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Thread: Newbie confession and cry for help

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    Smile Newbie confession and cry for help

    Cafe members, I have lurked on this website over the years, but have never opened a thread. I'm gonna' open one now with the idea of inviting comments and suggestions as I venture in to the world of tenor guitars.

    First a brief summary of my stringed instrument background. I am a long time guitar player. Self-taught and not very skilled - mostly a strummer of cowboy chords. I'd like to broaden my musical horizons so I've acquired a modest stable of alternative instruments. I started with a vintage Regal tenor guitar and soon learned that there is more to this genre than tuning it to DGBE. As I explored different tunings I discovered that tenor guitars can overlap with tenor banjos - so I bought one. This led me to mandolins, ukes and eventually to a octave mandolin (with mandola and mandocello adding to my growing awareness and confusion about tunings). I now have an array of instruments.

    If the various tuning possibilities isn't too much for my weary brain, I'm now aware that string weight is very important when one ventures off the beaten tenor guitar path - into alternate tunings.

    This is unlike the guitar world where standard tuning predominates and string weights are pretty much incidental - i.e. retune your guitar to dropped D or other alternative using whatever strings are on your guitar. Guitar strings come in different weights and that is about all I've ever needed to know. But now I'm dazzled by the possibility of retuning my tenor guitar from DGBE to standard tenor (CGDA) and other favorites such as GDAD or even GDAE or AEAC#. Using Rye Cooder's helpful chart I've tried to understand what strings I need to buy to retune my tenor guitars (I now have several).

    I'm not ready to give up, but I'm sorely in need of help. Is it possible to buy a set of tenor guitar strings that are suitable for a particular tuning or must I build my own set of strings that fit a particular tuning? From what I read on this section of the Mandolin Cafe website for tenor guitars, there is no simple solution to the string weight (and composition) + tuning options = start here. Folks with lots of experience express their preferences, but the nuance they introduce loses me. Maybe the guitar world is less complex, but I feel like I've moved deep into woods as I try to find a path to understanding.

    I don't mean to whine, but I'm hoping one or several of you will help - starting with the question about where to find strings sets that are suitable for common tunings. Just Strings doesn't seem to have what I'm looking for and neither does Strings and More. I find various prepacked sets of strings for what I assume is a CGDA set up. And I saw someone mention getting Pearse #450 for GDAD tuning. Is there more? Where?

    Thanks. Larry

  2. #2
    Registered User fox's Avatar
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    Default Re: Newbie confession and cry for help

    I think you can buy ready made sets for most tenor guitar tunings but yes there are few things you should think about.
    Tenor guitars come in two standard scale lengths 21 or 23” they also range from modern to 80 +years old.
    Tell us about the guitars and what tuning you want and I am sure somebody will be able to advise you.

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    Default Re: Newbie confession and cry for help

    Quote Originally Posted by fox View Post
    I think you can buy ready made sets for most tenor guitar tunings but yes there are few things you should think about.
    Tenor guitars come in two standard scale lengths 21 or 23 they also range from modern to 80 +years old.
    Tell us about the guitars and what tuning you want and I am sure somebody will be able to advise you.
    Good points. Okay, I have a 1955 Regal, a 1965 Gibson TG-25-N and a 2017 Blueridge 40T. I'm interested in CGDA and GDAD for starters.

    And I'm struggling to find the Pearse #450 string set for GDAD recommended by someone on this Cafe.

    Thanks.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Newbie confession and cry for help

    Welcome to the Cafe Larry, I grew up in Blacksburg and my parents still live there. You might check out http://emando.com/shop/index.htm as another option for strings.

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    Default Re: Newbie confession and cry for help

    Here is a link to the Pearse strings at Elderly instruments.
    https://www.elderly.com/catalogsearch/result/?cat=0&q=john+pearse+tenor+guitar+strings

    A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.

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    Default Re: Newbie confession and cry for help

    Quote Originally Posted by norseman40 View Post
    Good points. Okay, I have a 1955 Regal, a 1965 Gibson TG-25-N and a 2017 Blueridge 40T. I'm interested in CGDA and GDAD for starters.

    And I'm struggling to find the Pearse #450 string set for GDAD recommended by someone on this Cafe.

    Thanks.
    String lengths are different for these instruments. (And probably affect the choice of strings.)

    Gibson 23" scale length
    Blueridge 22.9" scale length
    Regal is 12 fret - 21"?

    Good luck.
    A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.

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    Dave Sheets
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    Default Re: Newbie confession and cry for help

    If you haven't seen it yet, JustStrings sells strings in bulk sets at different weights, which is perhaps the easy way to get a bunch of custom string weights. You can order the sizes you use a lot in bulk. No financial interest on my part

    http://www.juststrings.com/guitarbulkstrings.html
    -Dave
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    Way too many other instruments

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    Default Re: Newbie confession and cry for help

    Quote Originally Posted by DougC View Post
    String lengths are different for these instruments. (And probably affect the choice of strings.)

    Gibson 23" scale length
    Blueridge 22.9" scale length
    Regal is 12 fret - 21"?

    Good luck.
    I'll check the Regal. Thanks. Pearse strings ordered from Elderly. Upward and onward.

    Larry

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    Default Re: Newbie confession and cry for help

    I know there is a way to express thanks for the suggestions offered by several of you, but I can't seem to find that route here so I'll add this post to the thread as a way of acknowledging my gratitude. You were very helpful.

    I would also welcome comments anyone might have about the contrast I noted in my original post vis-a-vis alternate tunings in the mando world vs. the guitar world. There must be a reason they are so common in the former and so unusual in the latter. Why is that? I recognize it may be that I am not fully aware of how often guitarists retune their guitars, but I don't see much discussion about string weights on the AGF or the UMGF. My curiosity is piqued.

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    Registered User fox's Avatar
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    Default Re: Newbie confession and cry for help

    As a good rule of thumb, tenor guitars work very well when fitted with strings that equal 20lb of tension on each string.
    If you stick to that formula you can’t really go wrong.

    20lb per string is a perfect starting place and you can adjust the string gauges from that point if you feel it necessary.

    Of course if we are dealing with an old guitar that has some structural issues, then that guitar should be dealt with under a different heading.
    If we have a structurally sound tenor guitar then we can confidently use 80lb of total tentsion or 20lb per string.

    So to achieve that we need to look at a string tentsion chart, there are several online calculators available however they all need a bit of practice to use.
    Once you get to grips with one of the calculators, then you can safely experiment with any tuning you fancy. That applies to any string instruments, six string guitars tend to have longer scales and higher tensions strings.
    You can then easily make up any set by buying single guitar strings.
    Your 21” scale Regal will suit around 70lb total in CGDA. (If it is in sound condition)
    The Blueridge will sound great in GDAE with around 80-85lb
    However you might find for strumming you prefer softer strings.....
    The only way to find you ideal string is by experimenting.... it is a great way to dramatically improve the guitars sound.

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    Default Re: Newbie confession and cry for help

    Quote Originally Posted by norseman40 View Post
    I would also welcome comments anyone might have about the contrast I noted in my original post vis-a-vis alternate tunings in the mando world vs. the guitar world. There must be a reason they are so common in the former and so unusual in the latter. Why is that? I recognize it may be that I am not fully aware of how often guitarists retune their guitars, but I don't see much discussion about string weights on the AGF or the UMGF. My curiosity is piqued.
    Not sure what AGF and UMGF mean. Please clarify.

    My guess about fewer 'tunings' with tenor guitars compared with guitar tunings would be that tenor guitars are used in fewer types of music.

    Another guess is that fewer strings leave a bigger difference in downward pressure. Less room to make changes, I suppose.
    A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.

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    Default Re: Newbie confession and cry for help

    Quote Originally Posted by DougC View Post
    Not sure what AGF and UMGF mean. Please clarify.
    He's referring to the Acoustic Guitar Forum and Unofficial Martin Guitar Forum, sites where people actively discuss six-strings
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  19. #13
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    Default Re: Newbie confession and cry for help

    Yes. Thanks for clarifying that for me. I made a bad assumption that those forums are widely known. Pheffernan has it right: guitar players inhabit the AGF and UMGF. I waste far too much time on those and other forums (present forum excepted, of course).

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