How To Tune Your Banjo

If you’re new to playing the banjo, one of the most important skills you’ll need to master is tuning your instrument. Tuning your banjo properly is essential for producing clear, crisp sounds and avoiding unpleasant notes or buzzing. In this article, we’ll go over the basics of how to tune your banjo and provide some tips for keeping it in tune.

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How To Tune Your Banjo

Step 1: Understand Banjo Tuning The banjo is typically tuned to an open G chord, which means the strings are tuned to the notes G, D, G, B, and D from lowest to highest string. It’s important to tune your banjo in this order to ensure that the instrument is in proper pitch.

Step 2: Use a Tuner The easiest and most accurate way to tune your banjo is to use an electronic tuner. There are many tuners available on the market, ranging from inexpensive clip-on tuners to more advanced pedal tuners. A tuner will give you a visual display of whether each string is in tune or not, so you can make precise adjustments as needed.

Step 3: Tune the Strings To begin tuning your banjo, start with the lowest string (the G string). Play the string and observe the tuner’s display. If the needle is to the left of center, the string is too flat, and if it’s to the right of center, the string is too sharp. Use the tuning pegs to adjust the string until the needle is centered.

Once the G string is properly tuned, move on to the D string and repeat the process. Then, tune the second G string, the B string, and finally the highest D string. As you tune each string, make sure to pluck the string several times to ensure that it’s holding its pitch.

Step 4: Check Your Tuning Once you’ve tuned all of the strings, play a few chords or scales to check your tuning. If any of the notes sound off or out of tune, go back and double-check the tuning of each string. Sometimes, even small adjustments can make a big difference in the overall sound of the instrument.

Tips for Keeping Your Banjo in Tune Now that you’ve tuned your banjo, it’s important to take steps to keep it in tune for as long as possible. Here are a few tips for maintaining your banjo’s tuning:

  • Keep your banjo in a stable environment: Extreme changes in temperature or humidity can cause your banjo’s wood to expand or contract, which can affect its tuning. Try to keep your banjo in a stable, climate-controlled environment to minimize these changes.
  • Use quality strings: High-quality banjo strings will hold their tune better than cheaper strings. Look for strings that are specifically designed for the banjo, as they will be more compatible with the instrument’s unique design.
  • Stretch your strings: New strings can take some time to settle into their proper pitch, so it’s a good idea to stretch them out a bit before playing. You can do this by gently pulling on each string, one at a time, until it’s slightly sharp. Then, tune the string back down to its proper pitch and repeat the process a few times.
  • Check your tuning regularly: Even if you’re not playing your banjo regularly, it’s a good idea to check the tuning periodically. This will help you catch any changes in pitch before they become too noticeable.

In conclusion, tuning your banjo is an essential skill for any banjo player. By following these basic steps and using an electronic tuner, you can ensure that your banjo is in proper pitch and producing clear, crisp sounds. Remember to take steps to keep your banjo in tune, and don’t be afraid to experiment with different tunings.

In this video by John Moore we show you how to tune your banjo.
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Video Text:

0:00:00.7 –>
[Music] what’s up everyone welcome to the show my name is John Moore and I’m gonna be your instructor today in today’s video I want to show you guys how does Hugh and your banjo it’s really relatively simple to the process and my last video I showed you guys the anatomy of the banjo I showed you the numbering of the strings and went over the peg heads and the frets and all of this all the parts of the banjo if you haven’t seen that I would encourage you to go check that out as well but today I’m gonna show you guys how to tune this thing so you can start playing okay so first off let’s go ahead and discuss what the tuning is this tuning is called G standard tuning and you just heard it that introductory song I played for you is played a G standard tuning as are 99% of all other banjo songs there were a few songs played in other turnings like D and C but this is tuned in G standard tuning G

0:01:00.4 –>
open tuning and the banjo is sort of unique in this way and that it’s one of the few instruments that is in an open key like this the guitar or the mandolin or the fiddler violin those are tuned not in an open key they have a standard tuning but they’re not tuned so they can be played open like the banjo is so open the banjo is in the key of G so we call this G tuning all right now that’s not to be mistaken with what key you’re playing out of so let’s say if I capo this up and we’ll talk about chords a little bit later but say you G the next one up is an A and then a B even though I’m in G tuning we’re playing out say an a chord or a B chord we’ll talk about that in just a minute that’s that’s something we can discuss later for now all you need to worry about is that this is G okay and this is G tuning so our strings are numbered from bottom to top one two three four so bomb the top not in not in order of

0:02:01.5 –>
pitch but just bottom to top 1 2 3 4 5 you’ve got five strings okay and for each of those strings you’ve got a peg on your on your instrument now in this case you’ll see – straight back right here these are pegs okay and these are on the back your instrument yours may be facing outward on the sides depending on what type of peg that you have they may face straight back or they may face outward to the side but you’ll have five pegs one for each string now these pegs and these keys that’s the plastic parts here these are pegs and the actual geared portion these are your keys now as you turn these pegs the the tuning of the corresponding string that’s wound around it will change so if we take the third string that’s one two three throw it up from the bottom and we twist that [Music] it’ll change pitch so we can tune our

0:03:02.3 –>
instrument in that way now how we’re going to tune this is we go once again from the bottom to the top one two three four five it’s D B G D G now when it comes time to select your tuner you’ve got a few different options some of them use a microphone others use clips others clip onto your banjo some of them plug in if you have a pickup on your pan Joe some Bend just come with pickups sometime you can plug right into a pickup but in this case the one I’m gonna show you here this one uses a microphone now if you get a tuner that uses a microphone the issue with these is if you’re playing in a room with anyone else say you’re at a jam or you’re in a band and other people are trying to tune or play or or maybe they’re just one of the big habits that people who play music have is between songs or just going through running through little riffs and things like that it makes it impossible to tune your instrument because this will pick that up as well and the tuner doesn’t know

0:04:01.4 –>
what pitch to be telling you so you might want to look at something that clips on your instrument instead and those are actually noise isolating so what they do or their sound isolating so what they do is they read the vibrations of the instrument rather than the actual sound they don’t have a microphone they just read the vibrations and detect those and it gives you the pitch of the string and you can tune your instrument that way now every tuner is a little bit different you’ll have to read the instruction manuals on them but suffice to say most of them they have a little needle or a little arrow or something around around the letter or around some center point and you want to get that needle or those arrows in that center point and a lot of times when it’s in the center point you’ll have some sort of green indicator so it might have a red indicator for when you’re high or low whenever you’re flat or sharp and then you’ll have a center indicator which is green and it’ll let you know when you’re in tune okay but you’ll have to read your instruction manual to do that but once again you know as long as we’re tuning to D G

0:05:00.2 –>
gee you should be fine now you may have noticed that there are two DS and two G’s in this tuning but none of them really sound the same well the reason for that is because the two DS and the two G’s are on different octaves from each other so we have a low D on our fourth string and a high D on our first [Music] and likewise we have a low G on our third and a high G on our fifth and how this works musically is we have a scale that goes from A to G abcdefg and after G it starts over at a again so starting from our G position on our third string we go g a b c d e f g and we’re back at

0:06:04.3 –>
g and you’ll hear and that’s just sort of this is just sort of a higher version of the lower version and once we get back to G it just starts over again so and we can go on up okay so the scale starts over there at the twelfth fret that’s one octave on the banjo so when we play a song open because we’re in G toning we’re in the key of G but if a song is in the key of A then all we need to do knowing that we’re in G tuning is instead of tuning the banjo up we just simply use a capo now capo is a little device that clamps across your strings these don’t come with your banjo usually you’ll have to buy this separate but it clamps across your strings some of them will screw like a clamp others will have a little spring on them

0:07:00. –>
and you pinch them those are fairly common they’re like guitar Capo’s they’re really a bunch of different designs of Capo’s more than I could really name but they all do the same thing they simply clamp down on the strings and raise the pitch of the banjo so now I’m up two frets which is one note on the banjo so I went from a G to an A so now the banjo is a higher pitch [Music] and we can take it up to a B and you’ll know us I’m sliding my finger here along my fifth string I have what’s called banjo spikes installed in this and I’ll talk a little bit about that in just a second but taking up to be [Music]

0:08:00.1 –>
and you can hear how that sounds much different from this down here so that takes us up from G all the way up on the fourth fret to B now in between our G and a is G sharp so he got G G sharp a and on the third fret we’ve got a sharp fourth fret B and then our fifth fret C and that’s out of our open G tuning now getting onto while I was talking about up here with the fifth string now when you tune your banjo up the fifth string isn’t affected by the capo so when I place the capo on this instrument you’ll notice [Music] a little bit out – all right now you’ll notice this fifth string doesn’t quite

0:09:02. –>
go with the rest does it well the reason for that is because the fifth string needs to be cabled up two frets as well so those little railroad spikes that I put in in this case work as a capo I can hook them under it and it holds the string down and presses it and frets it like that what we can do and says we can tune the fifth string up if you don’t have railroad spikes or the banjo spots now sometimes call them railroad tracks because they’re shaped like little railroad spikes were little tiny nails and they’re bent over like this and this link the string just slides right underneath them and it holds them down and you can tune it up and get the same afraid it’s the same effect without the spikes the spikes are just faster now when you go up to a higher key like B I don’t like playing the banjo up and B without spikes on the banjo so you might want to stay in G and a for now and the reason for that is you run the risk of

0:10:01.5 –>
breaking a string tuning an tuning this fifth string all the way up to B and I’m not real comfortable doing that I’ve never broke one yet doing that but I just I don’t do it I use my railroad spikes because you’re putting a lot of pressure on those strings as far as the railroad spikes go the banjo spikes if you don’t have them on your pan Jo you can get them installed now where you can get them installed at is at a music shop anywhere that has a luthier or someone that works on the instruments where they’ll do things like change your strings and dress your frets they can also install a banjo Spock now if you’re doing whether less expense with a relatively inexpensive banjo then you know you can do that if you’re doing with an expensive manage or a finer instrument then it might be worth going to a proper luthier to have them installed but what they’ll do is they simply drill a little tiny hole little tiny pilot hole in your neck and they drive them in okay and some people will

0:11:01.2 –>
put them on all five this one in particular has it on the seventh fret the ninth fret and the 10th fret and I have to tune to sort of go for the flats and the sharps in between these but it gets me close and then keeps me from having to tighten my strings up really tight you’ll also see other types of Capo’s that are like a little bar that runs along the side of the neck and they’ve got a little spring that comes down and presses against the string and you just slide it back and forth now I don’t lock those because they prevent you from vamping that’s an advanced technique on the banjo where we bring our thumb over the neck and we fret the fifth string so I don’t like those I would rather have the the little spikes instead and that sounds a little something like this so we’re Freddie we use that whenever we’re playing hare legs all right so we can use that in a few

0:12:01.4 –>
songs and back up of course this box they have their down sides you can fill them underneath your fingers whenever your fretting the fifth string if you’re doing it from up top and we’re catching a seventh chord okay so if we’re fretting the fifth string from up top we can fill it but I prefer these much much over the little the little slide capo that goes on the side of the neck here anyway guys I hope you’ve enjoyed this video I hope it was helpful helping have some useful information for you if it was please be sure to leave a like down below and subscribe if you’d like to see more lessons like this from me I’ll see you in the next one later [Music]

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