Monday, March 9, 2015

Tenor Banjo Conversion - 5-String to 4-String!!!

"Gibsonoid" T banjo as lefty
Last week, the Irish Tenor Banjo Blog's Mike Keyes sent me one of his RK-R35 banjo conversions to check out.  The term "banjo conversion" usually refers to taking a tenor banjo and converting it into a bluegrass or old-time banjo by attaching a new 5-string neck to a vintage tenor banjo rim.  Sadness.

However, what Mike Keyes does is reverse this bad karma by removing the 5-string neck on a new Recording King RK-R35 bluegrass banjo and replacing it with a 4-string neck from his stock pile of vintage Gibson tenor banjo necks.  The vintage necks fit on these RK-R35 pots and you can re-use the tuners from the Recording King on the tenor neck by reaming the tuner holes to 3/8".

Once set up properly you're left with a very utilitarian Gibsonoid / Franksenstein style 19-fret resonator banjo that will more than meet the needs of most session-playing Irish tenor banjoists.  I'm not much of a tinkerer, so yesterday I had Fredericksburg, VA luthier Bob Gramann convert this heavyweight champ to lefty and tweak the setup.  Below are audio recordings of the first two tunes I played on it after getting it home - Golden Keyboard and Joe Bane's.

Bob Gramann also re-strung my wife's Blue Ridge BR-40T tenor guitar from DGBE to the Irish bouzouki tuning of GDAD, and fine-tuned the intonation while he was at it.  That's her playing the newly setup (single-course bouzouki) tenor guitar in the background. By the way, those Blue Ridge tenor guitars are great sounding instruments for not that much money.

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