Gauges: Tenor Guitar & Tenor Banjo Tunings

I have been getting tons of calls over the past few weeks regarding tenor guitars. I mean tons. What the heck is happening? I thought there were only a few of us funny tenor-fans out there plucking away and restoring these oddballs.

At any rate, I asked one caller why so many calls and... she said: probably the reason for the surge in popularity is the surge in popularity of ukes and uke-family instruments which make tenor instruments (both guitar and banjo varieties) easily adaptable for uke fingering. So I remembered... even back in the day the manufacturers of tenor guitars advertised that they could be tuned like ukes!

So... that got me thinking: time for a new "segment" on this blog -- gauge and tuning recommendations for various instruments -- and we're starting today with tenor-scale (4 steel strings and 19-23" scale) instruments.

Note that the below suggestions can be modified up and down gauges to suit the needs of your instrument's build and your playing style but are generally applicable. I also always write tunings out "low to high."


Regular 20" Scale:
36w (C) 26w (G) 16 (D) 10 (A)
Regular 23" Scale: 32w (C) 22w (G) 14 (D) 9 (A)
Celtic 20" Scale: 45w (G) 32w (D) 20w (A) 13 (E)
Celtic 23" Scale: 40w (G) 30w (D) 16 or 17 (A) 10 or 11 (E)
Slinky Celtic Set: 38w (G) 28w (D) 15 (A) 10 (E)


Low G 20" Scale:
24w (G) 16 (C) 12 (E) 10 (A)
Low G 23" Scale: 20w (G) 14 (C) 11 (E) 9 (A)
Re-Entrant 20" Scale: 11 (G) 16 (C) 12 (E) 10 (A)
Re-Entrant 23" Scale: 10 (G) 14 (C) 11 (E) 9 (A)
D-Tuning (ADF#B): Adjust above gauges lighter by 1
Baritone 20" Scale: 32w (D) 22w (G) 16 (B) 11 (E)
Baritone 23" Scale: 30w (D) 20w (G) 15 (B) 10 (E)
Re-Entrant Bari 20" Scale: 13 (D) 22w (G) 16 (B) 11 (E)
Re-Entrant Bari 23" Scale: 12 (D) 20w (G) 15 (B) 10 (E)


Plectrum 20" Scale: 34w (C) 24w (G) 16 (B) 12 (D)
Plectrum 23" Scale: 30w (C) 20w (G) 15 (B) 11 (D)
5-String Banjo / Cavaquinho: Use above strings for DGBD


Open C:
Use regular 5ths set and tune CGCG ("sawmill C")
Open C Guitar Style: Use bari uke tuning and tune CGCE

Open G:
Use Celtic 5ths set and tune GDGD ("sawmill G")
Open G Guitar Style: Use bari uke/plectrum tuning and tune DGBD.

Open G High:
For 20" scale only -- GDGB (24w, 15, 11, 8)
Open F: Use low G uke set and tune FCFA
Be creative!


Gadaya said…
Thanks Jake, that’s very handy