You got to love it when a piece of history comes in the door at a pawn shop. That is what we have found here. A 1937 pre-war Gibson TG-50 Tenor guitar with a life time of stories, “My dad bought this Gibson the year I was born and left it to me when he went off to fight for our country” said the owner. You can just imagine the songs that have been played on it and all that family has gone through the 80 years since the first note was played. Some people have to let go of the past and trade for that newer Martin guitar they found at the pawn shop leaving behind a piece of history for the next generation to find.
This four string Gibson Archtop Tenor TG-50 is based on the six-string L-50 with f-holes, a pearl pre-war logo and a sunburst spruce top. Usually made with mahogany back and sides though this TG-50 seems to have a birch back, which isn’t too uncommon for the time period as different woods could have been used to finish up the stock. This is a solid guitar and after a little setup work and new strings it plays comfortably well. The guitar has had to have some binding repaired on its lower bout and does show a lot of wear spots and is missing it’s pick guard. Luckily it still has the original tuners, bridge and tail piece which is a plus on a guitar this old.
Besides being a cool piece of history, a tenor guitar can bring on a new level of creativity and song ideas. There are several ways to tune a four-string tenor guitar; a common way is to match the tuning of the top four strings on a six-string guitar, low to high, D-G-B-E. Another is the guitar tuning up a fourth G-C-E-A or the standard tenor tuning of C-G-D-A. Also try a few open or slide tunings… C-G-C-G and D-A-D-A these remind me of some dulcimer tunings. Keep in mind that string gauges will vary. Here is a list of a few string gauges to use from tenorguitar.com. Standard set is 036 – 024 – 016 – 010. Other suggestions are; La Bella 700, 027 – 020 – 013 – 009 x-Light, D’Addario J-66 032 – 022 – 014 – 010 Light and GHS CU-BBTG, 032 – 024 – 013 – 010 Light. The type of string will vary from maker to maker, Bronze, Steel and Nickel. The trick is to get a nice even tension across the bridge without too much pull on the neck.
Now this vintage Gibson TG-50 will set you back almost two grand. If you are thinking about getting a tenor guitar there are a number of guitar makers out there that produce tenor guitars to fit a modest budget as well, you just have to do some looking around and you’ll find one and get inspired.