Friday, 31 August 2012

What am I Doing with this Tenor Banjo?

Yes, you read it right - a tenor banjo. It has been a really weird couple of days - I'll tell you about yesterday next time - but suddenly I find myself the owner of this rather large big brother to my banjolele!

As ever, it's Himself that's to blame really... LSH - he came in at lunchtime saying he'd seen a second-hand banjo in a shop for £50 - four strings...."That's a tenor" said I..."That's a good price for a banjo......"

Now, I've never had or played a banjo, but I've always had a soft spot for them; I love to hear one played well - the late great Barney McKenna of the Dubliners was a fantastic player of Irish tenor banjo. So - it was irresistible - by tea-time, it was mine. £60, not £50... but an okay price to have a banjo to have a go at - and all I knew about them was that they have four metal strings, and different tuning from the ukulele.

Now I'm a little wiser. The first discovery on Google was that I've paid the same price for this used instrument as I would have paid for a new one! It's a Swift - £60. Amazing. That just can't be right. But what the heck, I can sell it on if I don't like playing it, and hopefully not lose more than a few pounds. It's obviously a very basic banjo. That's fine. I only want to explore....

Next - tuning. Easily found by internet search; standard tuning, CGDA. Irish tuning, GDAE. So I think to myself - I'll tune it up to standard tuning til I know what I'm about... TWANG! Goes the second string..... so I start to loosen the others off again - and TWANG goes another. Now I only have two strings left on it.

This is a rapid learning curve.... I search online for new banjo strings - and learn that different gauge strings are used for standard tuning than for Irish - not surprising really, as Irish tuning is a whole fourth (four notes) lower than standard. Then it came to me - the banjo must have been fitted with strings designed for Irish tuning - and trying to pull them up five notes higher broke them straight away! So now I have to wait for some more to arrive in the post.

It's just as well - after all, I've got my handsome new Kiwaya soprano to play!

Meanwhile - it's not ukulele - but here's Barney.

I'm so glad we saw the Dubliners on their tour last year, before Barney shuffled off this mortal coil.... RIP Barney McKenna

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HI! I hope you enjoy this blog and I'd love to hear your comments! But I know you'll forgive me if I read them over before I click the "publish" button! Thanks!