Tenor banjo is the term most people use, but I'm confused about where the name tenor was derived from. Some think tenor is a mispronunciation of the word tango. But, tenor would seem to apply to the CGDA tuning and its relative pitch to baritone and alto. When you re-tune to the lower GDAE, as I do, doesn't it make the range too low to be called tenor? By the same logic would you then call it a baritone banjo?
People often tell me that I play Irish tenor banjo. However, I believe that phrase conveys a genre and playing style that I don't exactly adhere to. While I certainly enjoy playing Irish jigs, reels and hornpipes, I play at least as many or more tunes from the old-time/Southern Appalachian repertoire. Does that mean I also play old-time tenor banjo? Also, the Irish tenor banjo playing style, which employs many triplets and other uniquely Celtic ornaments, is not a style I have adopted or necessarily aspire to mimic. Two reasons why Irish tenor banjo might be a misnomer.
You'd think plectrum banjo would work. I do use a pick. However the name plectrum banjo has already been taken by an instrument with a longer scale and different tuning! I suppose 4-string banjo fits, but it sounds rather nondescript to me.
Hence the words octave banjolin! I use the mandolin tuning, one octave lower. Unless banjolin can only apply to an 8-string instrument? I don't think it has to as evidenced by two vintage ads I found. The first is from around 1885 and the 2nd is from around 1907.
|Farris Instruments banjo ad, circa 1885|
|Schall banjo ad, circa 1907|