Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

Banjo Lovers Online

Oct 1, 2022 - 8:13:24 AM
308 posts since 11/22/2009

Anybody play—acoustic preferred—tenor guitar? Tuned plectrum banjo CGBD. If so did it work for you? Make / Scale length?

Oct 1, 2022 - 9:38:44 AM
likes this



3272 posts since 6/27/2013

I used to own an Epiphone SG standard electric (22 frets to the body) that I tuned CGBD. I finally traded it off. But as a plectrum player, I needed those 22 frets. In fact, 24 would have ideally been better. The scale length was 24.75, which is true for most SG models.

Oct 1, 2022 - 10:05:03 AM

11141 posts since 4/23/2004

I have a Harmony arch-top tenor guitar that I got cheap, cleaned and set up. I usually use chicago tuning DGBE but sometimes use CGBD or DGBD. Just depends on my whim that day. It also does well with tenor banjo tuning.

Oct 1, 2022 - 5:34:43 PM



668 posts since 2/16/2005

I play a plectrum banjo tuned CGBD.  A few years ago, I wanted to begin playing ballads from the early 1930's as well as some swing tunes from the late 30's and early 40's, which really called for a guitar rather than a banjo.  

At the suggestion of another guitarist, I bought a Yamaha APX500 acoustic/electric flat-top 6-string.  I removed the two lowest bass strings and restrung the guitar with the top four strings running down the center of the fingerboard (leaving the nut slot on each side of the fretboard empty).  I continued to use my standard plectrum tuning; since those four remaining guitar strings were tuned DGBE, using CGBD worked out fine.  I like to use the D'Addario EJ16 phosphor-bronze string set with a wound G, because the wound G was what I was used to on the plectrum banjo. 

I had to adjust the neck rod, because with the reduced tension of just four strings instead of six, the nut on the rod needed to be loosened to make the neck straighter (less convex).  The neck scale was 24.75", a welcome change from the 26+" usually found on plectrum necks, and the cutout on one side made it easy getting to the lower frets.  The Yamaha ran $250 new; I doubt I could have gotten a true tenor or plectrum guitar for anywhere near that price, plus I didn't want a tenor neck scale.  Like most acoustic/electrics, I didn't care for the electric side of things; the piezo contact pickup under the bridge produced a metallic sound that wasn't great.  However, the acoustic side was excellent, which was also fine with me, since I didn't need to plug it in to play it.  I still use it for practicing at home. 

After I found this "tenor" setup worked well for me, I invested in a Ibanez electric archtop and a Fender AcoustiSonic90 amp.  I've been having a good time with this fine jazzbox, working off the neck pickup for a clean, mellow tone.  I use D'Addario XL nickel-wound strings on the Ibanez, the EJ21 string set, also with a wound G.  For strumming, I like to use a Dunlop nylon .38 pick. 

As you might expect, this tenor setup without the two usual bass strings and the CGBD tuning produces a lighter (higher) tone than a six-string guitar.  Played by itself, the guitar sounds fine, although you need to be careful not to stray too far above the 10th or 12th fret, which can start to sound more like a uke than a guitar.  That's about the only downside I've found with this setup.  I currently play in a duo with another 6-string guitarist; he takes the bottom end of things with harmony chords and rhythm, while I take the upper end with melody chords, and it makes a good pairing.  I've also found that when I comp a singer who has a lower range (like an alto), I'm better off playing harmony chords closer to the nut. 

Lately I've been working in a group that plays classic rock & roll from the 1950's and 60's.  The "tenor" Ibanez has also worked out well in that scenario, using the bridge pickup rather than the neck pickup.  I'm now thinking of getting a semi-hollowbody, which could give me more sustain and a few more options in the tone department.  But I would use the same tenor setup for that guitar, too.  

Hope this info is helpful to you, let us know what you end up doing!  SETH 

Edited by - sethb on 10/01/2022 17:46:43

Oct 2, 2022 - 1:09:02 AM

308 posts since 11/22/2009

Thanks for your replies-especially Seth for his experiences on the regular guitar. I have asked this question in the past— posted the question again to see if anything new would come up.I have tried the plectrum banjo tuning on 3 regular guitars—all different results in the sound / tone produced. Still experimenting.
The most ‘comfortable’ (for a want of a better word) guitar so far is I bought a Fender ‘Mustang’ which has a 24” scale length allowing me to go up to the top C as per plectrum banjo. Regular guitars do not have that top C fret. The only downside for me regarding the ‘Mustang’ is the body is solid small and thin—much prefer a regular size guitar hollow body guitar to hold. A small bodied arch top guitar would be ideal for me. Still looking. Must try the tenor guitar though.

Oct 2, 2022 - 4:02:07 AM



668 posts since 2/16/2005

If you're looking for a smaller archtop, you might want to consider an Ibanez AMH90.  This is a semi-hollowbody with a somewhat smaller body (smaller lower bout, also a little shorter).  However, it is an electric guitar and so it probably wouldn't be useful in acoustic mode. 

On the other hand, depending on what type of music you're playing, an electric guitar might be an asset.  After playing an all-acoustic plectrum banjo for many years, I really enjoy playing the electric Ibanez archtop; it offers lots of sound options (like reverb and chorus) that you can't get acoustically (unless you're mic'd and running through an amp).  You could also get away with using lighter string sets on an electric (10's or 11's instead of 12's) if you wanted to, something your fingers might appreciate!

I could be wrong, but I think most acoustic archtops are purposely designed with larger and deeper bodies, in order to project sound and cut through the rest of the band.  Take a look at that flattop Yamaha APX500 I mentioned earlier -- it's thinner than most other guitars and designed for jazz purposes.  Maybe that will fill the bill.  SETH  P.S.  Although my tenor conversions are running just four strings on a six-string fingerboard, I've never worried about the extra empty space that this setup creates on either side of the fingerboard.  In fact, it just leaves a little extra space on either edge, so I'm less likely to slide a finger off the fretboard, which can happen once in a great while.  And most people never notice that the guitar only has four strings instead of six, unless I specifically point it out to them, and explain (partly in jest) that "I have two spare tuning machines."  

Edited by - sethb on 10/02/2022 04:13:55

Oct 2, 2022 - 5:04:34 AM



668 posts since 2/16/2005

One more thought for banjoists who want to play guitars, and that concerns your playing position. 

Most banjoists play with the banjo neck at a 45-degree angle or even closer to a vertical position. This is primarily for ease of playing, but it also helps to keep the banjo in balance, so that the neck isn't continually sliding down to a horizontal position because of gravity.  On the other hand, most guitarists seem to play with the guitar neck in a horizontal position, or pretty close to it. 

Since I wanted to continue using plectrum banjo chord fingering on my tenor guitar setup, I wasn't about to throw away 40 years of muscle and spatial memory by going to a different neck position!  I solved this problem by using the Spanish/Classical method of holding a guitar. 

Instead of supporting the guitar by placing the waist of the instrument on my right thigh as most guitarists do, I put the guitar waist on my left thigh.  I also put a small footrest (actually a little stepstool) underneath my left foot.  This enabled me to put the body of the guitar between my legs, and it also raised up the guitar neck and put it at a 45-degree or better angle -- and bingo!  In other words, I was now holding the guitar similarly to the way I had also been holding the plectrum banjo, so it seemed like Old Home Week as far as my fingers were concerned.  SETH

Edited by - sethb on 10/02/2022 05:19:30

Oct 2, 2022 - 7:41 PM
likes this

474 posts since 10/8/2018

I am the former owner of a beautiful plectrum guitar made in England by banjoist and luthier Emile Grimshaw in the early 1930’s.

Mainly thanks to the genius of Eddie Lang, the early thirties was a time when dance band banjoists were all trying to switch to guitar.

Mine was a beautiful f-hole archtop instrument but I sold it after owning it for a few years.


Because much to my surprise, the instrument put up a strong resistance to being played like a banjo.

Was it just my imagination? Probably.

All I know is that the damned thing sounded like guitar and insisted on being played like a guitar.

And since I already own and play several other guitars, I figured, “Why do I even want or need this funny thing?”

So I sold it.

Now imho the guitar which DOES seem to go nicely with the CGBD tuning, to my ears anyway, is a metal resonator guitar, with a tone that is more banjo-like.

I sometimes tune mine up in the very manner suggested by Seth above, i e just using the middle four string slots.

I’ve just got El Cheapo Asian res guitar but I replaced the aluminum cone with a more expensive one and it sounds pretty good. I find it allows me to do more of my banjo stuff on it.

Am I crazy?


But I would still encourage you to try out an El Cheapo resonator guitar, Mike.

Here’s the one I bought:


Good luck!


Oct 3, 2022 - 1:03:19 AM



360 posts since 3/29/2012

Originally posted by sethb

One more thought for banjoists who want to play guitars, and that concerns your playing position

 I'm glad you mentioned playing position which can really change the whole "feel" of the instrument. I have found that the more horizontal position is more practical when standing. the semi-vertical position can be very comfortable while sitting.

Edited by - Muskrat on 10/03/2022 01:04:07

Oct 3, 2022 - 8:22:35 AM



668 posts since 2/16/2005

Dan --- I think you're right about the difference in playing positions.  I did try playing banjo standing up for a while, but found that I couldn't seem to get the banjo in a stable fixed position, it just kept sliding around.  Also, I didn't want to stand up for two hours!   So I've stuck with playing sitting down, which seems to work much better for me. 

Ironically, I have noticed that some guitarists, usually the rock guitarists, like to keep their guitars slung very low, either below the waist or even at the top of their thigh, while they're playing standing up.  And that usually appears to put the neck at a 45-degree angle!  While that might be necessary and/or workable for bass guitar players who need to deal with a longer neck, how someone can play anything on a standard 6-string that way is beyond me, but "whatever floats your boat," as they say.  SETH

Oct 4, 2022 - 2:43:44 PM

craig wood


102 posts since 9/11/2018

i have recorded with a Gibson TG-50, tuned CGBD. Sounds great..no problem whatever..Clearly you do not have the the range..For non chordal work i tune to CGDA..

Oct 5, 2022 - 6:05:06 AM

13 posts since 8/11/2021

Just to add, electric 23" scale in CGBD. I keep the acoustic in CGDA though. Plectrum tuning works fine, it's an odd verion of a tenor with 22 frets so it reaches that top C, needs the right strings to compensate for the scale. No problem with the sound of it really compared to the (other same model) CGDA one. However electric does compensate for some deficiencies.

Oct 5, 2022 - 6:56:05 AM

308 posts since 11/22/2009

Thanks for all your answers so far. I used to own a resonator guitar. Not for me. To ‘tinny’ sounding. Although they do have there place in Hawaiian / Bluegrass—absolutely great.

Awhile ago I bought a Fender ‘Mustang’ solid guitar. The reason was it has 22 frets so it allows to play that high C on the 22nd fret—great for plectrum banjo tuning. The ‘Mustang’ also has a 24inch scale length which I quite like. The downside for me? The body is thin and small. 22 fret acoustic guitars are hard to find.

Call me ‘old fashioned’ but for me nothing beats the sound of a good acoustic guitar for the music style I play.


Edited by - Hot Club Man on 10/05/2022 07:01:16

Oct 5, 2022 - 10:35:42 AM



668 posts since 2/16/2005

Mike --- John Reynolds of the Reynolds Brothers Jazz Band plays what appears to be a 6-string resonator guitar.  But based on the style of the peghead and the tuners, I think he may be using nylon strings.  But whatever he's doing, I also think he's getting a great mellow guitar tone. 

Here's a YouTube link to his performance of "Out of Nowhere" by Johnny Green: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMXucn599B8  Enjoy!  SETH

Edited by - sethb on 10/05/2022 10:36:22

Oct 7, 2022 - 12:55:45 AM

308 posts since 11/22/2009

Seth—Thanks for sharing the clip of John Reynolds, a very good banjo / guitarist. From the video sent what I can see the headstock appears to be slotted so probably is nylon strung. The sound of the guitar is not as ‘shrill’ as metal strings but does not have that ‘woody’ tone as a wood made guitar. Some resonator guitars are made to take nylon strings.

Hide these ads: join the Players Union!

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories