Terz Guitar

Terz Guitar

Dennis Cahill has a terz guitar that he has used on some of his recordings. His instrument is a steel string guitar tuned up a minor third from standard tuning, made by Rick Davis of Running Dog Guitars. It is a marvelous sounding instrument, and I wonder if any of the readers of this forum have heard of others using these petite gems in ITM. I believe the original terz guitars were renaissance instruments of gut strings, used in ensembles.

Re: Terz Guitar

Very interesting! I play with a box player who prefers an F box, so I play the dropped D config and capo the third fret. it has a lovely light sound that way. Would be nice to have a guitar suited to that, and use no capo, and the terz should do it.

Re: Terz Guitar

Yes, Keith, that’s a nice old one. Looking at the Martin website, they make two versions of the terz, starting at nearly four large - a mighty expensive travel instrument.
Iris, if you have a copy of Masters of the Irish Guitar, Dennis Cahill’s track is played on his Running Dog terz ( and a Crump guitar-bodied bouzouki). Lovely sound, isn’t it?

Re: Terz Guitar

Hi Mando, will have to go dig it out and check. When i made my CD I actually did a few of the tracks with a third fret capo, for the lightness of the sound, some a second fret capo and a fair amount without. where I wanted a deeper sound. I just liked the lightness of the sound, esp. on some of the jigs.

I build my own guitars and am on #5 right now, it’s SLOW, I am still relatively inexperienced but love building, and so far so good… but #5 is a 00 size, wonder if I should see about swtiching gears to a terz neck, not up to the neck yet! Problem is i would like the 00 too, a 14 fret. Maybe next one will be a terz. I imagine they record very nicely for fingerstle tune playing. Shall study up on them and try and find some plans.

Re: Terz Guitar

Once I spoke with a shop owner who was very big on the whole eBay buy-fix-sell continuum. I think he may have passed away since then, because now there are two younger guys running the store and they changed the name. He had an.. interesting lifestyle.

Anyway, before I lost track of him I hadn’t been in his store for a year or so and the the first thing I noticed when I walked in was that one section of his main wall was exactly the same as the last time I visited. He had a penchant for buying old 19th century parlor guitars, some of which were in quite good condition and purchased from uninformed sellers on eBay for next to nothing. He wanted anywhere from $150 to $300 each, and had nine or ten of them restored to perfect playability.

I brought up the issue, and he said "well, you know, they’re a little like the in-laws… ‘come to visit for a week, and end up staying all damn year."

I’m not familiar with anyone using them in ITM. I suppose that on a recording it might work well, but as for live sound, the ones I have played - new and old alike - don’t seem to have much volume. The Martins had a fascinating and mysterious subtlety and resonance to their tone. You might still find some on eBay because he told me there were many produced in the mid to late 19th century. They were pretty run of the mill instruments back then.

Re: Terz Guitar

Thinking about this some more, the "standard" tuning of the terz is
GCFA#DG, the notes you would get capoing a standardly tuned guitar at the third fret. If one were to raise the fourth and fifth strings a whole tone each, and drop the third string a half tone, one would get GDGADG, an interesting variant of DADGAD. The benefit would be the easy access to B or even C on the first string without ever leaving first position. You would have the D sus 4th chord in the middle four strings, rather than the top four, and still have a low G on the bottom. I think I’ll try this - it would likely be handier for melody playing than DADGAD, while preserving the harmonic virtues of that tuning.

Re: Terz Guitar

I should add that the builder of Dennis Cahill’s terz has one available, that I plan to snag tomorrow.

Re: Terz Guitar

Not a genuine terz, but I have my Larrivee parlour guitar tuned up a minor third, using seriously light strings, 10’s I think - the overall tension is slightly less than with its previous mediums at standard pitch. The tone is very usable - sounds great for Carolan tunes etc. Also is excellent as an overdub instrument on multitrack recordings alongside standard guitar. Good fun.

Re: Terz Guitar

"tuned up a minor third" (from standard tuning) - that would make it lute tuning. In my classical guitar days the only time I used a capo was when I wanted the lute tuning for playing Dowland or other lute music of that period.

Re: Terz Guitar

" that would make it lute tuning."

if that is the case, your standard tuning may be GCFADG to put the 3rd between the 4th and 3rd strings. Alot of guitar transcriptions of Dowland’s lute works have you tune the guitar G to F# because that is where the 3rd is in alot of lute tunings

that makes the 3rd string an A rather than an A#, which seems more likely

as long as there is a third in there somewhere 6ths and 10th workout, and that is what the standard tuning is all about.

Re: Terz Guitar

I am a fan of the Terz guitar, although the original 1800’s guitars were gut strung, the terz in steel string is a great pleasure to play.
I have owned a couple style 5 Martins, but my current favorite is the Walden CF 550 p-5. The Walden has the correct 56cm scale and is a tenth the price of a Martin. ……And sounds the same to me.
Bob Tedrow
Homewood Music
hmi@scott.net

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