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View Full Version : Are tenor guitars and baritone ukuleles interchangable?



ripock
03-18-2017, 10:06 AM
I find the two instruments very similar. I'm no expert, but when playing the two back to back the only real difference to me is the tenor guitar is twangy while the baritone is warmer.

I know even that statement is subject to debate, but setting that aside let me get to my question to those more informed than me:

Since, in my mind at least, the two instruments are so similar, can I make the guitar into a ukulele? What if, for example, I find a really great tenor guitar. Can I take off the steel strings and put on some Worth baritone strings and have for all intents and purposes a baritone ukulele?

I know I cannot do the opposite since a ukulele isn't made to withstand the tension of metal strings, but can anyone think of any opposition to ukufying a Blueridge or an old Martin tenor?

Croaky Keith
03-18-2017, 10:22 AM
I don't think you would be satisfied with the sound quality, if you were to put 'nylon' strings onto a guitar that was made for steel strings.

Cornfield
03-18-2017, 10:51 AM
A tenor guitar fretboard is narrower than a baritone ukulele. The body is usually a bit bigger as well. I have ukufied a tenor banjo and given it a reentrant dGBE tuning using baritone Worth strings. I rarely play it as it just doesn't sound as good as a purpose made instrument.
I have an old (1927) Martin tenor guitar that will stay a tenor guitar. I just use very thin steel strings in DGBE Chicago tuning.

SteveZ
03-18-2017, 11:09 AM
Tenor guitars are braced much differently than baritone ukes. As a result, a steel-stringed tenor guitar sounds weak with nylon strings. Just for fun I once tried stringing my Blueridge with classical nylon strings and gave up after three days.

Like all stringed instruments, the type of wood, the shape, the strings and all add to what gives the instrumrnt its voice. My Martin tenor guitar sounds much warmer and mellower than my Blueridge which is a deeper boomer.

WhenDogsSing
03-18-2017, 11:11 AM
You would have to widen some of the nut slots to use thicker nylon or fluorocarbon strings on an instrument built for steel strings. I don't recommend you do that to a nice old vintage Martin tenor guitar. Have at it with the Blueridge.

ripock
03-18-2017, 12:11 PM
thanks to everyone for the input. Since I had never heard this question queried before, by raising it I knew that I was either a provident visionary genius or an errant fool. I now have a better idea as to which end of that gamut I belong. If I have $1200 sitting around it seems I would be better served getting a Kanilea baritone rather than a 50's Martin tenor guitar. In anticipation of that day I just bought a junky Lanikai baritone just to see if I even like the baritone format. It will definitely be my corner ukulele--the one that leans in the corner of my library awaiting any ad hoc ukulele fits that arise during my day.

Choirguy
03-18-2017, 01:01 PM
Please don't call yourself an errant fool. In fact, Outdoor Ukulele has announced a coming instrument that is going to be a polycarbonate 6 string guitar, 30.625" long, 20" scale length (very Baritone-ish), 1.75" width at the nut, and a classical bridge.

I would guess that they will offer a nylon set of strings for this instrument, as wound strings would--in my mind--tear apart the instrument. I am amazingly happy with four string instruments (particularly those in the tenor and concert size), so this isn't for me...but it will be for others, like my brother-in-law, who is a guitarist and would LOVE a take-anywhere guitar.

They do have a Facebook page for this instrument...https://www.facebook.com/outdoorguitar

Cornfield
03-18-2017, 01:24 PM
thanks to everyone for the input. Since I had never heard this question queried before, by raising it I knew that I was either a provident visionary genius or an errant fool. I now have a better idea as to which end of that gamut I belong. If I have $1200 sitting around it seems I would be better served getting a Kanilea baritone rather than a 50's Martin tenor guitar. In anticipation of that day I just bought a junky Lanikai baritone just to see if I even like the baritone format. It will definitely be my corner ukulele--the one that leans in the corner of my library awaiting any ad hoc ukulele fits that arise during my day.

Try some Worth brown strings on that Lanakai, you will like the sound

jer
03-18-2017, 02:53 PM
Choirguy: They've mentioned other stuff on their OU Facebook page too, beyond what was on the guitar page. Once there was a mention of some sort of interchangeable neck so they could use the body for either a baritone uke or guitar apparently depending on how they build it. They also were working trying to find some sort of composite material that will allow for wound metal strings....To me, the latter isn't a great idea. I mean all frets wear...so whatever they choose is going to wear out eventually...then what do you do? I guess you'd have to order a new neck (if it's bolt on) or simply trash the instrument...It'll be interesting to see what they do though for sure.

ripock
03-18-2017, 04:04 PM
that's exactly what I was thinking. And that's what I do with all my ukuleles, except for my kamaka; it gets Worth clear strings because it is my bright ukulele

70sSanO
03-18-2017, 04:58 PM
Pono does make a nylon string tenor guitar.

John

mds725
03-18-2017, 10:04 PM
A couple of things about tenor guitars --

1. Not all tenor guitars have thinner necks than baritone ukuleles. It appears that traditional tenor guitars do have thinner necks, as they were actually designed, built, and tuned for tenor banjo players who wanted to be able to play an instrument that sounded like a guitar when banjos fell out of favor with the arrival of the big band era. My Blueridge tenor guitar has a narrower fretboard than a baritone ukulele neck, but I have two custom tenor guitars that were both built with fretboards that are roughly the same width as those on baritone ukuleles. If you want to play a tenor guitar but are dissuaded by the fear of a narrow fretboard, you may be able to find one with a wide enough fretboard for you.

2. One of the things that some people say define an instrument as a tenor guitar is its use of steel strings. Because steel strings place a lot more tension on an instrument, tenor guitars are braced for higher tension and won't vibrate enough from strings that are not steel. Rick Turner built me a steel string baritone ukulele and warned me not ti put nylon strings on it because it would result in a muted sound. When Pono introduced a nylon string tenor guitar, it quickly renamed it "baritone nui" (big baritone), maybe to make it seem less alien to ukulele players, but maybe because typically tenor guitars have steel strings. Pono now makes a steel string tenor guitar and a steel string eight-string tenor guitar that it calls an octave mandolin because it can be tuned like a mandolin and even when its tuned DGBE has a mandolin-ish sound.

3. Some people define what constitutes a tenor guitar by its tuning, rather than by other attributes like string or body size. The lines are definitely blurring. When I asked Rick Turner if my steel string baritone was, in effect, a smaller scale tenor guitar, he said "no" because it was tuned like a baritone ukulele and not like a tenor guitar. Tenor guitars are often tuned like baritone ukuleles, though. This is called Chicago Tuning, and it apparently became popular when the tenor guitar became popular and regular guitarists wanted to be able to play them without having to learn tenor banjo -- i.e., traditional tenor guitar -- tuning. Tenor guitars also typically have a longer scale than baritone ukuleles -- my steel string Compass Rose baritone has a slightly shorter scale than any of my tenor guitars. Buy a tenor guitar if you want to play a tenor guitar, and buy a baritone ukulele if you want to play a baritone ukulele.