View Full Version : Questions about a tenor guitar

Barbara Shultz
May-08-2008, 10:36am
I am obviously stricken with MAS, and all it's related afflictions! I bought a 1950's Harmony Tenor Guitar off ebay. It was advertised as 'freshly set-up by a professional luthier'. It was strung CGDA. I have no experience with Tenor Guitars, and bought it to be a travel instrument. I travel a LOT, mainly by car, and like to have something to play to keep my fingers and brain nimble. I play the mandolin, OM, cittern & tenor banjo, and the tenor guitar seemed like it would be perfect.

Last night, we restrung it GDAE. Oh yes, it IS fun to play! The bridge looks like it's either been replaced or repositioned, as you can see where a bridge was before, and it is lifted up on the treble side. I can't tell whether it's about to pop off (time will tell on that one), or if it's just a ###### glue job.

I believe that at some point, some more 'professional luthier-ing' will be in order. The intonation is off... it get sharp as you go up the strings, more so on the G and D strings. I know how to adjust that on banjos and mandolin instruments with floating bridges... but assume it's a more serious fix with a guitar. But, since the reason I got this, was to take on my car trips (leaving my higher dollar instruments safe at home), perfect intonation isn't crucial at this point.

So, my main question has to do with set up work on the bridge of a tenor guitar. The bridge is what I assume to be a 'standard' tenor guitar bridge, with a drop in short saddle, slightly angled in a slot in the wooden bridge.

Since I paid less than $200 for the guitar, I'm not looking to spend a bunch of bucks on repair, so I thought I'd pick some of your brains, as to what my options are!


May-09-2008, 7:31pm
Congratulations on your 'new' tenor guitar. They are really an under rated instrument, and a lot of fun. As for your intonation problem Hmmmh - When the instrument was tuned CGda, did it play in tune? Second question ... can you measure the guage of the original strings and the guages of the replacement strings?

Often the change to heavier strings when you move up (?), down (?), over to GDae will be frankly ... off a bit. As the guitar has a pin bridge ... The first thing I'd do is measure the distance from the nut to the twelfth fret. Then, on the D and a strings, measure the distance from the twelfth fret to the bridge. (The total of the two distances will give you the scale length.) The distance from the 12th fret to bridge should be the same as the distance from the nut to the bridge. #

Pin bridges are meant to be adjustable by replacing the saddle in the groove. If the saddle of the bridge has been set for C tuning, you may need to have another saddle cut to get it back into tune. The offsets for the strings (the grooves where the strings ride in) can be a bit different than for a mandolin, OM or Tenor banjo. As for the foot rising up on one side, often that can be clamped and reglued. Things that old have a tendency of sagging in the most inappropriate way (I know that as I'm even older).

Eddie Sheehy
May-11-2008, 12:45am
I take it you tuned it "down" to GDAE. Aren't the bass strings kinda twangy? What gauges did you use?

May-12-2008, 7:15pm
Barb - I just reread your original post and noticed you do have a drop in saddle on the guitar. One of the things which 'may' work to get the D and G strings to intonate better is to get a wider saddle than you currently have. Rather than cut the slot in the bridge, shave the bottom of the saddle (flat file in a vise - fret saw used very carefully - blades are a bit too hard to handle on this small an object) to fit the groove. This will leave a mushroom shaped saddle which can be filed to get the individual strings closer to intonation. Assuming you have a good flat file around - the total cost would be from 0ne dollar to about 8 bucks for a Tusq saddle - if it's your labor, well that's just finding the time to do it.

The next question is - how much do you have to offset the string breaks?

Well, Doug Dieter at Kennaquhair instruments offers both a basic string guage calculator - which also has a method of ascertaining what needs to be accomodated to get your individual strings in tune. His URL is http://www.kennaquhair.com/ ... look towards the bottom of the menu on the left and download the Universal String Calculator. One of the optional functions of this program is an intonation function.l Granted - there are more accurate calculators out there ... I haven't found one which is as simple to use as this one.

Hope this helps - Dion