Deering Plectrum Banjo for Irish music?

Re: Deering Plectrum Banjo for Irish music?

I’m in no way a banjo expert, but to my knowledge, the only difference between a plectrum and a tenor banjo is the scale length. So why not tune down the strings and use a capo for an easier stretch when playing tunes?

Re: Deering Plectrum Banjo for Irish music?

Just like using a tenor banjo for Irish tunes, you’re going to have to determine what gauge of strings works best for the scale length. You may be able to start out with a set of octave mandolin strings, or Irish bouzouki, and they could be pretty close since the neck lengths are similar.

Re: Deering Plectrum Banjo for Irish music?

You could think about using one of the many string tension calculators available on the net to help with string gauges if you plan to detune and then use a capo to shorten the scale length. The effective scale length will be from the bridge to fret you decide to capo at.

Re: Deering Plectrum Banjo for Irish music?

A short neck tenor is much more suitable for getting around in the first position.

Re: Deering Plectrum Banjo for Irish music?

“A short neck tenor is much more suitable for getting around in the first position”…
Maybe so, but the O.P.’s long neck cost her zilch, and there is no reason that it can’t be used for ITM one way or another.

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Re: Deering Plectrum Banjo for Irish music?

Given that a plectrum banjo is basically a 5-string without the shorter thumb string I’d have thought that sticking with plectrum banjo tuning would be going out on your own for Irish music.
Alternatives
- tune it like a bouzouki
- tune it in fifths and capo to tenor banjo tuning
- tune as the top four strings of a guitar.

Re: Deering Plectrum Banjo for Irish music?

Standard tuning for plectrum is CGBD. Easy to tune the low string up to D, DGBD should work quite nicely for playing ITM.
And as noted above, it’s essentially a 5-string minus the high drone string. All kinds of options for tuning the remaining strings, here’s a few dozen:

https://zeppmusic.com/banjo/aktuning.htm

Re: Deering Plectrum Banjo for Irish music?

It can definitely work at a stretch (pun intended) but most players are using tenor. As a first banjo, it would be like having a bus as your first car - not impossible though!

Re: Deering Plectrum Banjo for Irish music?

Hmmm… I’d never heard a Plectrum described as a 5 string without a spike, but sure, OK.

They were meant to be tuned CGDA according to Deering:

https://blog.deeringbanjos.com/what-is-a-plectrum-banjo

but there are other possibilities of course.

I’ve played several tuned GDAE, it’s a lot of work with the long scale, but workable.

Re: Deering Plectrum Banjo for Irish music?

Thanks everyone for your advice, information and constructive comments. I have a tenor guitar and a few ukuleles, but the banjo was my father’s. My time is occupied with a concertina; I was trying to get a feel for what type of musician (besides jazz) would be interested in something like this should I decide to sell it. Thanks for your answers, which are leading me to believe it would not be first choice for Irish Traditional.

Re: Deering Plectrum Banjo for Irish music?

Soloists tend to favor PB - the longer scale and closer intervals have a good sound, compared with TB which tend to be used more for ensemble work. The usual repertoire - jazz standards, rags, song accompaninent - were what I played on PB.

Shorten the scale length with a capo to better enable tune playing.

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Re: Deering Plectrum Banjo for Irish music?

Hi catty, I’m assuming you are referring to soloists on styles other than traditional Irish music preferring PB, right?

Re: Deering Plectrum Banjo for Irish music?

I have told this story here several times, but I’ll tell it again:
I once met a fine banjo player at a session in Drumshanbo, who played a Gibson plectrum banjo. She had bought it in ignorance as a beginner and learned to play it. It was only some years later that it was pointed out to her that this was not a tenor banjo she was playing – by which time it was too late! She did not, as far as I remember, have particularly big hands, she had just developed the technique to handle that scale length.

So a plectrum banjo can definitely be used for Irish trad. You might, as others have suggested, find it more comfortable with a capo, so that the effective scale length is the same as a tenor, but you might do fine without. Whether or not you choose to use a capo, however, you should be OK using the same string gauges as for a tenor banjo: with the capo, the string tension will be exactly the same as for a tenor; without the capo, the longer scale length would mean higher tension to reach the same pitch, but the longer scale length also means there is more sideways movement in the strings, making them feel a little slacker than they would at the same tension with a shorter length (A mandolin string has, on average, less tension on it than a guitar string, for example, but feels ‘tighter’ because of its short length).

Re: Deering Plectrum Banjo for Irish music?

That’s great advice about using the same string gauges as GDAE on a CGDA tuned plectrum with a capo, never really thought about it that way, but makes perfect sense!

Re: Deering Plectrum Banjo for Irish music?

I used to have a plectrum banjo - perfectly playable for Irish music - yes a bit more of a stretch but I adapt my fingering anyhow on a regular (19 fret) tenor banjo too

Re: Deering Plectrum Banjo for Irish music?

Dug out from under the bed the first banjo that I bought oh those so many years ago and whadyaknow? Plectrum banjo. 🙂

Re: Deering Plectrum Banjo for Irish music?

>“Hi catty, I’m assuming you are referring to soloists on styles other than traditional Irish music preferring PB, right?”

Oh ya for sure. Like a jazz approach. …i was a kid in the detroit area - i remember shakey’s pizza parlor which had old fashioned candy, soda fountain, and a a solo banjo player. I remember nearly swooning from the light and bombast. In a cruel twist of fate I actually did a little of that style of entertaining myself. Ugh, I hadn’t thought of that in ages. Gee thanks : I

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Re: Deering Plectrum Banjo for Irish music?

I always thought that a plectrum banjo and a 19 fret tenor were the same thing?

Re: Deering Plectrum Banjo for Irish music?

Caroline, in case you are still reading: If your plan is to sell the banjo, you should also consider that banjo conversions are fairly common, i.e., removing a 4-string neck and replacing it with a 5-string, or a long neck for a short neck, etc. So your audience of possible buyers is a bit broader than just the plectrum banjo market.