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Six string banjo , help

Shaneo 16 Jan 07 - 03:37 PM
Wesley S 16 Jan 07 - 04:13 PM
Jack Campin 16 Jan 07 - 04:17 PM
Jim Lad 16 Jan 07 - 05:19 PM
McGrath of Harlow 16 Jan 07 - 05:34 PM
greg stephens 16 Jan 07 - 05:35 PM
GUEST,SouthernCelt 16 Jan 07 - 07:01 PM
Peace 16 Jan 07 - 07:06 PM
erosconpollo 16 Jan 07 - 07:15 PM
BanjoRay 16 Jan 07 - 07:36 PM
reggie miles 16 Jan 07 - 10:00 PM
Songster Bob 16 Jan 07 - 10:53 PM
GUEST,Bruce Michael Baillie 17 Jan 07 - 05:07 AM
Leadfingers 17 Jan 07 - 06:33 AM
Dave Hanson 17 Jan 07 - 08:14 AM
Mooh 17 Jan 07 - 08:58 AM
Wesley S 17 Jan 07 - 01:50 PM
greg stephens 17 Jan 07 - 01:52 PM
Leadfingers 17 Jan 07 - 01:57 PM
JedMarum 17 Jan 07 - 02:01 PM
Songster Bob 17 Jan 07 - 02:04 PM
GUEST,Ancient Briton 17 Jan 07 - 02:36 PM
Mooh 17 Jan 07 - 03:10 PM
McGrath of Harlow 17 Jan 07 - 03:28 PM
Shaneo 17 Jan 07 - 05:05 PM
GUEST,Frank Hamilton 17 Jan 07 - 05:55 PM
Bernard 17 Jan 07 - 06:31 PM
Big Al Whittle 17 Jan 07 - 06:44 PM
Chris in Portland 17 Jan 07 - 10:47 PM
GUEST,Ancient Briton 18 Jan 07 - 05:17 AM
GUEST 22 Sep 07 - 11:00 AM
curmudgeon 22 Sep 07 - 11:18 AM
GUEST,jim 22 Sep 07 - 12:01 PM
Mark H. 22 Sep 07 - 12:10 PM
GUEST,Steve P 13 Apr 09 - 02:48 AM
Seamus Kennedy 13 Apr 09 - 03:01 AM
Mark Ross 13 Apr 09 - 11:47 AM
Sandy Mc Lean 13 Apr 09 - 12:56 PM
dilly daly of Adelaide 27 Nov 09 - 03:26 AM
GUEST,Brian Daniels 27 Nov 09 - 07:21 AM
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Subject: Six string banjo , help
From: Shaneo
Date: 16 Jan 07 - 03:37 PM

The strings on my six string banjo are very loose when tuned and unless I place a capo on forth or fifth frets it sounds dreadful,
The strings are not wound up tight enough but yet it's tuned,
I have tried different strings , even a combination of guitar and banjo strings.
Is there a way to tighten the strings so as they don't buzz without the use of a capo,
If all fails could I change my six string to a five string without too much difficulty.


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Subject: RE: Six string banjo , help
From: Wesley S
Date: 16 Jan 07 - 04:13 PM

I've never played one of those - but is the head of the banjo tight enough?


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Subject: RE: Six string banjo , help
From: Jack Campin
Date: 16 Jan 07 - 04:17 PM

There's a sizable article about them in the newsletter of the British Bluegrass Association last year. The author thought they were much pickier about getting the right tuning than most other stringed instruments and it had taken him a lot of experiments to find one he was happy with.

I doubt if I can find my copy, maybe somebody else out there has it (or maybe wrote it).


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Subject: RE: Six string banjo , help
From: Jim Lad
Date: 16 Jan 07 - 05:19 PM

Like Wesley says's: Check the head. It'll be prone to slackening &tightening due to temperature and humidity. Geographical changes are a nuisance too.


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Subject: RE: Six string banjo , help
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 16 Jan 07 - 05:34 PM

The strings are not wound up tight enough but yet it's tuned

I'd have thought that since a six strings banjo would be tuned the same way as a guitar you'd be using guitar strings anyway.

All the six stringers I've seen have the same sort of string length as a guitar. But if the string length is significantly shorter, you could try tuning it a few semitones higher - I've got a very small guitar with a short neck, and I tune it a full tone higher, so its F# B E A C# F# instead of E A D G B E, and it works well (it doesn't put any undue strain on the guitar, because the strings are at the same tension as with standard tuning, because of the short neck). When playing, it's just a case of playing C shapes when playing in D, and so forth.


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Subject: RE: Six string banjo , help
From: greg stephens
Date: 16 Jan 07 - 05:35 PM

whatever you do, dont change to 5 strings. Just check out Johnny St Cyr's introduction to the Louis Armstrong recording of Gutbucket Blues. Do you want to give up the chance of playing that, for the dubious pleasure of being the twenty millionth person who can play Foggy Mountain Breakdown?
    Some combination of bridge moving, raising or lowering; head tightening; string gauge changing: you should be able to get there. Good luck, a 6-string banjo is a wondrous thing.


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Subject: RE: Six string banjo , help
From: GUEST,SouthernCelt
Date: 16 Jan 07 - 07:01 PM

quote:
There's a sizable article about them in the newsletter of the British Bluegrass Association last year. :unquote

Does the association by any chance have a web site where such an article might be posted? I'd like to read it as well.

Can't say I've ever had the problem originally asked about but I do seem to have more problem keeping the banjo in tune than I do any of my guitars.


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Subject: RE: Six string banjo , help
From: Peace
Date: 16 Jan 07 - 07:06 PM

info@folkofthewood.com

You might try asking there, also.


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Subject: RE: Six string banjo , help
From: erosconpollo
Date: 16 Jan 07 - 07:15 PM

If it's like my Aria 6 string, the problem may be at least partly a rather short scale -- only 24 inches on the one I have. Tuning it high and/or using the lightest guitar strings you can find definitely can help.


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Subject: RE: Six string banjo , help
From: BanjoRay
Date: 16 Jan 07 - 07:36 PM

If your action is very low (ie the strings are very close to the fretboard) it'll lead to buzzing of the strings against the frets. Test the head tension pressing on it, and if there's any slackness then try tightening the head by tightening each nut in order by a quarter of a turn. Check again and repeat if necessary, checking for buzzing each time. Don't over-tighten or you'll frighten the life out of everybody when the head explodes.
If the head's tight and you've still got a buzz - try a higher bridge, possibly obtainable online from Stewart MacDonald.
Ray


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Subject: RE: Six string banjo , help
From: reggie miles
Date: 16 Jan 07 - 10:00 PM

Someone I know made one of these out of a snare drum body and a guitar neck. He had it tuned like a guitar. It didn't look that great and the action did have that loose feel to it but boy howdy was it loud.

I played it along with him while he was leading a song on an old upright piano. This thing could easily compete audibly with his banging on that old piano. That surprised me. I didn't think that something with such sloppy string tension could project so well. It's the head that enabled this Frankenstine to be able to kick out so much sound.

I would have preferred a tighter action, like my acoustic guitar has. I think all of the above ideas for accomplishing better string tension have merit. It's just a matter of tinkering with each of the solutions presented and trying them each individually and/or in combination with one another.

Heavier string gauges will bring a stiffer action but may make fingering more difficult if you're used to lighter strings. Increasing the head tension could help but also will increase bridge height and the action. So, you'll have to shave the bridge lower to maintain string height. Tuning the strings higher will also help but that tension will also bear down with more force on the bridge and head.

I've never seen someone overload a head but I suppose with all of the extra tension anything could happen. Something might give way. It's a balancing act that is best done slowly in measured steps until you achieve the results you want without creating undo forces.

This subject is of interest to me because I wanted to try my hand at creating one of these. Then I started noticing that contemporary makers were producing them and I gave up on the idea. Now I've set my sights on the idea of making a banjo bass using a bass drum and a cello neck.

An even more inventive maker in this area used an automobile fuel tank for a body and welded a piece of exhaust pipe on it for the neck. It sounds, looks, and plays great. Now that's what I call making a silk purse out of a sow's ear.


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Subject: RE: Six string banjo , help
From: Songster Bob
Date: 16 Jan 07 - 10:53 PM

Banjo guitars are odd ducks. I have one with a decent scale length, and the description of your problem seems to be due to the scale length (combined with string gauge). If the scale is short, the strings will be looser and the sound tubby. If the strings are too heavy, the sound will be tubby. If it's a guitar banjo, the sound will be tubby. (Oops! -- actually, most banjo guitars are somewhat tubby sounding, so getting a good bright sound is a little hard.

If the string length is 24" or so, try tuning high a whole tone. If the strings seem too stiff, use lighter gauge and still tune high. If the string length is 25" or so, use lighter strings and tune to standard pitch. As the others have said, be sure to tighten the head well (that 1/4-turn thing is important, since you want to get the brackets all the same around the rim).

And experiment a lot with tension and guage and pitch. Strings are cheap enough to take the time to get the thing right.

Bob Clayton


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Subject: RE: Six string banjo , help
From: GUEST,Bruce Michael Baillie
Date: 17 Jan 07 - 05:07 AM

Years ago when I was very young I fancied the idea of having a six string banjo, then I tried one in a shop, it sounded bloody awful...thankfully I've avoided them since...I think you should!


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Subject: RE: Six string banjo , help
From: Leadfingers
Date: 17 Jan 07 - 06:33 AM

Tightening the head should be done with great care to avoid splitting the skin ! Best way seems to be to start at the neck , do a quarter turn , then go across to the OTHER side of the tailpiece . Back to the OTHER side of the neck and then the other side of the tailpiece . carry on round the head so that the the tension is increased evenly round the head .


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Subject: RE: Six string banjo , help
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 17 Jan 07 - 08:14 AM

Get a plastic head.

eric


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Subject: RE: Six string banjo , help
From: Mooh
Date: 17 Jan 07 - 08:58 AM

The best one I've played was a Deering, and it was superb, but there is a balancing act between string tension, head tension, bridge height, and intonation. A good tuner helps, but take it to a pro for a good set-up.

The Deering 12 string guit-jo is the next thing you need!

Peace, Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Six string banjo , help
From: Wesley S
Date: 17 Jan 07 - 01:50 PM

By the way - a band called "Old Crow Medicine Show" has two banjo players - one on a 6 string and another one on a conventional 5 string. Plus guitar, fiddle and upright bass.


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Subject: RE: Six string banjo , help
From: greg stephens
Date: 17 Jan 07 - 01:52 PM

Bit of thread drift, but I've seen a very fine old fretless 7 string once(property of Alexis Korner). Any others of these knocking about?


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Subject: RE: Six string banjo , help
From: Leadfingers
Date: 17 Jan 07 - 01:57 PM

Greg - My old seven string (Temlett) is fretted - Circa 1900


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Subject: RE: Six string banjo , help
From: JedMarum
Date: 17 Jan 07 - 02:01 PM

Definately sounds like a problem with the tension of the head.


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Subject: RE: Six string banjo , help
From: Songster Bob
Date: 17 Jan 07 - 02:04 PM

As for how they sound, yes, they tend to the tubby end of the spectrum, and only really nice ones sound at all good. Uncle Dave Macon made some recordings where Sam McGhee accompanied him on a Gibson Mastertone guitar-banjo, and those recordings are superb. I've played a Deering that was excellent, and a couple of Vegas that were passable (though not up to the Gibson or Deering). My Goldtone is pretty tubby, but they make a better model that (reportedly) isn't so bad. I've seen some inexpensive imported ones that were nearly unsalvageable.

As for fretless banjos with 5, 6, or 7 strings, those are harder than ever to find, owing to renewed interest in Minstrel banjos. I have a nice reproduction of an 1850s fretless, and would love to get a real one, but don't have upwards of $800 to spend on one. Used to be you could get those for $300-500 and have a good instrument, but demand is up and the supply is fixed (less'n you have a time machine, in which case you don't need Mudcat to hear whatever music you want to hear, eh?).

But those multi-string fretless banjos are "regular" banjos, with a thumb string, not guitar-banjos. Different issues, including what constitutes a "good" sound.

Bob Clayton


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Subject: RE: Six string banjo , help
From: GUEST,Ancient Briton
Date: 17 Jan 07 - 02:36 PM

Deering's B6 is indeed awesome and probably the most guitar-like of the current crop of guitar banjos.

Eastern models such as Tanglewood's TBLX6 or the equivalent Ozarks, Antorias and so on, have short scales in the region of 23" (though Dean's model is an exception). Strung as shipped, they usually sound poor. Fitted with heavy strings (13-56) they work better and can sound great for fingerstyle ragtime and such in the right hands.

If you're a guitarist with no knowledge of banjos, go to a professional for setup unless you've got the rest of your life to spare working it out for yourself. 5 strings, tenors and plectrum banjos are tricky enough to set up properly. 6 string banjo setups are the trickiest of all.

AB


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Subject: RE: Six string banjo , help
From: Mooh
Date: 17 Jan 07 - 03:10 PM

Gold Tone makes several and various "Banjitars", and if my tenor banjo is any indication, they're probably pretty good bang for the buck. The website (www.goldtone.com) has sound samples too.

Peace, Mooh.


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Subject: RE: Six string banjo , help
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 17 Jan 07 - 03:28 PM

If you're worried about the strings pushing down the skin too much, or even breaking it, if you tune up higher, you could try putting a supporting post under the bridge.


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Subject: RE: Six string banjo , help
From: Shaneo
Date: 17 Jan 07 - 05:05 PM

I will try all of your suggestions and let you know , I'm a guitar player mostly and play a bit of four string banjo,
I bought the six string to add a different sound to the sessions and it sound great with a capo half way up ,
But with the capo on forth or fifth fret you become limited with the chords as you find yourself having to learn the songs in other keys[transpose]
The great thing about the six string is that your not really learning a different instrument from scratch because you already know how to play it before you even get it because it's played just like the guitar.


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Subject: RE: Six string banjo , help
From: GUEST,Frank Hamilton
Date: 17 Jan 07 - 05:55 PM

Here's the problem with the 6-string banjo. The type of music you can play on it is limited. Some of the earlier models are great for ragtime fingerpicking. The best I've ever played is an old Gibson trap-door model which put out great sound. Usually, the banjo makers make a banjo sound but don't know the idiosyncracies of the guitar-banjo. Johnny St. Cyr and Clancy Hayes played New Orleans jazz on them successfully. I have heard some banjo/guitars used in dixieland ensembles. Generally, though the range of the instrument is not conducive to that style as much as the tenor banjo. The Elmer Snowden "dropped" tenor tuning like the Irish banjo works well in dixie bands. Johnny St. Cyr on the famous recording of "Heebie Jeebies" with Louis Armstrong seemed to get a good bass response as well as a blend with Lil Hardin's piano. I think you would need a guitar/banjo that had a fairly large pot with heavier strings to emulate that sound. The other approach suggested above is to use the short scale neck to accomodate thinner strings which would sound more like a banjo. The advantages of playing in a jazz band would be that you could get some guitar jazz chord voicings that you wouldn't be able to with a standard tenor or plectrum four string banjo. The disadvantages would be that because of the range of the instrument it might be in the way of the piano or trombone. It would have to be carefully tailored to the type of music that you want to play with it. I have had my hands on a Bacon and Day guitar/banjo but I found it not as good as my Bacon and Day Tenor which spoke out better.

If I owned it, here's what I'd do. Have it set up to emulate either a banjo or guitar sound.
The first way, thin strings tuned higher that could be played so that the chords would be clear and not muddy. The second way, make it as loud as you can in the bass so that when the bass note runs are done ala St. Cyr, they would penetrate in a band. The latter would be more like the function of a loud guitar. As for a solo instrument, the ragtime approach could be cultivated by setting a good balance with the strings and cutting down on the "ring" of the instrument so that each note would be more percussive.

Django Reinhardt started on this instrument although I know of no recordings ever made of his playing it. One of the characteristic Django styles is in the use of the chord tremelo employed in his Selmer Modele (Maccaferri-based) guitar. That's a holdover from his 6-string banjo playing.

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Six string banjo , help
From: Bernard
Date: 17 Jan 07 - 06:31 PM

I've always found the best way to tackle banjo head tensioners is to go round them all in turn with an appropriate head key and check that none are either loose, or less tight than the others.

Once you're sure they are all at the same tension, go round either clockwise or anticlockwise giving each one an eighth of a turn until you're back at the place you started - as suggested above, the neck is as good a starting place as any.

If that isn't enough tension, repeat until you're happy.

The bridge will always deflect the head to some extent, so don't try to correct that.

If the head is real skin, take care as it may split, but a plastic head is virtually indestructible!

A plastic head should not split away from a metal hoop... but don't attempt to get much tension out of a cheap head with a plastic hoop - they are bad news!


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Subject: RE: Six string banjo , help
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 17 Jan 07 - 06:44 PM

You could always try the banjo sound on the variax.


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Subject: RE: Six string banjo , help
From: Chris in Portland
Date: 17 Jan 07 - 10:47 PM

Frank or others, very interesting - do you know of any current 6-string banjo players who play with finger-picks. Old Crow was on New Year's Eve with PHC and I think the fellow as using a regular pick. I finger pick guitar and have wondered if doing that with a 6-string banjo would be good for jams or a small group, since there are usually more guitars than needed.
If finger picking would be recommended, would the Deering be the best bet?
Thanks, Chris in Portland
p.s Frank, I used to hear Clancy playing with Bob Scobey in Chicago in the late 50's - he played in a club down Rush Street from the ("new") Gate of Horn - both places had a special section for minors -great music at both!!


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Subject: RE: Six string banjo , help
From: GUEST,Ancient Briton
Date: 18 Jan 07 - 05:17 AM

Frank:

I've got a vinyl track of Reinhardt playing the banjo - its about 1927 and is a sort of Frenchified ragtime band piece, with vocal as I recall (the record's currently out on loan). All the ususal Django stuff but on vellum rather than spruce. It's on a double album called "tous les cordes de Django Reinhardt".

Chris:

the Deering is the best sounding and most stable of the guitar banjos I've worked on, but of course it's also relatively expensive.

AB


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Subject: RE: Six string banjo , help
From: GUEST
Date: 22 Sep 07 - 11:00 AM

just tune it up an octave


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Subject: RE: Six string banjo , help
From: curmudgeon
Date: 22 Sep 07 - 11:18 AM

On the other hand, Harvey Reid demonstrates the versatility of the six string banjo on this    recording
- Tom


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Subject: RE: Six string banjo , help
From: GUEST,jim
Date: 22 Sep 07 - 12:01 PM

I didn't read this entire thread, so someone may have suggested it already, but you should post this question on www.banjohangout.org/. I'm sure someone there could help.


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Subject: RE: Six string banjo , help
From: Mark H.
Date: 22 Sep 07 - 12:10 PM

Posted by Greg Stephens:
"Whatever you do, dont change to 5 strings. Just check out Johnny St Cyr's introduction to the Louis Armstrong recording of Gutbucket Blues. Do you want to give up the chance of playing that, for the dubious pleasure of being the twenty millionth person who can play Foggy Mountain Breakdown?"

Amen to that. Well said.


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Subject: RE: Six string banjo , help
From: GUEST,Steve P
Date: 13 Apr 09 - 02:48 AM

Just a note, Neil Young plays on a 6-string banjo on songs like Old King or Boxcar. I know Old Man is a 5, but I've seen Neil get down on his 6-string in a few youtube videos. If it's good enough for Neil, its more than good enough for me. I just picked up a Dean, and aside from having to fix my bridge piece (the low E kept popping out) i love it. however, any advice for playing it? Finger picking sounds decent, but using a guitar pick just sounds kinda awful


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Subject: RE: Six string banjo , help
From: Seamus Kennedy
Date: 13 Apr 09 - 03:01 AM

I use medium gauge bronze-wound strings on mine; I tune it to concert pitch; the head is nice and tight. No problems. It sounds like a banjo, not a guitar. I do a little simple finger-roll without picks for some songs, and flat picks for others.


Seamus


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Subject: RE: Six string banjo , help
From: Mark Ross
Date: 13 Apr 09 - 11:47 AM

Rev. Gary Davis used finger picks when he played a 6 string banjo.
So did Sam McGhee.

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: Six string banjo , help
From: Sandy Mc Lean
Date: 13 Apr 09 - 12:56 PM

Some have an adjustable tailpiece that puts more downforce on the bridge. If the head is tight and the action high enough this may be the problem. I use light electric strings on mine. They seem to have less thud on the bass strings and better sustain.


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Subject: RE: Six string banjo , help
From: dilly daly of Adelaide
Date: 27 Nov 09 - 03:26 AM

I've fot a Martinez 6 string benjo bought here in Australia.The music shop suggested it would be easier to play as i play the guitar.First it is so good to see a sight where people know so much about this type of instrument.I couldn't find any help at all within Australia.It is not at all like a guitar and when tuned to EADGBE nothing i do with it sounds familiar.Is it best to finger pick only ?
I'll try the different tunings above and look for thinner strings.If i try open g tuning for example and want to play "the cuckoo" what do i have to do to the usual guitar chords for this song ?
             thamks, dilly


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Subject: RE: Six string banjo , help
From: GUEST,Brian Daniels
Date: 27 Nov 09 - 07:21 AM

>The music shop suggested it would be easier to play as i play the >guitar.

In theory yes because you just take what you do on the guitar and play it on the banjo. If you are looking for a guitar with a banjo like sound it's all you need. But it sounds to me like you wanted to make sounds more associated with the banjo. I play 5 string banjo and guitar, played the guitar first, and found the banjo not terribly difficult to learn on a basic level. The real danger and I must warn you in the strongest possible terms, is that the banjo is oddly addictive. Most progress beyond the basics quickly as a result of this and banjo obsession is a hard disease to cure. You might find yourself forgetting about the guitar for a while. Ultimately the banjo made me a better guitar player.



>If i try open g tuning for example and want to play "the cuckoo" what >do i have to do to the usual guitar chords for this song ?

I don't know that any of the chord voicings will sound entirely familiar but they are not hard to learn. Start with barre chords. You also have some traids on the d-g-b strings that are the same as standard guitar tuning.


Everyones motivation is different. If yours was to learn something entirely different I would treat the banjo (even the six string) as a completely distinct instrument. If you want a guitar that sounds like a banjo then you need a good setup on yours. You absolutely should be able to tune to standard pitch. I've played a Dean and a Rover brand six stringer on a few occasions. These are el-cheapo aluminum pot instruments and while they didn't sound great, they were both very playable in standard guitar tuning. So there's hope there as well. If you were thinking of the five string sound then you really need a five stringer speaking entirely in terms of the drone string and not as a swipe at six string banjos.


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