This is the place to tell us about your tenor guitar(s)!
Hey Ed! I've told this story before but I'll summarize it briefly here. Last summer I went with visiting family to a large community yard sale where I found this wrecked up basket case of an instrument. I didn't even know what it was, but I couldn't take my eyes off it. It had STUNNING flame! But no nut, no bridge, no top binding, open seams, loose ribs, and a BIG crack in the back. Four friction tuners, so I thought it was a baritone uke, but there was a shadow of a floating bridge and a couple of old banjo strings with chenille ends hanging off a clamshell tailpiece so that didn't seem like a baritone uke even though it seemed the right size. I thought, this would be a lot of work to restore, but for 5 dollars I just couldn't bring myself to leave it there. It's like it was saying "Rescue me! Please!". So I posted pictures on the Cafe'- you can look up the old threads- and it was determined to be a small short scale (20") tenor guitar. We never did figure out who the maker was, beyond determining that it was "Chicago" style of 1920's or so. Nobody here had seen anything quite like it. Luthier made perhaps? We may never know. Definitely a cedar top, I thought it was flamed maple but some thought it was flamed pear wood. Whatever. I did the restoration and posted the results in another thread. Since the original restoration I took out the friction tuners as they weren't holding and replaced them with Stew Mac 5 star planetaries. I couldn't keep the clamshell tailpiece from digging into the wood so I patched the gouges and replaced it with a mandolin tailpiece that works very well. I cut the bridge and nut for GDAE strings and I think it has a really sweet sound! I am glad I was able to give this instrument a new life. I will see if I can post some pictures.
I bought it last year from Carey Fagan who posted this shortly before he sold it. Now it's a lefty and tuned to CGDA. I have a friend who owns a gibson archtop, an old harmony and a 60's Gibson TG0. I've also briefly tried an old Martin 017 and an old Gibson TG00. All right handed so I was only able to strum a few chords. My conclusions from all of this? I really like the short scale and small size of my Regal. 5ths make sense on a shorter scale, the stretches are easier. The tension if tuned to C is optimal on a short scale. The A string is already pretty cranked. The larger guitars sound more like guitars. The Regal sounds like what it is: an instrument for tenor banjo players. So it sounds a bit banjo-y, partly due to the ladder bracing as well I think. Coming from the ukulele I'd compare the smaller tenor to the soprano uke. None of the other uke sizes have that quintessential ukulele sound, or pop. So although I"d love to have an 017 or 018 Martin, I'd really like to have one of the smaller bodied mahogany Martin tenors. I'd also like to try a Fletcher. I also find it funny that Nick Reynolds of the Kingston Trio is the poster boy for tenor guitar. He was a ukulele player, who tuned the tenor Chicago style and capoed it at the seventh or ninth fret. Someone should have given him a cavaquinho. Then you could probably hear him.
Good to see this group! I've been playing tenor banjo for many years but got the urge for a tenor guitar about 3 years ago. I commissioned one from a luthier friend of mine in 2009 as a 65th birthday/retirement present for myself. It's a small-bodied instrument with an English walnut back and sides and a Lutz spruce face.
I like all sorts of tunes, from traditional British folk stuff to American old-time to French music to jazz. Here's a typical example of what I do:
Jumbo Mahogany Soares'Y Tenor Guitar. One of 6 made from a Gibson L5 mould, It is a jumbo-size, arch-top arch-back, mahogany, single cut-away with p/u and control knobs.
22 1/2" scale length, 1 3/16 nut, 17" wide lower bout, 3 1/2" deep. Adjustable bridge, bound pickguard, top and bottom, radiused neck and bound peghead, bound f sound-holes, trapeze tail-piece. Can be tuned CGDA or GDAE (current tuning). Low action - adjustable bridge. An ultra-cool guitar, but it just sits in case, I'm more inclined to pick up a banjo for 4-string playing...
Mike Soares says the following about it on Yahoo Tenorguitarregistry:
"This is one of the ones that Gibson made for me – It is 1 of only 6 Made – In all Mahogany – Other than the J45 that we had made – This was our finest guitar that was made –
Here's a vid (tuned GDAE):
I have two tenors, both short-scale (21.25"): an Ozark acoustic and a Gerry Probert resonator tenor.
I've only just posted about my Ozark in the Tenor Guitar section of the forum, but this is a good place to repeat it: I am very happy with the Ozark tenor guitar. Small body, short scale (21-1/4"), solid spruce top with laminate mahogany back/sides. It comes set up for CGDA but I've restrung it to GDAE without needing a new nut (I can't remember whether I filed the slots a bit wider) and use it extensively for rhythm as well as melody as I can use mandolin fingering on it without difficulty (I have fairly long fingers). Really nice workmanship, thin matt finish, wooden binding and wooden bridge pins, good playability, just an overall nice instrument to look at, feel and play. I have a number of recordings with the Ozark in my Youtube channel, including these two, which show both the lead and strummed chord tone:
Es war ein Koenig in Thule:
Aura Lee also shows the intonation up the neck, as I play the last repetition of the tune an octave up in seventh position, i.e. on the 12th to 17th (and last) fret.
The resonator tenor is a single-cone with biscuit bridge and a wooden body. Rather club-like neck, especially compared to the slender Ozark neck, but nicely playable nevertheless. Here are a few clips:
Neil Gow's Lament for James Moray of Abercairney:
The two tenors complement each other nicely -- their tone is about as different from each other as it can be.
Hi everyone. My tenor guitar is a Dave Newton size two. The size twos are the first guitars on the linked page. I believe mine is the only tenor made so far. I'd describe it as loud and very responsive. It has a lot of personality. Compared to a Blueridge BRT-40, which I also own, it's louder, with a more powerful aggressive tone that cuts through when played hard. The tone is also very pretty and great for fingerpicking too, but I mostly flat pick it and play fiddle tunes. The Blueridge is a very nice guitar but I can't drive it and play it really loud like I can the Newton. The Newton also has a better tone on the G string (both are tuned GDAE). It's not that the Blueridge is weak, it's balanced and sounds nice, but the Newton has a louder, deeper sounding more powerful G string.The Newton has a unique, interesting tone. I've never heard an old Martin size two, maybe that's what it sounds like? The Newton has Indian rosewood back and sides and is a light guitar. It feels quite a bit lighter than the Blueridge.
Hey Bruce. That's a beautiful tenor you have there. Hope to hear it soon.
Martin. Your resonator has a cool banjo-ie sound.
Ambrose. Your video doesn't play any longer. Hope to see and hear your Tenor soon.
Will. I really love the sound you get from your Tenor.
M-Don. Your Tenor looks great. And so much Mojo. What luck you two finding each other.
I have a Breedlove OMM. an 'O' style body made of Honduran mahogany and spruce top.
It's a little larger body than most. [Eddies got me beat bad.] So, it has a very full and
round guitar sound. If you Google 'Breedlove Tenor' you'll see a couple of guys who play
a little better than I do. They have OMR'S. Brazilian Rosewwod bodies. I actually think mine
is more resinate. These were built in the custom shop in Bend Oregon. They don't seem to
make them any longer. I'm not sure how many were actually built. My problem is I started playing
mandolin because I hurt my left hand. So, I have a little problem navagating around the 24+" neck.
I'm afraid I may have to trade it in on a shorter scale model. But, I keep putting it off because I
love this guitar so much.
Thanks everyone for all of the informative and enjoyable posts!
Please keep them coming. I love reading about folk's experiences with their instruments.
Remember to feel free to post pictures of your tenor guitars to the group. (You do this by clicking the + Add Pictures button near the top right of the group's main page.)
Gary, I hope you can find a way to comfortably enjoy your Breedlove.
I videoed this for SAW Group awhille back.
Just saw this site and thought I'd post a link to my tenor guitar! It is one I built myself after hearing various players over on the SAW group. It has a spruce top, Spanish Cypress back and sides and a mahogany neck. I have a scale length of 540mm as my octave also has this scale. Bindings are purpleheart. Here is a link to some pictures I have put on to the Mediafire file storage site: http://www.mediafire.com/?mw4f8e5yd2bje and there are some examples of the sound over on the SAW group as YouTube clips.
Here is one featuring the tenor with octave mandolin to show the different sounds they each make (I hope!):
Love that little guitar John. But, you already know that.
And it sounds so good under your hand.
I'm pretty new to tenor guitar, still very much learning and exploring, but I'm enjoying the ride. I have 3 tenors as of now - a Blueridge 40T, an electric from the Zither Music Co. in Texas (there's a thread on the tenor board on my and another member's experiences with them), and finally an interesting hybrid that I got off eBay recently:
The body is from a hollow electric - looks like a Silvertone Espanada? - and the neck is from a tenor banjo. It was built for one Del Miller, whose name is inlayed on the fretboard, along with a bunch of rhinestones on the headstock and body. There was a Del Miller who was a big time harness racer and was also apparently an amateur musician so this could well have been his. It's an odd concoction but a lot of fun to play and sounds great through an amp (although for some reason I can't fathom, the bridge pickup was removed!).
Anyway here's a video of the Zither tenor:
I play a Fletcher Tenor Tone tenor guitar - the shorter scale length on it suits me down to the ground, can't speak highly enough of these instruments. I had been coveting one for several years and was lucky enough to get my hands on this one last year, formerly owned by the Cafe's own David Hansen. Back in '09 I had the opportunity to meet up with Jody Platt from Fletcher Instruments - she was in the Bay Area visiting friends and providently was staying on a few blocks from my house! She had both her own all mahogany Tenor Tone with her, and also a Spruce/Rosewood one. Both were gorgeous but the mahogany one's tone really stood out for me. Love, love, love this little tenor, can't see meself letting this one go anytime soon as I can't imagine what would come along to usurp it in my favours!
That's a great little guitar Jill.
It's amazing the different sounds that come from it.
Your style and David's are so different. Yet this little
Tenor keeps up and sounds great. Very nice instrument.
[P.S. Still waiting with antisipation to hear the new Hillburn A5]
What a great and and varied selection of tenors so far, and as Gary says above, so many different styles and sounds. It was Jill's playing of her tenor that first got me thinking about building my own, and that relaxed style still gives me something to aim for in my playing. Keep up the good work, all!
A little over a month ago, I reluctantly decided to sell a very nice Weber octave mandolin because I just wasn't playing it enough.
Still loving the tonal register of the OM, however, I decided to pursue the GDAE tenor guitar, thinking that it might provide the "best of both worlds" by offering the register and essential character of a guitar, but also the logic and familiarity of an instrument tuned in 5th.
I used the sale of the Weber to fund two tenor guitar purchases. Boy am I glad I did!
Over the past month, I've picked-up a Blueridge BR-40T tenor and an Eastwood Warren Ellis Signature electric tenor. I am absolutely infatuated with these instruments! I can't put them down, and I've hardly touched my mandolins since I've gotten them.
Infatuation or musical Sea Change? We'll see.
The Warren Ellis came in CGDA, so right now I'm trying to decide whether I should keep it that way, or change it to GDAE like the Blueridge. Thoughts?
Anyways, here's a couple of videos of these tenor guitars:
Ed, I'm sure there's a relationship between tuning, string tension and scale length. I tried tuning a CGDA tenor banjo to those pitches with an "Irish" tenor banjo string set - which was probably meant for GDAE - and it didn't work in any way. If you've got two nice instruments - which you certainly have, why not have the best of both worlds/tunings?
I could not figure out how to add an attachment here so I put a photo of my main three tenors in the group section. The first is a style 1 tenor that I built in 1996, the second is a new Republic reso-tenor and last but not least my trusty 1932 National Triolian that I have had since 1987.
Charles, I don't think one can add attachments to a social group post. The way you did it is ideal.
Another way would have been to post the pics to this thread I recently started, and then to post a link to your specific post like this.
Anyways, I'm glad you posted the pic to the group...Your tenors look great!
Congratulations on all of them, especially the one you built - Very impressive!
What are your thoughts on the new Republic reso-tenor? How would you say it compares to the vintage National Trolian?
Thanks Ed, when I got the Republic I posted a thread about it. It does have a bigger neck then I like and I had to spend a fair amount of time on the set up but all in all I like very much. My National is having a major buzz issue that I need to fix but I hope to make a video of both tenors being played side by side so people can hear the difference in tone.
Thanks for the reply Charles.
For others following the discussion, here are the two forum threads Charles started about the Republic tenor last year:
feed back on Republic's T 49 tenor? (started 7/19/2011)
Thoughts on my Republic T49 Tenor Guitar (started 8/4/11)
Great info there.
Charles, your comments about the neck profile on the National really scare me...I'm very much a 'wimpy low profile' guy.
Hi there: I got my Martin OT18 (1930 vintage) a number of years ago. It was sold to me in a flea market as a cuatro.... you could check my tenor crew at http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/al...chmentid=51716
Nice looking tenor crew Lucho!
Thanks for posting.
Nice stuff - what tuning(s) do you use?
My main tenor is a 1947 Gibson TG 50 with a floating DeArmond four pole pickup. I tune it CGDA. I also own a 1951 TG 50 and a custom-made telecaster tenor.
Here's a few clips of me playing my 47
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PpdQMqEKhOs tuned in low G
Just finished my second tenor guitar. Mahogany back and sides, Engelmann spruce top, lemonwood and purpleheart neck, maple fingerboard. 540mm scale length. I used a mandolin tailpiece on the first tenor so this time I have made a custom one for the instrument, from aluminium with mahogany edging. Here is a link to the Picasa pictures: https://picasaweb.google.com/luthier.john/TenorGuitar2
Very nice John! I particularly like your custom tailpiece.
Yes indeed. Very nice John. I particularly like the bridge.
Does it sound as nice as #1? Hope we get to hear it before you ship it to some lucky person.
Thanks for encouraging comments, fellows. Here is a link to a quick Soundcloud file I have just posted. The guitar is recorded straight with no effects or enhancements to let you hear the raw sound of it.
Your wrong John it is enhanced. By the sweat and craftsmanship you poured into it. Very nice.
I checked out your other recordings too. You've been busy.
Mrs. Jamieson's is a Favorite of mine also.
Here is my Herb Taylor Tenor guitar. I have three others, A Blueridge 40T tuned cgda, a Regal which is now in the process if getting some work done, and a Soarey's resonator tenor tuned GDAE. By far the best is my Taylor which was built to be tuned in GDAE.
I wrote a note in the Tenor Guitar forum (http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/sh...nor-Guitar-173) that included this video:
I'll probably play the guitar more this weekend and video it. I've been playing it in sessions to good effect recently.
Beautiful instrument Mike!
I absolutely love the braided binding and rosette.
Looks great. Sounds great Mike. My congrats also.
Hello gentlemen. I'd love to tell you all about my tenor guitar, but as of this writing, I have none. Please allow me some digression here to clarify my guitar obsession. At age 11, my folks bought me a Harmony soprano ukulele. Had no idea what to do with it, and no one bothered to tell me about music lessons. At age 15 (more years ago than I like), my parents got me an inexpensive guitar. It was a cheapo, and I don't even remember the name. The strings were too high and it hurt like crazy for awhile, as I struggled through C, F and G7, every folksinger's favorite chords. It was the 60s and folk music was the hot ticket (pre-Beatles). Ever since then, I've had a guitar of one form or another in my home. I bought a Yamaha 12-string in 1977, and played the heck out of it until I broke my leg. Not connected events, I assure you. I was facing 6 weeks minimum downtime as my leg healed, so I decided (with youthful ignorance) to take up the classical guitar. Sold the 12-string and bought a nice Yamaha Classical. Then my leg healed, so It was back to work, and off I was to more physical pursuits. Fast forward to this century. I wanted a new 6-string, and fell in love with a Washburn Koa dreadnaught guitar. Beautiful sound. Loved playing it. then I found myself lusting for a Washburn 12-string jumbo. Bought it and "Played the heck out of it" until my aging fingers became disenchanted with the 6/12-string thing. I saw Jake Shimabukaro in concert and...you guessed it...became infatuated with the ukulele. I now have 5. I recently listened to an old Kingston Trio LP (remember vinyl records?), with Nick Reynolds on, of all things, a tenor guitar! Which brings me to the new object of my affection, a tenor guitar. I can't afford one yet, and have my eye on the Blueridge BR40T. It seems the least fiscally damaging way to get into playing the tenor. Now. I'm what I consider a poor player of string instruments. Never learned how to read music. If there aren't chord charts in the music book, I don't buy it. I play strictly for my own amusement. I'll sometimes, on that rare ocassion, sometimes even subject my cats to vocalizing that they seem to find familiar. So what's a poor girl to do? I took one of my ukuleles, a new, but unused baritone, and restrung it in CGDA. So my tenor guitar is a ukulele...for now. Trying to sell all three of my other guitars to finance the new one. The ukes are here to stay, as they're just so darned much fun! Also, I had an epiphany...four fingers...four strings. Coincidence? I think not!! Thank you for letting me ramble. I just had to get my story out after all these years. I hope to become a modest at best player, and hope to converse with others who share my love, if not my obsession with this instrument.
I just picked up a '67 Martin O-18-T on the local Craigslist. It's a got a lot of mojo and is structurally sound. A delight to play...
Eddie. I've heard about your new [to you] tenor. I've seen pictures.
But, alas I haven't heard it. What's the hold up?
Congrats by the way.
Tenor Chick. Somehow I missed your post.
Hope you have your very own tenor by now.
Back in 1972, a friend told me that John Dopyera had a shop just 30 miles north of town. (San Diego) I was yearning for a metal bodied National tenor, so I went up to talk to him.
Me: Do you know anything about National guitars?
John: Oh yes. I designed them!
Me: Did you ever make any tenor models?
John: Oh yes, we made a few.
Me: Do you have any available.
John: (looks sad) No, nothing like that here.
(pause) But I could MAKE you something...
Me: Uh, how much would that cost?
John: Oh, $100, and I'd have it finished by next week! BUT...it wouldn't look like a guitar. It would look more like this.
He rummaged around in back and brought out the unused body of a Tenortrope. I was back next week with his $100.
But I still wanted that metal bodied guitar, so 30 years later, when someone invented eBay, I found one and doggedly outbid the competition for this one:
And it sounds GREAT!!!