Traditional Irish, Scottish and English Session Tunes for CGDA Tenor Banjo, Viola and Cello
As I’m a violist who plays traditional music, and the viola was my main instrument for years before I ever owned a violin, I’ve spent a lot of time playing in trad sessions on a viola. I became used to navigating the octave switches that are necessary when playing a CGDA instrument in situations where most people are using a GDAE tuning.
A few years ago I published a book of traditional tunes transposed for viola. For each tune I made a “solo” version – with the notes in the same places as they would be on a violin, so transposed down by a fifth – and a “session” version, with the tune in the original key, switching octaves where necessary.
The book was and still is very popular with violists.
I then applied the same principle to the cello, also including basslines for session playing, as that’s where the cello can really enhance group music-making.
Then I started getting emails from banjo players.
In most Irish/Scottish/English sessions I've played in, the banjo players have used a GDAE tuning, in which it is obviously easy to play the fiddle tunes down an octave. However, I hadn’t realised how many people prefer their tenor banjos in CGDA tuning. Now I know!
So I made a banjo version of the book too. The banjo version also includes banjo tab, and is in two versions: one with the open strings, and one with a capo on the second fret which I’m told some people find more comfortable.