View Full Version : Mandolin vs tenor guitar

Oct-10-2007, 6:28pm
Is the tenor guitar tuned the same as a mandolin? It has four strings and I was asked this question and do not have the answer. I picked the mandolin g scale on the guitar and it sounded right but I really don't have a clue. This person was wondering if mandolin tab works for his tenor guitar. I know just enough music to be dangerous!!! Thank you in advance for your help!- Shawn http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/mandosmiley.gif

Oct-10-2007, 6:30pm
They can be. Another common tuning is CGDA, same intervals.

Oct-10-2007, 6:32pm
Mando---If it is tuned the same then the tab and frets would be the same?

Jim Garber
Oct-10-2007, 6:39pm
Yes, but usually it would be tuned one octave below and the fingering would be different unless you have gigantic hands.

Oct-10-2007, 6:41pm
Thanks that was what i had thought... you whould have to really stretch to get a g cord! Thanks for all your quick responses- you all ROCK

Oct-10-2007, 6:48pm
A month ago I had the opportunity to play a lovely tenor guitar, from a new maker. It was tuned GCAE an octave below the mandolin. After I got over the single string digging into my double string callouses, I really enjoyed it. A deep rich tone, very much more like a guitar than a mandolin, really its own voice. I loved it. And because its a single string per course, it was much easier to explore alternate tunings.

While my mando-skills translated more or less directly - I think if I owned a tenor guitar I would find new ways to explore the instrument, things that would perhaps also translate back to my mandolin playing.

Its all good. Real good.

Oct-10-2007, 9:19pm
Standard tuning for a tenor guitar is the same as that for a tenor banjo or mandola, CGDA low to high.
Of course, you can tune it however you want. If you want to tune one GDAE, that's the same tuning as an octave mandolin, so you might want to use strings of the same gauge as OM strings. You'll probably need ball-end strings, and OM strings are loop-end, so getting approximately the same gauges in guitar strings is probably your best bet.
This of course assumes that the scale length (bridge saddle to nut) on your tenor guitar is close to that of an octave mandolin. The scale length on my Gibson tenor guitar is 23" and the length on the Flatiron 3-K octave mandolin is 23 1/4" so the same strings would work.

Oct-16-2007, 8:56am
I've played 6 and 12 string guitar for years, now play mando and tenor banjo. i chose tenor banjo a/k/a 'plectrum banjo' instead of tenor guitar because the demands of playing tenor b%^&o, played with a plectrum, replciate what is needed for mando. hard to make the tenor b$%o sound good if your picking is SLOPPYYYYYY!!!! us weak dogs need all the help we can get...

also there are 'Plectrum Banjo Societies' (check out links to BANJO BANDS at the Banjos Unlimited web page where lots of folks get together and play stuff like Waiting for the Robert E. Lee and Alabama Jubilee and Down yonder and Aura Lee and the Marine Hymn.... a lot of low pressure high volume fun !!! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/mandosmiley.gif

Oct-16-2007, 10:00am
i chose tenor banjo a/k/a 'plectrum banjo' instead of tenor guitar...
Actually tenor banjo and plectrum banjo are two different instruments. The tenor banjo has a slightly shorter neck, and four strings tuned in fifths, usually CGDA, like a mandola. The plectrum banjo, which also has four strings, is tuned like a 5-string banjo without the fifth string, usually CGBD (C tuning on the 5-string).

Confusion arises because both are played with a plectrum, which is the fancy official music jargon name for a flat pick. The plectrum banjo has become a fairly rare instrument, though I think OME still builds really nice ones. There are many plectrum banjos left from the early 20th century, by makers like Vega, Weymann, Bacon & Day, etc. And, weird but true, there are also plectrum guitars, four-string instruments like tenor guitars, but with longer necks. These are quite rare; Martin made about 275 of them in the '30's, for example. I owned a National Duolian plectrum guitar for a few years (since traded to Bernunzio for my Gibson Army-Navy Custom mandolin).

Shelby Eicher
Oct-16-2007, 10:11am
Sometimes guitar players will tune a tenor guitar like the first four strings of a guitar. E B G D

Shelby Eicher
Oct-16-2007, 10:15am
I wopuld love to post a pick of my tenor/mandola hybrid. I've never posted a pic before. Can anyone give me the skinny?

Oct-16-2007, 11:32am
Here ya go Shelby (http://www.mandolincafe.net/cgi-bin/ikonboard.cgi?act=ST;f=23;t=13102;hl=post+a+pictur e)

Oct-16-2007, 11:47am
Tenor scale is normally 23" or a bit shorter (21") on the 17 fret models, plectrum is normally around 26 3/8". I had a plectrum and tuned it GDAE and it sounded sweet but some chords could be a chore. I find chording on a tenor easier than on a mandolin, it could be my old beat up fingers tho, they don't move well in tight spaces. I would say playing the tenor guitar is easily just as fun and rewarding as playing the mandolin its just a different sound. Being a newbie to stringed things until picking up a mandolin I'd say having all that extra sustain is awesome. It really fun to play fiddle tunes on a tenor for me and having one tuned GDAE means my fingerings are exactly the same. BTW playing in "normal" tenor tuning of CGDA using the same fingerings just moves everything a fifth so a song in G would now be in C just like if ya moved up a string on mando and played a song in the same pattern. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/mandosmiley.gif

Greg Stec
Oct-16-2007, 11:49am
Most people tune the TG G-C-D-A, which is the same tuning for the tenor banjo, the mandola and the mandocello.
Some tune it like the bottom 4 strings of a 6-string guitar, D-G-B-E, which happens to be the same tuning for the baritone ukulele.
And others throw caution to the wind.
My two cents.

Oct-16-2007, 12:05pm
I tune mine like that banjo/accordion thing from the other thread.

Shelby Eicher
Oct-16-2007, 12:40pm
Here's my tenor/mandolin by my Gibson for reference.

Shelby Eicher
Oct-16-2007, 12:43pm
Here is a back view. Thanks for the help posting a pic.

Oct-16-2007, 12:45pm
Yes, but usually it would be tuned one octave below and the fingering would be different unless you have gigantic hands.
My hands aren't gigantic, but I can use mando fingerings on a tenor.

Thread title made me think "they have a fight, mandolin wins", but that's just my college years coming back to haunt me.

Tenors tuned as OMs are a lot of fun. You get a nice guitar tone, lead capabilities, nice chording changes, and all sorts of toys with 'em. Surprised more people aren't in to them

Oct-16-2007, 12:46pm
ajr and a national tenor guitar


Oct-16-2007, 12:57pm
DanB with a They Might Be Giant's reference!

I'm enjoying this thread as I often browse the e-bay tenor guitars as 4 string OM source...


Oct-16-2007, 3:15pm
Most people tune the TG G-C-D-A, which is the same tuning for the tenor banjo, the mandola and the mandocello.
I think the standard tenor banjo/tenor guitar/mandola tuning is CGDA, rather than GCDA, low to high.


Oct-16-2007, 7:14pm
20's Regal tenor tuned CGDA, 1906 Gibson A, 33 Bacon "Senorita" tenor tuned GDAE. 23 inch scale on both the tenors.

Oct-16-2007, 7:17pm
Shelby...thats one sweet looking bugger!

Shelby Eicher
Oct-16-2007, 10:35pm
Thanks. It has a 16 and 7/8 scale length and is a standard Mandola tuning ... A D G C. Johnny Gimble was my inspiration with his mandola tuned 4 string electric mandolin. I designed it and it was built by Rob Bishline. The body is a Gibson Birdland reduced to 69%. It was completed in '01. I've got a bridge pickup ready to go in it. The pickups are custom Seymore Duncans. Here's a pic of the binding, it's Tulipwood.

Shelby Eicher
Oct-16-2007, 10:46pm
I posted the wrong pic. I have posted 3 pics on this topic and it I can't post the right one. This is new for me and I'm learning.

Oct-17-2007, 10:52am
also there #are 'Plectrum Banjo Societies' (check #out links #to BANJO #BANDS at the #Banjos Unlimited #web #page # where #lots #of #folks #get #together #and #play #stuff #like Waiting for the Robert E. Lee and Alabama Jubilee #and #Down #yonder and #Aura Lee #and the Marine #Hymn.... a lot #of #low #pressure #high #volume #fun !!!
A buddy of mine is into this, he has taken me to a couple of meetings/jams. These guys are great. And they know chords I never even heard of.

I played a banjolin, to fit in better, and I learned Down Yonder, and Baby Face. Great fun.