If you’re looking for a guide to standard and alternate banjitar tunings, this post is for you!
(And check out this post if you’re just getting started with the banjitar and are looking for more information about it.)
The banjitar is an instrument with the tone of a banjo and the tuning system of a guitar.
So what’s the standard tuning for the banjitar exactly?
A banjitar’s standard tuning is the exact same as the guitar, namely: EADGBe.
The banjo sound comes from the tone of the instrument and how its built.
As a result, the banjitar allows guitarists to pick up and play a “banjo” with ease.
But did you know that there are many alternate tunings for the guitar and therefore the banjitar as well?
Read on to discover some of my favorite alternate banjitar tunings!
Open G: DGDGBd
As I’ve pointed out in my banjitar history article, banjos are tuned differently than banjitars.
However, you can tune almost any instrument to open G.
In open G, each string is tuned to a different note in the G major chord.
So when you strum an instrument tuned to Open G without fretting any notes, the chord that plays is G Major.
As I’ve said, a 6-string banjo is basically a banjitar: we can consider Open G as a banjitar tuning as well.
Interestingly enough, Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones did most of his song-writing in open G.
The tuning is very beautiful and open to many possibilities to explore and write new riffs in!
Keith uses this tuning on the guitar — maybe exploring in on the banjitar will get a new sound for musicians to explore.
The banjitar using this tuning over a guitar would give it a new tone instead of just sounding like a guitar.
Typically instrument players use open tunings with a slide.
(You can check out my slide guitar tuning post for more information about that.)
The slide creates a bluesy sound on the instrument while the open tuning gives the player room to explore different avenues.
Exploring the slide on the banjitar can open up even more of a different voice of the instrument.
Drop D: DADGBe
This tuning is nearly the same as standard tuning (EADGBe) except the lowest string drops from E to D.
On the guitar, this gives a nice deep lower register.
You will often find this tuning used in heavy metal and hard rock music.
But I’ve also heard it in blues music as well.
When used with a distortion or overdrive effect, a guitar in Drop D gets a really rich and deep sound.
As always, applying this tuning to your banjitar playing can open up new avenues of sound for the instrument!
It would be very interesting to hear heavy metal and hard rock music played on a banjitar in Drop D.
In my opinion, blues played on a Drop D banjitar might not be as surprising, thanks to the history of the banjo itself.
The 6-string banjo came to prominence because it had the tone of a banjo and the range of a guitar (almost.)
Tuning down the low string to a D brings out even more of that attractive low end.
And if you can amplify your banjitar like I can, you can continue exploring those lower end notes without muddying the sound.
D Standard: DGCFAd
When an instrument is in “standard tuning” it means that the whole system follows suit to the note used.
For example, in Open G, the whole guitar/banjitar is tuned to an actual chord of G.
But in D Standard, it means that all of the strings follow the same system as it does in traditional (EADGBe) but in D instead of E.
That said, following this logic would mean that each string is brought a full tone lower, since D is a full tone lower than E.
So D Standard is the same as E Standard (traditional tuning) but with every string dropped one full tone lower.
That is what “standard tuning” means.
The entire instrument is strung the same way as normal, but following D instead of E.
This is also a common tuning in many different kinds of music — but I’ve mostly seen it in blues and rock music.
It essentially allows us to play the same chords and shapes, but the names of them would be one full tone lower.
So playing an A Major chord on the guitar or banjitar tuned to D Standard would be a G Major instead — one tone lower.
This opens up another avenue for banjitar tuning since it explores the lower end of the instrument.
What was originally appealing about the 6-string banjo in the 1920s was its guitar-like lower end.
The 6-string droneless banjo became very popular over the 4-string because it could get a low end similar to a guitar.
Leaning more into that sort of sound, and exploring the lower end of the notes the instrument can get, can open up new sound avenues.
Let’s check out some other tunings that can explore the lower end of the instrument.
Open A: EAEAC#e
Open A follows suit in the way open tunings are structured, instead of standard tunings.
Remember what an Open chord means?
It means the instrument is tuned so that all the strings are the notes of a chord.
And there are several ways to do it in many different keys.
That said, a banjitar tuning of Open A would basically play an A Major chord when strummed with no fretted notes.
This tuning is different from Open G since it is one full tone higher.
Since it is higher than Open G, and in a different key, it can be applied to different kinds of music.
But Open A, though technically the same “spread”, is in a different pitch.
It would still definitely work for rock and roll songs like the kind of music played by the Rolling Stones.
But A is a key used very often in blues music as well.
Blues is also played by the Rolling Stones, and was a huge influence on their sound.
But a blues played in Open A is rarely done.
Between that, and playing it as a banjitar tuning instead of a regular guitar, another totally different avenue is opened up for musicians.
Try and explore the tuning and see what kind of sounds you can get out of the instrument.
The sound of Open tunings are very inspiring, and it is easy to piece together a nice riff or composition.
I know Keith Richards would agree!
Open E: EBEG#Be
This is another example of an open tuning.
Which, again, means that the open strings when strummed would simply play an E Major chord.
This tuning is difficult to get since it requires tuning up many strings to get there.
This could basically add tension to the strings and the neck of the guitar.
Alternatively, if you tune the strings too low it can make them very floppy and difficult to play.
Still, the tunings of all the open chords sound very interesting and are as always very inspiring to mess around with.
Another way to get different open tunings and not mess with the tension of the instrument is to use a capo.
By tuning it to an open tuning relatively close to standard tuning, you save the hassle of having to put so much tension on the strings and neck.
That said, in this closer tuning you can simply put a capo on any fret you like to get to the different open tunings.
This is much easier to do than having to detune every single string, and risk breaking one or putting too much or too little tension.
Try out this tuning as a banjitar tuning!
Drop C: CGCFAd
Drop C is a very low sounding tuning used almost exclusively in heavy metal and hard rock music.
Keeping true to how Drop D works with E Standard (traditional guitar tuning), Drop C uses the same system.
Drop C is just the low string dropped an extra tone when the instrument is tuned to D standard.
It is exactly the same as Drop D, but everything is one full tone lower — the same idea behind E Standard vs D Standard.
That said, the low “C” string is so low that it likely will become floppy and slightly difficult to play.
This is because of the lack of tension in the string and over the neck.
Though the tuning is out of the ordinary, the low end of it could produce some interesting sounds as a banjitar tuning.
What makes for a beautiful sound when playing in tunings like this is a single strike of the low note.
For example, playing a regular composition and when it lands on a C chord, strike that low C note.
Or resolving a chord structure instead of on a C chord, on the low C note.
He will compose a series of chords in the key of D Minor, and resolve it on a very dramatic and low D Minor chord.
Following this style, it can be done in this tuning on the banjitar, which might make for a rare and interesting sound!
Especially since it’s rare even on the guitar, that dramatic low C note would definitely strike a listeners ear in a surprising way!
As I’ve mentioned in other articles, DADGAd is an extremely versatile sounding tuning that can get a lot of different sounds.
It is also a lot more easy to manipulate than open tunings since it only has 3 strings different than traditional guitar tuning.
When used as a banjitar tuning, this can be a very interesting sounding type of tuning.
As I’ve said, it can be challenging for beginner players to get nice sounds out of an open tuning.
By using DADGAd, it makes for a much more versatile tuning and gives a player more room and capabilities while playing slide.
This can be transferred onto the banjitar as well to explore these different tone voicings on a different instrument.
Let the creativity flow by trying out different ideas in this different tunings style on the banjitar!
I hope this article gave you some new ideas on how to apply your creativity to a different instrument like the banjitar.
Exploring different tunings is a great way to write songs.
They can bring out a sound not necessarily achievable in a regular tuning.
What are some of your favourite tunings to play in?