I recently built a tenor guitar and noticed that most tenors (but not all) have a fret position marker at the 10th fret, not at the 9th. This makes the tenors consistent with banjos, mandolins, citterns and bouzoukis, which traditionally mark the 10th, not the 9th fret position.
But 6 string guitars do it at the 9th.
There is probably some interesting history behind this. Can anyone explain how it ended up this way?
Was there some sort of split at the First International Conference For Fretboard Inlay, insults were hurled, the guitar makers walked out, refused to answer any further correspondence, have been seething about it ever since.......
I don't know the reason, but most of the Selmer-style guitars I've seen (including one I had for many years) have the marker at the 10th fret.
"Was there some sort of split at the First International Conference For Fretboard Inlay, insults were hurled, the guitar makers walked out, refused to answer any further correspondence, have been seething about it ever since......."
Five star satire. Creative & very WELL DONE!!!! :)
No info as to the origins. I'm in the "I don't care" camp but will appreciate the historical perspective in anyone knows it.
Thanks again, Mark :)
My understanding is that tenor guitars were originally developed for tenor banjo players who wanted an easy transition to guitar when the tenor banjo sound became less popular. I think they just mimicked the banjo's dot placement.
Quote: " I recently built a tenor guitar and noticed that most tenors (but not all) have a fret position marker at the 10th fret, not at the 9th.
Quote: " There is probably some interesting history behind this. Can anyone explain how it ended up this way?"
Quote: "will appreciate the historical perspective in anyone knows it."
Quote: "My understanding is that tenor guitars were originally developed for tenor banjo players who wanted an easy transition to guitar"
- Snipped for Shortness -
Quote: "I think they just mimicked the banjo's dot placement."
Let me get this straight.
You made a Tenor Guitar but didn't have a clue why you were making it that way? :)
It is precisely as Steve described.... Well... Almost.
A while back some Fine Producers and Recording Engineers of my acquaintance were getting hot under the collar as to what Tuning as actually correct for the Tenor Guitar.
I didn't want to get caught up in a debate about this because how it is Tuned would have in Historical Terms (and before the advent of Global Internet) be largely dependent upon the Traditions in the Region of the World in which you lived, and the Local Cultural Background within which you grew up.
So I felt a Wider Perspective of the History of the Instrument and its Development, How and Why it came into being, and the Way in which it was used, would helpfully inform their Increasingly Polarised Debate and a Knowledge too Heavily Dependant upon Modern Internet Expert Opinion. Many of them were very Experienced Producers, so Recording rather than Musical Instruments and their Development History was the Forte of these Guys.
I remember one them asking us one day how to Hook Up Four Pro Tools 192 HD Recording Systems fully Synced as he had never done it before. He was Mixing the Sound for the Film Iron Man, and had 1,000 Seperate Tracks of Audio to Mix, which was why he needed Several Top Recording Systems all working together at once. Most of them were Grammy Award Winning Engineers, well worthy of Proper Respect. So I wrote a little on the History of the Tenor Guitar, explaining the Rationale of How the Instrument came into being.
If you can manage to read the link below, then you will not only understand WHY the Dots are as Steve explained, but if you think a little, also understand WHY sometimes, the Dots are Differently Placed. Below is a small segment of a quite long Thread.
OK Peter, you have brought me one step closer to understanding the answer.
I get that the tenor guitar was essentially invented as a transitional instrument to entice banjo players to switch instruments when the guitar sound was becoming more popular. So it makes sense that its markings would be laid out in a way that would be familiar to such musicians.
The question that I couldn't understand was why the guitar's fret marker ended up different from all the older instruments. I take it that your answer is that it has to do with being tuned in fifths; i.e. all of the instruments that have a 10th fret dot are usually tuned in fifths, while the 6-string guitar is tuned in fourths (except the B string). That seems important - but I still can't see how the 9th fret position is so important to mark in that tuning system - or the 10th fret that significant on a mandolin/banjo. I think my lack of musical theory is letting me down here. Can anyone help me out?
Quote: "I think my lack of musical theory is letting me down here."
I believe you are over thinking.
What is Essentially a Basic Design Aesthetic.
It is obvious reading the Thread linked above, that some, Manufactured, Purchased and Tuned the Tenor Guitar treating it as though it was a Banjo Derived Instrument.
And that others, Manufactured, Purchased and Tuned the Tenor Guitar treating it as if it was a Guitar Derived Instrument.
So it was in a sense, a HYBRID Instrument with Appeal to Existing Users of both Banjo's and Guitars.
Emerging at a Time in History strewn with numerous examples of HYBRID Instruments.
Allow me to quote from the link above.
"But the point about the design of the Instruments aesthetics, stringing and tuning, would be related to making the Instrument appeal toward previous, or current users, of existing Instruments."
The Position of the Dot Markers in the Neck were simply part of the "design of the Instruments aesthetics". So dependant upon the Manufacturers Own Innate Design Aesthetic or whether a Manufacturer anticipated and expected their Targeted Customer Base to be derived from the World of the Banjo or the World of the Guitar, they would Position the Markers Accordingly.
The reason people were arguing about HOW the Instrument should be Tuned, was because from an Historical Perspective, there were always Two Camps that users fell into, and a Wider Part of that History was determined Geographically. However, one Camp was Existing Banjo Users and the other Camp, Existing Guitar Users. So DEPENDANT upon whether the Bulk of Expected Customers were anticipated to be Existing Banjo Users or Existing Guitar Users, the Working Design Aesthetics of the Musical Instrument would be laid out by the Maker, Accordingly to Suit Those Users.
I just bought a New Car for my Wife.
It's a Crossover Product that is essentially a Hybrid.
That Blends Design Aesthetics derived from Two Existing Design Concepts.
And Friends and Colleagues of mine have been busy Creating another Hybrid, for the Future.
Think of the Customer.
You are Designing the Product to be Purchased by.
Then Create Design Aesthetics that will Facilitate and Ease Functionality for Them.
So quite naturally, if you Anticipate them to be Banjo Players, you will obviously place the Dot at the 10th Fret.
But if you Anticipate them to be Guitar Players, or have a Strong "This is a Guitar" Product Design Concept, you will place the Dot at the 9th Fret.
A Good Butler or Valet has the Gift of Anticipation, they know what their Master will Want or Need even before he has even thought for a moment of about it, let alone asked for it.
A Good Designer or Musical Instrument Maker does the same, and provides for what they Anticipate their Clients and Customers will Expect to Find. What will Delight Them, as it Facilities their Ease of Transition to, and Performance with, their New Instrument.
Everything is in its Proper Place.
Exactly Where The Customer would Expect and Want it to be.
This is How to Design and Make a Product, that Customers Want to Use and Purchase.
The Anticipated Customer is the Most Important Element in the Design Equation.
It seems to me that the point that is missing is the idea that banjos, mandolins and guitars are all fundamentally different instruments that developed along parallel but different paths. The placement of dot is a very small detail that, even today, isn't truly standardized and I doubt that most of the "developmental" builders were all that concerned that they follow the standards used on other instruments. Todays mandolins and banjos have them in one place and guitar had them in another because, at some point that became "the way to do it". I don't think there is any mysterious motives behind the difference, it's just mandolin builders making mandolins like other mandolin builders make mandolins with the same being true of guitar and banjo builders. Now, MOST builders tend to place them where players are used to seeing them.
It's pretty much settled that Tenor Guitars, wherever the first one was made, became a viable product for instrument builders because of the movement away from banjos in music in America.That's probably the reason that they are "tenor" guitars rather than developing into "base" ukuleles. The market they filled was as a transitional guitar for tenor banjo players. Wanting to sell as many tenor guitars as they can, it only makes sense that builders would make thing as easy as possible for their target market and place the dot where banjo players were use to seeing them. For all intents and purposes the instrument is a guitar body with a tenor banjo neck grafted to it. The idea that the dots on this "guitar" are placed like a banjo just simply makes sense and probably has nothing at all to do with tuning or anything else other than banjos and guitars being different instruments to begin with.
So, to sum up, I think that tenor guitars have dot placement like banjo's because they were pretty much a banjo with a guitar body which were initially marketed and sold to banjo players.
I think that dot placement probably started out as an arbitrary design decision with no one in any camp thinking about how the other instrument's dots were placed which resulted in the traditions we have today.
I think that how any instrument is tuned is a completely different topic and probably has nothing direct to do with dot placement. I would like to point out that almost all of the tenor guitars I've seen have short scales and are usually tuned either in 5th like a mandolin OR as the first four on a guitar but a 3rd higher. This appears to be a more modern tuning which only makes sense given the original nature of the tenor guitar as a guitar like banjo.
That's my "2 cents" worth.
Quote: "The placement of dot is a very small detail that, even today, isn't truly standardized and I doubt that most of the "developmental" builders were all that concerned that they follow the standards used on other instruments. Todays mandolins and banjos have them in one place and guitar had them in another because, at some point that became "the way to do it"."
Maccaferri and Selmer Maccaferri Instruments would be amongst the most notable exceptions to the Emerging Generally Accepted Standards we would Recognise and Expect Today.
Maccaferri's Guitars were Distributed and Sold by Selmer Paris (who had previously specialised in Brass Section/Woodwind Instruments) for only two years, before he parted with the Company, mainly setting up Production enacted by Italian Workers.
Whereupon thereafter Selmer Redesigned their own versions of the Maccaferri Style Guitars. Maccaferri's was a Luthier and Classical Guitarist who basically gave the latter up because of an Accident. He completely preceded Django Reinhardt's adoption and endorsement of the Maccaferri/Selmer Style Guitar and because of that, and quite incredibly, Maccaferri neither knew Reinhardt, nor his Music.(although Django also Played Guitars fabricated by Busato and Di Mauro and loved to borrow other Guitars when Photographed so it seemed as if he Owned and Played an Impressive Lot of Different Guitars, even American Ones).
Incredibly, Django Reinhardt's own involvement in an Accident not only resulted in a partial paralysis of two of his Fingerboard Digits, but Surgeons definitely wanted to amputate his paralysed right leg. Despite this he refused the Surgery and struggled on with a Cane for a Year, gradually regaining the use of his leg and becoming able to walk. His Brother Joseph (another Fine Guitarist) purchased a New Guitar for Django and gradual rehabilitation, heavy practise and relearning to Play the Guitar with his existing Two Good Fingers eventually paid off with Eventual Improvement and Outstanding Accomplishments.
Django was fairly scathing about the American Guitars he Played during a visit to America.
But although Django was Belgium and a Gypsy. In the 1930's, France (historically Europe's most populous nation) where he gained his reputation saw an Explosion in Migration much of whom came from former French Colonies.
African Americans, overwhelming descended from Africans of the Colonial Era swelled the population in France during the 1800's. It is reliably estimated that the numbers of what was known as the Free Blacks emigrating to Paris from Louisiana alone after Napoleon Bonaparte sold the Territory to the United States in the early 1800's was around 50,000.
During WWI another 200,000 came over and thereafter a Large Community of African Americans was formed, the majority of which were from Southern States. Welcomed in France as Liberators and free of racial tensions in their Homeland, many decided to Re-settle in France. This heralded the birth of Jazz in France and Black Culture in Paris. Banjo's and their Traditional Placement of Dots, of course, came with them.
A Perfect Cultural Mix of Influences for the Emerging Talent of Django, whose Gypsy Heritage was of course already based around the Highly Portable Guitar, going back to Flamenco and Beyond.
This explains why the Maccaferri Selmer Guitars had Banjo, rather than Guitar based Dot Placement.
I read once that the tenor banjo was originally called the tango banjo and that it was a typo that changed it to the tenor banjo. Just thought I'd add an extra bit of trivia into the mix.
I've wondered about ten fret thing as well but I've never found a good answer. I was very interested right after I made a banjo with the ninth fret marked.
I can see this thread turning into a game of Balderdash.
It has been interesting to kick these ideas around.
So, I have learned that the 9th or 10th position fret marker probably started as a pretty arbitrary thing, with a different tradition emerging among makers of American guitars (mostly at the 9th) and of other instruments (mostly 10th); and the tenor and Maccaferri guitars became an exceptions because of anticipated customer bases who were used to playing banjos. That sounds plausible. Thanks folks.
One point to ponder is that the Italian luthier, Maccaferri, designed the Selmer (10th fret dot), and the Oscar Schmidt guitar factory in Jersey City (10th fret dot) was staffed with a largely Italian luthier workforce.
Additionally, the vast majority guitars I've seen from the so-called Italian Luthiers guild (Netuno, Cerrito et al), working in Little Italy in the first part of the 20th century, have the dot placed at the 10th.
Schmidt factory made literally hundreds of thousands of guitars in its hay day, many survive today, and you'll find the dot consistently at the 10th fret.
It's quite unusual to find a 10th fret dot in other American-made guitars from the first half of the 20th century. Regal, in Chicago, also mass-produced guitar by the zillions, and I know of one model, the Alamo, with a 10th fret dot.