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Thread: Tenor Guitar, Ukelele or?

  1. #1

    Default Tenor Guitar, Ukelele or?

    I am in my 70's and need some advice on what stringed instrument to pursue for easy strumming along as I sing folk songs and favorite old singers like Elvis and the Everly Brothers. Strictly for my own enjoyment. I was a very novice 6 string guitar player almost 50 years ago. When I tried both steel and nylon string 6 strings recently I realized I have no muscle memory, have lost strength and flexibility in my fingers. I started researching 4 strings which then took me to ukuleles so I got overwhelmed quickly. I am starting from scratch and welcome any advice, so:
    Tenor 4 string, cigar box, ukulele (if so, which size?)? I even saw a 3 string being played on YouTube. Suggestions?
    Easiest to play?
    Steel, nylon or steel over nylon?
    String notes? Anything where I can get away with mostly only needing to use 2 fingers?
    Specific models and brands?
    Thanks in advance,
    OldJoe

  2. #2
    Registered User fox's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tenor Guitar, Ukelele or?

    Hi Joe, who knows what would suit you best, it could be any of your own suggestions?
    Perhaps you could visit a music store and check out a few different instruments...
    However it seems to me that a baritone ukulele would best suit two finger strumming...
    They sound great, a nice size to practice with sitting on the sofa, easy on the fingers & very forgiving with their mellow sound.

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  4. #3
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    Default Re: Tenor Guitar, Ukelele or?

    I second Mr Fox's baritone uke suggestion, for all the reasons given plus if you stick to the standard DGBE tuning you'll be able to play 90% or so of everything you find in standard guitar tablature books (if you should happen to want to do that).

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  6. #4

    Default Re: Tenor Guitar, Ukelele or?

    Another possible instrument might be Appalachian dulcimer, they can be extremely easy to play but also allow room for growth for more complex playing when you're ready. For other instruments though I agree a baritone ukulele might be great, especially since with a string change you can play it with octave mandolin tuning if you'd like.

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    Registered User bruce.b's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tenor Guitar, Ukelele or?

    As I sid in the other thread, go for a baritone ukulele. They are great instruments. Kala makes their baritone in various woods. The solid arcacia one is wonderful, at the high end price wise. Leave it in standrd DGBE tuning.
    https://kalabrand.com/collections/al...ucts/ka-asac-b

  8. #6

    Default Re: Tenor Guitar, Ukelele or?

    Thank you. I just checked out a local guitar store and will pay them a visit.

  9. #7
    Harley Marty
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    Default Re: Tenor Guitar, Ukelele or?

    Well Joe there may be another option. Tenor ukulele with non standard strings. I have a tenor uke tuned GDAE which is super comfortable to play the only common string on mine for your purpose is the E. I use a D'Addario pl008 gauge or 0.2mm l'm sure there are plenty of fellas on this forum to suggest what gauges you need for the other 3 strings. The tenor uke requires no stretch at all for the fingers & isn't cramped like the likes of the mandolin. Mine required a fair bit of tweaking the height & placement of the bridge. I essentially discarded the white insert in the bridge

  10. #8

    Default Re: Tenor Guitar, Ukelele or?

    A ukulele is easier to form chords than a tenor guitar in standard tuning. You might consider a tenor guitar tuned dgbe or a baritone ukulele tuned the same. The nylon strings of the ukulele might be easier on your fingers. The steel strings of a guitar will give you callouses.
    If you are going to a guitar shop, I suggest that you avoid the big box stores. Find a mom and pop shop that focuses on either teaching or repair.

  11. #9

    Default Re: Tenor Guitar, Ukelele or?

    Thanks. I will try out the tenor as well.

  12. #10

    Default Re: Tenor Guitar, Ukelele or?

    Thanks. I was planning a trip to a big Guitar Store. I might still go just because they have a lot of options in stock just so I can try them out. But will also go to a place out of a guy's home who lives nearby.

  13. #11
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    Default Re: Tenor Guitar, Ukelele or?

    If you are just strumming chords while singing ukulele (Baritone or tenor) will be perfect for you. Of course you can do more than just strum chords on a uke. (See Jake Shimabakuro, James hill, etc...)

    My Mother in law started playing Uke at age 77 and is still going strong at age 90. Got me and my wife hooked on playing them too.
    Go check some out in person. That's one of the fun parts, choosing new instrument.

    BTW several of the open chords can be played with one or two fingers.

    Look for brands that exclusively make ukes. Good mid price ukes made by Kala, Lanakai, Mainland. Oscar Schmidt makes some good ones too as far as mid price goes. Of course you can spend over $1000 on a nice hand made uke too if that's what your into.

    Lots of info on the subject at https://ukuleleunderground.com/

  14. #12
    Lord of All Badgers Lord of the Badgers's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tenor Guitar, Ukelele or?

    another thing to consider - you talk about two/one finger chords... tune a tenor guitar's high string down a step (GDAD or CGDG) ... that's what I do! then you're into irish bouzouki 'modal' (controverial term) chords...
    My name is Rob, and I am Lord of All Badgers

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  15. #13

    Default Re: Tenor Guitar, Ukelele or?

    Thanks for your helpful response.

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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tenor Guitar, Ukelele or?

    Long scale, (fits in a banjo case) Irish Bouzouki, is what my picking buddy uses
    as sing along accompaniment. also mandolin, learning fiddle.

    double course, 8 strings octave below mandolin still GDAE..

    but yea the Baritone Uke is a good Idea..

    Our old folks playing folk music circle includes a lot of Ukes, soprano voice ones..
    and one half sized 6 string guitar

    about the same size as a Bari Uke..


    [By the way after D'Jango Reinhardt burned his left hand in a Gypsy camp fire,
    he only has use of 2 fingers]




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    Default Re: Tenor Guitar, Ukelele or?

    Tanks. Wow about Django. I'll have to see if I can find a video of him playing.

  19. #16
    Registered User Steve VandeWater's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tenor Guitar, Ukelele or?

    Quote Originally Posted by Harley Marty View Post
    Well Joe there may be another option. Tenor ukulele with non standard strings. I have a tenor uke tuned GDAE which is super comfortable to play the only common string on mine for your purpose is the E. I use a D'Addario pl008 gauge or 0.2mm l'm sure there are plenty of fellas on this forum to suggest what gauges you need for the other 3 strings. The tenor uke requires no stretch at all for the fingers & isn't cramped like the likes of the mandolin. Mine required a fair bit of tweaking the height & placement of the bridge. I essentially discarded the white insert in the bridge
    I wholeheartedly second this suggestion. I tuned my tenor uke GDAE using wound nylon strings based on a post here from awhile back. The strings are D'Addario Pro Arte as follows:
    1st- E (e'- E4- 329.6 Hz)- NYL034 nylon only
    2nd-A (A- A3- 220.0 Hz)- NYL026W steel-wound nylon
    3rd- D (d- D3- 146.8 Hz)- NYL034W steel-wound nylon
    4th- G (G- G2- 98.0 Hz)- NYL048W steel-wound nylon

    These are very easy to finger, and are tuned a couple of octaves below a mandolin. On my solid spruce topped, mahogany backed tenor, it sounds great. Tenor fret spacing is MUCH easier for me than baritone spacing. Good luck in your search!
    It ain't gotta be perfect, as long as it's perfect enough!

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  21. #17

    Default Re: Tenor Guitar, Ukelele or?

    Thanks so much for the details.

  22. #18
    Registered User Steve VandeWater's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tenor Guitar, Ukelele or?

    Forgot to mention that I get the strings from JustStrings.com and that they are classical guitar strings.
    It ain't gotta be perfect, as long as it's perfect enough!

  23. #19
    Registered User Cary Fagan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tenor Guitar, Ukelele or?

    You can find lots of people singing while playing baritone uke on Youtube. And see how well it works. Gets my vote, too. I like them better than tenor guitars and they are more resonant and warm sounding.

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    Registered User bruce.b's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tenor Guitar, Ukelele or?

    The biggest difference between baritone and tenor is if you get a baritone you are all set to go, it’s already set up DGBE and you can start playing right away. If you get a tenor you’ll have to find strings that work well for it to change the tuning, and you might have some intonation problems from changing it. If the instruments are of equal quality, the baritone ukulele is going to handle the lower tuning better. It will sound fuller and the low string will sound much better. There is no way around this as body size and scale length determine this. It doesn’t make sense to get a tenor to tune down to baritone tuning. If you already have a tenor, then sure, try it.

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    Registered User Grizzly Adams's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tenor Guitar, Ukelele or?

    "I was a very novice 6 string guitar player almost 50 years ago. When I tried both steel and nylon string 6 strings recently I realized I have no muscle memory, have lost strength and flexibility in my fingers."

    Seems no need to go with a baritone ukulele, as most of the "transfer" from guitar would not really be a factor for you at this point. For ease of playing, wealth of resources to help, you might be better served with a concert or tenor size ukulele turned in standard ukulele tuning. The ukulele is fun and very easy to learn to "strum along" with folk songs and such. No one can play a ukulele and not grin!
    If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read this in English, thank a vet.

  27. #22

    Default Re: Tenor Guitar, Ukelele or?

    I have tenor guitars and ukuleles in all sizes including the above mentioned baritones. If you love the steel string sound then a tenor guitar is the way to go. If you had past experience with nylon string guitars and like that sound a baritone ukulele would be a great fit.

    Because it has been 50 years since you played guitar and as you put it have no more muscle memory then a tenor or concert ukulele is an option. Baritone uke is tuned DGBE like the top 4 strings of a guitar (tenor guitar can be tuned that way also) ukuleles are tuned GCEA.

  28. #23

    Default Re: Tenor Guitar, Ukelele or?

    I would add to the long list of voices suggesting a ukulele.

    Ukuleles are the gentlest string instruments for beginners. The nylon strings make fretting easier when you start out, and the volume allows you to play with others and get things wrong occasionally. That's the reason ukulele clubs are springing up everywhere!

    Plus, they are cheap, so if you don't get on with it, you've lost nothing. Have a look on Aliexpress or eBay for new ukuleles from China. I have a Kmise baritone which cost 42 delivered to the UK and is a little belter. The concert version is even less! I owned a shop and was briefly a dealer for one of the well-known brands; I couldn't have bought equivalent instruments at that price from them wholesale.

  29. #24
    knows little
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    Default Re: Tenor Guitar, Ukelele or?

    For simple fun, a three-string electric cigar-box thang would do just fine! Pretend it's a fretless dulcimer. :D Otherwise, I'd also recommend an 'ukulele. Try baritones, tenors, and concerts, and see what fits your hand best.

  30. #25

    Default Re: Tenor Guitar, Ukelele or?

    Quote Originally Posted by OldJoe View Post
    I am in my 70's and need some advice on what stringed instrument to pursue for easy strumming along as I sing folk songs and favorite old singers like Elvis and the Everly Brothers. Strictly for my own enjoyment. I was a very novice 6 string guitar player almost 50 years ago. When I tried both steel and nylon string 6 strings recently I realized I have no muscle memory, have lost strength and flexibility in my fingers. I started researching 4 strings which then took me to ukuleles so I got overwhelmed quickly. I am starting from scratch and welcome any advice, so:
    Tenor 4 string, cigar box, ukulele (if so, which size?)? I even saw a 3 string being played on YouTube. Suggestions?
    Easiest to play?
    Steel, nylon or steel over nylon?
    String notes? Anything where I can get away with mostly only needing to use 2 fingers?
    Specific models and brands?
    Thanks in advance,
    OldJoe

    Have you looked into autoharps? You just push the button of the chord you want, and strum away. The button pushes down a lever with felt bits glued on that mute the correct strings for each chord.

    http://www.oscarschmidt.com/products/autoharps/

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