View Full Version : Question about tenor guitar

Aug-08-2008, 12:42pm
Hello everyone. I have a plan, but before I try it out, I figured I would ask the experts to see if it seems possible. I play 6 string and my wife plays fiddle. We do mostly celtic and bluegrass.

I have been thinking about learning mandolin & fiddle since they are so similar, now that I have found out about the tenor guitar I have a good idea on how to quickly learn.

Is it possible to tune the tenor guitar the same as the mandolin, and learn the chord shapes on it and apply that to mandolin...and even fiddle. In other words, learn 3 instruments at once? With my wife knowing how to play fiddle she can help in the learning process.

What problems might I run into if I tune the tenor guitar to GDAE and can the same chord shapes be used on tenor guitar and mandolin if they are tuned the same.

The guitar I am thinking about picking up is a teardrop tenor guitar by Lark in the Morning. I figured, since this is an experiment I would buy something inexpensive and if I like it, then I might look into a nice vintage instrument.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, David

Aug-08-2008, 4:00pm
If your hands are huge, that could work, and a lot does transfer. I find that I prefer different fingerings on the two just because on the mandolin, I like to avoid having two fingers on the same fret position if I can (I play a 12-string, and barring isn't quite impossible, but close), and on the tenor guitar, I try to avoid stretches over three frets. I think you will find the same thing.

I own that exact teardrop, am extremely happy with it. I keep mine at CGDA, but it can be tuned down to GDAE, one octave below the mandolin. I would never try to tune it up to mandolin tuning. Even at CGDA tuning, a lot transfers: you can either keep the fingerings roughly the same, and be in a different key, or you can move the action one string up, adjust for octave shifts when necessary, and keep the key the same.

Aug-09-2008, 9:34am

I have the same thing in mind. I am teaching myself mando, and just pulled the trigger on a tenor guitar, planning to tune it down to GDAE for simplicity of transfer. However, I am going the vintage route directly. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/mandosmiley.gif

Aug-10-2008, 11:53am
tuning a tenor to GDAE is no problem but does require different string gauges. Im using 45 32 22 12 on my 23 inch scale and it sounds great. I bought a set of guitar strings which had the needed guages and keep the other 2 unused ones in my "spare strings drawer". I think they were D'Addarrio custom lights but Im not sure as its been a while. The same chord shapes can be used if your fingers are long enough and theres tons of info out there with chord shapes for tenor banjo/guitar in the CGDA tuning which are easily transposed to the G tuning. Here's a link to some very basic info...chords/tuning (http://www.theguitarfiles.com/guitarfile540.html)

Aug-11-2008, 9:49am
Thanks to everybody that replied. I'm planning on ordering that tenor to try these ideas out. I'm sure I'll experiment with both tuning to see if I have a favorite. I appreciate the input.

Oh, one more question about the guitar. Can you use a strap with it. I didn't see in the pictures if I could hook one up. If not, I'm guessing I would need to hold it more like a classical guitar because of it's shape.

Bob Wiegers
Aug-11-2008, 3:21pm
I dont see why you couldnt install an end-pin (if it doesnt have one) and tie a strap on the headstock (or install a strap button, if that's what you prefer)

Aug-11-2008, 9:20pm
Another thought: you can keep the guitar in CGDA tuning, put a capo on the 7th fret, and have GDAE and a scale-length and fret separation that's closer to a mandolin, plus you'll be in actual mandolin/fiddle tuning, not an octave below.

Tenor guitar and tenor banjo are equivalent CGDA tuning to the mandola/viola, but many now use what is called "Irish tuning" or GDAE like an octave mandolin. As stated above, different string gauges required.

Aug-11-2008, 11:27pm
I use a saxophone strap with mine, hooked into the soundhole. I guess I should call it a "classical guitar neck cord", but it only hooks in one side, and I know what it really is.