View Full Version : Six string guitar conversion - Tenor Guitar

Taylor and Tenor
Apr-13-2010, 5:32pm
Has anyone ever tried to convert an inexpensive 1/2 or 3/4 size 6 string guitar to a tenor guitar by removing the 5th A string, replacing the A string with an additional E string close to the 6th string by adding an additional string peg hole between the 5th & 6th and cutting a new slot in the nut?????

Thus making a tenor guitar (DGBE) with two E strings on the bass side mandolin style/width. I want a tenor guitar with a space after the 4th string and then two bass E strings.

Thought it might make a fun project.

Greg Ashton
Apr-14-2010, 8:18am
I don't think I would consider what you're describing as a tenor guitar but I've seen Baby Taylors converted both to single strung tenor guitars (GDAE) and double strung octave mandolins (GDAE). Also, I've done the modification you described on a $100 Seagull parlor guitar a few years ago. I think I tuned it DD GDAE. It proved to be too frustrating because of intonation issues so I abandoned the idea.

Apr-14-2010, 8:46am
... by adding an additional string peg hole between the 5th & 6th and cutting a new slot in the nut?????

I forget where on-line (I think one of the Cafe's luthier members), but I recently saw a standard guitar converted to a Roger McGuinn-style 7-string (w/ octave 3rd/G string, as on a 12-string) by adding a banjo tuner to the middle of the headstock. Slick idea and Very clean looking!

Patrick Hull
Apr-20-2010, 11:46am
I have done the conversion on a Little Martin and it seems to work fine. I just removed two strings, retuned a bit and ended up with GDAE. I think you can figure it out. I tried this on a 3/4 inexpensive guitar, and it worked fine, but when I tried to re-string I had major intonation problems.

Apr-20-2010, 12:53pm
Martin sells little martins with tenor necks, new.

Patrick Hull
Apr-20-2010, 1:07pm
Martin does sell the "Little Martin" tenors, but my recollection is that they were about $200 more than the regular guitars. I picked mine up because I got a good deal on it, but probably wouldn't have paid much extra. As is, if I get the bug to convert back , I can. Also, I've played the converted instrument out quite a bit, and no one has ever even mentioned that it only has 4 strings. Not very noticeable unless you really look closely.

Taylor and Tenor
Apr-25-2010, 6:08am
Martin Tenor guitar street price is $449.00 vs Martin LX (HPL top) at street price at $279.00.

I ordered a Fender parlor (3/4 size) 12 fret guitar on clearance for $99.00. If it works out, I will reduce the width of the neck and hope the neck stays straight. But with only the pressure of four strings it should be fine based on a child's 3/4 Strato style electric guitar I converted to an octave mandolin and cut down the neck width.

BTW, the Strato Mando will over power any banjo I encountered and sounds great.

fred d
Apr-25-2010, 10:46am
Yes I reduced the neck of a garage sale guitar and removed to tuners. took off the i=6 strings and retuned GDAE It has a nice deep sound

Apr-25-2010, 11:33am
have you thought about using a baritone uke?

Apr-25-2010, 12:19pm
I have a Mandobird that I love playing. I can play it tuned in standard mandolin GDAE or to rock out, I tune it to EADG, but the intonation is then out a bit, worse as you go up the neck. i tried tuning to DGBE, but it just doesn't cut it. I thought about buying a second one to optimize intonation for EADG. I think that could work.

Along these lines, I also picked up a mini 6-string Flying V clone with a built in min-amp and speaker, got it at Big Lots for $60. It took me about 3 hours to fix all the quirks, to get it to intonate and play as a cheap guitar, but for $60, I can experiment with it and see what works, etc. This ax does not tune well to standard guitar tuning, it's too slack and won't intonate. If I tune it up an octave, it breaks strings way too easily. So, I drop everything down a fifth (e.g. E > A, A > D, etc). It was a bit of a stretch to intonate, but it works good and feels much better. If the tuners were any good, it would be a nice liitle guitar. So here, my idea was to swap the strings upward, so the 13 on B goes to high E position and drops down to an E lower for standard tuning. But this thread makes me think it might convert well to a 6-string mandolin, with either double E and A strings or octaves on the G and D strings, either way for the "jangle". The later option might be cool because then I can get the single strings on high for riffing guitar solos.

I like the ideas in this thread and am going back to try a few things I've read here. One is to convert a 7-string Fender that I never got used to into a McGuin 7-string, as described above. Never heard of that until this thread. Thanks for sharing! I just need to make a new nut and mod the bridge a bit. I have a machinist friend who can help me with this part.

Back to the Mandobird, there's a YouTube video of a guy who converted his Mandobird to a UkeBird. Works good for him. I also have a baratone uke that I just love to play and have been thinking of a Mandobird tuned so, but the tension is not right with the factory strings. From what I can tell from all this mini guitar to uke or madolin conversion, is that there is a string diameter to length ratio that determines the pitch. I would rather have the baratone version MandoUke myself, so I'll experiment with the strings to see what can be done. Does anyone know of a reference table online or a formula for calculating string diameter to length to pitch? I guess I could do a matrix of my known pitches (Hz)/diameters (in/mm)/lengths (in/cm) and see what I get.

Nice thread for us tinkerers, thank you all for sharing!:mandosmiley:

May-21-2010, 10:57am
Bari Uke to Tenor ... What seems to work is getting a set of good classical guitar strings and then restringing and tuning the instrument. I've done this with a few tenor Uke's, haven't tried it with a bari (yet). I have two really old Bari's in the basement but time has pushed it to a far back burner.

My preference was to go to Aguila strings - in one of the many iterations. I went to first standard tension then tried the 'Hard' sets while watching the bridge, neck, top for deflections of defections. It flat out works! Somewhere on this thread is one I started called 'Tiny Tenors' where I went into the math of the strings. After experimenting and trying to find the various tensions, I just went with the actual thickness and it worked. A Bari is normally a 19 inch scale whereas a Tenor Uke is 17 inch. With the classical guitar strings, tuning it to CGda was no problem. There may be an issue if you are trying to get it into GDae tuning. That High E string might not be a possibility.

Oh yes - for concert Uke Players / owners ... Aguila is now listing a set of strings for GDae ... Concerts have a 15inch scale. This is a really small company in Italy - but the importers may listen and offer fifth tuned set for Tenors and or Bari's. It doesn't hurt to ask ...