Tenor guitars and baritone ukuleles have many similar features, including a short scale, four strings and a parlor-sized guitar-shaped body. If you have an instrument fitting that description, but aren't sure which it is, take a close look at it from top to bottom and compare the basic features of tenor guitars and baritone ukuleles.
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Measure the length of the instrument's neck. If it is 21 to 23 inches long, it is a tenor guitar. If it is 18 to 20 1/4 inches, it is a baritone ukulele.
Assess the overall length of the instrument. If it is more than 31 inches, it is a tenor guitar. If it is 29 to 31 inches, it is a baritone ukulele.
Evaluate the width of the neck. If it is as thin as a banjo neck, it's a tenor guitar. If it's wider than a banjo's neck, it's a baritone ukulele.
Compare the headstock to the headstock of a banjo. If they look similar, it is a tenor guitar.
Check the tuners to see if they are for nylon strings or steel strings. If they are for nylon, it's a baritone ukulele. If they're for steel, it's a tenor guitar.
Look at the anchor. If it has a tailpiece string anchor, it is a tenor guitar. If it has a bridge anchor, it's a baritone ukulele.
Inspect the frets close to the nut for the wear that steel tenor guitar strings can cause. If the frets seem worn down, it's a tenor guitar. If not, it may be a baritone ukulele, but you can't rule out a newer tenor.
See if the bridge and tailpiece can move. If so, it is a tenor guitar. Luthiers used to make tenors this way to compensate for the pressure steel strings can exert.
Tips and warnings
- Banjo players used tenor guitars as crossover instruments when they first came out, so tenor guitars came with some banjo-like features.
- If your instrument's neck is less than 18 inches long, you're probably looking at a tenor ukulele or a custom instrument.
- Don't string your instrument until you know what it is, because putting tenor guitar strings on a baritone ukulele can damage the instrument.