Welcome to the Tenor Banjo Lovers Group~

  1. Barbara Shultz
    Barbara Shultz
    My name is Barbara & I've been playing Tenor Banjo for about a year an a half. One of my band mates plays the 5 string banjo, and on a whim, I picked it up one day. Knowing I'd probably never master that monster.... I looked into Tenor Banjos. My first one was a no-name banjo (since determined to have probably been from Sears), which I found on a Craigslist in KS, and I was going to be driving through Kansas, so I stopped and bought it. Strung it up in Irish Tuning with individual strings I got at a Guitar Center, and was amazed at how fun it was to play! Since MAS has a companion syndrom, BAS... I then started looking for a 'better' tenor. I found a Slingerland May Bell Style B, and I LOVE it!

    I've found that playing instruments in the same tuning, but with different scales (mando, OM & tenor banjo) has improved my ability on ALL instruments!

    OK... 'fess up now..... some of you Tenor Banjo Lovers!

  2. Mike Snyder
    Mike Snyder
    Barbara, I've been playing a 17 fret for a couple of years. It's a frankenbanjo cobbled together by an old man long ago. I'm getting my head (mine, not the banjos) ready to take it apart and put a dowelstick in it. I'm tuning CGDA and the A doesn't feel like it'll take the tension up to E. I'd like to tune GDAE. My C string is too floppy to be of much use. Given all these problems, it's still a ball to play with the old-time and dulcimer crowd. Are you playing melodic? 17" or 19" ? I'm full of questions. I can't seem to find string sets with a bass string large enough. Using a .036 right now. What about Winfield? The old-time jams are fantastic. I'm tending to ramble, so, here's to lots of four stringers with lots of answers joining up. Thanks for getting it started.
  3. Barbara Shultz
    Barbara Shultz
    I was beginning to wonder if ANY TB lovers were going to join!

    My TB's are both 19 frets. I've got the both tuned GDAE. I'm not sure with the Maybell which strings I used.... I can look in the book my friend and bandmate keeps, with all our instrument string changes noted in it.

    Um... I'm thinking that the Irish tuning is LOWER than the regular TB tuning of CGDA; I think you need different gauge strings. Here's a link: http://www.irish-banjo.com/instrumen....html#standard

    I've never been to Winfield, but am tempted to go, at least to some of the days leading up to it. Sounds like a blast!

  4. Mike Snyder
    Mike Snyder
    Thanks for the link. I may grit my teeth and try to go up to GDAE. Everything works in CGDA, it's just floppy on the base string. You'd enjoy Winfield, but they charge full amount for early campers. That's full festival fees plus camping. I sometimes leave a day early, but I go about a week early.
    Best jams ever. Midnight fiddle jams EVERY nite. Comedy jams, chick pick, jazz jams, gypsy jams, songwriters contest. I gush, but it's great.
  5. Barbara Shultz
    Barbara Shultz
    Do you know what gauges are on there now? Looking at a set of D'Addario Irish Banjo Strings, J631, they are .012, .016, .024 & .036.

    When I bought my first TB, I was on the road, & just went to a Guitar Center, & bought single strings. I think I'd read this:
    that says.010, .020, .030, and .040 was a good starting point. I've still got the wrappers in my case! They were Ernie Ball Custom Gauge Electric or Acoustic Guitar strings 12 & 18P, & Ernie Ball Nickle wound Electric Guitar string 30 & 40. They are ball end, which happened to work with the tailpiece that banjo has. They work just fine on my 19 fret TB.

    The goal with the irish tuning on the TB is to be one octave lower than the mandolin. The TB in standard tuning is lower than the mando tuning, but if you tune UP, then you will be going to the mando tuning. Maybe your TB is strung up and tuned CGDA BELOW the GDAE that is one octave below a mando?
  6. Mike Snyder
    Mike Snyder
    Yes, it's below. That D'Addario set is what I have on now. I'll order another set, and when they arrive, I'll tear it down and drill the neck for a dowelstick. It'll be more likely to take more string tension than how it is now. I'm kinda tiptoeing around admitting that I'd like to move up to a nicer banjo. I kick myself 'cause when I bought it the guy had a Gibson trap-door tenor that he wanted a rediculously low price for. Of course, at the time, I didn't know squat about banjos and didn't have the money anyway. Deering had a tenor in the booth at Winfield last year and I was lukewarm to it. Something vintage would be nice, but I need to stay 17 fret. I can do most of the fiddle tunes on mine that I do on mando, at resonable speeds mind you, but any more reach would NOT be good. Thanks for the link. After I work it over, this old clunker may just be my keeper.
    I enjoy this duet with you, Barbara. Lets hope it goes trio, or quartet, mebbe ensemble.
  7. Barbara Shultz
    Barbara Shultz
    I would recommend that you at least try out a 19 fret banjo. I am able to play melody on it with no problem. The mando is my first instrument, but I also have branched out to an OM with a 22.5" scale that I play melody on. I have average sized hands.... playing melody on the larger scale instruments has actually improved my playing on the mando!

  8. Rick C.
    Rick C.
    Hello the camp!

    With the demise of my box playing due to joint problems, I'll be playing TB more. I've been a casual TB player over the years and have owned a few, most recently a Ludwig Kingston that I sold several months ago. I just ordered a Gold Tone IT-250R, asking them to file the nut out to fit up to a .o46 on the low G. Seems the last 17 fret I had ended up using a .044, and and that's what I used on the Ludwig though it was tuned down a step and capo'd up two. We'll see how the Gold Tone does, I've played some that were very good instruments, and their narrow necks suit me.
  9. Mike Snyder
    Mike Snyder
    Welcome Rick. I believe that I'm going to order a set of octave mandolin strings when I get ready to re-set my tenor. They're good and stout, like you're talking. Let us know how the Gold Tone does. That particular banjo is one I've been eyeballing as a step up from my basket case. If I can figger whether phospho-bronze or whatever is best, I'll get two sets of banjar strings in one package!
  10. Rick C.
    Rick C.
    Hey Mike (any relation to the Mike Snyder I've seen on the Opry many times?), what I ended up doing with the last banjo is getting the set of GHS Celtic Tenor Banjo strings (which are thicker gauges than the D'Addario set) and just replacing the low G with a phosphor bronze guitar string. Seemed to work out OK, but that may or may not work with the Gold Tone.

    Going back to what Barbara mentioned, I found a set of electric guitar strings that had just the guages I needed-- GHS Boomers at Walmart, of all places. They didn't work out that well though. Even though they were the same gauge as what I had been using they responded differently and didn't sound all that great. But hey, for 4 bucks it was worth a shot.
  11. zookster
    I've gone through a number of tenor banjos over the years, after finding an el cheapo with mots headstock and inlays in the 70s. I wanted to sound like Charlie Piggott in De Dannan. It was a 19 fret, 23 1/4". Never sounded too good (er....I mean the banjo). The rest of the band kidded me it was just a "big mandolin", which if you tune it like the Irish, I suppose it is.

    That led me to discover a group of 17 fret, open back models. I found an Orpheum #3 Special and played that for a number of years. Not so sure I should have sold it.......but now I wanted to sound like Gerry O'Connor or Cathal Hayden. Saw Hayden play a Paramount live. That was it! I purchased a Style C . Love the skinny neck, and since I already play a bouzouki with a longer scale (24 3/4") the reach doesn't bother me. Great tone. Still don't sound like the big boys, but this time I don't think it's the banjo!

    Tenors are certainly underappreciated -- even if they are only big mandolins. .
  12. Mike Snyder
    Mike Snyder
    Rick, Mike Snider is one of my favorite string band musicians, but, I still have all my hair, I'm not famous, and I don't have a wife named Sweety. I met him once in Eureka Springs Arkansas, and you shoulda seen his face when I introduced myself. A real nice guy, no star quality BS. Haven't heard alot from him lately.
    zookster, two lists impressed me; your ex banjos and your tenor heros. I might pm you if I ever am looking for a vintage banjo. You seem to know where to find them.
  13. Jill McAuley
    Jill McAuley
    Hi all,
    I've been playing the tenor banjo since July '07 and play Irish trad stuff. I started out on a 17 fret "Grafton" ordered from AndyBanjo in England. Within a month I'd wandered into Tom Cussen's wonderful shop, Clareen Banjos, just outside of Galway, and put money down on a 17 fret Stromberg open back tenor (circa 1920 ish) Initially I was learning with the help of the Gerry O'Connor tutor, and had the benefit of 20+years playing the guitar behind me, but I really noticed a shift in my learning curve when I started taking lessons with Angelina Carberry, who handily lived only 40 minutes away from me. I moved to the States in May '08 and apartment living has severely cramped my banjo playing (which fueled my pursuit of the mandolin so every cloud has a silver lining!) but I did recently get a "Mike's Mute" banjo mute which really reduces the volume.
  14. Rick C.
    Rick C.
    Jill, I almost took Angelina's class at Augusta last summer but opted for fiddle instead. The fiddle class was great but I'll never be much of a fiddler, I'm afraid!

    Mike, I get up to the Opry about once a year since Nashville's 3 hours from my house, and have seen Mike Snider every time I've been. The last two times he was playing mandolin, though. I bet that WAS funny when you introduced yourself!
  15. BBarton
    Well, since there are others out there, I'd better join. I've played mando for many years but started to play in sessions and decided to take up the tenor banjo for Irish music a couple of years ago. 'I'm on the learning curve but having a ball with it!! 'Got a Gold Tone IT-250F (unlike the regular IT-250, this has the arched tone ring) first, and more recently an old Vega style M tub-a-phone, both 17 fret. I have to say that I think, for the price, the Gold Tone is a very good value and I use it most of the time -- 'easy to play, 'sounds good. I've been using Newtone phosphor bronze IT custom strings: .012, .018, .028, and .038 -- good strings, but I substituted a Newtone .041 p/b mandolin string for the G. I'd recommend the Newtone custom set with those gauges if you can get them (check their website, they'll make up sets) -- available in Canada and the UK (where they're made), but I'm not sure about the US.
  16. zookster
    Some of you might want to check out the Irish tenor player Eamonn Coyne. He's got two interesting recordings out: "Through the Round Window" his first release, and a great duo effort with tenor guitar player Kris Drever entitled "Honk Toot Suite". Very tastefully done.

    John Carty, who now tours with Patrick Street, is a pretty good player when he's not on the fiddle.
    He has one solo release on Shanachie.

    I also mentioned Cathal Hayden. He is a MONSTER talent on banjo. He also has one self-titled release. Plays some pretty mean fiddle as well (darn those guys.......)

    Anybody else have some favorites to pass along? Haven't seen any mention of Mick Moloney.
  17. zookster
    ....not to mention Kieran Hanrahan of Stockton's Wing fame......
  18. mikeyes
    Mick Moloney was the banjo teacher at the O'Flaherty Retreat (http://www.oflahertyretreat.org/) last year and Enda Scahill will be the teacher this year. Ken Fleming, who runs the Retreat is also a great tenor banjo player.

    Here is Mick at last year's Retreat, playing my banjo as his was being fixed due to poor handling at the airport.

  19. Jill McAuley
    Jill McAuley
    Some of my favourites: Angelina Carberry, John Carty, Enda Scahill, Kieran Hanrahan, Mick Moloney, Brian McGrath, Marcus Moloney, Cathal Hayden, David McNevin, Damian O'Kane.

    Zookster, does John Carty not have a number of solo releases out? Four last time I counted, though only one of those is banjo specific, I Will if I Can. His other banjo CD The Cat That Ate the Candle (with Brian McGrath) is also the business. I think John Carty is one of the best banjo players out there.
  20. Barbara Shultz
    Barbara Shultz
    I'm pretty much a newcomer to the TB, so my knowledge of the great players' names, and my collection of TB music, is limited.

    That was an awesome video of Mick. One thing that was great, was that you could actually see his technique, his posture, his right and left hands.

    So, was it my imagination, or was he picking this tune almost all downstrokes? I'm not familiar with the tune, but it was a lovely one worth learning. Was he playing it slower than normal, or is that the correct tempo of that tune (is it O'Carolan?)

    I love the tenor banjo, and hope to expand my horizons and my music collection!
  21. mikeyes
    He played the tune with almost all down strokes. He was teaching how to play slow tunes on the banjo. It is an O'Carolan tune and you can find it on several of Mick's albums. More at http://www.banjosessions.com/feb09/Keyes.html

    BTW, John Carty taught us to do the same thing with slow tunes several years ago.
  22. zookster
    Jill -- yes, John Carty has 4 releases out, one entirely for banjo. Thanks for tipping me off to that. I just ordered a copy.

    Has anyone heard that Barney McKenna was originally offered a job with the Cheiftains and opted for the Dubliners? I'd like to verify this.
  23. BBarton
    You will like John Carty's "I Will If I Can" (2005) -- nice simple accompaniment including Alec Finn and Johnny McDonagh as well as Brian McGrath. There's also some really nice tenor guitar playing on that CD.
  24. Ken Olmstead
    Ken Olmstead
    Hello, my name is Ken and I play tenor banjo. I have played on and off for too many years. I play the 20's showboat style stuff as opposed to Irish. My inspirations are Harry Reser, Eddy Peabody, Perry Bechtel, Buddy Wachter and a bunch of other amazing players. Thanks Barbara for starting a group for the "underdogs!"
  25. Dave Ashby
    Dave Ashby
    Hi, I'm Dave and I'm new to the forum. I've been playing mandolin (badly) for a few years - but I'm getting better. A couple months ago I picked up an old Supertone 17-fret tenor banjo with the intent of using Irish tuning. In the process of trying to put a new head on it, I ended up completely rebuilding the banjo. The neck was straight but the dowel was installed incorrectly way back when at whatever factory it was made in. I now have an "up close and personal" relationship with this banjo. I still want me a Gold Tone Irish, though.
  26. Dave Ashby
    Dave Ashby
    Hellooooooo out there! Anybody home? I just got a Gold Tone Cripple Creek Irish tenor off Ebay. I'm having to de-stinkify the cigarette smell but other than that, it's a great little banjo in excellent condition. I put a set of D'Addario J631 Irish banjo strings on it and found them to entirely suck with a dry, papery low end and the G string rolling off the edge of the fingerboard. I went to GHS bronze guitar strings and used a .44(W) for the low G, .30(W) for the D, .20(W) for the A and left the .12(P) from the D'Addario set for the E. The bridge reset for intonation was easy and I'm watching the neck for any tendency to bow.
    This setup gives me a sturdy lower end punch and a good midrange clang for rhythm. I don't know if the oldtimers from the 20's can take this heavy of a setup, but this one works for me.
  27. Jill McAuley
    Jill McAuley
    Hi Dave,
    Congratulations on your new banjo! I have a 1920 Stromberg short scale tenor and use similar string gauges to yourself except for a .40(W) for the G - don't have any problems with the neck, though I must say I don't think I'd be brave enough to go up to .44! The gauges you list are good ones for short scale banjos (which is what I'm assuming yours is if you're referring to it as an "irish" tenor) D'Addario's Irish banjo strings are far too floppy for my liking.
  28. Dave Ashby
    Dave Ashby
    Hi Jill,

    Yes, it"s a 17-fret. I might cut back to a .42 for the low G but right now there are no problems. I've been playing mandolin for a while and I like the steadier feel of a heavier string. I tend to bang on the G and D strings when doing the accompaniment on "The Galway Girl" and I want strings that will hold up.


    Breedlove Quartz OF mandolin (Rachel Alexandra)
    Gold Tone CC Irish Tenor (Roxanne)

    "Talking about music is like dancing about architecture." - Steve Martin
  29. chordwood
    Hello TB people,

    I have just recently begun learning to play my 'new' 1969 Vega Wonder, a 19 fret banjo tuned EADG. I use Newtone Irish TB strings looped ends (.012, .018w, .028w, .038w). I have played mando for about 3 years. mostly Celtic, and mandola, as well. The TB is sort of a big mandolin to me, with some differences in string tension, sound etc. However, I note that lessons learned on mando and TB reinforce each other very well. I am working through Endo Scahill's book and listening to vids and CDs by Celtic TB gods.

  30. David Casal
    David Casal
    hi everybody

    i have a 5 string banjo, the 5th string its never tuned. i was thinking in sell this one and buy a tenor (that was i was looking for in the beginning, but is not easy to find that in the place i live), but
    could i eliminate the 5th string and tune the rest like a tenor? is a solution? or the body is too diferent?
  31. Dave Ashby
    Dave Ashby
    No, David, the body is OK but your 5 string neck is too long. Sell the 5 string and get a Gold Tone Irish tenor (around $400.00) or a Deering Good Time Irish tenor (around $500.00).
  32. Jill McAuley
    Jill McAuley
    David, you don't have to get an "irish tenor" - most of the tenor banjo players back home play 19 fret tenors vs. the short scale 17 fret tenors, referred to as "irish tenors" in the States. I prefer the 17 fret ones meself but either of them will do a fine job for you. Not trying to disagree with Dave, just highlighting that if you're searching for a tenor banjo the scope of your search can be much wider than just looking for "irish tenors".
  33. David Casal
    David Casal
    thank you Dave and Jill

    i found a Gold tone dealer in Madrid but not a Deering one and buy in the States or England put the prices too high because of the shipment and the taxes , probably when i finaly sell and old Vespa to a friend who asked for it i would upgrade
    thank you again

    im looking for the sound like Blood or Whiskey, for the band i play with, they are from Dublin, and years ago came to Vigo, that was a very jumping show.
    thank you too
  34. Jock
    Hi all nice to see a tenor banjo social group here in the cafe.

    I've got a Dave Boyle 17 fret 21 3/16ths which I bought earlier this year from him in Dublin. Prior to this instrument I had a couple of different 19 3/4 Gold Tones. I've been playing tenor banjo around 5 years and string this instrument as advised by Dave 12 18 wound (or 19 plain) 28 38. I've settled on Newtone PH Bronze which I buy direct.

    I came to the banjo from picking tunes on guitar which I've played on and off since I was a kid. Tunes on guitar I found limiting in sessions and apart from playing the odd tune when circumstances allowed my guitar playing was/is manly trad accompaniment (which I love).

    I've had a mandolin for 20 years but have only really started taking it seriously when I started traveling for work last year and couldn't take the banjo. I bought a new mandolin from TAMCO this year also. It was when researching mandolins I came across this fine virtual establishment.
  35. Jill McAuley
    Jill McAuley
    Nice one on the Dave Boyle tenor! I played a used one that was for sale at Custy's in Ennis and it was the business.
  36. Jock
    Thanks Jill, I have to say I'm really happy with it.

    The quest for a banjo has been a real mission for me here in Scotland. There are several DB banjos in use in my wider circle so I kind on knew that they more than fitted the bill, but were reputedly difficult to get a hold of or involved a long wait, imagine my surprise when I called him on the off chance only to have Dave tell me that he had a couple ready and available.

    If things hadn't worked out with an instrument from Dave, Tom's shop was going to be the next port of call, on Dave's recommendation.
  37. bevb
    Oakwood Instruments, in Leeds, England are my choice for tenors. Nice helpful people and amazing instruments for less price than a USA instrument. Check out their website.
  38. mikeyes

    "amazing instruments for less price than a USA instrument" Are you sure about that? I agree they are very nice instruments - I played AC's (a custom instrument with a mastertone ring and not offered as a regular banjo) but when I priced the best tenor banjo on the web site it was over $3200. For that kind of money you can buy two or three vintage Vegas or Paramounts or a very nice Deering or Ome over here.

    I am assuming that you are referring to prices in Europe which are ridiculous for American instruments. You are better off flying to NYC or Chicago, staying for a week and sessioning, and flying back with a newly bought instrument. It would probably be cheaper.

    Mike Keyes
  39. bevb
    Yes, you're probably right re USA vs UK prices, I didn't think of that !
  40. fingersbill
    I have been playing tenor banjo about a year and love it. I have also learned to use my little finger on the mandolin which has improved my playing. I started on a no name and bought a Gold Tone Cripplecreek Irish Tenor.
  41. Eddie Sheehy
    My name is Eddie and I've come out of the closet.... I'm a banjoholic! I've just a got a 1924 Bacon 17-fret banjo. I believe that Mike Keyes had it it a while ago. I'll give it a lash...
  42. Jill McAuley
    Jill McAuley
    Ah, well done Eddie! I'm looking forward to seeing some clips of you playing that one!
  43. mikeyes

    Is it the Bacon B? If so, I know where you can get a resonator for it. It is a pretty good banjo.

    Mike Keyes
  44. Eddie Sheehy
    Yes, it is the Bacon B. I'd be interested in a resonator for it.
  45. Barbara Shultz
    Barbara Shultz
    woo hoo Eddie! Fancy seeing you here! I can't wait to see/hear it!
  46. Eddie Sheehy
    I added a post to the Rocky Road to Dublin on it... It's hard to figure out where to play triplets, and I have too many downstrokes in a row... getting the hang of it though...

  47. mikeyes

    Here is the same banjo with me playing Dan Mac's Polka.

    Mike Keyes
  48. bmac
    I guess I should say "Hello."...


    I have been playing and restoring mandolins for roughly five years and recently bought a banjo-mandolin just for fun. Restored it and bought a few more... and then an old no-name tenor banjo... I have been supprised how well it fits into my interest in acoustic blues before WW2. Mine is tuned as an Irish tenor (GDAE). My wife has a Deering Goodtime tenor which she tunes CGDA. I enjoy the deeper Irish tuning, especially in contrast to the higher pitched mandolins I am used to playing. I bought the tenor as a lark but it has surprised me by becoming one of my favorite instruments. I restored it by putting a goat skin head on it, replaced a few missing hooks and straightening its dowel stick. It is now set up nicely and is a joy to play. It has taken its dings over the years and tuning it with its ungeared tuners is a real joy. It has a metal (nickel?) resonator on it which wants to dent at the slightest provocation but is easy to work the dent(s) back out. I can't say that the resonater contributes much to the tone but it does look really cool.

  49. AKLynne
    I am so happy to find this site. I see there aren't any recent comments, so I hope it's still active.

    I love playing my tenor banjo after (like you, Barbara) I gave up trying to play my 5-string. I heard a tenor for the first time when some Irish musicians (John Carty and a guitar player whose name I don't recall) came to Alaska to do a fund raiser for our local folk festival. I knew right away this was the instrument for me. I bought mine used from a little music store in the U district of Seattle several years ago. I didn't know it was an old Fairbanks/Vega, Style R, built in the early 1920's until a friend who suspected as much removed the back so we could read the serial number and other info engraved into the wood. I have a mandolin as well, but this banjo is my true love, and it's hard to change from one to the other with the difference in the distance between the frets (which I just counted...17 of them).

    Just as an aside since I noticed a lot of comments about string types, I decided to buy mandolin strings, mainly because I could use them for both instruments. I bought D'Addario Mandolin Medium Heavy EXP 75 Coated Phosphor Bronze Strings, .0115, .016, .026, .041, and they have worked out very well. It also saved a fair amount of money by getting them rather than individual tenor banjo packages. Not sure if they are long enough for a tenor with 19 frets though. They work great for mine.
  50. ukenukem
    Hi all! Name is Bob in SE FLA. I do play mandolin but also picked up tenor banjo before that and still mess with it. I started with a 19 fret Rover I got used but later added a Gold tone CC-IT to which I added an under head humbucking pickup. Sold the Rover as I really prefer the 17 fret scale.

    I tune it DGBE so it is (in effect) a baritone banjolele. I played it on stage a few times but that band is no more so I just play it around the house for now. Mostly jazzy blues stuff I make up to learn new chords.

    I would like to find an inexpensive 17 fret open back tenor but it seems those are hard to find. The choice seems to be buy a vintage instrument that needs work or a pacrim "Irish" model from the UK and pay too much for shipping, or a GT AC-4 (19 fret). Oh well, gives me something to hunt for.

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