How to Tune a Tenor Banjo

Banjos took the music world by storm when they first appeared in North America, and their delightful melodies inspired many people to add their own touch to the instrument. This has led to the emergence of many types of banjos, including tenor banjos, our star of the day.

The tenor banjo has only four strings, unlike the original instrument, which has five. While it isn’t that challenging to play, you’ll have to learn how to hold, tune, and strum it before becoming a professional.

In this article, I’ll tell you how to tune a tenor banjo in detail, so let’s jump in!

Short Answer

The most famous four-string banjo tuning is called the Standard Tenor Banjo Tuning, and it consists of the following notes, C, G, D, and A. The Irish Tenor is another popular tuning among tenor banjo players, and it consists of the notes G, D, A, and E. There’s also the Chicago Tenor Tuning, which is more challenging to play. It consists of D, G, B, and E notes. 

Now, let’s get into more details!

How to Tune a Tenor Banjo

Here are three ways by which you can tune your tenor banjo.

Standard Tenor Banjo Tuning

The Standard Tenor Tuning is most famously used in jazz because it renders playing flat keys easy. Flat keys complement the remarkable melodies of saxophones nicely, and every jazz player needs to play them. It also provides jazz pieces with much-needed upbeat melodies.

To tune your banjo to the Standard Tenor Banjo Tuning, adjust the fourth string to C, the third to G, the second to D, and the first to A.

This tuning works on all tenor banjos without the need for other adjustments and sounds clearer than other tunings. If you’re still a beginner, you should start your learning journey using this method.

Irish Tenor Tuning

The Irish Tenor Tuning is named after the fiddle, a classic Irish instrument that breeds a similar sound. It gives you a lower range than the Standard Tuning, but it may sound hollow if you aren’t experienced with the instrument.

To tune your instrument, adjust the fourth string to G, the third to D, the second to A, and the first to E.

Chicago Tuning

The Chicago Tuning is a bit more challenging to play than the previous two because there’s only a step and an octave between the highest and lowest strings. This means that you’ll need to move your hand faster than usual. However, this tuning shines in strumming patterns as it produces richer melodies.

To try the Chicago Tuning, tune your fourth string to D, the third to G, the second to B, and the first to E.


The most famous tunings for a tenor banjo are the Standard Tenor Banjo Tuning, Irish Tenor Tuning, and Chicago Tuning. The first produces clear and bright melodies, while the second is slightly lower in octaves. As for the Chicago Tuning, it’s ideal for strumming patterns.

Now that you know how to tune a tenor banjo, you’re a step closer to becoming a professional player!