The Kala Tenor Guitar (New Model Update!)

The Kala Tenor Guitar (New Model Update!)

The tenor guitar is a four-string, mid-sized instrument that some might describe as a smaller guitar that plays like a baritone ukulele but doesn’t quite feel like either. So what’s so special about this instrument? Let us break it down for you and show you the great potential this instrument has and also let you in on why Kala’s Tenor Guitar has become our most popular web store product and arguably the most talked about tenor guitar of the last few years.

The History

The tenor guitar first began to appear in the 1920s, which is when some of the first four-string guitar-shaped tenor instruments began making appearances. It is likely that the tenor guitar was preceded by the tenor lute which was made in 1924 and featured a lute-shaped body with a tenor banjo neck. Many banjo makers began experimenting with this concept and around 1927 many of the major instrument producers of the time began manufacturing what is now known as the tenor guitar. Tenor guitars are probably most closely associated with the tenor banjo. They share a comparable all fifths standard tuning of CGDA and usually have a similar scale length. They were often marketed towards banjo players in the 1930s as an instrument that could be played in both orchestra and jazz bands without having to cross the learning curve challenge that would be presented by a new six-string guitar.

The Tenor Guitar Today

Contemporary players have been placing a renewed interest in this instrument, especially in the folk scene where the tenor guitar offers something fresh and new to the conventional instrument choices that are most prevalent in today’s folk genre. Many players choose to tune their tenor guitars to (DGBE) like a baritone ukulele (we recommend you get a standard pack of DGBE Tenor Guitar strings before attempting this tuning) and some ukulele players have found ways to buy and match multiple brand’s string packs to tune our tenor guitars (GCEA) like a standard ukulele. The bright clear sound of the instrument and larger more substantial body is appealing to many uke players looking to expand their instrument arsenal as well as their sonic range.

 The Kala Tenor Guitar

When Kala began development on our own tenor guitar, as always we wanted to keep the player in mind. We prioritized accessibility for modern players over the traditional style of the 1930s tenor guitars that would often have body sizes just as large as a parlor or archtop guitar. We made our own tenor guitar shorter and lighter, making it more suitable for fingerpicking and more amenable to people of all hand sizes. We wanted our take on this instrument to look good but most importantly we wanted it to sound good. 

Our original tenor guitar with Solid Spruce Top and Pau Ferro back and sides possesses both a bright, pure, and resonant sound with a bold and contrasting look. We currently also have a limited edition Solid Spruce Top Mahogany version that delivers a similar tonal experience. The newest addition to our lineup, the  Solid Mahogany Top Sunburst Tenor Guitar, features a solid mahogany top with an earthy brown sunburst finish paired with mahogany back and sides for a timeless appearance and a warm, rich tone.

Our hope with this project is to help make a quality, traditional instrument like the tenor guitar find a new home in the hearts of contemporary players just as the ukulele has.


October 26, 2023 by Nicholas Cafiero
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