The Kala Tenor Guitar
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 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. We decided to use Solid Spruce with Pau Ferro back and sides on this tenor guitar to give it both a bright, pure, and resonate sound with a bold and contrasting look. The material choices and quality of the construction of these instruments alone makes them very valuable, but we wanted people to be able to afford these beautiful instruments so we cut their original price by over 60% and made them available directly from our online store for $199.99. 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 like the ukulele did over a decade ago.
We are working to offer more tenor guitar accessories in the near future like hard cases and new string tuning combinations. Let us know if you have any questions or suggestions in the comments and have a great day!