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Thread: C Standard (Guitar) Tuning On Electric Tenor

  1. #1

    Default C Standard (Guitar) Tuning On Electric Tenor

    Hi Everyone! New to the forum, awesome to have a resource like this full of knowledgeable people with a similar (dare I say "niche") interest.

    I know very little about music theory, and I was wondering if it would be possible to down tune a tenor guitar to match C Standard guitar tuning?

    There are three main considerations for me here:
    1) Will it sound terrible?
    2) Will it damage the guitar in any way?
    3) Will it require customization to the nut to allow for bigger strings?

    I'm a violin player, but bought the electric tenor as a hack to me learning guitar (I know, I know) so that I could play metal and heavier guitar music in a band (bonus points if you know Sleep or High on Fire - that's what I'm currently trying to play along to!)

    Any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

    **Please no "you should have bought a regular guitar" comments, I've had plenty of those from guitar playing friends already. I bought this to be different and bring something new to the table, I embrace the challenge of figuring out how to make it work in the ways I need it to

    Thanks!

  2. #2

    Default Re: C Standard (Guitar) Tuning On Electric Tenor

    Chicago or guitar tuning is very common for tenor guitar. Tuned same as the high (top) strings on a guitar DGBE.

    That's also the tuning for baritone ukulele.

    Compared to 5th tuning, one note is higher (d vs c), one is the same (g) and two are lower (b vs d, e vs a),

    You wouldn't want to try to tune to the bottom four strings of a guitar or the guitar tuning an octave lower. The tenor's shorter scale length won't really accommodate that. IOW, likely to damage your guitar.

    The Chicago/guitar tuning should make it easier to transition to a regular 6 string guitar. (OTOH, tune it in fifths and transfer all of your violin moves to guitar.)

    Ry Cooder's website has a page of various tenor tunings and recommended string guages.

  3. #3

    Default Re: C Standard (Guitar) Tuning On Electric Tenor

    Thanks StuartE!

    I wonder if there's a way to get creative with the use of a capo or an octave pedal to simulate C Standard tuning?

    I'll try out the DGBE tuning, but what I really need is to go lower, so I don't think that tuning will help me achieve the sound I need.

    My preference is to use fifths tuning like a mandolin, but I can't seem to get it to play nice with C standard tuning.

  4. #4
    Registered User fox's Avatar
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    Default Re: C Standard (Guitar) Tuning On Electric Tenor

    I am a little confused, what is C standard guitar tuning?

  5. #5

    Default Re: C Standard (Guitar) Tuning On Electric Tenor

    Dunraven,

    It sounds to me like what you are looking for might well be the Eastwood Warren Ellis Baritone Tenor Guitar. It has four strings, tuned in fifths, and is pitched CGDA--with the C a major third below the guitar low E. IOW, an octave below a tenor guitar.

    Like Fox, I wasn't clear as to what D meant by Standard C tuning. However, a little research turned up that some metal guitarists use a C tuning, with everything tuned two whole steps down from standard tuning.

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    Default Re: C Standard (Guitar) Tuning On Electric Tenor

    Quote Originally Posted by StuartE View Post
    Dunraven,

    It sounds to me like what you are looking for might well be the Eastwood Warren Ellis Baritone Tenor Guitar. It has four strings, tuned in fifths, and is pitched CGDA--with the C a major third below the guitar low E. IOW, an octave below a tenor guitar.

    Like Fox, I wasn't clear as to what D meant by Standard C tuning. However, a little research turned up that some metal guitarists use a C tuning, with everything tuned two whole steps down from standard tuning.
    Interesting, I had not heard of the baritone tenor guitar and was wondering how you could get a whole octave under a standard tenor. A little research and I found the baritone has a 26 inch scale length. Hmmmmm I say out load, perhaps this could also be tuned GDAE two octaves below the mandolin.

  8. #7
    Registered User fox's Avatar
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    Default Re: C Standard (Guitar) Tuning On Electric Tenor

    If you are already familiar with 5ths, why not use GDAE on a 23” standard scale length, electric tenor guitar?

  9. #8

    Default Re: C Standard (Guitar) Tuning On Electric Tenor

    I don't think you'll get that low C on a tenor guitar, because the scale length is too short. Your bottom C would be too thick to intonate properly (tubby sound, wobbly notes).

    If C tuning works on a standard scale electric guitar, then you should be able to put together a string set for low C 5ths tuning (CGDA) for a plectrum guitar (4 strings, standard 5-string banjo scale or thereabouts). I've never seen an electric plectrum offered, so you might have to get someone to make e longer neck for an electric tenor.

  10. #9
    Harley Marty
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    Default Re: C Standard (Guitar) Tuning On Electric Tenor

    Quote Originally Posted by neilca View Post
    Interesting, I had not heard of the baritone tenor guitar and was wondering how you could get a whole octave under a standard tenor. A little research and I found the baritone has a 26 inch scale length. Hmmmmm I say out load, perhaps this could also be tuned GDAE two octaves below the mandolin.
    To get a quality sound two octaves below mandolin I recommend a long scale resonator bass guitar! I can't remember which gauges I use on my Harley Benton reso-bass, the heavier the gauge the more it "barks" & I recommend feeding the strings backwards through the tailpiece to increase the break angle over the bridge. It sounds great acoustically or plugged in.

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    Default Re: C Standard (Guitar) Tuning On Electric Tenor

    Quote Originally Posted by Harley Marty View Post
    To get a quality sound two octaves below mandolin I recommend a long scale resonator bass guitar! I can't remember which gauges I use on my Harley Benton reso-bass, the heavier the gauge the more it "barks" & I recommend feeding the strings backwards through the tailpiece to increase the break angle over the bridge. It sounds great acoustically or plugged in.
    The Eastwood baritone has a scale length of 26". A short scale electric bass is 30" , long scale is 32" and a standard guitar is 25.5 inches.

    Would it be better to use the standard guitar? Not questioning your decision just trying to understand the sound dynamic.

  12. #11
    Harley Marty
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    Default Re: C Standard (Guitar) Tuning On Electric Tenor

    Quote Originally Posted by neilca View Post
    The Eastwood baritone has a scale length of 26". A short scale electric bass is 30" , long scale is 32" and a standard guitar is 25.5 inches.

    Would it be better to use the standard guitar? Not questioning your decision just trying to understand the sound dynamic.
    If you're tuning baritone CGDA I think 25.5" is an ok choice, but remember they make them at 26" for a good reason! Another way you could get a very playable baritone (electric) without compromising the sound quality on a budget could be an Ibanez multiscale. The 1st string starts at 25.5" & each string grows from there. Just run with 4 strings. You could even leave out the 5th string to create a gap, on say an 8 string, then you're open to a whole separate tuning on the bottom 3 strings with a scale of 27"plus on the 8th (I think I might try that).

    If you're talking about octave below Tenor GDAE that is definitely in the bass range! Short scale bass - good. Long scale bass - better. (But this is only my opinion. I've heard of Double Bass players tuning in 5ths, what that tuning is I don't know.

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    Default Re: C Standard (Guitar) Tuning On Electric Tenor

    I have been doing more research and found what we are talking about is much like the Mandobass. The had a scale length of 43". Wikipedia says some were played like a double base others like a mandolin. Scale lengths were shortened for the lap models. These pretty much disappeared after 1940.

    Harley, your resonator bass seems to be a rare bird. Do you play it like a bass guitar (basically like a percussion instruments with notes) or as a lower octave mandola?

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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: C Standard (Guitar) Tuning On Electric Tenor

    What electric tenor do you own?

    If you have a tenor guitar and are familiar with fifths, tune it CGDA like a viola. That was the intended tuning for the first tenor guitars in the 1920s.

    If you prefer to tune it in fourths, then go C F Bb Eb an octave up from "C standard" tuning. (Or, actually, Bb Eb G C, 2 whole steps down from Chicago tuning, would be the same as "C standard," just missing the 2 lowest strings.)

    If you want C F Bb Eb in the same octave as "C standard," ditch the tenor and go for the Eastwood Warren Ellis "tenor baritone." It's a stupid name for an instrument but the 26" scale is what you need.
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    Harley Marty
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    Default Re: C Standard (Guitar) Tuning On Electric Tenor

    Quote Originally Posted by neilca View Post
    I have been doing more research and found what we are talking about is much like the Mandobass. The had a scale length of 43". Wikipedia says some were played like a double base others like a mandolin. Scale lengths were shortened for the lap models. These pretty much disappeared after 1940.

    Harley, your resonator bass seems to be a rare bird. Do you play it like a bass guitar (basically like a percussion instruments with notes) or as a lower octave mandola?
    I do play it as a bass guitar, the stretch for the fingers is too much to play Irish trad reels for any length of time. I tried (lower) CGDA tuning but couldn't get any definition on the "C" & the intonation on the "C" was out due to string gauge & fixed bridge (buiscut resonator). It works very well in GDAE & is only three semi-tones away from the low "E" of a standard bass (I only play 5ths tuning!). I wouldn't have thought to call it a Mandobass with single strings?

  16. #15

    Default Re: C Standard (Guitar) Tuning On Electric Tenor

    Thank you everyone for the help and insights! Talk about a supportive community, I wasn't expecting an answer, let alone multiple detailed ones.

    This is really helpful, I feel like I was asking a bit of a dumb question now, trying to get a tenor guitar to work in baritone tuning.

    Sounds like I'll need to look at either the baritone tenor or a guitar to do what I want to do.

    In the meantime, I'll just keep plugging away and finding a way to compliment the music with my tenor

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