Everything You Should Know about a 4-String Banjo

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  • Writer:Alice
  • Time:2022-06-29

The 4-string banjo is an excellent beginning instrument for anyone interested in finger picking and the classic Dixieland sound known throughout the United States. These have excellent, bright sounds offering a ton of versatility that you can tune in many different ways similar to instruments like a mandolin, guitar, or ukulele.

You’ll find a lot of traditional jazz, Irish, seafarer, and hymnal music appropriate for a 4-string guitar, like:

-Old Rugged Cross
-Amazing Grace
-Cripple Creek
-Salty Dog Blues
-Wildwood Flower
-Camptown Races

There are also modern applications like Southern Man by Neil Young or artists like Led Zeppelin. Simply put, you can enjoy many fun music pieces and styles when you pick up a 4-string banjo.

What is a 4-String Banjo?

The 4-string banjo tends to have one short drone string and ranges in length between 26 and 28 inches. It does have around 17-22 frets, but it is considered one of the more accessible instruments to play because the 4 strings are more straightforward compared to 5 or even 6-string banjo versions.

There are two well-known types of 4-string banjos known as:

1. Tenor Banjo: This 4-string banjo is tuned in the same way a viola or an octave above a cello would be tuned using CGDA as a guideline. It has a shorter neck, resulting in a higher pitch that helps the instrument sound rise above ensemble pieces.
2. Plectrum Banjo: This actually started as a 5-string banjo until the fifth string was removed to enable strumming with a plectrum. You use the same tuning CGBD but on a longer instrument resulting in lower tone capability and not as much fingerpicking.

How to Tune the 4-String Banjo?

Tuning a 4-string banjo depends on the type of music and style you wish to play. If you are sticking to classical pieces, you will use a different tune structure than a Dixieland or jazz song. The three most popular patterns are:

1. CGDA - this is considered standard tuning for a tenor banjo and matches how you tune a viola.
2. GDAE - this is more of a classical feel similar to a fiddle.
3. DGBE - this is more towards a guitar with fuller chord sounds.

To tune a banjo, you can use another instrument as your lead. This is usually a lead guitar or piano in a band that everyone tunes so that the entire piece sounds right, even if you shift into different keys together.

You can also use an electronic tuner tool that often includes a few other accessories for maintenance. Most people in the modern era use an online tuning resource or mobile app to quickly tune their 4-string banjos until they have the tone quality memorized.

What Type of Banjo to Purchase?

Even though a 4-string banjo is relatively easy to learn, they do get on the pricier side. People see videos and movies with incredibly nimble and fast-playing musicians that make them nervous about whether or not they will learn. This causes many of the banjo-playing population to start with a used instrument.

While that can certainly save you a few dollars, it means you will need to learn how to restring your instrument. When getting a used banjo, you are suggested to buy the best banjo strings available on the market to replace the old and loose ones.

Whether you want a tenor or plectrum banjo, check out your local music shop, online message boards, social media, and local high school. There is a great chance that you can find a quality instrument for a lot less price than a brand-new purchase.

Where to Find Quality Banjo Strings

Alice offers a superior set of 4-string banjo strings with the AJ07. These are plated steel plain strings with phosphor bronze winding and an anti-rust coating that provide the versatility and warm, bright timbre of a classic banjo. With only a little wiping down from a microfiber cloth, you too can enjoy the classic sounds of a beautiful banjo in your home and performance space.

Since 1999,Alice has been a manufacturer of high-quality strings for all kinds of instruments, including the 4-string banjo. With robust research & development branch and a commitment to exceptional quality involving string processing and coating, we are sure that you will find the best possible banjo strings for your new acquisition here.

We can offer you various unique strings, and you can visit our website to find the proofs. You’ll be easily able to outfit your guitar, bass, acoustic, and 4-string banjo with durable and well-performed strings and other accessories.