Answers to Every myth about Irish Tenor Banjos

A lot of things have been said about the Irish Banjo which sounds true but looking at them insightfully is not true.

Initially one might think that the term “Irish Tenor Banjo” is the best name that beginners can describe it, but the tenor Banjo is known as the Irish Tenor Banjo because they are used to performing Irish melodies.

Is the Irish Banjo better as a 19-fret or 17-fret?

One of the most well-known myths about Irish tenor banjo is that they are mostly 17-Fret short-scale banjos.

It has proven that professionals prefer the 19-fret banjo to the 17-fret maybe due to their scale length, the 17-fret has a scale length of 20-21 inches while the 19-fret is 22-23 inches.

In the research gathered, the 19-fret is no longer than the first five frets but due to different scale lengths make the strings more important, responsive, and very easy to use.

Also, the analogy that the Irish tenor banjos were manufactured in America is far from the truth but since it has been widely spread and believed it will take a lot to change the narrative.

Which is Ideal to use an open back or resonator Banjo?

The back and forth about which to use out of the two has been a concern but after a lot of research, it has been said that a resonator is still the ideal to use.

Although, an open back is not a bad option most professionals prefer the resonator banjo because it is more traditional but the open back banjo might be recommended for a beginner because it is lighter and very good for posture.

Is it better to use a resonator or an open back?

Whether to use a resonator or an open back is commonly addressed, and after doing the study, it was revealed that the answer is the resonator. However, the majority of seasoned musicians have traditionally preferred resonator banjos.

In a session context, resonators punch through more, which may not be what you’re looking for if you’re a nervous musician. An open back may help you blend in better, and they’re also lighter, which is good for your posture.

The resonator, on the other hand, is more traditional.

GDAE or CGDA tuning, which is better?

Mostly, the Irish tenor banjo is tuned in the key of GDAE. Although the CGDA is used in different types of music but specifically for traditional Irish music, the GDAE is the best tuning to use. The CGDA is a very well-known type of tenor banjo chord set.

If you want to play Irish music, you should use the GDAE tuning, which is one octave lower than a mandolin or violin.

Is it an Irish banjo Melodic or a set of chords?

The Irish Tenor Banjo is melodic; the tenor banjo melody is equal to the violin, flute, accordion, concertina, pipes, or other instruments used to interpret these classics. This melodious sound is played together with other instruments with a good melody at that moment.

Unlike bluegrass where it is impossible to play in unison, each instrumentalist like the guitarist will have to wait till his turn to solo because it can be done in unison.

Is the banjo better being played with four or five strings?

Firstly, the Irish banjo has four strings; the banjo with a 5-string is only in the bluegrass and in the old time.

The banjo which has a GDAE tuning and 4-strings is commonly known as the octave banjolin. It looks like a skin-like cloth stretched over a rim, and this is what distinguishes it from a normal banjo.

When the Irish tenor banjo is being played it sounds like a mandolin is being played which is better than the 5-string banjo.

Which position is better; Up the Neck or First Position?

Irish tenor banjo players like to stay in the first position between frets 2 and 5. Only when they need to reach up to the high-B on the 7th fret of the E-string or slip up to the 7th fret. Beyond the 7th fret, we’re not really sure what to expect.

This might also be because of how the instrument is made, but sometimes it is largely because of the way the song is due to the fact that Irish mandolin players also remain in the first position.

On a guitar and a mandolin, you can play almost any melody on the neck in a closed position without using open strings. This isn’t possible on a tenor banjo, because it has a longer scale length.

Which is better, a new or used Irish Banjo?

It’s often cheaper to buy a used one than a new one. Banjos from the past have a higher value when they’re sold.

But, if you purchase a new banjo from a company that is known for its work like McNeela music, you can be sure that it will have a good set of tuners and other features.

If you can get rid of flimsy things like the decorative patterns and focus on not compromising other things like construction quality, sound quality, and playability, you may be able to get a lower price from a contemporary maker.

Is it better to have an 11″ or a 12″ rim?

The 11inch rim is the most widely used type of rim and has been in existence for a long time. The reason for its longevity might be tied to the fact there are not many options to explore except the 12 inches rim.

We just have to wait and see if more options will be made available from builders.


We hope this article has cleared your questions or misconceptions about the Irish Banjo. Irish Banjos are available on McNeela music store, the quality and sound have been appreciated by those who have gotten it with good reviews left on the website.

Get yours now to enjoy the traditional Irish music sound made with banjos.