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Thread: Electric Tenor Guitars, Power Chords and Scale Length

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    Work in Progress Ed Goist's Avatar
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    Default Electric Tenor Guitars, Power Chords and Scale Length

    I am in the planning stages for a solid-bodied, electric, GDAE tenor guitar build, and I'm considering the options for scale length.

    The classic trade-off, of course, is the enhanced fret-ability and playability of a shorter scale vs. the enhanced tonal benefits of a longer scale. However, many believe that the tonal benefits of the longer scale are all but lost on electric instruments.

    Despite this, I have found that the longer scale length certainly helps with an electric instrument's Power, Sustain and what I'll call "Shimmer" (that classic clarity, crispness, and 'bite').

    Since I play mostly "guitarish" Rock and Blues, this Power (especially on Power Chords), Sustain and Shimmer are more important to me than being able to play lightning fast fiddle tune melodies. So, I don't think a very short scale will work for me. However, I'm wondering about a scale length just slightly less than normal.

    So, does anyone have an electric tenor in the 21" to 22" scale length range, and if so, how would you rate its tonal performance on Power Chords and rhythm lines on the low strings?

    If I can make that pinky stretch just a little shorter great...But I sure don't want to lose that Punch that comes with the longer scale.
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    Default Re: Electric Tenor Guitars, Power Chords and Scale Length

    if you choose a shorter scale you could tune to g sharp to get the tension up to where the punch is or try heavier strings or both maybe more neck angle . the eastwood mandola is 19 inches buy one then resell it if you do not like it and call it a rental fee .

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    Default Re: Electric Tenor Guitars, Power Chords and Scale Length

    I tune my Earnest Tenorcaster down a fifth (FCGD)....1) I like the lower notes than CGDA; 2) I have an easier time transposing up the neck than across strings (everything is the same as mandolin + 2 frets, i.e. an "A" bar chord is on the 4th fret instead of 2nd fret); and lastly, 3), if I want to play something in open GDAE like I would on mandolin, I use a capo and the scale length is suddenly shorter and easier to reach...

    Food for thought...I did this on the tenorcaster after first having a 5 string archtop tenor tuned FCGDA (a fantastic Arrow Instrument).

    -DJW

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    Default Re: Electric Tenor Guitars, Power Chords and Scale Length

    I made a solid body tenor with a 21" scale which I gig with pretty regularly. I use it generally tuned CGCG and it can sound pretty massive for power chords. My only complaint is it feels a little toy like to play, although fine if you're used to electric mandolins. I went with the shorter scale in order to make string bending easier, and so that I could open tune quickly mid set without fear of snapping the high string going up to A. I've just started a 23" scale build, so it'll be interesting to see how they compare.

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    Default Re: Electric Tenor Guitars, Power Chords and Scale Length

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Here's the 21" scale guitar.

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    Registered User Jeffff's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Tenor Guitars, Power Chords and Scale Length

    Anyone who thinks the tonal benefits of a longer scale are lost on an electric instrument has never played a Tele with humbuckers. or P90's.

    That 3/4 of an inch makes all the difference.
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    Default Re: Electric Tenor Guitars, Power Chords and Scale Length

    I'd be the first to agree that a Tele with beefed up pickups is a glorious thing, but there are plenty of great designs that work with shorter scale lengths as well.

    Having said that, my little 21" scale was designed with psychedelic jangle and Sonic Youth style drones in mind rather than meaty leads and power chords, and I suspect a longer scale around the 23" mark might work better if that's the goal.

    Ed - what design do you have in mind for your tenor?

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    Default Re: Electric Tenor Guitars, Power Chords and Scale Length

    Jayyj; I'm envisioning something with an undeniable Gibson vibe: Mahogany body and neck; double cutaway; a single, very good humbucker pickup (wired series/split/parallel) located closer to the neck than the bridge, and tuned GDAE. This instrument will be used primarily for Blues and classic rock, so power chords and meaty rhythms and riffs on the G and D string are essential.

    My plan is for this to be my primary electric tenor, and to maybe keep my Warren Ellis in GDGD tuning for electric slide.

    The more I think about it, the more I think I should emulate the 22 7/8" scale on the old Gibson SG Special and Les Paul tenors. Thoughts?
    Last edited by Ed Goist; Mar-27-2012 at 9:37am. Reason: grammar, and added the last sentence.
    Rain Dance, an acoustic ensemble
    The R.u.B., classic-rock covers
    "I know it's only rock-n-roll, but I like it." - Mick Jagger & Keith Richards
    "Life is too important to be taken seriously." - Oscar Wilde
    Gear: The Current Cast of Characters

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    Default Re: Electric Tenor Guitars, Power Chords and Scale Length

    Der Ed

    Just in case you did not see this - look 2-3 posts down

    http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/sh...ghlight=Carthy

    Best

    MdJ

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    Default Re: Electric Tenor Guitars, Power Chords and Scale Length

    Hi MdJ;
    Your ES 125T 3/4 is a beauty!
    I think the scale length on these is 22 3/4". Is that the scale of yours?
    Rain Dance, an acoustic ensemble
    The R.u.B., classic-rock covers
    "I know it's only rock-n-roll, but I like it." - Mick Jagger & Keith Richards
    "Life is too important to be taken seriously." - Oscar Wilde
    Gear: The Current Cast of Characters

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    Default Re: Electric Tenor Guitars, Power Chords and Scale Length

    You are correct on the scale length
    the conversion came in under budget too....which was very nice.

    Best

    MdJ

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    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Tenor Guitars, Power Chords and Scale Length

    Ed, here is an electric-power chord tenor........

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/1957-Gibson-...item56494d854d

    It might be a bit over your budget tho....
    Charley
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    A bunch of stuff with four strings

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    Default Re: Electric Tenor Guitars, Power Chords and Scale Length

    I think the Gibson style tenors will be ideal for you if you're looking for something chunkier sounding than the Warren Ellis. I'm working on an SG Junior tenor at the moment, using an existing unfinished body and making the tenor neck from scratch.

    It sounds like you have an interesting project in mind - I'll look forward to seeing how it progresses.

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    Default Re: Electric Tenor Guitars, Power Chords and Scale Length

    Thanks for all the great feedback.

    Gibson-style electric tenor it is, with a scale length of 22 7/8".

    Here's some great feedback I got from Tom Molyneaux (of the band Spudgasket and tenorguitar.com):
    "...Now for the octave mandolin tuning you are using I would go as long as possible-whatever you are comfortable playing. The Breedlove tenors have a 25+" scale length and sound great, but you may find this too long for you. You could make it as long as 27" if you're a masochist, but I'd say at least 22 7/8" scale, which should handle it nicely..."

    I think I agree with this completely, especially for the type of music I play. When the scale gets much under 22.5", the G & D strings get thick and floppy enough that they lose punch and definition.

    I'll be sure to post on the progress of the project as it moves forward.

    Thanks again to all for the great feedback.
    Rain Dance, an acoustic ensemble
    The R.u.B., classic-rock covers
    "I know it's only rock-n-roll, but I like it." - Mick Jagger & Keith Richards
    "Life is too important to be taken seriously." - Oscar Wilde
    Gear: The Current Cast of Characters

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    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Tenor Guitars, Power Chords and Scale Length

    Ed, have you chosen a builder yet? I see you have a custom E mando.
    Charley
    www.southernstringband.net
    www.montgomeryviolins.com

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

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    Default Re: Electric Tenor Guitars, Power Chords and Scale Length

    Hi Charley; I am excited to say that Max Girouard has agreed to work with me on this electric tenor guitar build.
    Rain Dance, an acoustic ensemble
    The R.u.B., classic-rock covers
    "I know it's only rock-n-roll, but I like it." - Mick Jagger & Keith Richards
    "Life is too important to be taken seriously." - Oscar Wilde
    Gear: The Current Cast of Characters

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    Default Re: Electric Tenor Guitars, Power Chords and Scale Length

    I've got a homemade (not by me) 23" scale electric tenor, currently strung as an octave mandolin, which I'm really enjoying. I've also been playing around with CGCG tuning, which seems (at least based on my Wikipedia-based knowledge of power chords) perfect for playing power chords- root, fifth, root, fifth. Jayyj, I'm also into "psychedelic jangle and Sonic Youth style drones"- any advice for translating that sort of sound to the tenor/octave?
    "All musicians are subconsciously mathematicians"- Thelonious Monk

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    Default Re: Electric Tenor Guitars, Power Chords and Scale Length

    Quote Originally Posted by 5thBeliever View Post
    I've got a homemade (not by me) 23" scale electric tenor, currently strung as an octave mandolin, which I'm really enjoying. I've also been playing around with CGCG tuning, which seems (at least based on my Wikipedia-based knowledge of power chords) perfect for playing power chords- root, fifth, root, fifth. Jayyj, I'm also into "psychedelic jangle and Sonic Youth style drones"- any advice for translating that sort of sound to the tenor/octave?
    Since you are already in OM tuning, GDGD also works nicely if you want a slightly lower voice (which will give the power chords a little more punch).
    I plan on using this tuning for Blues slide...
    Open = double power G,
    slide @ 2 = double power A,
    slide @ 5 = double power C,
    slide @ 7 = double power D,
    4-2-X-X (middle & index) = power E
    Oh...I definitely see some swampy noise in my future. Nice!
    Rain Dance, an acoustic ensemble
    The R.u.B., classic-rock covers
    "I know it's only rock-n-roll, but I like it." - Mick Jagger & Keith Richards
    "Life is too important to be taken seriously." - Oscar Wilde
    Gear: The Current Cast of Characters

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    Default Re: Electric Tenor Guitars, Power Chords and Scale Length

    The lipsticks on my home made tenor certainly have jangle, coupled with a Fender Princeton Reverb with plenty of sparkle, and a ProCo Rat for distortion. If you have a listen to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iyKtfwHPXLU you can hear what sort of thing I'm doing with it - the main riff in the quiet bits is an acoustic mandola, then the lead part in the loud bits is the electric tenor in CGCG tuning. The CGCG tuning is pretty good for blending power chords and riffs, so it tends to be my most used tuning on electric.

    Tenor works great for me with that band because there's so much else going on (std guitar, keyboards, piano) that it's really easy to make things sound muddy by adding an extra guitar, where as the tenor always seems to sit comfortably at the top without masking what the others are doing.

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    Default Re: Electric Tenor Guitars, Power Chords and Scale Length

    Jayyj;
    That clip is absolutely fantastic! Thanks for posting.
    This is the 21" scale tenor you mention above? It sounds great.
    Rain Dance, an acoustic ensemble
    The R.u.B., classic-rock covers
    "I know it's only rock-n-roll, but I like it." - Mick Jagger & Keith Richards
    "Life is too important to be taken seriously." - Oscar Wilde
    Gear: The Current Cast of Characters

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    Default Re: Electric Tenor Guitars, Power Chords and Scale Length

    Thank you! Yes, that's the 21" scale tenor.

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    Default Re: Electric Tenor Guitars, Power Chords and Scale Length

    Cool band Jayyj. Moody Manchester with a sparkly top end. Do you use acoustic tenors as well? I also hear cello or viola on some tracks?

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    Default Re: Electric Tenor Guitars, Power Chords and Scale Length

    Thanks Ambrosepottie! I have a 1929 Gibson TG1 tenor that I use for acoustic, as well as a mandola and viola. So basically anything that can be tuned to a C gets used...

    Ed, back to the scale length thing, I've been messing about with SG based designs and have eventually decided to go with 22" for the scale length. I definately want to beef up the 21" of my current electric but it's going to be a gig guitar and I use different tunings within the set, and the more I thought about it I just can't be bothered with constantly snapping A strings. So 22" it is. This is still aimed at CGDA or variations of, although I'm tempted to try stringing up with GDAE just to see how it works.

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    Work in Progress Ed Goist's Avatar
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    Default Re: Electric Tenor Guitars, Power Chords and Scale Length

    Thanks Jayyj.
    Every time I pick-up the Warren Ellis, my plan is to play it, then to change the strings to GDAE after the session. However, it always seems to impress me so much in its current tuning that I end up leaving it in CGDA.
    This is a nice quandary.
    Rain Dance, an acoustic ensemble
    The R.u.B., classic-rock covers
    "I know it's only rock-n-roll, but I like it." - Mick Jagger & Keith Richards
    "Life is too important to be taken seriously." - Oscar Wilde
    Gear: The Current Cast of Characters

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    Default Re: Electric Tenor Guitars, Power Chords and Scale Length

    I'd really like to try the Warren Ellis out of curiosity but they're pretty hard to come by in the UK. I'd guess Warren uses GDAE, seem to remember seeing him with an Australian made tenor that was tuned GDAE a few years ago.

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