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Thread: High Quality Short Scale Tenor Guitar?

  1. #1

    Default High Quality Short Scale Tenor Guitar?

    I have two tenor guitars: a Blueridge BR 40-T and a Kala tenor guitar.
    As much as I like the Blueridge for playing chords in our little acoustic trio, it doesn't inspire me much to play melodies on it. But recently, I dug out my little Kala tenor guitar and played The unclouded Day on it:

    That was quite some fun, especially since the frets are closer and I could partly use mandolin fingering. But the sound is a little thin especially on the A-string.
    So my question: are there any tenor guitars with 21,5 inch scale length of better sound quality then the Kala? Any builders?
    By the way, I use CGDA tuning.

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  3. #2
    Registered User Seonachan's Avatar
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    Default Re: High Quality Short Scale Tenor Guitar?

    Fletchers are 21" and very high quality. Some of the old small Regals are very good (i.e. the ones with spruce top and mahogany or rosewood back & sides), but theyre often pretty bent out of shape and need a lot of work.

  4. #3

    Default Re: High Quality Short Scale Tenor Guitar?

    Have you considered a small Martin? They recently reissued the 5-15T. There also used vintage 1927-1933 small Martin tenor guitars that are blessed with big sound and small bodies.

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    Registered User Jill McAuley's Avatar
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    Default Re: High Quality Short Scale Tenor Guitar?

    Max Girouard has made a few short scale tenors - I'd give me eye teeth for one!
    2018 Girouard Concert oval A
    2015 Ome Juniper 19 fret open back tenor banjo
    2015 JP "Whitechapel" tenor banjo
    1969 Martin 00-18




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  7. #5

    Default Re: High Quality Short Scale Tenor Guitar?

    I have the Kala too, and as you mentioned itís a little thin sometimes. I was looking for a small tenor with a bit of a warmer sound and ended up buying a PONO steel string baritone uke. They make an amazing line of big bodied ukes, and the acacia model I bought sounds absolutely stunning! The model is the UL4-1 and I canít recommend it highly enough. Beautiful hard shell case included. Not a ridiculous amount of $$$ for what you get!

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    Registered User fox's Avatar
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    Default Re: High Quality Short Scale Tenor Guitar?

    You could take your Kala to a luthier and he may be able to improve the guitars sound.
    Like most mass produced guitars, they are slightly over built.
    The bracing could be reshaped and the soundboard finish can be looked at, you may find it a much nicer guitar after that.
    Going a bit further, you could ask that same luthier to look at your Blueridge and even consider a new or modified shorter neck!

  10. #7

    Default Re: High Quality Short Scale Tenor Guitar?

    Thanks for the answers folks!
    I had a look at Fletchers tenor guitars and they are a little outside my price range, I was thinking 1000-1500.
    I googled Martin 5-15 T and found only models from the fifties and sixties.
    I guess a Girouard is also a bit outside my price range.
    A Pono steel-string bariton uke seems like a good idea, but they are not available at the moment in UK.
    As to fox's proposition, I have no experience with luthier finetuning guitars.
    I'll probably ask some German luthiers whether they can build me a good sounding short scale tenor guitar.

  11. #8
    Registered User fox's Avatar
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    Default Re: High Quality Short Scale Tenor Guitar?

    I think you deserve one....

  12. #9
    Registered User Bunnyf's Avatar
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    Default Re: High Quality Short Scale Tenor Guitar?

    I have a Pono steel string short scale (21.5") tenor guitar that I'm happy with. solid wood- spruce top and solid rosewood s&b. I think they are about 1k new. Got mine right here on MC used for $600 I think.Click image for larger version. 

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  13. #10
    Registered User Jill McAuley's Avatar
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    Default Re: High Quality Short Scale Tenor Guitar?

    Quote Originally Posted by crisscross View Post
    Thanks for the answers folks!
    I had a look at Fletchers tenor guitars and they are a little outside my price range, I was thinking 1000-1500.
    I googled Martin 5-15 T and found only models from the fifties and sixties.
    I guess a Girouard is also a bit outside my price range.
    A Pono steel-string bariton uke seems like a good idea, but they are not available at the moment in UK.
    As to fox's proposition, I have no experience with luthier finetuning guitars.
    I'll probably ask some German luthiers whether they can build me a good sounding short scale tenor guitar.
    You might put a "wanted" ad up on some of the guitar sites such as the Acoustic Guitar Forum or the Unofficial Martin Guitar forum, and here of course as well - the reissued Martin 5-15T sells used in the $1200-1500 and it wouldn't surprise me if there are folks around who are sitting on one they purchased but don't put a lot of playing time on.
    2018 Girouard Concert oval A
    2015 Ome Juniper 19 fret open back tenor banjo
    2015 JP "Whitechapel" tenor banjo
    1969 Martin 00-18




    my Youtube channel
    Blog: rural.trad.punk

  14. #11
    Registered User Bunnyf's Avatar
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    Default Re: High Quality Short Scale Tenor Guitar?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jill McAuley View Post
    You might put a "wanted" ad up on some of the guitar sites such as the Acoustic Guitar Forum or the Unofficial Martin Guitar forum, and here of course as well - the reissued Martin 5-15T sells used in the $1200-1500 and it wouldn't surprise me if there are folks around who are sitting on one they purchased but don't put a lot of playing time on.
    I'd also put a wtb ad on ukulele underground forum. There are a fair amount of ukers who get interested in short scale tenor guitars. In fact, it was a UU poster who tipped me off to the ad here on MC for my tg. (thank you DownUpDave). Many ukers are from Uk or elsewhere in EU

  15. #12
    Registered User Seonachan's Avatar
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    Default Re: High Quality Short Scale Tenor Guitar?

    Vintage - or modern re-issue - Martin tenors are great, but I've never seen one that was in the 21" scale range. Did they ever make a short scale?

  16. #13
    Tenor Guitar Greenhorn Huck's Avatar
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    Default Re: High Quality Short Scale Tenor Guitar?

    What style do they consider Terz?
    Last edited by Huck; Oct-05-2019 at 4:07pm.

  17. #14
    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: High Quality Short Scale Tenor Guitar?

    Quote Originally Posted by Huck View Post
    What style do they consider Terz?
    I think they’re small size 5 bodied but still with a 23” scale.
    1924 Gibson A Snakehead
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  19. #15

    Default Re: High Quality Short Scale Tenor Guitar?

    Thanks again for the recommandations! I posted a want ad for a Pono steelstring baritone in a German ukulele forum, but there were no answers. I also asked a German dealer, but he told me, that he could only try to import such a baritone uke, and that could become quite expensive.
    Greg Boyd has announced, that they will be carrying a Pono baritone Uke/Tenor guitar in a few days. But shipping an instrument of that price range across the Atlantic doesn't seem too reasonable to me. https://gregboyd.com/product/new-pon...ne-uke-ul4-10/
    I also discovered, that Aquila offers a set of Nylgut strings to turn a Concert ukulele into a CGDA-tenor guitar. I ordered them, put them on my tenor uke and it kind of worked. But as much as I like the sound of a fingerpicked classical guitar, on my mahogany tenor uke, the Aquila strings sounded kind of dull.
    To try them out, I had prepared a little playback with the chord changes of The Green Leaves Of Summer. With the average sound of my tenor uke/tenor guitar, I didn't want to continue in that direction, so to use the playback at least a little bit, I played the melody on my Eastman Astrojet. That was real fun. The Astrojet has a little longer scale than I prefer, but with the thinner electric strings, the playability is quite OK. So maybe I'll get one of those tenor Teles. I always had preferred Fender guitars when I still played electric and playing electric, I wouldn't bother anyone with inadequate tenor tones.
    Thomann announced, that they will get tenor Teles in 6-7 weeks...

  20. #16
    Registered User fox's Avatar
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    Default Re: High Quality Short Scale Tenor Guitar?

    I might have something for you, I have a unusual, deep body 21” scale four string that has a beautiful cypress top and arch back.
    I will send you more info....

  21. #17

    Default Re: High Quality Short Scale Tenor Guitar?

    I tried to work a bit on my end of the tone production. I bought a very thick pick made of casein and played with the rounded edge sul tasto in order to get a more mellow tone. Maybe I'll get some flatwound strings. The sound is still a bit on the cheap side, but it's getting better...

  22. #18

    Default Re: High Quality Short Scale Tenor Guitar?

    You know you could get a tenor with 23” scale and then buy a capo?

  23. #19

    Default Re: High Quality Short Scale Tenor Guitar?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jill McAuley View Post
    Max Girouard has made a few short scale tenors - I'd give me eye teeth for one!
    Indeed. 21.5 scale. I posted about mine here:

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...girouard+tenor

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  25. #20

    Default Re: High Quality Short Scale Tenor Guitar?

    As decent as my Kala sounds played with a thick pick on the lower three strings, I'm simply not able to coax such a kind of tone from the high A-string.
    That's why I think of an upgrade sometime in the future. But in all videos I've seen of Girouards, Fosters and Fletchers, they are tuned GDAE.
    I could surely change the tuning to my preferred CGDA, but would the A-string in this case sound fatter than the one of my Kala? Or is a thin-sounding A-string simply a drawback of CGDA tuning?

  26. #21
    Registered User fox's Avatar
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    Default Re: High Quality Short Scale Tenor Guitar?

    I think you would notice more clarity from a custom made guitar, all the mass produced tenor guitars will be overbuilt for durability and strength in preference to clarity of sound.
    Personally I prefer CGDA on the shorter 21Ē scale.
    String choice can make quite a difference but the A (CGDA) string on a 23Ē scale is close to breaking point and always seems to tight for my liking .

  27. #22

    Default Re: High Quality Short Scale Tenor Guitar?

    I think you would notice more clarity from a custom made guitar, all the mass produced tenor guitars will be overbuilt for durability and strength in preference to clarity of sound.
    That goes without a question, but I have some doubts whether the above mentioned tenors are built to handle CGDA tuning or whether they unfold their full potential only tuned GDAE.

  28. #23
    Registered User fox's Avatar
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    Default Re: High Quality Short Scale Tenor Guitar?

    I don’t know that answer, it could be something to do with frequency or some other fact I have no understanding of?
    However both tunings should use the same tension strings so should power the guitar in exactly the same way.
    As a very general rule, the bigger the body and the longer the scale the better the sound.

  29. #24
    Harley Marty
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    Default Re: High Quality Short Scale Tenor Guitar?

    Quote Originally Posted by crisscross View Post
    That goes without a question, but I have some doubts whether the above mentioned tenors are built to handle CGDA tuning or whether they unfold their full potential only tuned GDAE.
    I dend to think the opposite. Most of the mass produced tenors are built around the traditional CGDA in my opinion body size wise at least. My first Tenor the Harley Benton is great in CGDA & terrible in GDAE.

  30. #25

    Default Re: High Quality Short Scale Tenor Guitar?

    I dend to think the opposite. Most of the mass produced tenors are built around the traditional CGDA in my opinion body size wise at least. My first Tenor the Harley Benton is great in CGDA & terrible in GDAE.
    I was thinking about having a tenor guitar built by Fletcher, Foster or Girouard. All their videos show tenor guitars tuned in GDAE.

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