Tuning Your Banjo

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In this article, we go over the wide variety of available tunings for banjos. Most common for 5-String Banjos is Open G Tuning (G, D, G, B, D) but the possibilities are endless! Included in the article you can find how to tune your 4-String or tenor banjo, bartitone banjo, long neck banjo, 6-String banjo and much more. Learning how to tune your banjo is the first step to discovering your tone!

5-String Banjo Tunings

Open G Tuning

G, D, G, B, D

The tuning G, D, G, B, D is considered standard for 5 string banjos. The “open” portion of this tuning gets its name because it doesn’t need to be fretted to play the G chord. Most Gold Tone five string banjos are set up using this tuning. Most of the following tunings are modified from this standard G tuning.

G Modal Tuning

G, D, G, C, D

Commonly referred to “Sawmill Tuning” this tuning variation raises the second string a half step to C. This is a popular tuning for old time clawhammer playing.

Drop C Tuning:

G, C, G, B, D

“Drop C” or just “C” tuning drops the low D a whole step to C.

Double C Tuning:

G, C, G, C, D

Most commonly used by clawhammer players, “Double C” tuning lowers the fourth string D to C and raises the second string B a half step to C. This makes the first strings D a suspended 2nd in the C chord.

D Tuning:

F#, D, F#, A, D

Commonly associated with Earl Scruggs, “D Tuning” can be configured two ways. More commonly the fifth string will be F# but it can also be tuned to A (A, D, F#, A, D). These two variations are both known as “D Tuning” and are up to the preference of the player.

Achieve this tuning with no modifications using our Cheat-A-Key D-Tuners!

Long Neck Tuning:

E, B, E, G#, B

This is simply standard G tuning dropped to the key of E. This tuning comes standard on all Gold Tone long neck banjos.

A-Scale Tuning:

A, E, A, C#, E

Standard for “A Scale” banjos like the CC-OTA. Over the years, Gold Tone has used this tuning on our travel banjos such as our first manufactured banjo; the TB-100.

Baritone Tuning

C, G, C, E, G

Made popular by Béla Fleck and his Gold Tone ML-1 banjo, this has become the standard for baritone banjo tuning.

4-String Tenor Banjo Tunings

Standard Tenor Tuning

C, G, D, A

This tuning is the baseline for almost all four string tenor banjos. It is also commonly used on mandolas and violas. Many tenor banjo players consider this tuning to be “true” tenor tuning. The CEB-4 Cello Banjo also utilizes this tenor tuning.

Irish Tenor Tuning

G, D, A, E

All Gold Tone Irish tenor banjos come set up in this tuning. This tuning is also used on many of our mandolins.

Chicago Tuning

D, G, B, E

By using the same pitches as the first four strings of a guitar, this tuning makes it easy for any guitar player to adapt to the banjo.

Plectrum Tuning

C, G, B, D

The same pitches as the first four strings of the standard five-string banjo tuning but with the fourth string tuned down to a C. This tuning is one of two standard tunings for plectrum banjos.

Banjo Ukulele Tuning

G, C, E, A

The standard tuning for banjo-ukuleles, it’s used on all Gold Tone banjo ukes. It’s the same as used on any standard ukulele, including our “resonator ukulele”.

6-String Banjo Tunings

6-String Tuning

E, A, D, G, B, E

Look familiar? This banjo tuning is the same tuning as a guitar. Here at Gold Tone, we refer to these instruments as “banjitars”. Six-string banjos are great for any guitar player that wants an easy route to the tonality of the banjo.