View Full Version : Guitar VS. Tenor Guitar

Nov-19-2009, 5:37am
Hello Mandolin Cafe i have come across a problem,for my birthday i have the option of getting a new guitar or a tenor guitar which i have been very interested in but know nothing expect for what i have read online. I've been searching for an instrument thats not as used as the 6 string guitar, i mean its nice to set apart yourself from the flock but like i said i do not understand much about the tenor such as is it as versatile as guitar? how does it match up? can it play everything i guitar can? It's been a real tough decision. I Enjoy playing Folk and Western swing but want to get into bluegrass also, would the tenor be a wise choice for those genres in lead and rhythm? or should i just stick to Guitar. Thank you for the time and help everyone =D

Nov-19-2009, 12:27pm
If you wish to play bluegrass guitar, the 6-string is the standard. If you wish to play swing styles a tenor can be used. There is nothing as complete as a 6-string guitar for a portable, compact instrument with range and versatility for any style of music--it's often referred to as a small piano. Six strings enables extended harmony, self-accompaniment, and bass elements (such as bass runs and fills in bluegrass). A tenor is also versatile, but obviously lacks the range of the six-string...those two bass strings can do an awful lot. But, if you're playing in a swing orchestra or ensemble, you can easily eschew those two bass strings--especially if you're playing with a competent bassist. Also, if you learn 5ths-tuning (tenor g.) you can apply your fingerboard harmony to any number of other 5ths-tuned instruments. The six-string guitar is sui generis, more or less.

The choice for the beginner is a bit of a dliemma: the six-string guitar can do it all. The tenor is more specialized, but offers the benefit of being directly transferable to tenor banjo, mandola, etc. If you intend to take lessons from an instructor and learn from others, you can easliy find six-string players; perhaps not the case for locating other 4-string players..

Nov-19-2009, 2:28pm
If you want to be basically a chord player, I'd recommend the standard guitar. The "closer" tuning -- 4ths instead of 5ths -- produces a "denser" chordal sound, the six strings give the opportunity for more complicated chord voicings, and the bass strings allow for foundation below the melody, whether it's instrumental or vocal.

The tenor guitar can be a great melody instrument, and is well-suited to certain styles such as swing. And of course the advantage you've cited: there are a thousand standard guitars for every tenor guitar, so you'll stand out from the crowd as a tenor guitarist.

My advice would be to make the standard guitar your first instrument, and the tenor guitar the second. Chord fingerings are different, if you use standard tuning on each instrument, but you can use alternative tunings on the tenor to make it similar. Or, alternatively, consider the baritone ukulele -- four strings, tuned like the top four strings of the standard guitar.

Nov-19-2009, 7:09pm
This was a ton of help guys! thanks =] I'll stick with the 6 string at the moment. but one day i do plan on picking up a beautiful tenor.