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As they originated in the 20's, tenor guitars were tuned CGDA, the same as a tenor banjo, as they were invented to ease banjo players into guitar as the popularity and style moved that way.
Sometime in the late 50's, Nick Reynolds
(The Kingston Trio) started tuning to DGBE, the same as the bottom four strings of a "regular" guitar.
If you want to play slide/blues style, you might consider DGBD (open G tuning)
I cant find any firm data at the moment, but I believe the common tenor scale length was 23".
I cant give real firm advise on strings either, as it will depend on scale length, tuning, and playing style. (Heavier for slide, lighter for fingerstyle etc.)
I may be wrong about some of this, but heres a group that should provide more good info:
And you might find good stuff here too!
Scale length information, (didnt make it in the post for some reason)
What is scale length?
A guitar's scale length is calculated by measuring the distance from the front edge of the nut, where it butts against the end of the fingerboard, to the center of the 12th (octave) fret, then doubling that measurement.
If your 1930's Gibson L-OO, for example, measures 12-3/8" at the 12th fret, then your guitar's scale length is twice that—a 24-3/4" scale. For good intonation, the guitar's saddle will be placed so a little extra string length is added. This extra length is called "compensation," and it means the actual string length is longer than its 24-3/4" scale measurement. At the center of the saddle it will be closer to 24-7/8". Compensation varies for different strings, and that's why your saddle is placed at an angle.
And your fret layout if you build at 23" (584.2 mm )
|Notes on fret layout
The most accurate way to lay out your scale is making all measurements from the nut (using the "fret to fret" distance only to confirm your layout). Laying out frets only by measuring fret to fret will compound error. For example, if you're laying out frets by marking with a scribe and your accuracy is plus or minus 2 millimeters, you could be off by as much as 24 millimeters at the 12th fret.
Measurements are given from the end of the fingerboard (face of the nut) to the center of a fret slot.
While part of this has already been posted, I thought I would repost some of what I have learned about the tenor guitar.
The tenor guitar was often tuned in fifths like a mandolin with a standard tuning of CGDA, or a mandolin tuning of GDAE and a guitar tuning of DGBE, the top four strings of a guitar, and is also a tenor ukulele tuning. If tuned to the standard CGDA, you can use books on the tenor banjo for chords and songs that will work fine on the tenor guitar. I happen to like to play slide, so when I build a four string I tune it to GDBg and use banjo chords in the key of G with it and just drop the 5th string.
Standard string gages tended to be (.036 .024 .016 .010). They generally had a 23 inch scale though Gibson usually used a 22 3/4" scale. A solid body one I was just looking at that is being built by Eastwood had a measurement of 1 1/16 " wide at the nut with a tapered neck and a 23" scale. A good website for info on the tenor guitar is tenorguitar.com
hope this helps.
Brian points out my mistake on the DGBE tuning, thanks.
Also note, I provided the calculation to 22 frets, but unless you extend the finger board onto the top of your box you wont be able to extend the neck that far. I calculate them further than needed then determine where the neck will fit when I plan a neck.
For example, If you use a 9" or 10" long box and place the bridge in the common 1/3 or 1/4 from the end of the box range, you will find the neck meets the box in the range of the 18th fret at a 23" scale length.
Also thanks to Brian for providing the additional measurements above, but I would suggest you build the neck width to your taste. 1-1/16th may be a little narrow for some people, fine for others. Depends on what you want.
Yeah 1 1/16" seems a little narrow to me, but the neck tapers out to about 1 1/2 at the body.
I prefer about 1 1/2" neck at the nut my own self and run it straight or taper it out to about 1 3/4" or just a hair wider.
reso tenor ...... Keni you made me smile and covet at the same time. Cool song, cool playin', cool vid.
Man I want one of those!
Keni Lee Burgess said:
I enjoyed that. I have been wanting a republic guitar for a long time, but I am too broke to buy new guitars, so I fix up old ones I get for very little and make cigar box guitars.
I make my 'tenors' with a 600mm (23 5/16) scale, i use the high four strings from a regular guitar set, and I tune EADG - an octave above the bottom of the guitar or two octaves above a bass. (this would be called a contra piccolo bass in orchestral circles, altho the name is certainly an oxymoron)
as the guys say, some tune em DGBE,(this is actually a bari uke btw) but this seems kind of pointless to me, because anything there could be played on the high four strings on a regular guitar. My one gives me a nice logical extra register of familiar guitar positions etc. Theyre great for jammin with a regular gitt.
there are at least three tenors (tins mostly) in my pics here, and one in a video called tim tam lullaby, check em out..