View Full Version : Bluegrass & the tenor guitar

Aug-08-2008, 10:53pm
I hava nice 1954 Martin 5-15 tenor. Have had it for many years but just got it out of the case last month. #I would like to play Bluegrass backup with the guitar at standard tenor tuning. Looks like the open chord normally expected in bluegrass, can be played w/o capo and with a second fret capo. Would the strum be a "boom- chuck" type playing, hitting the bass string followed by the remaining strings? Or does it just not fit into the blurgrass scene?

Aug-11-2008, 9:26pm
Well, the fact that your tenor guitar's lowest note is C, same as the fifth string, third fret of a standard guitar, probably keeps you from playing exactly like Lester Flatt or Jimmy Martin. Tenor guitars, in my experience, don't do as well at the normal "boom-chuck" style of rhythm, though you definitely can chord on the off-beats. When I use tenor guitar to back up fiddlers (which isn't all that often), I use a more "running" style of mid-range chording, lots of up-and-down with the flat-pick, sort of a cross between guitar and mandolin rhythm strums. You're missing almost an octave of bass, and the voice of bluegrass rhythm guitar is a bass-oriented one, so you'll probably need to consider some modifications to accommodate the tenor's characteristics.

Aug-14-2008, 11:36pm
Thanks for the reply - for a while there I thought I had been "Black Balled" bY the tenor guitar community. I had a chance to play the guitar with a regular bluegrass guitar (D-28)and didn't find the experience very stimulating. Was trying the "boom chuck" with open chords but it doesn't seem to do a lot for the music. Back to the drawing board!

Greg Stec
Aug-16-2008, 10:03am
Check out the recordings of Ernest "Pop" Stoneman. #He played TG on some of them. Strictly rhythm with the occasional solo. He died back in 1968. #I can't recommend any recording in particular because I don't have any, but the commentator of an old-time music show I listed to (from D.C.) like Pop a lot and would often comment on what instrument he was playing.

Hope this helps.
Greg (nr Baltimore)

Aug-16-2008, 4:34pm
Thanks Greg
I'll be checking that out.

Mike Herlihy
Aug-16-2008, 5:36pm
BENNY AND JERRY THOMASSON (http://www.voyagerrecords.com/cattex.htm)

Not exactly bluegrass, but the Thomassons did some great fiddle/guitar work together