Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Standard vs. Tenor

Total newb question. But is there a significant difference in playing a tenor banjo from a standard. I know rolls will all be the same. My understanding is they a keyed is a lower key than open G. I’m thinking they aren’t. And Why would a person choose a Tenor Banjo over a Standard open. The reason for my curiosity is one of these days down the road and my rich uncle dies I really like Deerings Julie Belle banjo but my understanding is it’s a tenor.

Tenor is a shorter scale and usually four strings (think dixieland)…below is a link w/explanation

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Gotcha the Julia Belle is a 5 string. So I guess it’s not a Tenor just says 5 string low tuned

Hi Woody, When you say standard what do you actually mean ?

A Tenor banjo comes in two neck lengths 17 & 19 and as far as I am aware are tuned the same. The 17 fret version is what is often referred to as the short scale.

For Jazz / Dixieland CGDA 4321
For Irish GDAE 4321 which is the same tuning for a mandolin if I am not mistaken

Both are generally played with a plectrum. But and there is always a but, I know of at least one guy in the Netherlands or Belgium who plays bluegrass on a Tenor Banjo and he uses picks and plays rolls.

I believe the Plectrum Banjo is also used for Jazz among other things has 22 frets same as a 5 string Banjo however John Hartford had a 5 string banjo made special that had 24 frets tuned to E which better suited his voice and the longer neck meant he could get two full scales on his 24 fret Banjo

I guess by Standard I mean a 22 fret Open G tuned Banjo like my Deering Goodtime Classic Special. So I guess my next question is What would be the difference in playing a banjo like my Deering Goodtime and playing a banjo like the Deering Julia Belle (I guess any 2 banjos tuned in different Keys) or are you getting the same effect using a capo? Starting to show my inexperience here lol

The Deering neck would be 2 frets longer creating a lower tuning.

“The Julia Belle is specifically designed to shine when played in lower tunings such as E or D”

it could be capoed up to G…

Hi Woody. I would say the difference would be like night and day.

I have never actually played a Dearing banjo but I have a Chinese built Fender and a Stelling and there is a huge difference. I believe the Julia Belle has 24 frets so I personally wouldn’t want to attempt tuning it to open G. However it would be ok to put a capo on the second fret and spike the 5th string to G.

Why don’t you just pop into your local Deering dealership and ask to try out a few models. They might not have a Julia Belle in stock as it a fairly new model but you would at least learn a lot more through personal experience than by asking a bunch of questions.

Lol my local dealer had 1 banjo a Dean and he had no idea of the model the seller thought they only made 1 hahaha. It’s gonna be a couple years down the road before I’ll be looking at a 5k banjo and by that time hopefully their will be some good deals on used ones. My interest in the Julia Belle is the Riverboat and John Hartford theme it has


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