How to Tune a 4 String Banjo

By Sam Owens ; Updated September 15, 2017

The banjo is a large part of many western cultures' folk music. Most banjos commonly have five strings. But tenor banjos, often used as a rhythm instrument in Dixieland music, have a shorter neck and only four strings. They are usually played with a plectrum, which allows them to be heard better. Tenor banjos also employ a different tuning that the standard five-string banjo.

Turn the guitar tuner on. With the body of the banjo in your lap, pluck the lowest pitched (widest-diameter) string. Turn the corresponding tuning key until you reach a low "C" note.

Plucking the next lowest string, turn the corresponding knob until you reach a "G" note.

Plucking the next lowest string, turn the corresponding knob until you reach a "D" note.

Plucking the highest string, turn the corresponding knob until you reach a "A" note.

Tip

The strings in the same order, GDAE is a common tuning for Irish folk players.

References

About the Author

Sam Owens is a writer living in both New York and Washington state. He has written a number of articles in the past three years spanning a wide range of topics from music and art to travel and food.