Results 1 to 17 of 17

Thread: customize a short scale guitar to a tenor guitar

  1. #1

    Default customize a short scale guitar to a tenor guitar

    Hi, I read a lot of topics in this forum about tenor guitars so I decided to sign in and post my question.
    First of all I'd like to apologize if I'm writing in the wront section.
    I'd really like to try and play a tenor guitar, but currently I don't have enough money to buy one. I read tenor guitars are 23" scale, so what if I buy a 23" scale 6-strings guitar and put tenor strings on it? AFAIK the tune is a matter of string gauges and scale lenght, so .036 .024 .016 .010 on a 23" should work.. Am I totally wrong? Am I missing something? So I could buy a cheap "baby" or "express" or "exercise" guitar and find the correct string gauge..
    Thank you all..

  2. #2
    Registered User pfox14's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    Holiday, FL
    Posts
    1,152

    Default Re: customize a short scale guitar to a tenor guitar

    The big thing you are missing is a 6-string neck is too wide for a tenor guitar. 2nd, you won't find a 23" scale 6-string. If you could buy one, why not use that money for a tenor?
    Visit www.fox-guitars.com - cool Gibson & Epiphone history and more. Vintage replacement mandolin pickguards

  3. The following members say thank you to pfox14 for this post:


  4. #3

    Default Re: customize a short scale guitar to a tenor guitar

    Thank you for the answer:
    1) I could mount the strings from A to B leaving or from D to e, leaving it without two strings and having strings close
    2) Squier has a 23" scale guitar which is 130€ new, cort has g110 junior 22,3/4" also 130€, I hope I can find them second handed for 50-60€
    3) I live in Italy, couldn't find a tenor in any shop, the ones from the internet are at least at 350 $ (maybe 300 €) except the sipment (let's say 50 $).

  5. #4
    Mandolin & Mandola maker
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    Bega NSW, Australia
    Posts
    1,224

    Default Re: customize a short scale guitar to a tenor guitar

    About the only way to get a functioning tenor guitar for that sort of money is to make one yourself, or buy a cheap guitar and put a new neck on it. Quite apart from the problem of the wider fingerboard and neck (big problem when trying to play it), normal guitars have 6 strings so the string tension is greater. Thus the top is braced heavier than a tenor. So a normal guitar string up as a tenor is going to be way too heavily built and likely to sound poor, so probably not worth the effort, and may even put you off tenor guitars. Even worse if you start with a cheap guitar which is almost certainly over built. Proper tenor guitars are built much lighter than a normal steel string guitar. How do I know? I have just made one. Sounds better than any other tenor guitar I have played. However, that good sound comes at a price. Just the cost of materials was more than what you are prepared to pay. I think what you are trying to do is not really practical.

    Here is mine, Red Spruce and Mahogany -

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Back.jpg 
Views:	172 
Size:	246.4 KB 
ID:	126054Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Back_close.jpg 
Views:	163 
Size:	280.2 KB 
ID:	126055Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Front.jpg 
Views:	216 
Size:	233.0 KB 
ID:	126056Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Front_close.jpg 
Views:	207 
Size:	255.1 KB 
ID:	126057Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Headstock.jpg 
Views:	260 
Size:	193.9 KB 
ID:	126058
    Peter Coombe - mandolins, mandolas and guitars
    http://www.petercoombe.com

  6. The Following 5 Users Say Thank You to peter.coombe For This Useful Post:


  7. #5
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    St Paul, Minn
    Posts
    356

    Default Re: customize a short scale guitar to a tenor guitar

    Find an inexpensive baritone uke....put on the middle 4 strings of a classical guitar set and tune as a tenor/mandola.

  8. The Following 5 Users Say Thank You to ajh For This Useful Post:


  9. #6
    Mandolin & Mandola maker
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    Bega NSW, Australia
    Posts
    1,224

    Default Re: customize a short scale guitar to a tenor guitar

    That should work, but it is not really a tenor guitar. Tenor guitars have steel strings.
    Peter Coombe - mandolins, mandolas and guitars
    http://www.petercoombe.com

  10. #7
    Bark first, Bite later Steve Zawacki's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Location
    Sumter County, FL
    Posts
    498

    Default Re: customize a short scale guitar to a tenor guitar

    Quote Originally Posted by peter.coombe View Post
    That should work, but it is not really a tenor guitar. Tenor guitars have steel strings.
    Agree. Pono is now selling what it calls a tenor guitar, for lack of anything else to call it. It was designed and built with nylon strings, so the instrument is differently braced and cannot handle steel-string tension. So, it seems like a larger baritone uke tuned in fifths. Will say this though - the Pono does sound sweet.
    ...Steve

    Current Stable: Two Tenor Guitars (Martin 515, Blueridge BR-40T), a Tenor Banjo (Deering GoodTime 17-Fret), a Mandolin (Burgess #7). two Banjo-Ukes and five Ukuleles..

    The inventory is always in some flux, but that's part of the fun.

  11. #8

    Default Re: customize a short scale guitar to a tenor guitar

    There are instruments like the Taylor Baby and Martin GS Mini, but why hack something up if it's worth more than $100 or so, right? You could take the John Lawlor approach - take a full scale guitar, narrow the fretboard using any means at your disposal (sander, rasps, rabid woodchucks) and tune it a whole step lower (Bb F C G, so capoed up 2 frets gives you CGDA). Or skip the whole narrowing thing and just use the upper four strings. It'll work fine, and it's reversible. And there's slightly less risk of getting rabies.

  12. #9
    String-Bending Heretic mandocrucian's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    Virginia
    Posts
    3,067

    Default Re: customize a short scale guitar to a tenor guitar

    Just go the cheap route.

    Buy or borrow a cheap guitar and string it up with 4 strings , leaving the space of the 5th/6th bass strings empty. (Maybe the unused tuner will rattle - take them off or stick a piece of rubber tube or foam on them if it is annoying). You can always return it to "guitar tuning" and sell it, or give it back to the person who lent it to you. I doubt that tuning the instrument this way (without the last 6 string) would exert undue tension on the neck which would cause a neck twisting concern - but I'm not a repair guy,

    Don't worry about the scale length being exactly 23". If it's longer, slap on a capo to reduce it to where you want it. If it's a little shorter by an inch or two, so what?

    You might also find a cheap 8 string Greek bouzouki - take off 4 strings and capo it to the scale length you want.

    At this point, tenor guitar is just a 4-string tuning. Tuning a regular guitar to open G or to DADGAD or any other alternate tuning, doesn't it make it any less a "guitar".

    If I read your intention and motive correctly, at this point, you just want to mess around with a tenor guitar tuning/scale length to find out whether it's interesting enough to keep pursuing. And find how comfortable that tuning/scale is for your left hand. Maybe the chordal stretches are on the uncomfortable?

    If you LIKE the tuning/scale length and all that, then you can start thinking about doing a conversion, buying a 4-string tenor guitar, etc. But personally, I'd want to test drive the tuning before sinking any real money into something that's a potential dead end.

  13. The following members say thank you to mandocrucian for this post:


  14. #10
    Registered User Bill Snyder's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Central Texas
    Posts
    7,315

    Default Re: customize a short scale guitar to a tenor guitar

    Build a tenor canjo. My youngest son (then 9) and I built this one together almost 10 years ago. 23 inch scale with a neck of appropriate width and it is still in great shape and very playable. It is a bit twangy and does not produce much volume, but if all you want to do is have a "tenor guitar" to play with around the house it will fit the bill. If you want to play it with others then you will probably need to keep looking.
    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	canjo.jpg 
Views:	264 
Size:	161.8 KB 
ID:	126102
    Bill Snyder

  15. #11

    Default Re: customize a short scale guitar to a tenor guitar

    well, the fact is I don't own another guitar to try the tuning (and I don't need it since I have an Ibanez and a Cort, a Yamaha classic guitar and other few).. I thought about a short scale since I read that tenor guitars are 23", so I thought why not? I'm going to "shopping" and see what I can find with low budget in mind..

  16. #12

    Default Re: customize a short scale guitar to a tenor guitar

    Hi, just found this old thread - I found a good way of doing this, I bought a good quality (solid top) 1/2 size child's steel strung guitar from eBay for 15, cut two new slots in the nut and drilled two holes below the bridge for the middle two strings, it worked great for letting me play around for hardly any money to see that tenor was what I wanted. Even fitted a Fishman undersaddle pickup and new tuning pegs once I knew the guitar basically "worked". It's only 20", but that's fine - if a 3/4 size had come up I'd have gone for that, but it didn't. The playing and sound quality's not far off the cheap tenors, it only took me an hour or so in the shed to convert it. And being a child's guitar originally the neck width is spot on: 37mm / 1 7/16" at the nut. It's just a waiting game for a donor guitar to come up cheap enough. (I've also built 3 "UBass"s the same way, that's much easier to find donors for as you can use nylon strung guitars, Hokadas are brilliant and come up dirt cheap.)

    Have now got a "genuine" 23" 1950s tenor as well, but my little one still comes out for fast tunes, and for taking to festivals since I won't mind if it gets dropped or sat on!

    One day I'll still go for a Hathway though...

  17. The following members say thank you to AndyM for this post:

    JL277z 

  18. #13

    Default Re: customize a short scale guitar to a tenor guitar

    Quote Originally Posted by ajh View Post
    Find an inexpensive baritone uke....put on the middle 4 strings of a classical guitar set and tune as a tenor/mandola.
    It’s 3.5 years later but this advice is a cool solution which I will definitely try. I have a used baritone ukulele about to be converted to a resonator Uke. I have to try the tenor guitar tuning first. Thank you. Ed S.

  19. #14

    Default Re: customize a short scale guitar to a tenor guitar

    1) Take any 24 3/4" (Gibson) scale guitar
    2) String the inside 4 strings for tenor.
    3) Tune to BbFCG - that's the closest you'll get before breaking strings.
    4) Capo at the second fret.

    Now you have a 21" tenor tuned CGDA.

    Fretboard is a bit wide, but you get used to it.
    VerneAndru.com | oKee.ComX

    - ---==< V >==--- -

  20. #15
    Mediocre but OK with that Paul Busman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Location
    Frederick,MD
    Posts
    2,295

    Default Re: customize a short scale guitar to a tenor guitar

    Quote Originally Posted by franz1789 View Post
    I'd really like to try and play a tenor guitar, but currently I don't have enough money to buy one.
    OP-- I'm assuming you're a mandolin player. I don't suppose you own an octave mandolin? If so, just string it with one string of each pair. I did that with my Trinity College OM, which I had never really bonded with. I was in the same financial condition you are and this was a terrific solution. Now I LOVE the instrument. I take it to sessions all the time.
    If you don't own, maybe you have a good friend who would let you borrow an octave mandolin and remove some of the strings so you can at least see if you like the tenor guitar. Be sure to pay them back with a new full set of strings afterwards.
    For wooden musical fun that doesn't involve strumming, check out:
    www.busmanwhistles.com
    Handcrafted pennywhistles in exotic hardwoods.

  21. #16
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    Westchester, NY
    Posts
    27,252

    Default Re: customize a short scale guitar to a tenor guitar

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Busman View Post
    OP-- I'm assuming you're a mandolin player.
    OP last posted on this thread over three years ago. He may not be back.
    Jim

    My Stream on Soundcloud
    Facebook
    19th Century Tunes
    Playing lately:
    2018 Campanella A-5 -- 2007 Brentrup A4C -- 1915 Frank Merwin Ashley violin -- Huss & Dalton DS -- 1923 Gibson A2 black snakehead -- '83 Flatiron A5-2 -- 1939 Gibson L-00 -- 1936 Epiphone Deluxe -- 1928 Gibson L-5 -- ca. 1890s Fairbanks Senator Banjo -- ca. 1923 Vega Style M tenor banjo -- ca. 1920 Weymann Style 25 Mandolin-Banjo -- National RM-1

  22. #17

    Default Re: customize a short scale guitar to a tenor guitar

    I got a nice result when I acquired a Big Baby Taylor. I got it for nearly nothing because it had been terribly neglected. The top was separating, covered in latex paint splatters, and it had the start of a crack in the top. I did the repairs as needed to make the guitar structurally sound. I used a violin peg hole reamer on the bridge string holes, used old ebony violin pegs to plug up the 2nd thru 5th string holes gluing them in. Filed the bridge surface flat. Measured/spaced and drilled new holes for a total of eight strings. Unscrewed the neck and re-profiled the neck tapering it 1.5" wide at the nut. Again, using a reamer, I removed the 2nd and 5th tuner, plugged the hole with a tapered dowel, measured/spaced and drilled to install two additional tuners in the headstock. Replaced the nut and modified the bridge saddle for better intonation. I think I spent no more than three hours doing this whole adventure and I now own a Taylor eight string tenor guitar or maybe its an octave mandolin -- it don't matter what I call it. Its a way nice sounding instrument. Keep a look out for Baby and Big Baby Taylors.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •