How to Tune a Banjo with a Snark Tuner: A Step-by-Step Guide to Perfect Pitch

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If you’re a banjo player, one of the most frustrating things you can experience is an out-of-tune instrument. Fortunately, tuning a banjo with a Snark tuner is easy and can help you achieve perfect pitch with ease. In this article, I’m going to walk you through the steps of how to tune a banjo with a Snark tuner so you can get back to playing as quickly as possible.

What is a Banjo?

What Is A Banjo?

  • A banjo is a stringed instrument that typically has four or five strings and a long neck.
  • The main strings are stretched over a drum-like body and the remaining strings run over a bridge that rests on top of the drum.
  • Banjos are usually tuned to open or modal notes, which are notes in a scale that are not part of any major or minor key.
  • The most common banjo tuning is G-D-G-B-D, which is the same tuning used for the five-string bluegrass banjo.
  • Banjos vary in size, type, and construction materials and can be plucked, strummed, or fingered.
  • They are popular in many different genres of music, including folk, country, bluegrass, and jazz.

Types of Banjos

Types Of Banjos

Banjos come in a variety of shapes and sizes, each with its own distinct tuning and playing style. The five most commonly seen types are the traditional 5-string banjo, guitar banjo, tenor banjo, plectrum banjo, and banjo ukulele (banjolele). The 5-string banjo is the most popular, used in genres such as bluegrass and old-time music. The guitar banjo has a shorter neck and is tuned like a guitar, allowing for chord progressions. The tenor banjo is usually tuned in fourths, similar to a mandolin, and is popular in Irish and Celtic music. The plectrum banjo has a longer neck, four strings tuned in fifths, and is used to play jazz. The banjo ukulele, also known as a banjolele, has a small body and is tuned like a ukulele.

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What is a Snark Tuner?

What Is A Snark Tuner?

A Snark tuner is a type of electronic tuner that is specifically designed for stringed instruments such as banjos. It is a small device that is connected to the instrument and then reads the frequency of the strings. The Snark tuner then shows the user a visual representation of the current tuning of the instrument. The user can then adjust the tuning of the instrument to match the visual representation on the Snark tuner.

A Snark tuner has several advantages when compared to other tuners. It is small and easy to use, and it can be used on any type of instrument. Additionally, the visual representation on the Snark tuner is easy to read and understand, making it simpler to make the necessary adjustments to the instrument’s tuning.

The Snark tuner is a great tool for any banjo player looking to quickly and easily tune their instrument. Here are some of the main features of the Snark tuner:

  • Compact size – The Snark tuner is small and lightweight, so you can easily transport it with you.
  • Accuracy – The Snark tuner is very accurate and provides an easy-to-read visual representation of the tuning.
  • Versatility – The Snark tuner can be used on any type of instrument.
  • Ease of use – The Snark tuner is easy to use and requires minimal setup.

What You Need to Tune a Banjo

What You Need To Tune A Banjo

  • A banjo
  • Snark tuner
  • Optional: 9V battery

To tune a banjo with a Snark tuner, you’ll need three basic items: a banjo, a Snark tuner, and an optional 9V battery. The Snark tuner is a handheld device that can detect the pitch of your banjo strings and indicate when they are correctly tuned. It is an affordable and easy-to-use tool that can help you get your banjo sounding great. With a Snark tuner, you’ll be able to quickly and accurately tune your banjo.

How to Tune a Banjo with a Snark Tuner

How To Tune A Banjo With A Snark Tuner

Step Instructions
1 Turn the Snark tuner on by pressing the power button. The Snark tuner will indicate that it is ready to use by displaying a tuning note.
2 Connect the Snark tuner to the banjo using a patch cable. One end of the cable should be plugged into the “line in” port on the Snark tuner and the other end should be plugged into the banjo.
3 Play the fourth string on the banjo and observe the Snark tuner’s display. The tuner will indicate whether the string is in tune or not by displaying either a green light (in tune) or a red light (out of tune).
4 If the string is out of tune, adjust the tuning peg on the banjo until the Snark tuner displays a green light. Tune the remaining strings in the same manner.
5 When all of the strings are in tune, you’re done!

Tips for Tuning a Banjo

Tips For Tuning A Banjo

1. Start by tightening the strings until the tuner reads “A”. Make sure to tighten the strings evenly.

2. Tune the 1st string (the 5th string) to a “D”. Then tune the 2nd string (the 4th string) to a “G”.

3. Tune the 3rd string (the 3rd string) to a “B”. Then tune the 4th string (the 2nd string) to a “D”.

4. Tune the 5th string (the 1st string) to an “E”. Then tune the 6th string (the 6th string) to a “G”.

5. If the tuning is off, adjust the tuning pegs to make sure the tuner reads “A” for all strings.

6. Finally, check the tuning of each string by plucking it and listening to the sound. Make sure that each string is in tune with the other strings.

Troubleshooting Common Banjo Tuning Issues

Using a Snark Tuner can help with the most common banjo tuning issues. The following are some tips to help troubleshoot the most common tuning problems.

Striking the Wrong String

If you have difficulty striking the correct string when using a Snark tuner, make sure to adjust the sensitivity. With the sensitivity set too high, the tuner will pick up the vibrations of the strings adjacent to the one you are trying to tune. To adjust the sensitivity, press and hold the power button for a few seconds.

String Buzzing

If you are experiencing string buzzing, try tightening the string by turning the tuning peg. If the buzzing persists, you may need to adjust the nut or the bridge. Depending on the model of banjo, you may need to loosen the strings before adjusting the nut or bridge.

Out of Tune

If the strings are out of tune, adjust the tuning pegs until the needle on the Snark tuner is in the center of the tuning box. Make sure to turn the peg in the same direction as the string. For instance, if the string is sharp, turn the peg clockwise to lower the pitch.

Tuning Issues in Cold Weather

In cold weather, the strings tend to tighten and can cause the banjo to go out of tune. If this happens, you will need to loosen the strings and retune. To prevent this from happening, you can use a lighter gauge string or a capo.

Tuning Issues in Hot Weather

In hot weather, the strings tend to loosen and can cause the banjo to go out of tune. If this happens, you will need to tighten the strings and retune. To prevent this from happening, you can use a heavier gauge string or a capo.

Tuning Issues with New Strings

If you have recently changed your strings, you may experience some tuning issues. This is because the strings need to stretch before they can hold their tune. To help the strings stretch out, tune the banjo up a few steps and then back down to the correct tuning. This should help the strings settle in and hold their tune.

Fret Buzzing

If you are experiencing fret buzzing, the issue can usually be solved by adjusting the action of the banjo. The action of the banjo is the distance between the strings and the fretboard. If the action is too low, the strings will buzz against the frets. To adjust the action, you will need to adjust the bridge or the nut.

Using a Snark Tuner can help with the most common banjo tuning issues. With some patience and practice, you should be able to successfully tune your banjo with a Snark Tuner.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of tuner is a Snark tuner?

Snark tuners are clip-on tuners that attach onto the headstock of string instruments such as banjos. They use a vibration sensor to pick up the sound of the instrument, which is then displayed on a digital LED screen. Snark tuners are reliable and accurate, making them suitable for all levels of musicians.

How do I attach the Snark tuner to my banjo?

Secure the tuner to the headstock of the banjo using the clip. Make sure the clip is secure and the tuner is firmly attached. Turn on the tuner and make sure it is set to the correct pitch. Use the calibration settings to adjust the pitch. Finally, use the microphone or vibration sensor to tune the strings of the banjo.

What is the best way to tune a banjo with a Snark tuner?

The best way to tune a banjo with a Snark tuner is to ensure the tuner is turned on and the correct tuning mode is selected. Pluck each string one at a time and adjust each tuner peg until the Snark tuner reads in the correct key. Finally, check the tuning by playing chords and single notes.

What is the Most Accurate Way to Use a Snark Tuner?

For best tuning accuracy, use the Snark tuner’s built-in microphone and make sure that the banjo is located in a quiet area with little to no noise interference. Tune each string to the desired note one at a time and repeat the process until all strings are in tune. If using the Snark tuner with an instrument cable, ensure that the cable is firmly plugged in and that the signal is not being lost due to a ghost in the cable. Adjust the tuner’s sensitivity settings if necessary.

What Notes Should I Use When Tuning My Banjo with a Snark Tuner?

The banjo should be tuned to the standard open G tuning of G-D-G-B-D. Start with the lowest string (string 1), and tune it to G. Next, tune the second string to D, the third string to G, the fourth string to B and the fifth string to D. Once the strings are tuned to the correct notes, you are ready to start playing!


Tuning a banjo can be a difficult task, but with the use of a Snark tuner, it can be done easily and accurately. The combination of the Snark tuner and the banjo’s tuning pegs provide a reliable way to tune the banjo to the perfect pitch for the most satisfying sound. With a little practice, it’s possible to become an expert tuner.


About the author

Hi there! I’m Jack Little – an avid country music fan with tons of live country performances in the past. I used to play banjo in a country band with my best friend John Peters, who’s a true country harmonica master. Those were great years and I’m still mastering new banjo playing techniques, writing my own country songs and lyrics, and collecting banjos!

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