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Thread: Acoustic Tenor Guitar and Low Tension String Recommendations

  1. #1

    Default Acoustic Tenor Guitar and Low Tension String Recommendations

    Been lookin at the Blueridge BR-40T, and the GoldTone TG-18.

    Both of these are just a tad out of budget, but it might be worth it to spend the extra for a new instrument. I've been through three acoustic Tenor guitars now that I bought used and the action increasing overtime has always made it very difficult to play.

    I'm a professional Tenor Guitar player, and im looking to make this new acoustic tenor my main instrument for gigging and recording (solo). Which do you guys recommend in terms of quality, volume, and playability. Ill also be playing in "Chicago Tuning". Thats DGBE.

    Also, and equally as important is my affinity towards playing with low tension strings. I made my way to the Tenor Guitar by way of ukulele. My play-style is very much dependent upon having low tension strings on my Tenor (Non-nylon). I've played a lot on an Eastwood Tenor 2P, and i purchased some NYXL strings from D'addario, at their lowest possible tension, and have grown used to the very flexible strings.

    What strings would recommend for an acoustic tenor that are not nylon, but still have considerable low tension and flexibility to them?

    Ive tried silk and steel, and although they are meant to cater to what I am looking for they always still feel extremely stiff. ESPECIALLY the plain steel "B" and "E" strings.

    I'd be looking at possibly trying to find low tension silk N steel strings with very flexible plain steel strings. I've looked online quite a bit and found "Tomastik Infeld" as a brand that may be suitable for what im looking for. I know they mention that their strings are low tension, but is every string low tension or just the top two // bottom two?

    TL:DR

    Looking for a quality Acoustic Tenor Guitar in and around budget of a BR-40T, and Flexible, non-nylon steel strings for a tenor that offer extremely low tension. The lowest possible. on ALL FOUR strings, not just the top two silkNsteel. Any Suggestions??
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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Acoustic Tenor Guitar and Low Tension String Recommendations

    Have you tried this one? For the price, it is tempting me...

    https://www.musiciansfriend.com/guit...iABEgLBAvD_BwE

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    Rob
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    Registered User fox's Avatar
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    Default Re: Acoustic Tenor Guitar and Low Tension String Recommendations

    All guitars are built to work well within a certain string tension limit, mass produced guitars tend to be overbuilt with a large safety margin built in!

    If a custom built guitar is not an option then perhaps you could buy one of the cheaper tenors on the market and have it modified by a luthier.

    Most tenors with a round sound hole that is large enough to get a hand through, can have the bracing re shaped.
    This is a pretty simple job and wonít cost much, I have modified several blueridge tenors this way.
    The next step would be removing the finish from the soundboard, that could be either an expensive or a budget job depending on how important the guitar look is to you, again a luthier can advise.

    The actual string tension can be worked out on an on line calculator , this is easy to do.
    The average tenor guitar string set is based around 85lb of total tension.
    So if you can have the guitars soundboard adjusted, you can then choose single guitar strings that add up to say 60lb - 70lb of total tension.

  4. #4
    Lord of All Badgers Lord of the Badgers's Avatar
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    Default Re: Acoustic Tenor Guitar and Low Tension String Recommendations

    My name is Rob, and I am Lord of All Badgers

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    Default Re: Acoustic Tenor Guitar and Low Tension String Recommendations

    "The best bands are like tribes"

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    Registered User fox's Avatar
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    Default Re: Acoustic Tenor Guitar and Low Tension String Recommendations

    None of the commercially available mass produced tenor guitars will perform at their best with light strings.
    They are produced to withstand abuse and are correspondingly overbuilt !
    However, like I have mentioned, it is possible to modify one.
    Where in the world do you Live?

  7. #7

    Default Re: Acoustic Tenor Guitar and Low Tension String Recommendations

    Quote Originally Posted by fox View Post
    None of the commercially available mass produced tenor guitars will perform at their best with light strings.
    They are produced to withstand abuse and are correspondingly overbuilt !
    However, like I have mentioned, it is possible to modify one.
    Where in the world do you Live?
    The southwest US.

    The thing is when you throw out the word "Custom", what you're really saying is more money. Unfortunately more money is not what I have With a budget around 500$ firm I have a few choices, and im trying to see how I can maximize quality for that price.

    I mean hell I wish I had the cash to contact NK Forster for one of those beautiful models he makes, but alas, the life of a struggling musician.

    I understand that most tenors are tuned differently than the top 4 of a guitar (DGBE), but this is how I play, and from my experience, no matter how a tenor is setup it can still handle the tension change of tuning it "Chicago style". So I suppose im not too worried about that. Just trying to make the call here between the cheapest Blueridge model, and the Goldtone TG-18 "vintage build". and throwing in a couple wild cards like some of the ashbury stuff, you know the AT-14 with the solid sitka spruce top. IT looks like it hits the body at the 12th fret as opposed to the 14th, which may effect the sound a bit, but also playability. I do infact like to go up as far as I can on the fretboard from time to time. I guess im just here hoping that some the cheaper tenors (around 400$) are worth it for the quality.

    Also I understand what you're sayin in terms of light tension strings and the guitar performing "its best". I just dont know if I have the resources to attempt to custom build anything at the moment. "Thomastik Infeld" has I believe some 9's that they make for guitar, steel, flexible. with the bottom two being silknsteel, I may give this a go. Its a tough call, because ive been playing on an eastwood tenor electric for about a year now and nothing else. The wide finger spacing, and the flexible electric guitar strings has essentially changed my playing. I just want the transition to be smooth to an acoustic for solo performances and recording. Using hammer-ons and pull offs, and bends, and various other techniques to really utilize the sound of an electric guitar has made me comfortable with flexible strings, and i'd like to continue feeling comfortable playing that way.

    Ahh one more thing.... I played the Tenor Banjo for a while and found that some ofthe lower tension banjo strings the nickel plated D'addario (9, 10, 13, 20) were absolutely IDEAL. Super flexible, great control. and when I played the Tenor Banjo I just tuned the last string up to E (DGBD to DGBE) I believe open G is DGBD, so it wasnt much of a change. I wonder what would happen if I took a set of banjo strings and stuck them unto a tenor guitar? Id have to check the tension for sure.
    Last edited by The_Noseeums; Mar-22-2019 at 3:47pm.
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    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Acoustic Tenor Guitar and Low Tension String Recommendations

    Quote Originally Posted by The_Noseeums View Post
    Looking for a quality Acoustic Tenor Guitar in and around budget of a BR-40T, and Flexible, non-nylon steel strings for a tenor that offer extremely low tension. The lowest possible. on ALL FOUR strings, not just the top two silkNsteel. Any Suggestions??
    Is there a reason that you are set on a tenor guitar over a baritone ukulele?

    https://www.theukulelesite.com/kala-...-baritone.html
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    Default Re: Acoustic Tenor Guitar and Low Tension String Recommendations

    Quote Originally Posted by pheffernan View Post
    Is there a reason that you are set on a tenor guitar over a baritone ukulele?

    https://www.theukulelesite.com/kala-...-baritone.html
    Yes.
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    Lord of All Badgers Lord of the Badgers's Avatar
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    Default Re: Acoustic Tenor Guitar and Low Tension String Recommendations

    Quote Originally Posted by The_Noseeums View Post
    Yes.
    Can you explain? I'd have thought that was the best place for low tension.... Esp the "big" bari I linked
    My name is Rob, and I am Lord of All Badgers

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    Registered User fox's Avatar
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    Default Re: Acoustic Tenor Guitar and Low Tension String Recommendations

    This might help you a little ...
    The second graph show an average tenor guitar set based around 20lb per string.
    The first graph shows a set based around uke or classical guitar tensions.
    The plain .18 G can be swapped for a wound .17.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by fox; Mar-23-2019 at 11:41am.

  13. #12

    Default Re: Acoustic Tenor Guitar and Low Tension String Recommendations

    Quote Originally Posted by fox View Post
    This might help you a little ...
    The second graph show an average tenor guitar set based around 20lb per string.
    The first graph shows a set based around uke or classical guitar tensions.
    The plain .18 G can be swapped for a wound .17.
    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	2A378E14-E796-46FE-98BB-797305FF452E.jpeg 
Views:	16 
Size:	117.0 KB 
ID:	175542
    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	AA4EBC36-AFAC-49F5-9B8F-CDE1A38140CF.jpeg 
Views:	14 
Size:	128.8 KB 
ID:	175541
    Thanks, that was helpful.

    You're suggesting I try out those gauges? (in the first set). Maybe order them as individual strings, instead of a set..
    "The best bands are like tribes"

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    Registered User fox's Avatar
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    Default Re: Acoustic Tenor Guitar and Low Tension String Recommendations

    Well you can try them out, I buy all my strings as guitar singles, they are cheap and it won’t hurt to try.
    You should get the feel but whether or not you will like the sound I can not say.
    From my own experience, I find that once you you go down to those sort of tensions, you are better off useing nylon as the steel at low tension won’t sustain very well.

  15. #14

    Default Re: Acoustic Tenor Guitar and Low Tension String Recommendations

    Quote Originally Posted by fox View Post
    Well you can try them out, I buy all my strings as guitar singles, they are cheap and it won’t hurt to try.
    You should get the feel but whether or not you will like the sound I can not say.
    From my own experience, I find that once you you go down to those sort of tensions, you are better off useing nylon as the steel at low tension won’t sustain very well.
    What brand of singles do you prefer?
    "The best bands are like tribes"

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    Registered User fox's Avatar
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    Default Re: Acoustic Tenor Guitar and Low Tension String Recommendations

    I buy D'Addario's uncoated acoustic strings mainly because that is what my LMS stocks.
    He carry’s most gauges so I can walk in and pick up what I want.

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    Harley Marty
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    Default Re: Acoustic Tenor Guitar and Low Tension String Recommendations

    Maybe you could consider Savarez gipsy guitar strings, steel core with copper & silver winding. I have a them on a concert scale banjolele tuned GDAE.

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    Default Re: Acoustic Tenor Guitar and Low Tension String Recommendations

    Quote Originally Posted by The_Noseeums View Post
    I have one of those and like it, only 12 frets to the body which might be an issue, mine is in CGDA. No idea about light strings, I use the stock D'Addario set.
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  19. #18

    Default Re: Acoustic Tenor Guitar and Low Tension String Recommendations

    Quote Originally Posted by fox View Post
    All guitars are built to work well within a certain string tension limit, mass produced guitars tend to be overbuilt with a large safety margin built in!

    If a custom built guitar is not an option then perhaps you could buy one of the cheaper tenors on the market and have it modified by a luthier.

    Most tenors with a round sound hole that is large enough to get a hand through, can have the bracing re shaped.
    This is a pretty simple job and wonít cost much, I have modified several blueridge tenors this way.
    The next step would be removing the finish from the soundboard, that could be either an expensive or a budget job depending on how important the guitar look is to you, again a luthier can advise.

    The actual string tension can be worked out on an on line calculator , this is easy to do.
    The average tenor guitar string set is based around 85lb of total tension.
    So if you can have the guitars soundboard adjusted, you can then choose single guitar strings that add up to say 60lb - 70lb of total tension.
    Looking at getting a Blue Ridge BR-40TCE, unfortunately because of the erratic supply ad demand of this instrument and it being out of stock from places like Elderly, The only place I can get a decent price on it right now, will not add some kind of setup for the instrument. Its distributed by blue ridge to hold a tuning of CGDA. Which i believe is traditional. I play in a tuning of DGBE. With low tension strings (newtone heritage) im looking at approximately 62 total lbs of tension, where as you're saying its build for around 85 lbs. What would happen if I decided to go with one of these low tension string sets overtime for a tenor i'm purchasing basically straight from the distributor? Or rather yet, you're saying I could change the soundboard? the bridge maybe to better support that tension?
    "The best bands are like tribes"

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    Registered User fox's Avatar
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    Default Re: Acoustic Tenor Guitar and Low Tension String Recommendations

    The Blueridge tenor guitars are strong and capable of handling heavy strings, there is a well documented thread on this forum features a BR 40T that has been modified to use 8 strings and over 150lb of tension .

    They will produce a sound with virtually any strings you choose but you can not expect it to perform any where near the designs potential with low tension strings.

    I have personally modified a few Blueridge tenor guitars by re shaping the bracing but still sticking to 80lb of tension.
    However, any guarantees would no longer be valid as soon as you modify anything and resale value is most likely to be affected too.
    Should you find yourself owning a Blueridge or any other production tenor guitar, you could take it to a luthier and ask if he (she) could ajust the instrument for you.
    You may be very happy with the sound straight out of the box, a lot of this is depending on your playing style and ability to get the most from what you have.

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  22. #20

    Default Re: Acoustic Tenor Guitar and Low Tension String Recommendations

    Quote Originally Posted by The_Noseeums View Post
    Looking at getting a Blue Ridge BR-40TCE, unfortunately because of the erratic supply ad demand of this instrument and it being out of stock from places like Elderly, The only place I can get a decent price on it right now, will not add some kind of setup for the instrument. Its distributed by blue ridge to hold a tuning of CGDA. Which i believe is traditional. I play in a tuning of DGBE. With low tension strings (newtone heritage) im looking at approximately 62 total lbs of tension, where as you're saying its build for around 85 lbs. What would happen if I decided to go with one of these low tension string sets overtime for a tenor i'm purchasing basically straight from the distributor? Or rather yet, you're saying I could change the soundboard? the bridge maybe to better support that tension?
    When I was looking at setting my BR-60T up for DGBE, Saga Music (makers of Blueridge) assured me via email that the BR-60T could easily handle 100 total lbs. of tension. As Fox stated, the Blueridge tenor guitars are overbuilt.

    DR Sunbeam strings are round core and very flexible. I started using a 12 gauge set of those (top four strings) but had a terrible time with fret buzz. I guess it would be possible to raise the action to get rid of the fret buzz, but since I wanted to keep the action relatively low (3/32 of an inch at the 12th fret) I had a luthier but a small amount of relief in the neck and switched to John Pearse Bluegrass strings (top four strings). The Bluegrass strings are higher tension so the amplitude of the vibration is less making it less likely to result in fret buzz. My concern would be that any low tension string set would have a greater amplitude of vibration due to the laws of physics. With a low tension string set I think you would definitely need to have the guitar set up with a higher action.
    Blueridge BR-60T Tenor Guitar
    Eastwood Warren Ellis 2P Tenor Guitar

  23. #21

    Default Re: Acoustic Tenor Guitar and Low Tension String Recommendations

    Quote Originally Posted by fox View Post
    The Blueridge tenor guitars are strong and capable of handling heavy strings, there is a well documented thread on this forum features a BR 40T that has been modified to use 8 strings and over 150lb of tension .

    They will produce a sound with virtually any strings you choose but you can not expect it to perform any where near the designs potential with low tension strings.

    I have personally modified a few Blueridge tenor guitars by re shaping the bracing but still sticking to 80lb of tension.
    However, any guarantees would no longer be valid as soon as you modify anything and resale value is most likely to be affected too.
    Should you find yourself owning a Blueridge or any other production tenor guitar, you could take it to a luthier and ask if he (she) could ajust the instrument for you.
    You may be very happy with the sound straight out of the box, a lot of this is depending on your playing style and ability to get the most from what you have.
    Most of what I understand is that when going from a more traditional tuning (CGDA or GDAE or w/e) to a "Chicago" style tuning (DGBE) one should try and find some heavier string gauges. Ive owned several tenors and have found that no matter the previous setup a set of strings purposed for DGBE tuning usually worked just fine. But im talking some electric tenor's and some old vintage tenors. I don't want to assume the same for a fresh out the factory blue ridge model. It seems like you're telling me that if i go with low tension theres the possibility that I won't be getting the most out of the instrument. You're talking in terms of sound I imagine. Which is something I dont want to have to sacrifice but I will for playability. What id also be concerned with is if lower tension would somehow add up to structural damage over time to the instrument. Either way I think I may just have to wait for Elderly to get a new shipment in. I think I feel most comfortable with their reputation and setup. They have experience with Tenor guitars. I dont know if I would feel comfortable enough to take a Tenor to one of the few local luthiers here in my small town. I doubt they've ever had one in their shop/home.
    "The best bands are like tribes"

  24. #22

    Default Re: Acoustic Tenor Guitar and Low Tension String Recommendations

    Having lower tension strings shouldn't damage the guitar at all. The lower tension strings just won't bring out the full sound of the instrument.
    Blueridge BR-60T Tenor Guitar
    Eastwood Warren Ellis 2P Tenor Guitar

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  26. #23
    Registered User fox's Avatar
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    Default Re: Acoustic Tenor Guitar and Low Tension String Recommendations

    The actual physical size of the strings you choose wonít effect the performance as much as the total tension.
    However the slots in the nut where the strings sit, will need to be at the correct hight and of the correct diameter to match whatever strings you choose.

    Low tension strings will not harm the guitar.

    If we are looking for the best tone, volume and overall performance from our guitar, we dont have a lot to work with outside of adjusting the actsion and string gauges.

    The design and structure is set by the manufacturer at factory level, we can change the tuners, the nut, the saddle the strings and fit a pickup but we canít easily change the structural integrity without making structural modifications!

    So for the guitar to work at its best we need to work within the manufacturers recommendations and I believe with the Blueridge, that is not to exceed 100lb of string tension.

    Now we need to understand how the basic operation of a guitar makes the sound we hear.
    I am definitely not the best person to explain this but I will try to explain in basic terms...

    When a string is plucked it will increase in length and then shrink back to size.
    This actsion causes the strings to vibrate and also the guitar top to move up and down. That effect causes the air to be moved inside the guitar body and project an amplified sound out of the sound hole.

    This is where all the design comes into play as the amount of movement will define the ability to produce sound.
    There are many factors that effect this like sound board material and thickness. and the amount of bracing used on the soundboard, both play major parts in this.

    So Blueridge have designed their guitars to work with an optimum amount of string tension to match the recommended strings.
    So with their 6 string acoustic guitars, they will be best with 140-160lb and with the tenor guitar it will be 70 - 80lb.
    If you use lighter strings than the guitar was designed to use, it will not damage the instrument but they wonít drive the soundboard as effectively.

    None of that means the guitar canít be played!

    So if you could have a tenor guitar custom built for you, you would ask to have it built and set up for light strings. The guitar might be built with a thinner top and lighter bracing so it performs at it optimum with less string tension.

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