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Thread: Cliff Edwards ukulele tuning - the definitive answer!

  1. #1
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    Default Cliff Edwards ukulele tuning - the definitive answer!

    Cliff Edwards, at least in his later recordings (e.g. If I Had You), used a Martin tenor ukulele with the first and fourth strings an octave lower than normal re-entrant tuning. So taking a hypothetical GCEA tuning, the uke would be tuned low G and low A.

    That said, ignore what key he tuned his uke to; C, Bb, sub-C, whatever - it is irrelevant - tune your uke to itself. Find strings that can cope with low tuning - aquila reds are good but Ike used gut strings - and string them on top and bottom (i.e. 1 and 4) on a concert or tenor uke. Leave your normal strings on 2 and 3. Tune your uke as described above and you are on the road to playing like Cliff. It really is as simple as that; find a 'low' first and fourth string and tune your uke to itself.

    I mentioned this in passing on the ukulele cosmos forum several years ago and was rewarded with belligerent and grumpy replies and so didn't pursue it. Out of curiosity I looked just now to see if anyone else has picked up on it and it seems not so I thought I'd mention Ukulele Ike's secret tuning here.

    Try it - when you do it will be a revelation! have fun
    Last edited by tim_mantis; 08-06-2017 at 12:58 AM.

  2. #2
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    You did mean GCEA didnt you? That said your idea sounds worth trying. I always wondered why I could never get his sound right. Will give it a go and get back to you.
    Cheers ��������

  3. #3
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    Ooops! I did - thanks for pointing it out. GCEA with a low G and low A. I've edited so it should now make sense.

  4. #4
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    I joined the 'Cosmos' didn't stay long, you can probably guess why, so thanks for mentioning it over here, I like my ukes low G, so maybe I'll try it with a low A as well & see how that makes me feel about strumming.
    Trying to do justice to various musical instruments.

  5. #5
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    This is called "low reentrant" or "cuatro" tuning and Southcoast makes sets specifically for this tuning. I had one of my tenor-scaled instruments built for Eb cuatro which works great as the unwound Bb and C strings aren't so thick. You can get GCEA as well but I haven't tried it. Either way you're almost certainly going to need to get a new nut made.
    Ukelele:
    Iriguchi Tenor "Weeble" - Bb, SC SMU
    Blue Star 19" baritone Konablaster - DGBE
    KPK pineapple SLN-GCEA
    Cocobolo 16" SC#1-gCEA, SC SLMU
    Ono #42 19" baritone, Ab, LW
    Imua iET-Bb, M600
    Covered Bridge CLN pineapple - Eb cuatro, SC XLL
    Rogue bari
    Bonanza super tenor, cFAD SC LHU
    Kala KSLNG-C Lava
    Guitars:
    Cordoba C1m 1/4, TI CF127, G
    Cordoba Mini M, SC F# EFS
    Jupiter #47, TI CF127, G

    Jim's Blog

  6. #6
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    Good point about the nut, Jim. I'm gonna try it on my Boat Paddle with the pinned nut. Shouldn't be a problem.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Hanks View Post
    This is called "low reentrant" or "cuatro" tuning
    Exactly! I had my nut filed out to be slightly wider (not as painful as it sounds) to accommodate the thicker strings, but it still works fine on standard re-entrant strings too, so no damage done. No need to have a new nut made. Great that there are string sets available. I like the Aquila reds as they have a nice floppiness that sounds similar to the old recordings with gut strings.

    Now the real question: is there anyone here with expertise on genuine gut strings who can advise on which gauges would be suitable for this tuning on a tenor? Would be a great experiment.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by tim_mantis View Post
    I had my nut filed out to be slightly wider (not as painful as it sounds)
    TMI, dude, TMI!
    Ukelele:
    Iriguchi Tenor "Weeble" - Bb, SC SMU
    Blue Star 19" baritone Konablaster - DGBE
    KPK pineapple SLN-GCEA
    Cocobolo 16" SC#1-gCEA, SC SLMU
    Ono #42 19" baritone, Ab, LW
    Imua iET-Bb, M600
    Covered Bridge CLN pineapple - Eb cuatro, SC XLL
    Rogue bari
    Bonanza super tenor, cFAD SC LHU
    Kala KSLNG-C Lava
    Guitars:
    Cordoba C1m 1/4, TI CF127, G
    Cordoba Mini M, SC F# EFS
    Jupiter #47, TI CF127, G

    Jim's Blog

  9. #9
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    I am almost certain that Ike just tuned his uke a whole step down which would be an open Bb6 chord with a low F note... the reason he did that is most probably to be able to play in horn friendly keys (Bb..Eb..F..) using easy fingerings...think re-entrant C..F...G.. keys respectively.
    I myself can't hear a low A fourth note at all.. watch this video closely and you see and hear he's playing in the key of Eb..just like in most of his recordings..using F key re-entrant fingerings.. but then again, maybe I'm mistaken

    https://youtu.be/-AGL3tdw0T8
    Last edited by Nikoslikos; 11-02-2017 at 01:12 PM.

  10. #10
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    Sep 2017
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    I have tried the cuatro tuning as suggested above (low G&A 1st and 4th strings). I regret to say that's nothing close to Cliff Edwards sound..its deep enough (as Ike sounded) but no trembles at all..Ike's uke had lots of them. So I figure low F and a Bb tuning is the closest one can get to Cliff Edwards sound. Oh and those old gut strings and the way he strummed the damn thing made all the diference I guess..☺

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