how to tune a banjo

How to Tune a Banjo | Beginners Guide 

Have you ever wondered how to tune a Banjo? Banjos are unique stringed instruments with distinctive tone. In order to get the most out of your Banjo, it’s important to be able to tune it properly. This guide will teach you everything you need to know about banjo tuning, including the different techniques and what each string is used for. With a little practice, you can perfectly tune your Banjo in no time.

How to tune a Banjo?

how to tune a banjo

Tuning a banjo is an essential element of playing that helps get the most out of your musical instrument. The strings of a banjo will stretch over time, which means they become loose and need to be tightened to produce a proper banjo sound. Before you begin tuning, make sure your Banjo is tuned as far down as it will go (the lowest string should be tuned close to B). You can tell when your Banjo needs to be tuned because it will feel floppy on the lower banjo notes and sound “off” when played. When this happens, check all five strings on your Banjo; if even one is not tuned correctly, the entire string instrument needs to be re-adjusted.

Types of Banjo Tuning:

tuning banjo

The first thing you need to know about tuning a banjo is that there are two primary ways to tune your Banjo: pull the string UP or DOWN. The difference between the pull-up and pull-down method is that with pull-up tuning, you tighten each string from above as you tune, while with pull-down tuning, you tighten each one from below as you tune.

1. What Is Pull-Down Tuning?

This tuning method requires one extra step than pull-up tuning but allows for more flexibility because you can tune each correct string individually after you’ve tuned all five together. The main drawback with this popular type of tuning is that if your banjo strings aren’t perfectly in tune with each other, there’s a chance for some of them to break or slip out of tune as you’re tuning.

2. What Is Pull-Up Tuning?

This tuning method requires one less step than pull-down tuning but limits your flexibility because you can’t tune each string individually after you’ve tuned all five together. The main advantage with this type of tuning is that if your strings are perfectly in tune with each other, there’s a minimal chance they’ll break or slip out of tune as you’re tuning.

Standard Tuning of Banjo:

banjo tuning

Banjo contains many different kinds and different ways of tuning according to the type of popular Banjo. So let’s look at them one by one.

Tuning of 5-String Banjos

G, D, G, B, D

This is the most common five-string banjo tuning. The Banjo is tuned to an open G chord; therefore, if you strum the Banjo without fingering any of the strings on the Banjo neck, you’ll be playing a G chord.

G, C, G, C, D

Because the Banjo has two C strings, this is called “Double C” tuning.

G, C, G, B, D

The process is known as “C” tuning. It’s also known as “Drop C” tuning fork because the D string on the 4th string is dropped down to a C from an open G tuning.

F, D, F, A, D

The process is known as “D” tuning. Earl Scruggs used this tune in banjo songs like “Reuben.”. You can play in “D” tuning by tuning the 5th string to an “A” rather than an “F#.” In this tuning.” You’ll be playing a D chord if you strum the Banjo without fretting any strings in this tuning.

G, D, G, C, D

Tuning in the “G Modal” mode is what it’s called. This is the standard tuning for old-time tunes like Shady Grove, Little Sadie, and others. Other names for it include “Sawmill Tuning” and “Mountain Minor Tuning.” The second string is tuned up to a C note, which is extremely similar to normal G tuning.


C, G, D, A

This is the most common tenor banjo tuning known as “Standard Tenor Tuning” for numerous reasons. This tuning, which is identical to that of the viola or mandola, uses fifth intervals.

G, D, A, E

It’s known as “Irish Tenor Tuning.” Although this tuning is in fifths, it is a lower accurate pitch than regular tenor tuning. This tuning is one octave lower than that of a violin or mandolin.

D, G, B, E

Because it is the same tuning as the top four strings on a guitar, it is commonly referred to as “Chicago Tuning, “picking up a 4-string banjo and starting to play.


C, G, B, D

This is the most common plectrum banjo tuning. The 4th string is dropped to C, which is extremely close to the normal 5-string tuning (without the 5-string).

D, G, B, E

This tuning is often called “Chicago Tuning” since it is the same as the top four strings on a guitar. Guitarists will find it quite simple to pick up a 4-string banjo and begin playing.

Tuning of 6-STRING BANJO

E, A, D, G, B, E

This alternate tuning is identical to that of electric guitars.

Tuning of 12-STRING BANJO

E, E, A, A, D, D, G, G, B, B, E, E,

The tuning is identical to that of a 12-string guitar. Specifically, the bass three strings are doubled, separated by an octave, and the top three are doubled in unison, just like a standard guitar.


G (high), C, E, A

The tuning of a banjo ukulele is identical to that of a regular ukulele. The G string has a different tuning than the C and E strings. This is what gives a ukulele its distinct tone.

Methods of Tuning a Banjo:

banjo tuner

There are many ways to tune a Banjo, for example, it is better to know all the methods for tuning a banjo in order to ensure playing Banjo in any situation.

How to Tune a Banjo by Ear?

tuning by ear

This method takes a lot of practice and patience but can be extremely rewarding once mastered. To begin, you’ll need a reference note. The banjo tuner is generally sufficient for this (most online tuners also come with a “reference tone” option that you can choose). So, for example, if your reference tone is an E (the 5th fret on the 3rd string), tuning up will make it an F# (the 7th fret on the 3rd fret string). The opposite applies as well: tuning down will make it a Db (the 5th fret on the 3rd string).

How to Tune a Banjo by Itself?

tuning by itself

Tuning a Banjo by itself is an advanced skill that requires a lot of practice, patience, and some extra equipment. This method helps you get the most accurate sound out of your Banjo’s strings. It requires about $50-100 worth of specialized tools, so it may be best if you learn how to tune with other people or by ear first before attempting this technique on your own.

How To Tune a Banjo Using an Electronic Tuner?

electric tuning

If you’re going to utilize an electronic tuner for this tuning method, set it up in front of where your Banjo would usually sit so you won’t have to move it every time you want to tune. So pluck each string once before you begin tuning. This will ensure that the corresponding tuning peg on the banjo head doesn’t slip out of place while you’re working with it. If this happens, the string will go out of tune and could break if pulled too hard. Once all five strings are plucked, stop them one by one and turn each tuning peg clockwise or counterclockwise until your electric tuner indicates they’re in tune.

Read about the best electric banjos.

Top Banjo Tuning Tips

  • Tuning your Banjo is arguably more important than buying one that’s in tune right out of the box.
  • Banjos need to be tuned regularly in order to produce a proper brighter sound.
  • The easiest way to ensure all five strings are perfectly in tune with each other is to tighten them using pull-down tuning.
  • With pull-up tuning, you tighten each string by turning the corresponding peg on the headstock counterclockwise, then clockwise once it’s tightened.
  • Start at the lowest note and tune-up when tuning your Banjo with others.
  • Once all five strings are perfectly tuned, play them slowly, one at a time, while plucking lightly with your pick.
  • When you’re sure all five notes are where they need to be, start playing each string individually and make fine adjustments if any sound slightly off from the rest.
  • If your Banjo has a tone ring or its resonator banjo, make sure it’s facing toward you. Otherwise, your strings will buzz and not produce the proper sounds.
  • Always tune-up instead of down. This prevents your strings from stretching too far and breaking as you play/practice over time.
  • If your tuners are slipping, try oiling them with banjo tuner fluid. If they continue to slip despite the oil, you may need to get your gears serviced.


How do you know if your banjo needs tuning?

The easiest way to tell if your banjo needs tuning is to listen to it. If the notes sound out of tune, then your banjo probably needs tuning. Another way to tell is to look at the strings. If they appear slack or loose, your banjo may need tuning. Finally, you can also check the neck of the banjo. If it seems bowed or warped, then your banjo may also need tuning. No matter how you decide to check, if you think your banjo needs tuning, it probably does.

What octave should a banjo be tuned to?

The standard tuning for a banjo in GDAE, is in the key of G. The fifth string is usually tuned to a high G, making it an octave above the fourth string.

Is a banjo chromatic?

No, a banjo is not chromatic. Chromatic means that every note is played in succession without skipping any notes.


Knowing how to tune a banjo for beginners is essential for any bluegrass musician. Whether you want to be able to use your ear, or if you need help tuning by yourself or with the assistance of technology, we’ve got all the tips and tricks you could ever hope for. So, are you ready to get that Banjo tuned? Good Luck!

Read about top female banjo players; click the link to visit.

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