How To Tune A Banjo

5-String Banjo


G, D, G, B, D

The most standard 5-string banjo tuning.  This is referred to as "Open G" Tuning because the banjo is tuned to an open G chord, meaning that if you strum the banjo without fingering any of the strings on the neck you will be playing a G chord.

G, C, G, C, D
Often used in Old Time music, this is referred to as "Double C" Tuning because the banjo has two C strings.

G, C, G, B, D
This is referred to as "C" Tuning.  It can also be referred to as "Drop C" Tuning because coming from the open G tuning, the D string on the 4th string is dropped down to a C.

F#, D, F#, A, D
This is referred to as "D" Tuning. Earl Scruggs used this tuning on such songs as "Reuben". You can also tune the 5th string to an "A" instead of a "F#" and still be in "D" tuning. If you strum the banjo without fretting any strings in this tuning you will be playing a D chord.

G, D, G, C, D
This is referred to as "G Modal" Tuning. This is a very popular tuning for old time tunes such as Shady Grove, Little Sadie, and many others. It is also sometimes called “Sawmill Tuning” or “Mountain Minor Tuning.”  This is very close to standard G tuning but the second string is tuned up to a C note.  This eliminates the third of the G chord and produces a G sus 4 chord.  By eliminating the third of the chord, you cannot tell if it is a major or minor chord and gives it a modal sound.

Buy 5-String Banjo Strings Here

 

19-Fret or 17-Fret Tenor Banjo


C, G, D, A

The most standard tenor banjo tuning.  This is referred to as "Standard Tenor Tuning" for obvious reasons.  This tuning is the intervals of fifths and is exactly the same as viola or mandola. 

G, D, A, E
Referred to as "Irish Tenor Tuning".  This tuning is also in fifths but is lower in pitch than the standard tenor tuning.  This tuning is like a violin or mandolin, only one octave lower.

D, G, B, E
This tuning is the same as the top four strings of a guitar and is often referred to as "Chicago Tuning".  This makes it very easy for guitarists to pick up a 4-string banjo and start playing.

Buy Tenor Banjo Strings Here

 

Plectrum Banjo


C, G, B, D

The most standard plectrum banjo tuning.  This is very close to the standard 5-string tuning (without the 5-string), but the 4th string is dropped down to C.  

D, G, B, E
This tuning is the same as the top four strings of a guitar and is often referred to as "Chicago Tuning".  This makes it very easy for guitarists to pick up a 4-string banjo and start playing.

 Buy Plectrum Banjo Strings Here

5-String Longneck Banjo


E, B, E, G#, B

This is open E tuning.  Really it is the same as open G tuning, just 3 steps lower in pitch.

 

6-String Banjo


E, A, D, G, B, E

This tuning is exactly the same as a guitar.

Buy 6-String Banjo Strings Here 

12-String Banjo


E, E, A, A, D, D, G, G, B, B, E, E,

This tuning is exactly the same as a 12-string guitar.  To be more specific, this is the same as a regular guitar, but the low 3 strings are doubled separated by an octave and the top 3 strings are doubled in unison.

Get more helpful banjo tips sent to you via email!

* indicates required

View previous campaigns.

February 03, 2012 by David Bandrowski
next

Comments

Barry

Barry said:

Thank you PUA, It is our intention to share as much information as we can as clearly as we can. Thanks for reading and if you have any questions, just let us know. Thank you again.

PUA

PUA said:

Admiring the dedication you put into your blog and in depth information you
offer. It’s awesome to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t
the same out of date rehashed information. Wonderful read! I’ve saved your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds to my Google account.

Kenny

Kenny said:

Thank you I know a we bit about tunings for guitar mandolin as I play a bit but when I asked tenor players what tuning they used I was nearly always given a different one now I know why thank you again brilliant

manuel

manuel said:

Hi I’m using a four string banjo I bought it from an old man, the first and last string is tuned as G, what are two middle one’s suppose to be?

manuel

manuel said:

Hi I’m using a four string banjo I bought it from an old man, the first and last string is tuned as G, what are two middle one’s suppose to be?

Steve

Steve said:

Very very informative thanks. Play guitar and have a great collection of amps and guitars. A colleague at 55yo now learning banjo and was fascinated to learn the styles, types and tuning. Great stuff.

Alisha

Alisha said:

Can a normal guitar tuner be used to tune a banjo? Thanks

Leave a comment

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.