If you’ve been looking for the answer to the question “which string goes where on a banjo?”, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, I’ll be unlocking the secrets of the banjo and taking you through the exact steps you need to take to get your strings in the right order. I’ll explain the different parts of the banjo, how they fit together, and how you can identify which strings go in which places. With my help, you’ll be able to get your banjo in tune and ready to play in no time!
Types of Banjos
The 4-string banjo features a short neck with four strings tuned in a fifth interval. It is most commonly used in jazz and classical music, and is sometimes referred to as a “plectrum” banjo. The strings are typically tuned to GDGB, with the first and fourth strings tuned an octave apart.
The 5-string banjo is the most popular type of banjo, and is most often associated with bluegrass and folk music. It has a shorter neck than the 6-string banjo, and is typically tuned to GDGBD, with the fifth string tuned to a high D note.
The 6-string banjo is similar to the 5-string banjo, but with an additional string tuned to a low C note. This type of banjo is most often used in country, blues, and rock music. It is typically tuned to CGDGBD, with the sixth string tuned to a low C note.
Tuning the Banjo
Tuning a 4-String Banjo
The fourth string on a 4-string banjo is the shortest string and is tuned to a high G note. The third string is tuned to a D note, the second to a B note and the first string to a G note.
Tuning a 5-String Banjo
The fifth string on a 5-string banjo is tuned to a high D note. The fourth string is tuned to a G note, the third to a D note, the second to a B note and the first string to a G note.
Tuning a 6-String Banjo
The sixth string on a 6-string banjo is the shortest string and is tuned to a high C note. The fifth string is tuned to a B note, the fourth to a G note, the third to a D note, the second to a B note and the first string to a G note.
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Placing the Strings
- Begin by placing the 4th string in the peg closest to the floor.
- Next, place the 3rd string in the next peg, followed by the 2nd string in the next peg.
- After that, place the 1st string in the peg closest to the ceiling.
- Finally, place the 5th string in the last peg.
1. Placing the Strings on a 4-String Banjo
Banjos typically come with four strings, which are typically tuned to G, D, G, B. Starting from the top, the strings are: the 1st string is a .010 inch diameter string tuned to G; the 2nd string is a .011 inch diameter string tuned to D; the 3rd string is a .016 inch diameter string tuned to G; and the 4th string is a .024 inch diameter string tuned to B. To change the strings, use a string winder to loosen the tuning peg, and then carefully remove the string. Fit the string into the tuning peg and then use the string winder to tighten it. Tune the string to the correct pitch and repeat this process with the other strings.
2. Placing the Strings on a 5-String Banjo
The 5-string banjo has five strings in total, which are usually tuned to an open G major chord. The strings are generally tuned in a specific order from the lowest pitch to the highest pitch: G, D, G, B, D. The G string is the thickest and lowest pitched string, and the D string is the thinnest and highest pitched string.
The strings are typically strung up in a specific order. The lowest string, the G string, is strung first and then the D string is strung second. The third string to be strung is the G string again, and is placed in the middle of the banjo neck. The fourth string is the B string and is placed directly above the G string. The fifth and final string is the D string and is placed above the B string.
Once the strings are in place, the tuning keys can be used to adjust the tension on the strings and bring them up to pitch. The strings should be tuned to the G major chord: G, D, G, B, D from lowest to highest pitched strings.
3. Placing the Strings on a 6-String Banjo
When placing the strings on a 6-string banjo, the tension and tuning of the strings should be considered. The thickest string goes on the bottom, and the thinnest string goes on the top. Begin by placing the thickest string at the bottom of the banjo. Then, proceed to the next string, and so on until the thinnest string is at the top. It is important to keep tension on the strings throughout the process. After all strings are in place, tune the banjo to the desired pitch.
Strumming and Picking
|Thinnest, towards the floor
|Thickest, towards the ceiling
Strumming and picking are the two main techniques used to play a banjo. Strumming is the most common way to play the instrument and is done by using a pick to pluck the strings from the 5th string to the 1st string. The strings should be in the following order from bottom to top: 1st string (thinnest), 2nd string (second thinnest), 3rd string (middle string), 4th string (second thickest), 5th string (thickest). Picking is done by picking individual strings with a pick. This technique is used to sound specific individual notes and provide a more intricate sound than strumming.
1. Strum Patterns for 4-String Banjo
Four-string banjos are usually tuned G-D-G-B, with the fourth string being a high G. To play simple strum patterns on the four-string banjo, start by placing your index finger of the strumming hand above the fifth fret of the fourth string and your middle finger below the fifth fret of the fourth string. Strum all four strings by pushing down and away from the strings and then releasing the pressure.
Another common pattern is to strum the four strings twice and then skip the fourth string. Place your index finger of the strumming hand above the fifth fret of the fourth string and your middle finger below the fifth fret of the fourth string. Strum all four strings and then strum all four strings again, skipping the fourth string on the second strum.
An alternate strum pattern is to strum the fourth string and then the other three strings. Place your index finger of the strumming hand above the fifth fret of the fourth string and your middle finger below the fifth fret of the fourth string. Strum the fourth string and then strum the other three strings together.
These are just a few of the many strum patterns available for the four-string banjo. Experiment with different combinations and strumming techniques to find the pattern that best fits your playing style.
2. Strum Patterns for 5-String Banjo
- Forward Roll: thumb (1st string), index (2nd string), middle (3rd string), thumb (4th string), index (5th string)
- Reverse Roll: index (5th string), thumb (4th string), middle (3rd string), index (2nd string), thumb (1st string)
- Forward and Reverse Roll: thumb (1st string), index (2nd string), middle (3rd string), thumb (4th string), index (5th string), thumb (4th string), middle (3rd string), index (2nd string), thumb (1st string)
- Double Thumb Roll: thumb (1st string), thumb (4th string), thumb (1st string), thumb (4th string)
- Triple Thumb Roll: thumb (1st string), thumb (4th string), thumb (1st string), thumb (4th string), thumb (1st string)
3. Strum Patterns for 6-String Banjo
The six-string banjo is often referred to as a banjo guitar, and is a hybrid between a guitar and a banjo. It is strung with six strings, usually with a lighter gauge than a guitar, and is tuned in the same way as a guitar. The strings are usually tuned from low to high as follows: D-G-B-D-G-B. To create strum patterns on a six-string banjo, use the following strumming patterns:
1. Up-Down Strum: This is the most basic strum pattern for a six-string banjo. It involves strumming all the strings from the lowest string to the highest, then strumming all the strings from the highest string to the lowest.
2. Alternating Strum: This strum pattern involves alternating strumming up and down. Start by strumming up on the first string, then strum down on the second string, then up on the third string and so on.
3. Reverse Alternating Strum: This strum pattern is similar to the alternating strum, except the direction is reversed. Start by strumming down on the first string, then strum up on the second string, then down on the third string and so on.
4. Waltz Strum: This strum pattern is often used in waltz music. Start by strumming up on the first string, then down on the second and third string, then up on the fourth string and so on.
5. Triplets Strum: This strum pattern involves strumming three strings at a time. Start by strumming up on the first three strings, then down on the second three strings and so on.
6. Reggae Strum: This strum pattern is often used in reggae music. It involves strumming up on the first three strings, then down on the fourth string, then up on the fifth and sixth string.
|G (g fourth string)
|D (d third string)
|B (b second string)
|G (g first string)
Once the 4-string banjo is properly tuned, there are a variety of advanced techniques that can be used to play the instrument. For example, the “hammer-on” technique can be used to add a dynamic sound to the banjo. This technique involves plucking a string and then quickly pressing down a fret on the same string to create a higher pitch. Another technique is the “pull-off,” which is the reverse of the hammer-on. This technique involves plucking a string and then quickly releasing a fret on the same string to create a lower pitch. Additionally, the “slide” technique can be used to create a smooth transition between two notes. This technique requires the player to press a fret on a string and then slide the finger up or down the same string to a different fret. Finally, the “bend” technique can be used to create a unique sound. This involves pressing a fret on a string and then bending it up or down to create a vibrato sound.
- A hammer-on is a guitar technique where the player plucks a string and then quickly presses down on another string with their fretting hand.
- The technique is used to create smooth transitions between notes, as well as to produce a melodic “bounce” when playing certain songs.
- To perform a hammer-on, the player must first pluck the string that is to be hammered-on. Then, they should quickly press down on the second string with their fretting hand.
- This technique is commonly used on the fifth and fourth strings of the banjo for various musical passages, as well as for creating a syncopated rhythm.
- The fourth string is usually the index finger, with the second string being the middle finger.
- The pull-off is performed by plucking the string with the index finger while simultaneously releasing the middle finger.
- The index finger is then plucked again, pulling it off the string.
- This creates a sound that is slightly different from a regular pick, as the pull-off produces a short, sharp sound.
- The pull-off is an important technique for playing banjo, as it can be used to add accents and dynamics to a song.
- 5th String (5th fret): B
- 4th String (5th fret): F#
- 3rd String (5th fret): C#
- 2nd String (4th fret): G#
- 1st String (4th fret): D#
Common Banjo Songs
- “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” – Earl Scruggs
- “Dueling Banjos” – Eric Weissberg and Steve Mandell
- “Cripple Creek” – Traditional
- “Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms” – Traditional
- “Orange Blossom Special” – Ervin T. Rouse
- “Rocky Top” – Boudleaux Bryant
- “John Henry” – Traditional
- “Cotton-Eyed Joe” – Traditional
- “Country Roads” – John Denver
- “Man of Constant Sorrow” – Traditional
Banjo songs are often associated with bluegrass music and are often used in folk, country, and pop music. Popular banjo songs include “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” by Earl Scruggs, “Dueling Banjos” by Eric Weissberg and Steve Mandell, “Cripple Creek”, “Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms”, “Orange Blossom Special” by Ervin T. Rouse, “Rocky Top” by Boudleaux Bryant, “John Henry”, “Cotton-Eyed Joe”, “Country Roads” by John Denver, and “Man of Constant Sorrow”.
1. 4-String Banjo Songs
Four-string banjos are the most common and most versatile of banjos. While they are mostly used to play folk, bluegrass, and country music, they can also be used to play a variety of other styles of music, including jazz, blues, and even pop. The four-string banjo is tuned differently than the five-string banjo due to the different string gauges and the lack of a fifth string. The four strings on a four-string banjo are G, C, D, and A.
When playing songs on a four-string banjo, the string gauges should be taken into consideration. The G string should be the heaviest gauge string and the A string should be the lightest gauge string. This ensures that the G string is the loudest string and the A string is the quietest string.
When playing four-string banjo songs, the most common fingerpicking pattern is the clawhammer picking pattern. This pattern involves using the back of the fingernails to pluck the strings and using the index, middle, and ring fingers to hold down the strings. This allows for a more varied sound when playing four-string banjo songs.
The four-string banjo is also capable of playing chords. The chords used in four-string banjo songs are usually open chords, which are chords that use only the open strings of the banjo. This makes it easy to transition between chords and create a wide variety of sounds.
There are many different four-string banjo songs that can be played. Some of the more popular four-string banjo songs include “Cripple Creek”, “Foggy Mountain Breakdown”, “Rocky Top”, “Old Joe Clark”, and “John Henry”. These songs utilize the clawhammer picking pattern and open chords to create a unique sound that is sure to impress.
Four-string banjo songs are a great way to explore different genres of music and to practice different techniques. Whether playing for friends and family or on stage, the four-string banjo is a great instrument to explore and to express yourself musically.
2. 5-String Banjo Songs
- “Cripple Creek”- A traditional folk song often played on a 5-string banjo
- “Dueling Banjos”- A bluegrass instrumental from the movie Deliverance
- “Foggy Mountain Breakdown”- Another bluegrass instrumental made famous by the Stanley Brothers
- “Rocky Top”- The official state song of Tennessee
- “Wabash Cannonball”- A traditional American folk song
3. 6-String Banjo Songs
Playing songs on a 6-string banjo is similar to playing a guitar, but with a few variations. To get started, place the strings in order from thinnest to thickest: E, B, G, D, A, and E. The E strings are the highest and lowest strings, while the B, G, D, and A strings make up the middle of the banjo. To play songs on the 6-string banjo, start with basic chords and strumming patterns. Focus on chords in the key of C, such as C, F, G, and Am. As you become more comfortable, you can try more advanced chords and songs in different keys. Additionally, you can use fingerpicking techniques to play melodies and solos. Finally, consider playing well-known songs on the 6-string banjo, such as “Tom Dooley”, “Foggy Mountain Breakdown”, “Cripple Creek”, and “John Henry”. With practice and patience, you’ll be able to make your 6-string banjo sound great.
Maintenance and Care
|Left, closest to the floor
|Left, closest to the head
|Right, closest to the head
|Right, closest to the floor
|Right, in the middle
Proper maintenance and care is essential for any stringed instrument. Clean and polish the banjo’s body, head and neck with a soft cloth after each use. Check the strings for rust and replace them when necessary. Make sure the tuning pegs are lubricated and tightened regularly. If the strings are too loose, they can break or become out of tune. If the strings are too tight, the banjo’s neck and head may be damaged.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the correct order to string a banjo?
The correct order for stringing a banjo is to start with the 4th string, followed by the 3rd, 2nd, 1st, and finally the 5th string. The 4th string is usually the shortest string, and is usually the thinnest string. The 1st string is usually the thickest string and longest. The 5th string is usually the shortest string, and is usually the thinnest string. When stringing a banjo, it is important to ensure all strings are securely fastened to the bridge and tuning pegs.
How can I make sure I am positioning my strings properly?
Check the tuning pegs to ensure they are at the correct angle and the strings are tight. Measure the distance between the nut and the tuning peg to ensure the strings are the correct length. Finally, look at the bridge to make sure the strings are at the correct height and the bridge is correctly placed.
What is the best way to tune a banjo?
Tuning a banjo can be done either manually, with an electronic tuner, or app-based tuning tool. Manual tuning involves loosening or tightening the strings until they reach the correct pitch, while electronic tuners measure the frequency of the string and indicate when it is in-tune. App-based tuning tools often allow users to customize the tuning process and provide visual feedback to make sure the strings are in-tune. For best results, it is recommended to tune the banjo after each practice session.
How can I keep my banjo strings in good condition?
To keep banjo strings in good condition, clean them regularly with an instrument-specific cloth and check them for signs of wear and tear. When tuning, avoid over-stretching the strings and ensure that they are not slack. Replace banjo strings as soon as they start to lose their tone, as this can be an indication of wear. Also, store the banjo in a cool, dry and dust-free environment to prevent rusting or discoloration of the strings.
What types of strings are best for my banjo?
Banjos typically use phosphor bronze or nickel plated steel strings for the four main strings, and a silver-plated copper wound string for the fifth string. The type of strings you choose depends on the sound you want to achieve, as well as the playing style you prefer. Phosphor bronze strings provide a warmer, mellower sound, while nickel plated steel strings provide a brighter, more aggressive sound. Silver-plated copper wound strings provide a unique, distinctive tone. Experimenting with different strings can help you find the sound that suits you best.
The Banjo is a unique instrument with a unique sound. It can be intimidating to start learning how to play it, but with a few simple tips and some practice, it can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience. With the information in this article, you should have a basic understanding of the strings and their placement, as well as some tips for learning the instrument.