It was time to change strings on my 'Irish' tuned tenor, so I thought I'd experiment with Chicago tuning, since I had a set of strings for my Bluegrass five-string banjo handy.
I've had the tenor in Irish tuning (GDAE, an octave below the mandolin) for the two years I've played it. While Irish tuning is great for melody playing in ITM, I use the banjo more for chording in Irish Folk Music where the banjo fills more of an accompaniment role, although the five-string is the more common instrument for that job. While Irish GDAE tuning is brilliant for melody work, the super low G string seems to be always at the very lowest tension that a banjo can manage. There's something consistently wonky about the tone when you chord in GDAE.
I had considered switching to standard tenor banjo tuning - CGDA - but that has a different feel for me as well. Since I play guitar and ukulele, Chicago tuning seemed like a good bet. You use all the ukulele chord forms, but with the guitar's chord names. So I threw the strings on and tuned them up DGBE, just like the top four strings of the guitar. I can now play chords with all the power of the Guitar or the ukulele (both serious chordal machines, as we know), yet have enough of the Irish flavour from the lower tuning. I got a powerfull chording machine, still had the facility for the simple, basic intro and turn lines that I use in songs, and lost all the wonkiness of the Irish low tuning.
If you're a tenor player with guitar or uke experience, and next time you're ready to re-string anyway, why not spend about $4 on this experiment for yourself? I'd like to hear others' experiences.
The crwth will set you free!