Mandolin Banjo Tuning

Home Payments New Instruments Setting Up History Hospital Gallery FAQ Contact Links

The Mandolin Banjo and Tenor Banjo

   The mandolin banjo, is a hybrid between the mandolin and the banjo, originally designed to allow mandolinists to be able to play a banjo style instrument, at a time when the mandolin was in decline, and the banjo becoming much more popular during the 1930's.

Essentially it is tuned the same as a mandolin.

The Irish tenor banjo, which tuning became popular in the 1960s, is also tuned the same as a mandolin, but an octave lower.

   Mandolin banjos come in a great variety of styles.

The anatomy is that of a 5 string banjo, but essentially the same for a tenor, other than the 5th string and tuner.

  mandolin banjo banjo anatomy (5 string) tenor banjo
   The banjo is a complex instrument, and a totally different technology from a mandolin, and I do not intend to go into any detail here. I include the mandolin and tenor banjos, as instruments I am occasionally asked to set-up along with mandolins, as they are floating bridge instruments, and often tuned the same.
banjo parts banjo pot banjo friction tuners banjo pot bracket and nut


Mandolin BanjoTuning

   Tuning:  Accepted tuning for mandolin banjos is the same as violins, GDAE from low to high, with unison strings, that is, with pairs of strings in the same octave. 

Middle C is 5th fret on the 4th string

  • fourth (lowest tone) course: G2 (196.00 Hz)
  • third course: D3 (293.66 Hz)
  • second course: A3 (440.00 Hz; A above middle C)
  • first (highest tone) course: E4 (659.25 Hz)

Tenor Banjo Tuning

   The tenor banjo generally comes in two types, long scale and short scale. Long scale is around 580mm and usually has 19 frets, whilst the short is around 550mm and usually has 17 frets. Similarly, there are typically 3 different styles of tuning. Obviously one must be careful when buying strings, as to which tuning you intend to use.


type first second third fourth
tenor mandola A D G C
Chicago E B G D
Irish E A D G
Middle C: 3rd on 2nd string .010-12 .015-17 .024-28 .034-40