Banjo tunings

Match Tuning

I came up with this scheme in the seventies when I was learning to play myself. It was first written up in Banjo Newsletter magazine in October 1987 and February 1988. This tuning number system shows the relation of fretted notes on one string and the sound of the next string to which you match the pitch. Tuning is a little easier these days because of electronic tuners. When practicing, or playing, by yourself, it does not really matter if you are tuned to exact concert pitch. As long as the strings are properly tuned from one string to the next. Purist musicians might scoff at this way of thinking, but it simplifies things if you only read tablature. gDGBD might not mean a whole lot if you don't read music.

The first number (optional) indicates the fret number where you place your capo. If no number is shown, you do not use the capo. The second character (letter) shows the key in which the tab is played. The next four numbers represent the strings on the instrument, starting with the lowest pitch sounding string. For five string banjo this of course, is the forth string and the number of numbers is always one less than the actual number of strings on the instrument. In case one of the strings needs a double digit number I find it easiest to put a hyphen in there to avoid confusion. Example: G12-340, the forth string being lower in pitch by 12 frets compared to the third string.

Example: 2A5435

2 A 5 4 3 5 Regular bluegrass tuning, key of A, capo at second fret
2           capo position on second fret - omit if capo not used
  A         key of A - omit if unknown (in this case don't indicate the capo number either to prevent confusion - or, use an X or a question mark or something)
    5       lowest sounding string (4th) fretted at the 5th fret matches the pitch of the next open higher (3rd) string
      4     next string (3rd) fretted at 4th fret matches sound of next open string (2nd)
        3   next string (2nd) fretted at 3rd fret matches pitch of next open string (1st)
          5 next string (1st) fretted at 5th fret matches pitch of next higher open string (5th)
Using this scheme, the standard guitar tuning is 55545 (6th string fretted at fifth fret sounds like the open, non-fretted, 5th string etc. The standard tuning for mandolin looks like 777. Here's a whole bunch of them and if you have any you'd like to add, drop me an email.
Instrument Key Number Notes Capo 2 Description/Name or song
Banjo - 5 string G 5435 gDGBD aEAC#E Standard bluegrass open G chord
  G 5525 gDGCD aEADE Modal
  G 5523 fDGCD gEADE Modal
  G 12-435 gGGBD aAAC#E "John Brown's Dream," Jarrell
  G 12-327 gGGA#C aAACD "Long Steel Rail," Fred Cockerham
  Gm 5343 fDGBbF aEACG Minor
  Gm 5255 gDGAD aEABE Minor
  Gm 5345 gDGBbD aEACE Minor
  C 7435 gCGBD aDAC#E Standard C tuning
  C 7525 gCGCD aDADE Double C, mountain
  C 7543 gCGCE aDADF# Open C (open C chord)
  C 7522 eCGCD f#DADE "Lost Indian"
  C 5453 gDGBE aEAC#F# Regular G tuning, 1st string +2 frets
  Cm 7255 gCGAD   Doc Boggs
  D 4354 f#DF#AD gEGBE Standard bluegrass D tuning (open D chord)
  D 4357 aDF#AD bEG#BE Open D chord
  D 5437 aDGBD bEAC#E Standard G, 5th string +2
  D 5754 f#ADAD g#BEBE  
  D 5757 aADAD bBEBE  
  D 4350 dDF#AD eEG#BE Blues kinda sound
  D 7527 aCGCD bDADE  
  Dm 3453 fDFAD gEGBE "Bunkyo"
  Dm 7254 f#CGAD   Doc Boggs
  F 5523 fDGCD gEADE  
  F 5723 fCFCD gDGDE  
  F 3723 fDFCD    
  F 2523 fFGCD   Matokie Slaughter
  F 2525 gFGCD    
  Bb 7723 fBbFCD fBbFCD Open
  E 7252 eCGAD eCGAD "Little Birdie"
  E 5554 f#BEAD g#C#BE "Shortnin' Bread"
  Eb 4158 BbEbGAbD   Tyler May
  Em 2554 f#DEAD   Doc Boggs
Banjo - 4 string   777      
    743      
Balalaika 05 EEA Standard/Classic tuning
12-5 EEA Classic tuning, 3rd string dropped one octave
43 AF#D Folk tuning (same as 5 string banjo G, capo 7)
75 AEA Dmitry
Guitar   55545 EADGBE EADGBE Standard guitar tuning
  D 75545 DADGBE   Drop D
  D 75435     Open D
  D 75525 DADGAD    
  G 57545     Open G
Mandolin   777      
Violin   777      
Ukelele   545      
Dobro G 43543 GBDGBD   Open G chord
          other tunings or instruments welcome

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