Friday, August 23, 2013

Why Tenor Banjo?

Ten reasons why you might want to consider playing the tenor banjo.

#1 - Banjo sound
It is a banjo after all!  It exudes that banjo sound that we all love.

#2 - Versatility
The tenor banjo is most prominently used in Irish traditional music and early jazz, but is also found in Klezmer music, Jamaican Mento, Scandinavian music, pre-WWII American stringbands, jugbands and more.

#3 - One octave lower than a mandolin/fiddle.
The way I tune it is, at least - GDAE.  This means that mandolin music and/or fiddle tunes fit well under the fingers.

#4 - Tuned in 5ths
The tuning in intervals of 5ths is a very intuitive, symmetrical tuning.  Patterns are easily recognizable and repeatable.  None of those pesky 4th, 3rd and back to 4th intervals like on a ukulele.

#5 - You use a pick
 You get to use a guitar pick to pluck the strings, not something as unnatural as a bow or as blistering as your own skin, or picks on the ends of your fingers like a bluegrass banjo player.

#6 - It's got 4 strings
Yeah, a guitar has six strings. But you've only got 4 fingers.  Something doesn't add up there.  4-strings equals one finger per string.  Makes sense.

#7 - Scale Length
The shorter scale banjo mandolin is too shrill and unplayable.  The longer scale plectrum banjo is too much of a stretch.  The tenor banjo is just right!

#8 - You don't have to re-tune for each key
Wanna play a tune in D while we're in the key of A?  You won't hear any complaints from a tenor banjo player.  He/she is ready for any key, even Bb!

#9 - Melody  maker
The tenor banjo makes playing melodies a breeze.  Are you able to hum or whistle a nursery rhyme?  Then you can easily pick out the melody on tenor banjo.  It's got rhythm too, just ask any Dixieland banjo player.

#10 - Obscurity
You won't be just another guitar player or fiddler.  You're free to play whatever you want, however you want.  And when people assume that your banjo has five strings and tell you that they love bluegrass, or say that they understand that banjo is one of the hardest instruments, you can confuse or regale them by saying that your banjo only has 4 strings and it's actually more like playing mandolin than the banjo they are thinking of.

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