Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Playing a G key into a D key,

Hi ,
I am working on changing Keys. What I am confused about is changing from a song that is G key, our typical banjo key to a D. For A we capo up and can play a song in G, no finger position changes just moving up the key board/
If the song calls for a key of D are we just putting our capo on the nail on the fret board and continuing to use what our G hand positions (i.e.Our Fingers still play the chords as they are the Tab. But now we have created the song in the key D???

Hi Diane. You can play in D in open G tuning no need to capo the 5th string. Use the open 4th sting as the drone string. If you hit the 5th string in error it may sound a little off but it wont be it a disaster. @BanjoBen has some great lessons on Key changes

Check out his Intermediate lesson on Playing in D
Red River Valley in the Advanced Section that’s all about keys changes

Here’s the link for How to Play in “D”


Just to make sure, if I have a song in the key of G but the jam group wants to play in D all I do is play the song omitting the fifth string ? using same chord position,

For instance the group plays soldiers Joy in D but I have tab in the key of G. What do I do, please explain again: thank you

thanks, I will check that out

Hi Diane, You misunderstand my meaning. Your original question was about changing Keys, from G to D. My assumption was that you were starting off playing in G and somewhere in the tune the band would change Key to D without stopping to add colour to the song. Putting on a capo midway thru the tune and playing out of a C position is possible but hardly worth the effort none-the-less some folks do it.

A little theory here

In the Key of G the I chord is G, the IV chord is C and the V is D with the relative minor chord vi being Em the ii chord is Am and the ii chord is Bm

In the Key of D the I chord is D, the IV chord is G and the V is A with the relative minor chord vi being Bm the ii chord is Em and the iii chord is F#m

When you compare these two Keys we can see how closely they resemble each other.

TAB written in the Key of G will generally have a chord progression using GC and D. If you put a capo on at the second fret and spike or retune the 5th string to A, using your TAB written in G you would be playing in the Key of A.

In order to play in D using the capo at the second fret your TAB would need to be written in C and you would be playing out of the C position ie. using the C shape chords of C F and G

This get’s a little confusing when your starting out and all this theory is coming at you.

So to answer your question about Soldier’s Joy you have three options

  1. Find a TAB in the Key of D and use that - Essentially learn to play in D (and other key’s)
  2. Find a TAB in the Key of C capo up two fret’s
  3. Follow the band and “Wing it”

there is one other option

  1. Using your G TAB and capo at the 7th fret - Not recommended…

Hang in there Diane this sounds way more complex than it is, trust me when I say @BanjoBen will provide more help when he is available to address your query.

In the meantime check out this lesson on using a capo. It will help you gain a better understanding of playing in other keys


Thanks, that video is giving me some help. I have really got to nail this, hard to jam without understanding


One thing that I like to consider is that your typical D chord shape (4th fret first string, 3rd fret second string, 2nd fret third string, 4th string open) is comparable to the ‘Sally Goodin’ position in G. So all of the licks you use up there in G will apply in D!

It’s a bit more of a reach, as there’s more space between the frets down there, but you’ll find that most of the same licks you use in the Sally Goodin position in G will apply in D at the 3rd/4th frets. I recommend tuning the 5th string to A, which will create a slightly different sound, but still give you a solid D major sound!