave higher than the standard banjo in the banjo orchestras. Said banjo would as likely be tuned in open "G" or "C". As these were intended to be played with gut strings, steel strings might be risky. There are several nylon string types for banjo and cheap enough to be cut down to the piccolo. There is good instruction to be found by the inventor, Samuel Swain Stewart in his S.S. Stewart's Banjo and Guitar Journal. These were published in the 1880s and 1890s and are found online and in library collections. I played one along with a banjeaurine for a five part banjo version of the Spanish Fandango in my latest CD, Ladies' Choice. These tiny banjos are fun.

Rex

http://www.timetravelmusic.com


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Subject: RE: Piccolo Banjo Tunings?
From: Geoff the Duck
Date: 17 Mar 11 - 05:47 AM

Mine is a new instrument using some metalwork from an older instrument. The metal strings are not a problem.
PDFs of various issues of the Journal can be found at The University of Rochester website.
They also have a novel written by Stewart, The Black Hercules, or The adventures of a banjo player... No idea if it is a good read, but might find out...
Quack!
GtD.


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Subject: RE: Piccolo Banjo Tunings?
From: GUEST,KLR
Date: 19 Jan 14 - 07:34 PM

I have a banjo-mandolin with only 4 strings on it - quick-and-dirty piccolo banjo. They use to make the "banjolin" which only had 4 tuners, I guess that's the official name for a piccolo banjo?


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