The Irish Tenor Banjo

The Irish tenor banjo is a unique and lively instrument that has played a significant role in traditional Irish music. It has a shorter neck, four strings and is tuned in fifths. The tenor banjo produces a bright and melodic sound that complements Irish folk tunes perfectly.

The Banjo card from Exploring Ireland game

Throughout the years, several influential tenor banjo players have left their mark on the music scene.

One such figure is Barney McKenna who was a founding member of The Dubliners. Barney contributed immensely to popularizing the tenor banjo in Irish music. He used GDAE tuning on a 19-fret tenor banjo which is an octave below the fiddle/mandolin. According to musician Mick Moloney, Barney was single-handedly responsible for making the GDAE-tuned tenor banjo the standard banjo in Irish music.


Another notable player is Gerry banjo O’Connor, known for his impeccable technique and innovative playing style. According to Earl Hitchener (music critic for the Wall Street Journal), Gerry O’Connor is “the single best four string banjoist in the history of Irish Music”

Enda Scahill is a four-time All-Ireland champion banjo player and founder of the super group We Banjo 3. His innovative playing bridges the traditions of Irish music with the dynamic folk music of America.

These musicians, among others, have played a crucial role in preserving and evolving the distinctive charm of the Irish tenor banjo in the world of music.