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How to retune tenor banjo to DGdg open tuning?

Note you do not need to change the strings to switch between the "normal" and DGdg tuning. From the left hand technique point of view it is better to use the lightest set of string available. As I do not switch between flatpicking and fingerpicking, I use even lighter custom set: 8, 10, 16, and 26. This gauge gives me the lightness of 5-string banjo strings, necessary for some left hand techniques (bending, pull-ofs).

The original tuning of your tenor banjo is CGda from bass to treble. If you strum the strings without pressing them by left hand fingers, you do not hear the simple major or minor chord. On the contrary the Patek style uses the „open“ tuning, in which you hear the chord when you do not press the strings with your left hand. The left hand can then more easily articulate the grace notes (slides, hammer-ons, pull-offs, bends).


Most frequently used tuning for Patek style is DGdg from bass to treble. This tuning can be obtained from the original one in two easy steps:
  1. Raise the fourth (thickest) string from C to D – now the next higher string is matched on the fifth fret instead of the seventh one.
  2. Lower the first (thinnest) string from a to g – it equals now to the next lower string pressed on the fifth fret instead of the seventh one.
You can check the proper tuning by the harmonics (chimes): Note how the DGdg tuning relates to the most common G tuning of 5-string banjo: gDGBd. The retuned tenor banjo contains the same strings as the 5-string banjo with two exceptions:
  1. There is no B string. But being the third degree in the G majorscale, the B string is most problematic on the 5-string banjo from the tuning point of view. In addition to easier tuning you can play songs in both major and minor key now. Of course, there are situations when B string is missing, but there are ways to overcome this problem.
  2. The highest g string is located on the treble side, instead of the thumb one. This enables you to trade lick and rolls between banjo and guitar. It also simplifies the role of your right thumb which plays only the deep tones and is not mislead by the thin string.
If not specified, all instructions on this web page deal with mostly used DGdg tuning.

See also the overview of the DGdg tenor banjo fretboard.