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Thread: Compendium of ukulele alternate tunings? Compile an article for UU?

  1. #1

    Default Compendium of ukulele alternate tunings? Compile an article for UU?

    I've been mucking around with various alternate ukulele tunings over time, and it struck me that it might be really cool to have a comprehensive list of the possible (practical) ukulele tunings. Does anyone think this might be something we could compile together and use to create a permanent article for UU?

    A few thoughts: to focus on the distinctive possibilities, I'd suggest that transpositions of a given tuning not be given a separate entry (that is, both GCEG and ADF#A be listed together as "Open C Major and variants), perhaps ditto for re-entrant variants.

    Here's a potential starting off list:

    Standard: GCEA. Aka: my-dog-has-fleas, C-tuning

    Old Time banjo-based tunings

    Open C Major: GCEG. Aka: banjo tuning
    Open C minor: GCE♭G Aka: minor banjo tuning
    Sawmill: GCFG
    Double-G GDGA (taken from banjo "Double C" tuning)

    I did note one player on YouTube (Jack Haas) who states he uses "oud tuning" (clip here). He doesn't specify (I should write him and ask), but given that a common 5-course Egyptian oud tuning is G - A - D - G - C, it would appear that GCFB would be a likely choice, though might require slightly lighter strings on the highest two.

    So far as other tunings I'm dimly aware of but haven't tried, I've heard of "wahine" tunings that are an open 7th chord.

    Anyone else think that cataloging various feasible tunings, along with notes as to how they're used, whether re-stringing is required, etc. would make for a useful article?
    Last edited by MatthewVanitas; 08-04-2010 at 01:04 AM.

  2. #2
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    Cool idea, but you kind of have to have a reason to use an alternate tuning. Case in point: I wanted to learn a bagpipe song, so I figured out how to get drone strings going and went to town with: AAEA.
    Peace, Brad Bordessa

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  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hippie Guy View Post
    Cool idea, but you kind of have to have a reason to use an alternate tuning. Case in point: I wanted to learn a bagpipe song, so I figured out how to get drone strings going and went to town with: AAEA.
    Certainly, alternate tunings should have an actual application, but that's certainly the case with the ones I mention above.

    A tuning provides a certain direction, shaping the playing style. I don't necessarily look on "alternate" tunings as being a "deviation" from uke tuning, as the GCEA tuning is itself a form of deliberate choice. "You can't stand still on a moving train" and all.

    EDIT: On your AAEA tuning, are you slacking your C string all the way down to A, or restringing? I play a lot of Appalachian dulcimer, so pretty familiar with drone strings, just didn't know how slack a C dropped down to A is. Though I suppose if you do your melody work on the lowest A and use that middle A for drone you don't need as much tension as you would on a fingered string.

    EDIT2: I'd only tried Sawmill tuning briefly on banjo in the past, and only once on uke, but I tuned up to it again today and have been having a ton of fun with it. It sounds a bit odd, and takes a little work to get your head around, but it has a very distinctive sound. I've been working on clawhammering the tune "House Carpenter" (link to a non-uke version), and it's about perfect for that dark, plaintive sound.
    Last edited by MatthewVanitas; 08-04-2010 at 01:42 PM.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by MatthewVanitas View Post
    EDIT: On your AAEA tuning, are you slacking your C string all the way down to A, or restringing? I play a lot of Appalachian dulcimer, so pretty familiar with drone strings, just didn't know how slack a C dropped down to A is. Though I suppose if you do your melody work on the lowest A and use that middle A for drone you don't need as much tension as you would on a fingered string.
    I just tuned the C down. It's not too slack, but I'm using Worths so maybe that changes things. I'm using the high A and E strings for melody and as I pick, the two drones just kind of ring - even without picking them.
    Peace, Brad Bordessa

    Live 'Ukulele.com
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    Live 'Ukulele Youtube Channel

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  5. #5

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    possibly reviving a dead thread, but has anyone tried an open g tuning? GBDG? I'm going to try to convince my girlfriend to retune, and while looking for alternate tunings i found this, so figured i would ask...

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    I'm actually trying GBDG today! I just figured out it would correspond to the tuning a 2nd guitar in a guitar-based High-Life band (High-Life = really beautiful Ghanaian pop music from early to mid 20th Century - tuning of 1st guitar would correspond to our dear re-entrant GCEA). I found this thread while searching for "GBDG". Did you convince your girlfriend to try it?
    Kala KA-SS | Andy Perkins Customised Gold Tone BUS | Barnes & Mullins BMUK2C | Peanut Eleuke | Kiwaya KS1 | Lava Flea | Mainland Red Cedar Tenor | Mini iUke Natural Cedar Piccolo
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    Turns out this tuning works great for some High-Life songs, such as "All For You" by E. T. Mensah. But for most of them regular GCEA does the job.
    Kala KA-SS | Andy Perkins Customised Gold Tone BUS | Barnes & Mullins BMUK2C | Peanut Eleuke | Kiwaya KS1 | Lava Flea | Mainland Red Cedar Tenor | Mini iUke Natural Cedar Piccolo
    Pono AB coming soon!

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    Default How about this tuning

    C:F:C:F it is a favorite giving a country sound.

  9. #9

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    I love the Aquila fifths tunings - GDAE for soprano uke, and CGDA for concert uke. You can cobble together a CGDA for baritones out of DGBE and GCEA sets, too. I'm not sure if there's an option for tenors. I got used to fifths on mandolin but I got tired of the slight awkwardness of doubled strings. Trying it out on uke was a revelation. It's a tuning extremely well-suited to playing melodic lines on short-scale instruments, even more so than the fourths tuning that you can easily make by slightly tweaking a low G string set(say, from GCEA to GCFBb). The downside is when you strum chords it sounds more mandoliny than ukey, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

  10. #10
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    i like 5ths tuning as well, but neither my fingers or ears have the strength for mandolin. I've been playing with a little guitar tuned to g2 c3 a3 e4 for the full sound and similarity to ukulele fingering, and considering switching it around to g3 c3 e4 a3 or similar. the g2 sounds too low and it muddies up the chords.

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