How’s the 5-string banjo tuned?

What’s the 5-string banjo tuned to?

In this video, I go over how the 5-string banjo is tuned.  I discuss the tuning and relate it back to the guitar.  Many guitar players are interested in learning the banjo and wonder if there is any carry over?   You’ll be surprised to learn that there are similarities between the banjo and guitar.

The standard 5-string banjo tuning is:

g D G B D

See if you can spot the similarities between it and the guitar.  Standard tuning for the guitar is:


Take a closer look at the first four strings of the banjo and the first four strings of the guitar.  Do you see it?

Yes, it turns out that the 4th, 3rd, and 2nd strings of a banjo are tuned identical to the 4th, 3rd, and 2nd strings of a guitar.  This has advantages and disadvantages.  The advantage-You can quickly apply all the scales and shapes you know on the center strings of a guitar to the banjo.

The disadvantage-you can get your wires crossed when it comes to that first string.  This is because the 1st string of the banjo is tuned to D and the first string of the guitar is tuned to E.  Yes, a whole step lower.  This can throw you for a loop if you attempt to learn/play both instruments at the same time.  With my own studies, I remember going through this-I’d try to play a scale on the banjo and switch into GUITAR FINGERS! I’d be off by a whole step on the first string.

Of course, we can’t leave off the most unique part of the 5-string banjo, the FIFTH STRING!  That guy that hangs off the side of the neck that’s tuned to g.  You might wonder, why is that there?

This is the drone string of the banjo and will probably throw off anyone with a fingerstyle guitar background, it’s non-existent on guitar.  Another odd thing about the banjo is this is the highest pitch sound, yet it’s the one closest to you (Normally where the lowest sound is on a guitar).  The 5th string of the banjo primarily provides accompaniment and resonance.  It can carry the melody, but this is rare until more advanced playing.

Hopefully, you’ve found this video on banjo tuning helpful, please throw any questions in the comments, I’m here to help.

Do you play guitar? Are you wondering if banjo is easier than the guitar?  Please, check out this blog where I answer this question:

Which is easier? Banjo or Guitar?

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