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Thread: Transpose or Tune Down?

  1. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    on the path


    Quote Originally Posted by Futurethink View Post
    The best part is that you'll have to purchase another 'ukulele and tune it specifically for this song.
    Next you'll have to find some songs in other keys so you have justification for purchasing another 'ukulele.
    I can't believe this solution hasn't been suggested yet.
    These are in fact some of the the motivators for why I have more than two dozen ukes as the moment...

    - most ukes are in varitions of the GCEA-intervals modified-fourths tunings, but in different keys +/- a RANGE of semitones in variation

    - other ukes are an perfect fifths tunings, CGDA, GDAE, and others are in perfect fourths tunings, BEAD, EADG

    - the above are all also in variations of linear and re-entrant setups, and nearly every uke has different strings to accommodate it's tuning, scale length, tension and tone as I prefer..

    some might ask 'whaddya need all that for?'

    1. for my song-writng, different tunings SOUND and PLAY differently from each other, and provide inspiration across a much wider spectrum

    2. because I am at least partly insane or OCD, and don't do anything half-assed, it's 'all or nothing", 'deep-dive into the rabbit hole or stay home', and staying in one tuning is boring to me besides the fact that it excites my brain and keeps the synapses from falling into atrophy
    Last edited by Booli; 08-08-2017 at 10:28 AM.

  2. #12
    Join Date
    Aug 2014


    I find both solutions useful: I keep some tenors in Bb tuning (both reentrant and linear), the rest in C (among other tunings I use with different sizes of ukes). To play in Bb, Eb or F, I can either use a Bb uke and play as if in C, F or G, or I can just play a C uke in the desired keys—it ain't that hard, and in fact I often prefer to do this because I can more easily avoid chords with open strings, particularly for "chopping" them, as ProfChris mentioned. Changing the tuning can make other voicing options possible, so I sometimes use Bb tuning because it makes the chords in a particular passage connect better on the lower neck. I particularly like Bb tuning for slower songs in the key of F because the tonic chord is uninverted, stable and has spread, with the tonic doubled at an octave; the F chord in most other common tunings is sucky in comparison.

    I routinely transpose songs from the keys in my sources to better keys for my voice. Switching to Bb tuning (or G or D or A tuning) is a simple way to transpose fixed chord names. (This is not my usual approach to transposition, but you don't want to know about that, except perhaps because it simplifies switching between tunings, and is similar to what people do when they analyze harmonies or play by ear.)

    I wouldn't recommend changing the tuning on your uke on a song-by-song basis; the nylon-type strings aren't as resilient in this respect as steel strings, and by mid-song they'll already be going noticeably out of tune.

    Why is tenor "made for" Bb tuning? The larger body size of tenors increases their responsiveness in lower pitch ranges, so just as the "optimal" tuning for sopranos is D and for concerts, C, the "optimal" tuning for tenors is Bb. This doesn't mean that tenors sound worse in C tuning, you're just losing some of their natural fullness and depth. Stock tenor strings tend to have higher tension than concert or soprano sets, so moving down to Bb also lowers the tension, which can have both a more pleasant feel and a more pleasant sound (depending on one's personal preferences). Of course, for lower tension in C tuning one can just use lighter strings—some people just use concert sets.

    Even though I can play in any key in any fleas tuning using movable chords, some playing patterns rely on open strings, and this may drive my choice of tuning. C tuning doesn't work for everything, contrary to what uni-ukers want to believe.

    Quote Originally Posted by bellgamin View Post
    Why is Bb thy favorite, pray tell?

    Do you use a capo when playing with a group? Or.....?

    Is your Bb uke's #4 low g or hi?
    If you don't mind my two cents...

    Why is Bb tuning a favorite? Keys like Bb and Eb often suit my voice range better than keys like C and F. And I like the fuller sound of the lower tuning.

    When playing with a group, I usually just use a C or G uke, because the lead sheets will have been written with fixed chord names rather than relative notation. I could just capo a Bb uke into C tuning—if I only want to take one uke somewhere, I may do exactly this with a G or A baritone, or a Bb tenor. And since I mostly play with movable chords anyway, on a Bb uke it's not hard just to move the chord shapes up two frets to stay with the herd, making a capo unnecessary. As mentioned, it also makes chord chopping easier—valuable if playing rhythm in a mixed combo or when soloing, but the nicety would just get lost in the unbroken wall of sound of most uke groups.

    As noted above, I use both high-F and low-F Bb ukes.

  3. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Oahu Isle, Hawaii


    uh ... chord chopping = chord damping?

    @ubulele & Jim H - liked your Bb replies muchly.
    Last edited by bellgamin; 08-08-2017 at 08:12 PM.

  4. #14
    Join Date
    Aug 2014


    He's using "damping" in the sense of muting (the dampers on a piano stop the strings from sounding) rather than mere volume reduction. If you have a movable chord, all you have to do to mute the strings is release finger pressure; this can be done very quickly and with a minimum of thought and hand coordination. If you do this between quick strums (applying pressure again just before each strum), you get a choppy effect: the chords are cut a little short, introducing a break before the next chord instead of the continuous sound you get if you just maintain constant pressure. The duration of the chord and break is easy to control precisely with this method. However, this doesn't work with fixed-position chords because the open strings continue to sound. Then you have to resort to dropping a spare left-hand finger across the strings at exactly the same time you release finger pressure, or muting with the right hand.

    This video of Gerald Ross may make what we're talking about clearer:

    Of course, swing is hardly the only genre where you want to chop chords.

    While you're at it, here's his intro to swing videos—great stuff:

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