The Unwound Third > Gitfiddles, Harps, Washboards & Kazoos

Translating Guitar to 5-String Banjo

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Forgetful Jones:
Hello All-
I've been thoroughly enjoying learning to play Old-Time Banjo. I didn't realize how many different tunings are commonly used. I've mostly been playing in Sawmill and Double-C tunings- and very little in standard Open G.

Perhaps someone here who plays both guitar and banjo can offer some guidance to this awkwardly worded question. Are there any correlations between playing guitar in certain positions and the banjo tunings that are best used to play the same tunes?

I know so many more songs on guitar and was wondering how difficult it would be to dabble in translating ideas to banjo.
Thanks.

Mike

banjochris:
The main correlation would of course be in open G and open D tunings on the banjo, which are basically the same as Spanish and Vestapol on the guitar. Not difficult to translate and deal with the missing string and the drone.

If you play in sawmill tuning out of F position, in other words gDGCD but holding down 3-2-0-3 for your main chord, and tuning your 5th string up to F or C, it's a lot like the low end of G position (or even C position) on the guitar. You can find a lot of melody that you would find on the guitar playing Carter Family-style.

And of course open C on the banjo - gCGCE is almost identical to open C on the guitar, CGCGCE although I would say open C is more common on the banjo than it is on the guitar.

And of course you can always tune your banjo gDGBE if you want and leave the top four strings just like a guitar, although really open G is so close it's not a lot of difference.

Hope that helps!
Chris

Forgetful Jones:

--- Quote from: banjochris on March 02, 2020, 03:58:29 PM ---
If you play in sawmill tuning out of F position, in other words gDGCD but holding down 3-2-0-3 for your main chord, and tuning your 5th string up to F or C, it's a lot like the low end of G position (or even C position) on the guitar. You can find a lot of melody that you would find on the guitar playing Carter Family-style.


--- End quote ---

Thanks for the reply Chris. Yes this helps a bunch- exactly what I was hoping to learn about. I spent a little time in sawmill with the 5th string tuned down to F last night. I was able to find some guitarish sounds out of it. I'm still navigating the instrument. Thanks again!

banjochris:
Great - it's a lot of fun to play - enjoy!

Rivers:
FWIW I only play in sawmill. It's not because I can't play clawhammer in major tunings. Sawmill just sounds and plays best for me, i.e. for how I hear the music, and what I want to achieve. It has a certain excitement!

If you only have one tuning to worry about, and because of that have no aspirations beyond said tuning, the question then becomes what are some good tunes to focus on.

I guess I'm a hillbilly at heart. I have a very small repertoire in ot5sb but sawmill's what I want to play and that's good enough for me! :)

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