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Thread: Misunderstood or Misused Guitar Definition

  1. #11
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    This is actually a question about taxonomy, not musical instruments.

    All are chordophones (plucked or strummed strings). This means they're not viols, trumpets etc.

    Beyond that, you can be a cladist, who defines ancestral relationships. In which case they're all lutes (and lutes are oudhs).

    Or you can define based on similarities, in which case you have plenty of choices - number of strings, soundboard material, composition of strings, tunings ...

    I play uke (re-entrant and linear), tenor guitar (Chicago), tenor banjo (5ths) and mandolin (5ths). From that perspective, the big difference is tunings. So I can easily swap from uke to tenor guitar (Chicago tuned) because they are both tuned the same; but re-entrant makes a playing difference, so there are two sub-families. Tenor banjo to mandolin is easy. Uke to mandolin is difficult because the tunings are too different.

    But this is just my functional classification, it's not objectively right. Nor are any other ways of classifying. But fun can be had arguing about it.

  2. #12
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    There is, on some sites, some comment that the Baritone Uke and the Cuatro are essentially the true form of Guitar as played in the Renaissance period - though they have single rather than double strings. This encourages an interest in alternate tunings as the Baritone and Cuatro are similar - Ken Middleton has an interesting video on that. It also encourages an interest in playing Baritones but I think they they are a bit too big for me at the moment and I’m not sure that I would be well served just now by a further set of fingering to learn and understand. Baritones, what fantastic value they are though, a lot more Uke for just a little more than a Soprano - and so many tuning options too. Whatever it’s interesting to understand the distant background of the Ukulele version of the Guitar.

    Some of the terms in the Prof’s comment lost me for a moment or two.
    Taxonomy is all all about classification.
    My check on Chicago varies from what Chris has said above, I’m sure that there will be some good reason but this is what I came across: Chicago tuning copies the first four strings on a Guitar (same as Baritone tuning).
    “The notes are (from fourth string to first string) D, G, B, E. The E is the E note just above middle C; the B is the note just below middle C the G is the next note below the B and the D is next to the octave below middle C.”
    https://blog.deeringbanjos.com/chicago-tuning-banjo

    Edit. Thanks Keith for your clarification below. :-).
    Last edited by Graham Greenbag; 11-08-2018 at 05:34 AM.

  3. #13
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    Baritone/Chicago tuning => D3 G3 B3 E4 (in piano terminology).
    Trying to do justice to various musical instruments.

  4. #14
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    Surely someone (not me) still has their Grove Music Dictionary from college and can quote the guitar definition. Although it probably takes up two pages.
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  5. #15
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    I have an old small tenor guitar. It was my son Clay's first instrument. When I bought it at a yard sale, it had steel strings and was in Chicago tuning (DGBE). When Clay started taking the guitar seriously, he got a six string and the old tenor was hung on the wall. 10 or 12 years ago, I re-strung it with Nylon strings and kept the DGBE tuning, making it a large baritone uke, rather than a small tenor guitar.

    The mando-thing world is far stricter about naming instruments than the guitar world. Long neck mando-things can be "octave mandolins, Irish bouzoukis, octophones, citterns, blarges, and many other things, differing only in scale length, number of courses, octave or unison courses and whatever the maker decides. (except for those made by Grit Laskin, which are all called "long neck mandolins" regardless of number of courses. . .)

    In the guitar world, the word "guitar" includes nylon classical or flamenco guitars, solid body flying V, 4 or 8 string tenor guitars, 6, 7, 9, 12 string hollow body acoustic or solid electrics, resonator guitars, lap steel guitars or pedal steel guitars.
    The seven string guitar comes in the type with an extra bass string as popularized by George Van Eps, the type with the extra treble string as popularized by Lenny Breau and the type with the double octave G string (E,A,D,gG,B,E) as popularized by Spider John Koerner.

    tenor.jpg Clay&Darcat3.jpg JIM & Clay at 3.jpg
    Last edited by Jim Yates; 11-10-2018 at 01:39 PM.

  6. #16
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    To me the main reason I can think of to call a ukulele a ukulele and a guitar a guitar is that if you learn to play one, there's a certain amount of new learning needed to play the other. Having learned to play one ukulele, you can happily pick up any other and strum it. It is of course possible to adopt any arbitrary tuning on a ukulele, but I reckon that if another ukulele player finds it unplayable as a result, then you might as well give it some other name, 'cos it's no longer a ukulele.

  7. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimavery View Post
    To me the main reason I can think of to call a ukulele a ukulele and a guitar a guitar is that if you learn to play one, there's a certain amount of new learning needed to play the other. Having learned to play one ukulele, you can happily pick up any other and strum it. It is of course possible to adopt any arbitrary tuning on a ukulele, but I reckon that if another ukulele player finds it unplayable as a result, then you might as well give it some other name, 'cos it's no longer a ukulele.
    That seems logical enough if, like the vast bulk of the population, you believe that a Guitar is just a large bodied six string instrument. It’s a common description and ‘everybody’ knows what you mean. However, to me it seems that the name has been stolen and such things should be called by a more distinct name that recognises members of the Guitar family. We have Ukulele Guitars, Baritone Guitars, Palor Guitars and Classical Guitars and they all have the same ancestors - so a family.

    On the tuning point we have Ukes in gCEA and GCEA and aDF#B and DGBE and dGBE and ..... but we regard then all as Ukes even though you have to relearn the tuning. I’d struggle to play anything that wasn’t tuned g/GCEA.

    I guess the term Uke will do for us and provides clarity for the public but I’m now inclined to think that Ukes are as much a Guitar and part of that family as anything else. Guitar implies six strings but it needn’t be the case and once wasn’t,
    Last edited by Graham Greenbag; 11-08-2018 at 01:48 PM.

  8. #18
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    No one seems to be able to define a ukulele, so I guess if one wants to call a guitar a ukulele, that's okay. I don't know if it goes the other direction.
    I don't want to live in a world that is linear.

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  9. #19
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    If we all were to get hung up on labels, then nobody would actually be playing music.

    I had a tenor uke tuned in fifths CGDA for a while before I restrung it back to re-entract GCEA and gave it to a friend who wanted to learn to play (and is now in a band in NYC and plays the uke on stage every weekend)...

    Is this a "tenor guitar" tuned in fifths, a tenor "uke" tuned in fifths, or something else?

    For me, I really don't care, I just wanted to play it and see if I could remember some music from when I used to play mandolin.

    I find that labels, if used improperly are often either a speedbump to acceptance, or held as law by gatekeepers that want to control what other people can or cannot do with their own things. Neither is beneficial to actually making music.

    A G chord is a G chord and a scale is a scale, regardless of the instrument played on. IMHO, making music should be the priority, however and whenever possible.

    I let other people get out the Brother P-Touch and put name-tags on everything in sight, but my own O.C.D. does not rise to that level.
    -Joe......Have uke, will travel...

  10. #20
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    Labels help when you are trying to describe something to someone else, so they are quite a necessity, but totally agree, it's the end result that counts.
    Trying to do justice to various musical instruments.

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