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Banjo Chicago Style

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GUEST,lazy with short fingers 27 May 03 - 11:50 AM
fretless 27 May 03 - 12:14 PM
GUEST,Russ 27 May 03 - 02:04 PM
GUEST,Martin Gibson 27 May 03 - 02:15 PM
Frankham 27 May 03 - 02:47 PM
GUEST,Martin Gibson 27 May 03 - 03:02 PM
X 27 May 03 - 03:15 PM
GUEST,Songster Bob 27 May 03 - 03:36 PM
GUEST,Martin Gibson 27 May 03 - 03:56 PM
fretless 27 May 03 - 05:29 PM
GUEST,Martin Gibson 27 May 03 - 05:50 PM
Frankham 27 May 03 - 06:33 PM
Art Thieme 27 May 03 - 07:51 PM
Leadfingers 28 May 03 - 03:10 AM
Frankham 28 May 03 - 11:05 AM
GUEST,Lou 24 Apr 10 - 11:59 AM
Desert Dancer 24 Apr 10 - 12:28 PM
GUEST 19 Mar 12 - 08:53 PM
PHJim 19 Mar 12 - 10:25 PM
The Sandman 20 Mar 12 - 07:56 AM
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Subject: Banjo Chicago Style ?
From: GUEST,lazy with short fingers
Date: 27 May 03 - 11:50 AM

I recently came into possession of a Washburn 5-string banjo. I play guitar--purely for fun-- and really don't have an interest in learning how to play the banjo the way it "should" be played but I've been told I can remove the top string and tune the remaining 4 just like the bottom 4 strings on the guitar and finger it just like the guitar. Does this work? And is it what's known as "Chicago Style"?

Thanks for any input.


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Subject: RE: Banjo Chicago Style
From: fretless
Date: 27 May 03 - 12:14 PM

"I can remove the top string and tune the remaining 4 just like the bottom 4 strings on the guitar and finger it just like the guitar"

Well, sure. Or you could drill two more pegs into the far end of the neck, mount six strings on the beast and really get that guitar sound you're seeking. The strings will be relatively close together but if your fingers are really short, then maybe they're slender as well so this may not be a problem.

Alternatively, you could sell your Washburn to someone who actually wants to play the banjo and use the money to buy a banjo-guitar (full range of six strings, tuned just the way you'd expect, but with the banjo's drum head and distinctive plunky sound).

Never heard of the "Chicago Style" in banjo playing, but perhaps someone else on the 'cat has.


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Subject: RE: Banjo Chicago Style
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 27 May 03 - 02:04 PM

lazy,

There's no such animal as "the" way a banjo should be played. There are a million different banjo styles. You can tune the strings any way you want, choose to play or ignore the 5th string, and invent your own million and oneth way.

On the other hand, you can explore the wonderful world of banjo playing and you might eventually hear something you'd like to emulate.


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Subject: RE: Banjo Chicago Style
From: GUEST,Martin Gibson
Date: 27 May 03 - 02:15 PM

Being from Chicago and a banjo player for quite a while, I can safely say there is no such thing as Chicago style playing. I'm not so sure that I would be as liberal as Guest,Russ to say that there is no such thing as a way a banjo should be played. That's easy to say when no one is there watching and listening.

Look at it this way. The 5th string is never fretted, the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, are tuned just like a guitar in open 'G' tuning. That leaves very little to master regarding chord formations to play simple three or four chord songs. Do it this way, with this attitude, and voila! you're playing the banjo in it's most elementary way.


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Subject: RE: Banjo Chicago Style
From: Frankham
Date: 27 May 03 - 02:47 PM

"Chicago" style tuning comes from the world of 4 string banjo playing. What it means is that you tune the four strings like the top four strings of the guitar instead of the standard plectrum or tenor banjo tuning. There are basically three tunings used in the four string banjo world. CGDB (Plectrum) CGDA (Tenor) the so-called Chicago style or guitar-tuned DGBE. There are variations of these. The Irish banjo or the dropped-tenor tuning is GDAE. Some New Orleans banjo players tune to FCGD (dropped tuning like the tenor).

THere's nothing wrong with playing the four string banjo. It's used in combinations such as plectrum and tenor or as a support for dixie style band. It would be preferable though to get an instrument designed for that purpose rather than convert a five-string banjo unless the sound of the five-string would be optimal for tenor, plectrum or "Chicago" tuned banjo.


There is such a thing as re-entrant tuning in which the tenor bass string can be tuned up an octave or both third and fourth strings can be raised an octave.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Banjo Chicago Style
From: GUEST,Martin Gibson
Date: 27 May 03 - 03:02 PM

Remember that big 4 string banjo hit "Washington Square" by the ever popular Village Stompers?


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Subject: RE: Banjo Chicago Style
From: X
Date: 27 May 03 - 03:15 PM

"Look at it this way. The 5th string is never fretted....,"
-Martin Gibson-

I must be doing something wrong, I fret my 5th string all the time.


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Subject: RE: Banjo Chicago Style
From: GUEST,Songster Bob
Date: 27 May 03 - 03:36 PM

My uncle played tenor banjo, tuned guitar-style. I never heard it called "Chicago Style," but that's possibly one name for it. I wonder what tuning Eddie Condon used on his tenor guitar? If it's the same, then that's where the "Chicago" moniker comes from (Eddie being a sort of constant in the Chicago-style jazz scene for some 30-40 years).

The tunings given above included one typo; plectrum players use "standard C" tuning a la 5-string banjos -- CGBD. As written above, it transposed two strings (CGDB). I've seen tutors (instruction books) from around 1912 that suggested using a plectrum (pick) on a 5-string banjo, and loosening the 5th string, moving it off the bridge and 5th string nut (running it along the side of the neck) and tightening it again. This puts it out of the path of the pick when strumming. So the idea of the plectrum banjo predates (just barely) the cello/tenor banjo tuning of CGDA.

And the remark about not fretting the 5th string left out the all-important (but understood, especially in this crowd) "in traditional styles."

Hope this helps.

Bob Clayton


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Subject: RE: Banjo Chicago Style
From: GUEST,Martin Gibson
Date: 27 May 03 - 03:56 PM

Mr. Banjoest:

Look at it this way, you might not be doing something wrong, but you're not world famous for doing it, either.

Yep, I left out "in traditional styles." There's alway someone ( but undrstood,especially in this crowd) who has to prove to the tradionalists how esoteric they are in some usual holier than thou way.


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Subject: RE: Banjo Chicago Style
From: fretless
Date: 27 May 03 - 05:29 PM

Ah, now the debate gets interesting. To fret or not to fret the 5th...that is the question.

Ken Perlman included tunes with fretted 5th string tabs in some of his banjo books (more info on his web site: http://www.kenperlman.com/) and he could actually play them, too. I could never figure out how to do that so I made believe that fretting the 5th was somehow a violation of tradition. Of course, at some level, having a 5th string is a violation of tradition.


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Subject: RE: Banjo Chicago Style
From: GUEST,Martin Gibson
Date: 27 May 03 - 05:50 PM

At what level?

At this point, 4 string banjos, either plectrums or tenors are so uncommonly used and gathering dust in pawn shops, that they have become the non-traditional banjo.

Never heard of Ken Perlman. Sorry.


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Subject: RE: Banjo Chicago Style
From: Frankham
Date: 27 May 03 - 06:33 PM

Hi Bob,

Eddie Condon used the plectrum tuning for his tenor guitar. CGBD.
Marty Grosz does something like this. He tunes his top four guitar strings like a plectrum and his bottom strings in fifths. BbFCGBD. Apparently this was the tuning for the guitarist Carl Kress in the late twenties and early thirties in his duets with Dick McDonough.

Martin, the four-string banjo community is very active. Chuck Ogsbury of Ome Banjoes has been making a state-of-the-art tenor and plectrum banjo. They are not gathering dust if they are any good.
I own a Bacon and Day #1 from 1922 which I play occasionally when I'm not playing my Ome. Vega Voxs and Paramounts are also popular amoung 4-string players but they don't have the punch that the B and D's or the Omes have.

It is true, however, that since Earl Scruggs, the 5-stringer has overtaken the 4 in popularity but there are still plenty of good 4-string players around today. They don't travel in folk circles.

Most of the traditional five-string players such as the Round Peak style players do fret the fifth string occasionally. This gives them a little more freedom to select the notes that match the fiddler.
When you get into fifth string capoes, then you don't have this flexibility as much unless you tune the banjo to standard open string tunings without the fifth string being capoed.


Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Banjo Chicago Style
From: Art Thieme
Date: 27 May 03 - 07:51 PM

I know what the Chicago banjo style is. And it's my secret. ;-)

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Banjo Chicago Style
From: Leadfingers
Date: 28 May 03 - 03:10 AM

And dont forget the idea that the four string (tenor)banjo was broughtin at the end of the nineteenth century for viola players because string quartets were losing out on gigs due to the popularity of banjo bands.


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Subject: RE: Banjo Chicago Style
From: Frankham
Date: 28 May 03 - 11:05 AM

For complete details about the four-string, five-string etc. check out Karen Lin's book, "That Half-Barbaric Twang", a social history of the banjo in America. A great read.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Banjo Chicago Style
From: GUEST,Lou
Date: 24 Apr 10 - 11:59 AM

I'm a guitar player who just bought a tenor banjo. Chicago style tuning seems like a good option worth trying out. My question is about string gauges. What strings should I put on to tune Chicago style? Banjo strings? Since it's a different scale as far as length I'm assuming guitar strings would be out. I'm in the dark and need some enlightenment. Thanks.


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Subject: RE: Banjo Chicago Style
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 24 Apr 10 - 12:28 PM

Most of the string makers who make banjo sets make tenor banjo sets, though you might have more success finding them by mail order than at your local music shop (unless they're into banjos).

A quick Google on "tenor banjo strings" brings up not only retail results, but some discussion of the gauges wanted for Irish tuning (which apparently is low) versus standard tuning.

Here's some specifics from UltimateBanjo.com, a site that focuses on 4-string banjo:

Q What strings and gauges should I use on a plectrum banjo using guitar-tuning (D-G-B-E) what strings should I use ... Banjo.. Guitar???

You should use banjo strings, not guitar strings.

String gauges are very subjective. It really depends on the your playing and the sound you like to hear.

Personally, I use a little heavier gauge than most players: 26-20 wound -14-12. My banjo partner in the Southtown Strummers uses the same gauges but likes bronze guitar strings for the wound ones. He feels the sound is brighter. One of the best West Coast banjoists around is Dave Marty.   He uses: 24-16-12-11. They're pretty light but they work very well for him.

---

Me, I play 5-string, but I know how to use Google.

~ Becky


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Subject: RE: Banjo Chicago Style
From: GUEST
Date: 19 Mar 12 - 08:53 PM

If you play guitar and want to play New Orleans Dixieland style music, then you'll have trumpets, trombones, clarinets and saxes all wanting to play in Bb and Eb a lot. So if you have a tenor banjo,
then use 5-string banjo strings (using the 5th string as a spare 1st
string) and tune your tenor transposed Chicago style -- F Bb D G,
and then the easiest keys will be Bb and Eb, because Bb is just like
easy key G and Eb is just like easy key C on guitar. All you have to
do if you use charts is to transpose the chords by this table:
Eb=C, E=C#, F=D, F#=Eb, G=E, Ab=F, A=F#, Bb=G, B=Ab, C-A, C#=Bb, D=B

Edwin McCravy


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Subject: RE: Banjo Chicago Style
From: PHJim
Date: 19 Mar 12 - 10:25 PM

Chicago tuning of both banjo and tenor guitar are often used. The late Tommy Tedesco, thought to be the most recorded guitarist used Chicago tuning on both tenor banjo and tenor guitar (and mandolin and bouzouki...)
Nick Reynolds of the Kingston Trio and jazz guitarist Tiny Grimes also tuned their tenor guitars to Chicago tuning.
I prefer Chicago tuning on tenor banjo for jug band tunes, but prefer GDAE or DAEB for Irish fiddle tunes.

Although many folks refer to Eddie Condon as a tenor guitar player, his instrument of choice was the plectrum guitar.


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Subject: RE: Banjo Chicago Style
From: The Sandman
Date: 20 Mar 12 - 07:56 AM

thanks guest but surely you can use cgda strings down a tone b flat f c g, and still play in b flat


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