I have been playing Classic Banjo on my A-scale Fairbanks & Cole banjo because I find it easier to reach the chords on the short scale. The banjo has a 24" scale, and is tuned to A with Nylgut strings. Because I have small hands, some of the chords are still a reach for me even with that short scale. I might be interested in trying a banjo that can be tuned to the normal G scale, even if the scale were slightly longer (but not too much).

My Bart Reiter scale length is 26 3/8", and my Goldtone Maple Classic is 26 3/4". Both of those are way too long.

All of my Nylgut strings are unwound. Here are the gauges I have on the banjo:

1st 0.45mm  
2nd 0.525mm  
3rd 0.675mm  
4th 0.90mm  
5th 0.55mm 

If I were to look at banjos that could be tuned to G, and still have a short-ish scale, what would I look at? String brands & gauges? Scale lengths?

The A-scale banjos made by Deering and Goldtone both claim that they can be tuned down to G, but they are designed for frailing, and they both have frailing scoops, and they are set up to use steel strings.

Ideas? Thoughts? Dope-slaps?

Thanks to all in advance.

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"A -tuning" in classic banjo parlance refers to the older lower tuning in which the strings were tuned three half steps below the later Standard Tuning of gCGBD. The same scale length parameters were used for that tuning which is eAEC#E and for banjos that were tuned gCGBD. In fact the Same Banjos were used. The idea that gDGBD is "standard tuning" belongs to a more recent time and a different kind of music. In certain pockets of Appalachia banjo players built their own banjos with a short scale for the purpose of tuning a step higher than the rest of the country. "G tuning" in classic banjo parlance is "Elevated Bass". That tuning a step up is this other  " A tuning".
Yes your banjo is was made by Fairbanks and Cole. I never doubted it and I never doubted the scale length. It was not made for the "new" A tuning. And it was not built to play Breaking Up Christmas along with a fiddle tuned AEAE. It's simply a short scale banjo. Nothing could be more relevant than what was intended by the makers of your banjo. An  A-scale Fairbanks and Cole is an anachronism. One more thing:  young people also get tingling in their fingertips if they press too hard. There is no reason to press hard. Press right behind the frets, just hard enough to get a clear sound and not a bit more and you are likely to have fewer problems. 

typo alert: I meant e AEG#E

Jody Stecher said:

"A -tuning" in classic banjo parlance refers to the older lower tuning in which the strings were tuned three half steps below the later Standard Tuning of gCGBD. The same scale length parameters were used for that tuning which is eAEC#E and for banjos that were tuned gCGBD. In fact the Same Banjos were used. The idea that gDGBD is "standard tuning" belongs to a more recent time and a different kind of music. In certain pockets of Appalachia banjo players built their own banjos with a short scale for the purpose of tuning a step higher than the rest of the country. "G tuning" in classic banjo parlance is "Elevated Bass". That tuning a step up is this other  " A tuning".
Yes your banjo is was made by Fairbanks and Cole. I never doubted it and I never doubted the scale length. It was not made for the "new" A tuning. And it was not built to play Breaking Up Christmas along with a fiddle tuned AEAE. It's simply a short scale banjo. Nothing could be more relevant than what was intended by the makers of your banjo. An  A-scale Fairbanks and Cole is an anachronism. One more thing:  young people also get tingling in their fingertips if they press too hard. There is no reason to press hard. Press right behind the frets, just hard enough to get a clear sound and not a bit more and you are likely to have fewer problems. 

OK. Confusion about the keys. When I originally started using the banjo I tuned it to an open A chord (high bass), aEAC#E. Now that I am playing more Classic Banjo, I have it tuned to low bass, aDAC#E. So in terms relevant to that tuning it would be tuned to D.... "drop D" instead of "drop C" in modern terms.

It is a whole step higher than my more modern banjos.

I don't think that I am pressing too hard on the strings. I learned that lesson a long time ago. I used to have such a death grip on the neck that my hand would get hot running it up and down the neck from the friction. Not good. Got over it.

I will tune the banjo down and see what it does.

Thanks for the info.

Alright, got it.  Your pitch of a step above "concert" is appropriate for this banjo-- it would be a "D" scale if anything, but it would have been called just a "small banjo."

C or "modern" standard pitch has been in common use since about 1882 (despite the A notation).  Is it still modern after 134 years?

Should be fine in C on that banjo, but you can keep it in D.  Historically, several soloists were playing in D for the sharp brilliant tone, Farland was one.

Swaim Stewart even marketed a model for it.

I play alone so far, so playing a whole tone sharp is not an issue. However, if I ever did get in a situation where I was playing with another instrument that would not work out so well.

This weekend I will see if I can tune the banjo down and still play it. My concern is that the strings will become too floppy to work properly. If I can tune the F&C down a notch, then I do not need a different banjo.

The difference between the bass string in C tuning and in G tuning (up to D) is the difference of one step. If you do not feel the bass string is too floppy in the lower position you will not find the other strings too floppy when tuned down a step. I have tuned down nylgut strings many times.  the difference in feel is noticeable but not an impediment. It's not a big difference.

Brian Kimerer said:

I play alone so far, so playing a whole tone sharp is not an issue. However, if I ever did get in a situation where I was playing with another instrument that would not work out so well.

This weekend I will see if I can tune the banjo down and still play it. My concern is that the strings will become too floppy to work properly. If I can tune the F&C down a notch, then I do not need a different banjo.

I don't think you'll have a problem...but I tend to be very cognizant of the 'feel' of a given set of strings on any particular instrument. If the strings feel 'floppy', I'll seek out a higher tension set and vice versa.

Thus, if you cannot stand the way they feel when tuned down, adjust the set accordingly.

Stewart's "Specialty Banjo" was noted as "pitched in D" (aDAC#E) and it is listed in the '96 catalog as having a 10-1/2" rim with an 18" neck (effective scale would be around 24"). The "Lady Stewart" has a 9" rim with a 16" neck (effective scale of 22") and was tuned to standard C (gCGBD)...so they're all over the map. Whatever works!

Good thought. The lowest I have tuned the bass string to is D so far. If the bass string can tolerate being tuned down one more step, to C, then I am good to go.

I tuned the banjo down to C to see what would happen.

The strings feel a little sloppy compared to what they felt like at D, but the banjo plays without buzzing. It frets a little easier too. So I think I will leave it there and see how it goes.

Thanks to all for the help.

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