Everything You Need to Know About How to Tune a Banjo
Published: 9th August 2018 | Updated: 5th September 2018 | Author: Joff Lowson
Are you looking to take up a new instrument? Then you have come to the right place as the banjo is a fantastic choice for anyone looking for a new hobby! The banjo is a magnificent instrument to play and you may be thinking about all of the different, amazing songs that you will be able to learn to play on it. However, before we get to all of that, one of the first things that you will need to do is learn how to tune your banjo. Just like a guitar, different banjo songs will require you to tune your banjo differently, so if you want to make sure that you banjo sounds amazing when playing for family and friends, learning how to tune it is a vital skill that you will need to know.
We understand that when you first begin to learn how to tune a banjo, it can be quite an intimidating experience. Don’t worry though, there is no need to fret as we are going to take you through how to master the art of tuning the banjo like a pro.
Why Learn to Tune A Banjo?
For anyone who is just starting out trying to learn any kind of instrument, tuning it is always an important skill that you need to know. While you may have just bought a nice new banjo that has already been tuned for you leaving the store, you will still need to know how to tune it yourself. Normally, when you first get a new banjo, it will automatically be tuned to G. This may not be the tuning that you want, plus, the strings can become out of tune pretty quickly, so you will need to know how to check this yourself. What’s more, if you have purchased your banjo to play as part of band, then your banjo will need to be in tune with the rest of the band’s instruments.
Tuning the Banjo by Ear
If you are one of the lucky people to be able to name or sing a note simply by listening to it, then you may be able to tune your banjo by ear. If you want to perfect pitch tune your banjo to open G, you must first know the note that every string on your banjo produces. Here, you will need to know that the fourth string’s D note will be the lowest note of all the open strings. This note will also be an octave lower than the 1st string’s D note. This is the same case with your G note, as the third string is an octave lower than the short 5th string.
Tuning the Banjo to Itself
Another way to tune a banjo is to tune it to itself. To do this, yow will need to start off on the fourth string which is the low D string. You have a few options here which can be using the guitar, the piano or the tuning fork and starting with the fourth string. This will then allow you to tune the rest of the strings when comparing them to the low D note. After tuning string 4 to a D, fret it on the 5th fret to get the G note. This is what your third string should sound like. You can then start working your way down the strings tuning every string to the string that came before it.
Tuning the Banjo to an Electronic Tuner
One of the easiest ways that you can tune your banjo is to use and electronic tuner. This attaches onto the end of your headstock and the device will pick up the pitch of your strings. It will then use a visual arrow indicating how far off you are to getting the string to the right note.
Tuning a Five String Banjo – Step by Step Guide
One of the most popular types of banjo’s is the 5 string banjo and this instrument can provide you with hours of amazing fun. Here, we are taking you through 5 string banjo tuning step by step, so you can avoid any nasty sound surprises next time you play.
- The first step that you will need to do is take a good look at your five sting banjo. Hold its neck and watch the strings. You will be able to quickly spot that the top string does not run up the banjo as far as the other strings. Instead, it has a turning knob located in the middle of the neck. This string placement is unique to the banjo and this is what provides banjos with their distinct sound.
- Before you get started, it is always important that you remember this fifth string as it is easy to quickly get confused and alter the wrong knob and, ultimately, the wrong string. So, when you go to pluck the second string, this will actually be your first for tuning.When you strum the banjo without holding down any of the strings, this is you playing the open G chord. You can then take a look at the five bottom string, find the centre one, then work from here when tuning your banjo. Follow this centre string to the top of your banjo and turn the corresponding knob. Carry on plucking away and turning the knobs until you know that it is tuned to a G.
- Carry on using this same method for the rest of your strings. The thinner second string should be tuned to a B, while the first string, which is thinner again, should be tuned to a D.
- Then, return back to the original half length string and tune this to a G. It should be an octave higher than the first G tuned.
- Lastly, take the adjacent string, which is also the fattest string and tune this to a low D.
- You can start strumming away on your banjo!
Top Banjo Tuning Tips
Tuning a banjo is not easy to begin with and will definitely take some practice over time to become an expert at. We do have some top tips for beginners who are just starting out playing the banjo that you should follow.
When you first begin to tune a banjo, we would recommend that you get some help from an electronic banjo tuner or pitcher to help wit each string. Once you have mastered this, we would then recommend that you start tuning each string in relation to each other, always starting with the G. Our biggest tip is to always ensure that your G string is properly tuned first, especially if you want to play the banjo with anyone else.
If you want to learn more about how to tune a banjo or need banjo lessons, contact Joff Lowson Banjo Lessons today for a personalised teaching experience.