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Tenor Tales

Since we opened this website, we have received many e-mails from people with questions, queries, and stories about their tenor guitars. Among them are some that we have particularly enjoyed and we have decided to share some here, with the authors' permission of course.

If you have a story about tenor guitars that you think other readers will enjoy, do send it along to

"A Voice at Last"

As a child, my introduction to music was via my father's old banjo-mandolin. As I grew and my fingers could manage the larger neck, I started to play his tenor banjo as well. All this fell by the wayside at the age of 16 when I began my career as a lead vocalist with local bands, but still not forgetting how to play. In fact some years ago I purchased a tenor guitar for $50 that I located by placing an advertisement in the local paper. Unfortunately, it was almost beyond help and very difficult to play - most frustrating, but it proved I had not forgotten the chord formations, and the tuning still came naturally when playing melodies.

A few years later, a 5-string banjo came my way, but it was still not the sound that I could "hear". After attempting to string it as a tenor, I was more determined than ever to find a tenor guitar. My husband, inspired by the guitarist Foley who played a 4 string piccolo bass with Miles Davis, suggested that we try re-stringing the Vantage bass we had, with piccolo bass strings in ternor tuning. This was promising but not the total solution. He started to consider the alternative of
building our own instrument, but suggested that we visit some of the better known guitar and bass shops to discuss our ideas first, to see if there was an instrument that would suit, or be easily modified.

It was at the Bass Centre in Melbourne that we struck paydirt.

We discussed our ideas with the owner, finding that he was very interested and not at all dismissive of the idea of a tenor bass guitar. After sevearl minutes of looking at possible basses that might be suitable, he said that he may have something that would interest us even though as he put it, "It might be a bit left of centre."

He went across to the window and took down what appeared to be an electric tenor guitar! It was however, a 26" scale Samick bass.

Even though strung as a bass, I could tell after a few minutes playing the instrument that it felt right, and the deal was done. We arranged to send down a set of the lightest gauge La Bella piccolo bass strings we had already fitted to the Vantage bass, for him to set the instument up as a tenor guitar. We collected the Samick a couple of weeks later, and I was in heaven. Getting the guitar home that first night, I played for 3 hours non-stop. We have since purchased as second-hand Roland Jazz Chorus 120, and the sounds I have heard for all my life, now fill our house.

Diana S.

"Little Sister"

Here's a true "tenor guitar story" that might interest you and your tenor enthusiasts.

I came from a pretty musical family in rural West Virginia and have been playing a six string guitar since I was twelve. I have a younger sister who had always had a passion to play guitar, and tried to learn numerous times, but just couldn't learn the chords, and didn't have the strength in her little hands to make it work. She was generally frustrated by the attempts. A few years ago I stumbled on the first tenor guitar I had ever seen. A little Harmony that was falling apart and had been abandoned to a flea market. My first thought was how tiny and delicate the neck and body were. My second thought was how like my sister.

I bought the guitar and lovingly put it back together with plans of giving it to her. Little did I realize at the time the reaction the gift would have. To make it easier for her to play I tuned it to an open G so she could bar chord the tiny neck. At an appropriate time I presented her with the guitar, and apprehensively demonstrated how easy it would be to learn to play.

She cradled it gently and, with some trepidation, proceeded to move through chord changes made simple by the open tuning. Then she started to cry! I didn't know whether to comfort her or rejoice!

I don't believe anyone really knew what the unfullfilled dream had meant to her. Since that time she has learned new songs and developed a unique melodic finger style that I enjoy every time I visit.

I found your site while looking for some more conventional tunings. I think she's ready to tackle some new chords!

Nice site, thanks.
S. Harvey

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