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Thread: String spacing for 6 string to tenor guitar modification

  1. #1
    Registered User Tug's Avatar
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    Default String spacing for 6 string to tenor guitar modification

    Greetings,

    My wife has given me permission to modify her father's 1960's Gibson LG0 to convert it to a tenor guitar. I am not going to change the neck, only the nut and saddle. I am looking for opinions on the best spacing for this.

    1.) Leave the existing nut and saddle on and just leave a big space where the bass strings were, (seems strange).

    2.) Change the spacing so that the strings are spaced like my Ashbury tenor guitar, evenly across the fretboard, leaving the same amount of free space on treble and bass side of fretboard.

    3.) Space all the strings toward the the treble side and copy string spacing from my Ashbury tenor guitar. This would leave a greater than normal space on bass side of fretboard.

    4.) Space all the strings toward the Bass side and copy string spacing from my Ashbury
    tenor guitar. This would leave a greater than normal space on treble side of fretboard.

    The neck width at the nut on my Ashbury tenor guitar is just under 1-1/2" and the neck width of the Gibson at the nut is just under 1-7/8"

    My inclination is to go with option 2 but maybe some of you have done this before and now have advice based on experience. I do have some new tuners on order.

    *edit* Maybe I will start with option number 1 as that will not require modifying the nut, saddle or holes in the bridge. I will just have to see how strange that extra space feels in the bass area. *edit*

    Thanks,
    Doug

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Don't know why this appears rotated when I upload it but normal when I open it on the computer, but oh well.
    Last edited by Tug; Oct-17-2021 at 11:47am.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: String spacing for 6 string to tenor guitar modification

    For Me I would have to say leave the Gibson be and buy a cheap Ibanez for 200.00 they sound nice mellow. I changed strings and the tension as
    the tenor strings sound flimsy tuned to GDAE

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  4. #3
    Registered User Tug's Avatar
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    Default Re: String spacing for 6 string to tenor guitar modification

    Thanks for the reply. Because of arthritis in my left wrist, I can't handle a six string anymore. I concentrate on my mandolin, a tenor tuned GDAE, and my ukuleles. I want to tune this one DGBE so I can play a lot of my old guitar stuff on a four strong. My wife plays a Martin 6 string so she doesn't need this one so I am fixing it up to see how it works out. If it doesn't, I can put the old tuners back on and change it back into a 6 string.

  5. #4

    Default Re: String spacing for 6 string to tenor guitar modification

    I'd focus on playability first and foremost.

    Try option 1 first, but I suspect the strings will be too close at both nut and saddle to play comfortably.

    If they are, try a modified option 2. Space the strings at 1 1/8 at the nut between D and E, leaving equal space either side. This is the spacing I use on the tenor I built - any more I'd find hard to play. Find an instrument you like and copy its spacing at the bridge using a slotted saddle - somewhere around 1/4 inch between strings is likely to be good.

    Equal spacing across the full widths of the nut would be unplayable for me, even bigger than on a 2 inch classical guitar!

    You'll want a new nut and saddle of course. Keep the originals as later on someone will want to return it to six string.

  6. #5
    Registered User Tug's Avatar
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    Default Re: String spacing for 6 string to tenor guitar modification

    Prof Chris,

    I tried option 1 and it seems to be playable. The strings I had lying are round are too heavy so I have ordered a lighter gauge set. I will follow your advice and see how things turn out.

    Thanks for your reply,
    Doug

  7. #6
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: String spacing for 6 string to tenor guitar modification

    Quote Originally Posted by Tug View Post
    Thanks for the reply. Because of arthritis in my left wrist, I can't handle a six string anymore. I concentrate on my mandolin, a tenor tuned GDAE, and my ukuleles. I want to tune this one DGBE so I can play a lot of my old guitar stuff on a four strong. My wife plays a Martin 6 string so she doesn't need this one so I am fixing it up to see how it works out. If it doesn't, I can put the old tuners back on and change it back into a 6 string.
    I am not sure why you would need to replace the tuners to make it a four-string. Why not just leave the original tuners?
    Last edited by Jim Garber; Oct-21-2021 at 1:31pm.
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  8. #7
    Registered User John Kelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: String spacing for 6 string to tenor guitar modification

    Have you tried putting the strings on the four middle positions rather than at either bass or treble side?, and as Jim Garber says, why change the tuners?
    Interesting to hear how you get on.
    Last edited by John Kelly; Oct-21-2021 at 1:09pm.
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  9. #8
    Registered User Tug's Avatar
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    Default Re: String spacing for 6 string to tenor guitar modification

    The tuners work but I have to put a rubber band between the 2 unused ones to keep them from rattling. Replacing the 6 original tuners is not necessary for function, but more for aesthetics, although that will require slightly larger holes for the new tuners.

    It is probably a good idea to try the inner positions of the strings because changing the spacing at the nut might require filling in the string pin holes in the bridge and making new ones.

    Apparently one of my wife's aunts sat on this guitar years ago and caused cracks in the back and the sound board. The back was repaired rather poorly, probably with super glue, which was not wiped off so there is some obvious oozed out glue on the back. I put a bit of titebond in the crack in front and made a cleat on the inside for support. You can still see that crack but hopefully it won't spread.

    Future of this instrument:
    2 of our 4 kids play guitar so this will go to one of them when we walk off into the sunset and hopefully our granddaughter will be a player also so the instrument will remain in the family. I am not worried about preserving this instrument in original condition for resale value.

    Here are a few photos:
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    Last edited by Tug; Oct-21-2021 at 4:16pm.

  10. #9
    Registered User Tug's Avatar
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    Default Re: String spacing for 6 string to tenor guitar modification

    So I moved the strings to the middle to try it that way for a couple weeks to see if I like them there. My wife sided with you guys after I said I needed to make larger holes for the new tuners and so I left the original tuners on.
    Click image for larger version. 

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  11. #10
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: String spacing for 6 string to tenor guitar modification

    Good luck with the LG-0. I like those "round-shouldered" Gibsons.

    Apparently the neck width doesn't bother your arthritic wrist, just the strain of fretting six rather than four strings? I woulda recommended getting either an inexpensive tenor guitar, or even a baritone ukulele, since either would have had a smaller neck. Gibson necks tend toward the small side, so maybe getting around on this one won't cause discomfort.

    As some of our youthful pain-free flexibility is lost to age, we find ways to accommodate. I have a friend born with only one usable hand, who devised a knit "sock" to wear on the elbow of her other arm, with a pick attached. She can strum enough chords to accompany her voice, and has performed semi-professionally with that set-up. Where there's a will, there's a way, as the ol' cliche says.
    Allen Hopkins
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  12. #11
    Registered User Tug's Avatar
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    Default Re: String spacing for 6 string to tenor guitar modification

    Allen,
    The good thing about the arthritis in my wrist is that it hasn't seemed to get worse in the last 10 years and it isn't rheumatoid arthritis. Wearing a an elastic band on my wrist helps me to play longer also.

    I did buy a tenor in the last year which I like a lot, (Ashbury AT-40), and I have tuned it GDAE and wanted a tenor tuned DGBE without paying for another. The LG0 has a neck profile that doesn't bother me so this looks like it will work for me.

    I have a number of ukes, including a baritone, but I like the sound of steel strings of the tenor guitars. I also have a mandolin which I recently restrung with light strings so I am trying to get back to playing it.

    Like a lot of people up here, I have a fair amount of instruments. Here are a few:
    Click image for larger version. 

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  14. #12
    Registered User John Kelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: String spacing for 6 string to tenor guitar modification

    Quote Originally Posted by Tug View Post
    So I moved the strings to the middle to try it that way for a couple weeks to see if I like them there. My wife sided with you guys after I said I needed to make larger holes for the new tuners and so I left the original tuners on.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Glad you are trying out the simplest option, Tug, and I hope it works for you in the longer term. Getting your fingers used to the big spaces at the edges will take a wee while but should become familiar fairly painlessly.
    I'm playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order. - Eric Morecambe

    http://www.youtube.com/user/TheOldBores

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