Tenor Guitar - CGDA vs GDAE tuning?

Tenor Guitar - CGDA vs GDAE tuning?

I recently purchased a tenor guitar that came from the manufacturer tuned CGDA like a tenor banjo which I intent to play at traditional Irish music sessions along with my mandolin.

The tenor guitar can be tuned to GDAE with the proper set of strings allowing me to play tunes I know with the same fingering as a mandolin. Thus avoiding go through the re-learning process to play tunes with CGDA tuning.

What is the most common tuning of a tenor guitar - CGDA or GDAE - for Irish music? How do you have your tenor guitar tuned and why?

Your input will be greatly appreciated.

Re: Tenor Guitar - CGDA vs GDAE tuning?

dgbd.

Re: Tenor Guitar - CGDA vs GDAE tuning?

Tenor Banjo is tuned CGDA but in ITM most banjo players tune to GDAE.

I’ve never met a tenor guitar player but i would guess it would be similiar to bouzouki since the strings have similiar tone. GDAE can sometimes be better for melody playing but some prefer GDAD or ADAD for accompaniment.

Lately I’ve tuned my bouzouki to ADAE because it allows me to play melodies and use D and low A string as drones which i’ve found more useful than a G drone but i guess it depends what tunes you’re playing

Posted by .

Re: Tenor Guitar - CGDA vs GDAE tuning?

Since the tenor guitar is not a traditional Irish instrument (yet!) I would suggest that it is entirely up to you how you tune it. It is you, after all, who is going to be playing it.

Posted by .

Re: Tenor Guitar - CGDA vs GDAE tuning?

Yep, it’s up to you. Try both, see if one sounds better to your ear. If the CGDA tuning sounds better, you’ll be able to pick the tunes just fine if you capo at the second - you’ll lose the notes below the staff, but just do what the flute players do on those tunes.

If you’re picking the tunes, they might come through clearer in a session in the register, tenor guitars are not typically very loud, but really you should play it the way that sounds best to you.

Re: Tenor Guitar - CGDA vs GDAE tuning?

I absolutely love my tenor guitar and I play it all the time (at home) especially in the dead of night because other instruments are too loud. It’s a 60’s gibson TG-01 (all mahogany). This lovely instrument does not cut through enough to play at sessions. Tuning: for ages I had it tuned to GDAE, then I tried CGDA (lighter strings) and I just practise tunes as if it was in the lower tuning. As it has got 14 frets to the body (some have 12) I find the A string liable to break, so on changing the strings a while ago I left it a tone lower: Bb F C G and it has stayed thus. Will I ever play it at sessions? Probably not, unless it is a rare amplified session, in which case I would revert to GDAE. I am working at melody and chord progressions in higher positions though (not with Irish music in mind) and a variety of tunings in 5ths will be OK for this. You can join this Yahoo group: http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/tenorguitarregistry/ for information, photos, chords, or just to chill with other tenor guitar addicts.

Re: Tenor Guitar - CGDA vs GDAE tuning?

I’ve got several tenor guitars and each seems to have an affinity for one or the other tuning (or both.) As a result, my Regal sounds great in GDAE while the Blueridge does much better in standard cgdA tuning. I suspect that this is a product of the construction of each instrument but like banjos, tenor guitars have to be treated as individuals. My Gibson will accept both tunings well. I have a Soary resonator tenor that is also capable of taking both tunings. You need to try both and see. Just remember that you have to set up the nut differently for the larger gauge strings if you wnat the instrument to be playable.

Not that there is a problem playing in either tuning. You can play a number of tunes in open cgdA tuning and if you are not so inclined to learn, you can capo up two and play in daeB which is in the same range as a whistle.

Of course you can try alternative tunings too, the problem is that you have to find the right gauge strings to make sure the instrument sounds good. There are only a few sets of strings out there for standard tuning and none for GDAE. Finding single strings is not that hard (in NA at least) and you can figure out the right combination pretty quickly.

I love the tenor guitar. It is not only a good way to practice your music quietly but it has its own characteristics that make it a great instrument on stage either as a melody instrument or in accompaniment. Its also a fine instrument to back up singers.

Mike Keyes
http://www.mikekeyes.com

Re: Tenor Guitar - CGDA vs GDAE tuning?

with cgda gauge, you can tune, dgbd, or other 5 string banjo Tunings DGBE[top 4 standard guitar tuning] or dgcd or cgcd or cgde or dgde these and dgcd an cgcd have simiarities to dadgad, but you are unlikely to snap strings because you are tuning down, cgcd, is orkney guitar tuning

Re: Tenor Guitar - CGDA vs GDAE tuning?

Thank you for all the replies thus far.

I am inclined to keep my new tenor guitar (Aria AF) at the CGDA tuning and capo it at the second fret for D tuning while learning the required new fingering and avoid re-cutting the nut for different gauze strings to get to GDAE.

However, I look forward to more responses and other opinions.

Re: Tenor Guitar - CGDA vs GDAE tuning?

Good idea, But gradually experiment with learning a few tunes in CGDA as well

Re: Tenor Guitar - CGDA vs GDAE tuning?

I think that a tenor guitar (playing melody) sits well in a session - albeit that actually having one at a session is something of a rare occurrence.

As to the tuning, whatever suits you (as has already been said).

In common with deltasalmon above, I have a personal preference for the ADAE tuning. This tuning is ideal if most of your repertoire is going to be in DMaj, AMajor (or relative modes) - but less useful for tunes in G-Maj etc.

One caveat: If your intended tuning is going to be higher that the manufacturer’s standard, make sure that your instrument is strong enough to cope with the increased tension.

Hope this helps!

Re: Tenor Guitar - CGDA vs GDAE tuning?

I play a Fletcher Tenortone myself & as I also play Fiddle, Mandolin & Tenor Banjo, to make life easy for myself, I tune it GDAE.

However, I’ve always slackened off the strings on the Banjo & had a Capo permanently on the first fret, so I do the same on my Tenor Guitar.

You can find the spec. for the Tenortone here:
http://fletcherinstruments.com/specifications.html

Plus String Guages & tuning options here:
http://fletcherinstruments.com/faq.html

You might enjoy browsing through the Tenor Guitar group on the Irish Tenor Banjo site:
http://theirishtenorbanjo.ning.com/group/tenorguitar

Cheers
Dick

Re: Tenor Guitar - CGDA vs GDAE tuning?

GDAE tuning is convenient, as the fingering transfers to mandolin, fiddle and ‘Irish’ tenor banjo, and it allows you to play most tunes without leaving first position.

I haven’t spent much time with a tenor guitar, but from what little experience I have of them, they don’t have the same kind of ‘growl’ on the low G as the banjo has, and perhaps sound sweeter played in the higher register. So, whilst CGDA might be a little more awkward for fingering, it allows you to use a different (perhaps better) part of the instrument’s frequency response. Of course, it depends of the size and shape of the body - a dreadnought-sized tenor guitar would be very different from a parlour-sized one; but most seem to be somewhat smaller-bodied than a typical parlour guitar and consequently are less reponsive at the lower end of the sound spectrum.

Re: Tenor Guitar - CGDA vs GDAE tuning?

…but, as several posters have sad already, it’s up to you. There are many possibilities besides GDAE and CGDA, some of which might favour accompaniment over melody, or favour certain keys and necessitate the use of a capo.

Re: Tenor Guitar - CGDA vs GDAE tuning?

I have an Instrument called a Plectrum Guitar.It’s a 4 stringer ,like a tenor Guitar ,only its a longer scale length.. I have it tuned GDAD,like my Bouzouki ..
I have,sadly, ‘tradesmans’ type hands …meaning that they’re smallish meaty jobs,with bits of bark off here and there..( how I envy Musos with slender, delicate,long fingered beauties ! )..anyway…
A fair bit has been written on GDAD vs GDAE tuning saying that the latter tuning is better for melody and the former is better for accompaniment (sp ?) ..
Sure, a stretch is sometimes required on the top string,but I dont think it’s a real drama..If my stumpy little hands can do it….anyones can :-)
Good luck. whichever way you go….

Re: Tenor Guitar - CGDA vs GDAE tuning?

So….I’d suggest living with GDAD for a while….
Cheers …

Re: Tenor Guitar - CGDA vs GDAE tuning?

It can be difficult to get many tenor guitars (and even some tenor banjos) to sound half decent in "Irish tenor" tuning GDAE, regardless of string gauge used. A clue as to the reason for this lies in the name of the instrument - they are all designed to be strung and tuned in TENOR tuning CGDA.

Of course, some tenor guitars can sound fabulous in tenor tuning; if you’re lucky enough to own one, then go for it, otherwise you could take advantage of (re)learning tunes using different fingering in tenor tuning; great for the high parts!

Re: Tenor Guitar - CGDA vs GDAE tuning?

SHR: some tenor guitars can sound fabulous in "Irish" tuning - DOH!

Re: Tenor Guitar - CGDA vs GDAE tuning?

Of course the tenor guitar, as I’ve said before, dates from when the preferred rhythm/chord instrument in the jazz and dance bands was changing from the tenor banjo ( which of course would have been tuned CGDA then ) to the guitar, and those strummers who couldn’t cope with the extra two strings had tenor guitars made for them.
Whereas zoukboys’ Plectrum Guitar is obviously a guitar version of the plectrum Banjo, which has the same scale length as the standard 5-string banjo, but no 5th string. This would probably benefit from a set of 5-string banjo strings, but without the 5th string obviously. Normal tuning would probably be CGBD or DGBD.
I will admit to not having heard of a plectrum guitar before. There’s always a first time for everything.

Re: Tenor Guitar - CGDA vs GDAE tuning?

My one does sound pretty good in the lower tuning, probably because the body is exactly the same as a 6 string Gibson LG-01 (which is a parlour-sized guitar). I doubt if anything was done to adjust the voicing - they just made a few with 4-string necks. In jazz bands the tenor banjo player already knew all the chord progressions, and could directly move over to the tenor guitar when the banjo went out of favour.