Can I tune a banjo thats been set for CGDA to GDAE without having to reset it?

Can I tune a banjo thats been set for CGDA to GDAE without having to reset it?

Sorry if the question is stupid, I know nothing about banjos: Im looking to buy a 4 string banjo to start learning it and I found a nice second hand for a good price that is set for CGDA but I would like to use the GDAE tuning cos im more familiar with it. Does this mean that I have to bring it to some shop to have it reset or can I just change the tuning straight away?
Thanks!

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Re: Can I tune a banjo thats been set for CGDA to GDAE without having to reset it?

What do you mean it’s "set" to CGDA? As in the strings are already tuned to that? Assuming so, you can tune it to GDAE yourself, or with the help of someone else.

Re: Can I tune a banjo thats been set for CGDA to GDAE without having to reset it?

You’ll probably want different strings

Re: Can I tune a banjo thats been set for CGDA to GDAE without having to reset it?

The seller says its "set" for that tuning, yes. I dont know what it means but it made me think that when you change the tuning maybe there is something else other than the strings that you have to adjust on the instrument (I have no idea, like I said Im a complete beginner) like I dunno, tighten some parts (resonator, skin.. no idea, sorry for my ignorance!). But if the problem is only the gauge of the strings and the tuning, well that’s great, thank you!!

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Re: Can I tune a banjo thats been set for CGDA to GDAE without having to reset it?

Yes, you will definitely need to change the strings. Opinions vary as to the exact gauges to use, but the following is fairly typical for a short-scale (17-fret) tenor banjo.

G = .040" - wound
D = .028" - wound
A = .020" - wound
E = .013 " - plain

Re: Can I tune a banjo thats been set for CGDA to GDAE without having to reset it?

Great! thanks a million everyone for your help!

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Re: Can I tune a banjo thats been set for CGDA to GDAE without having to reset it?

Only change the strings one at a time, so the bridge remains in place. Once retuned, check the bridge position on the skin by comparing the pitch of each string fretted at the twelfth fret with the octave harmonic ( just gently touch the string over the 12th fret without pressing it down ), and pluck the string again. If the fretted note is sharper than the harmonic you will need to move the bridge a small amount ( probably only millimetres ) towards the tailpiece. Or vice versa. You will need to average out the comparison between all four strings.
That should be all the resetting you need.

Re: Can I tune a banjo thats been set for CGDA to GDAE without having to reset it?

Vintage banjos usually have perch poles, which are not normally adjustable.

Modern banjos are usually fitted with truss rod - which is adjustable. If (after fitting the correct strings) you’re not happy with the playing action, the truss rod may require a small adjustment.

Do NOT try to make this adjustment yourself, as you may cause damage. Take the instrument to a reputable luthier who specialises in banjos. Worse case scenario, it might also need re-shimming. Again, this is a specialised job for a luthier.

Re: Can I tune a banjo thats been set for CGDA to GDAE without having to reset it?

Indeed. A luthier. Or a non-luthier who’s comfortable making those perfectly straightforward adjustments.

Not a big job.

Re: Can I tune a banjo thats been set for CGDA to GDAE without having to reset it?

If you’re in a hurry to play before you can get new strings or adjustments, you can always put a capo on the second fret and play away. Tuning becomes DAEB. You lose any notes below a D, but you won’t struggle to get to the high B. Whistles and flutes have the same issue, so you’re in good company. I’d still go with the GDAE as I love the low growly notes. Good luck!

Re: Can I tune a banjo thats been set for CGDA to GDAE without having to reset it?

Besides changing the strings, you may have to file the nut slots for the bigger strings, and maybe the bridge slots.

Re: Can I tune a banjo thats been set for CGDA to GDAE without having to reset it?

"If (after fitting the correct strings) you’re not happy with the playing action, the truss rod may require a small adjustment."
Erm, the truss rod is not for adjusting the playing action. It’s for adjusting the relief so as to limit string buzz and is usually adjusted when changing to a different string tension or in certain atmospheric conditions.
Tightening the truss rod will reduce the action slightly but may cause the strings to rattle against the frets in an unacceptable way.

Re: Can I tune a banjo thats been set for CGDA to GDAE without having to reset it?

This site has a section dedicated to 4 string banjos, lots of advice on adjusting neck relief in its archives: http://www.banjohangout.org/forum/forum.asp?FORUM_ID=29 You’ll probably find some advice on thesession.org, for that matter, this site’s been around forever.

I play old banjos with wooden dowel sticks, or to use the wonderful old term mentioned above, perch poles. Almost all of them I’ve not bothered to adjust much at all. My main player has neck adjusters to modify the action, I just slacken the strings, loosen or tighten the adjuster(s), and tune the strings back up. This is a feature peculiar to the banjo in question (1930s Paramount). There are a lot of old banjo brands, with all sorts of differing ways of adjusting things - what’s yours, basto?

The main thing I have to have is a nice low bridge. I’ve run into rather bad banjo players who have really high action, because they "have to have good tone." That don’t make no sense. Tone is a privilege, not a right. So having a few different bridges of differing heights is good, so when the action becomes too high or low due to changing heat/humidity you have a way of coping with it.

Re: Can I tune a banjo thats been set for CGDA to GDAE without having to reset it?

DonaldK: "Erm, the truss rod is not for adjusting the playing action. It’s for adjusting the relief so as to limit string buzz and is usually adjusted when changing to a different string tension or in certain atmospheric conditions."

If the playing action is too low there will be fret buzz. Sometimes fixable by fitting a higher bridge and/or or altering the nut. In certian circumstances truss rod adjustment or re-shimming might be necessary.

Re: Can I tune a banjo thats been set for CGDA to GDAE without having to reset it?

Where the action is too high or too low;
The truss rod is for countering the tendency for the neck to bow under the tension of the strings. There are arguments for having a minimal bow to reduce fret buzz, but if the neck has a system for adjusting its angle then that can be used, or a different height of bridge fitted.

Re: Can I tune a banjo thats been set for CGDA to GDAE without having to reset it?

Make sure that your string dimensions are "correct" according your fretboard. Instruments come in different sizes, and even if you get a GDAE set of strings, the neck may be longer or shorter. Nobody wants a low "spaghetti" G.

I’m not an expert on acoustics, but I’m convinced that luthiers have done all the necessary calculations , say a guitar body where a standard set of strings (EADGBE) will resonate better than anything else. Perhaps this doesn’t apply to a banjo (I mean, the craftsmanship needed for classical guitars and violins is probably different).