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View Full Version : Thoughts on Ukuleles with More than 4 Strings



Stevelele
03-25-2015, 08:27 AM
I've been intrigued with these instruments. The 5 string, 6 string and even 8 string ukulele. I think they often have a nice ethereal sound to them, but I've noticed that when they go up for sale, even the really nice ones don't sell right away. Wondering what those who have them think. I imagine it might be harder for fingerpicking, but not sure--I've only played around with a couple of them.

SteveZ
03-25-2015, 08:41 AM
My 8-string tenor is my overall #1 ukulele. It's easier to play than my mandolin (another 8-stringer) and the sound is almost "orchestral." I mainly play rock, some reggae and a little contemporary country on it (old "Eagles" tunes really sound good!). It's just a matter of what genres are one's favorite and getting instruments appropriately tuned for it all.

Have never tried a six-string ukulele. That would be interesting.

Steve in Kent
03-25-2015, 08:55 AM
My main "go to" ukulele is a Pono MCD, but my 2nd choice is my Lanikai LU8E

The 8 string is, for me, definitely harder to fingerpick, but on letting other guys have a go they seem to make it look easy.

The sound is different, halfway between a ukulele and a mandolin, and very full.

Having the flexibility of how you string the thing, (pairs, all an octave apart, or any combination), really does change how it sounds.

Steve

Down Up Dick
03-25-2015, 09:23 AM
I find that my 6-string is difficult to play. Chords are no problem, and that's what I play with it. But I find barres are a trial to say the least. I'm working on 'em, but I still get a lotta plunks and thuds and sore fingers. I've tried fingerpicking it, but Ii gave that up right away.

When I bought it, I wanted an 8-string. I love the sound of 'em, but the store didn't have one. So I settled for the sixer. It was a big mistake. I would much rather have the 8, but it's too late now. I probably wouldn't have been able to play it either.

I like the sixer for chording, but if I had to give one up, the 6-string would be the one. :old:

hawaii 50
03-25-2015, 09:58 AM
I've been intrigued with these instruments. The 5 string, 6 string and even 8 string ukulele. I think they often have a nice ethereal sound to them, but I've noticed that when they go up for sale, even the really nice ones don't sell right away. Wondering what those who have them think. I imagine it might be harder for fingerpicking, but not sure--I've only played around with a couple of them.


I can not play a reg. 4 string uke well....so there is no way I will try a 5,6,or 8 string uke...haha...:)

they are more for strumming Hawaiian songs etc. not seen Corey or anyone else use it for fingerstyle....

my 2 cents

mattydee
03-25-2015, 10:09 AM
I play fingerpicked licks all the time on my 8 string. It fills out the sound beautifully, I think. I think of the 8 string sound as being shimmery.

Here's Stairway (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5cLPEqrLZo0).

Here's a tune by the Decemberists (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jmoYDWzfjqo).

Here's My My Hey Hey (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ur6ACWSBb2E).

It's good for strumming, too, obviously. I love the sound, but it's not for every tune. I prefer it on more modern songs.

Pueo
03-25-2015, 10:09 AM
The six-string is pretty popular among gigging traditional Hawaiian musicians. I have one, and I really like the sound. I also like the five-string, with octave G strings. The eight-string for me is similar to a 12-string guitar, just getting that fuller sound. I find he six string does pretty much what the eight-string does with fewer strings.

In the right hands, the six string is pretty magical!

http://youtu.be/S9ssL7mYIpM

hawaii 50
03-25-2015, 10:17 AM
Nice video Damon...thxs

katysax
03-25-2015, 11:54 AM
When I played guitar I went through a time when I was enamored of 12 string guitar, but I got tired of it being harder to play and it is harder to fingerpick. I also got tired of tuning it. As a consequence I haven't had much interest in double course strings on ukes.

Pueo
03-25-2015, 12:09 PM
When I played guitar I went through a time when I was enamored of 12 string guitar, but I got tired of it being harder to play and it is harder to fingerpick. I also got tired of tuning it. As a consequence I haven't had much interest in double course strings on ukes.

That is why the six-string is so cool, it has the sound of the double-course instruments, but only two "extra" strings so not that much more tricky to string up and tune.

strumsilly
03-25-2015, 12:32 PM
I find that my 6-string is difficult to play. Chords are no problem, and that's what I play with it. But I find barres are a trial to say the least. I'm working on 'em, but I still get a lotta plunks and thuds and sore fingers. I've tried fingerpicking it, but Ii gave that up right away.

When I bought it, I wanted an 8-string. I love the sound of 'em, but the store didn't have one. So I settled for the sixer. It was a big mistake. I would much rather have the 8, but it's too late now. I probably wouldn't have been able to play it either.

I like the sixer for chording, but if I had to give one up, the 6-string would be the one. :old:
I had a 6 string, but I preferred my 8 string so I sold it. I think a 5 would be nice, high and low g.

Stevelele
03-25-2015, 12:54 PM
wow, you are SO good!


I play fingerpicked licks all the time on my 8 string. It fills out the sound beautifully, I think. I think of the 8 string sound as being shimmery.

Here's Stairway (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5cLPEqrLZo0).

Here's a tune by the Decemberists (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jmoYDWzfjqo).

Here's My My Hey Hey (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ur6ACWSBb2E).

It's good for strumming, too, obviously. I love the sound, but it's not for every tune. I prefer it on more modern songs.

Photojosh
03-25-2015, 01:06 PM
Some day I intend to give the 6 or 8 string ukulele another try. But I fear that it is something I like better in concept than reality.

hollisdwyer
03-25-2015, 04:55 PM
Wow there are some great examples here of 6 & 8 string Uke players (thanks for sharing). My 6 string is not my go to instrument but it is a keeper. I actually prefer it for fingerpicking when I want a really different sound. Note that I have always loved and had played 12 string guitar for many years (My favourate players being the Rev Gary Davis, Andy Cohen, Dave Van Ronk and of course Leo Kottke). Within the Uke context I have been interested to note that the son-in-law of my best friend in the USA (Will Kimbrough) , a professional singer songwriter out of Nashville, tours the world with a 8 string and a box of effects pedals.

mattydee
03-25-2015, 06:19 PM
wow, you are SO good!

Gee, thanks!


Within the Uke context I have been interested to note that the son-in-law of my best friend in the USA (Will Kimbrough) , a professional singer songwriter out of Nashville, tours the world with a 8 string and a box of effects pedals.

Our very own Uncle Elvis (aka Mike Hind) also plays 8 string with a couple of pedals as his full time gig.

I've considered trying out the six string to see what it might give me, but I've gotten pretty used to my eight, and feel good about it. My signature implies otherwise, I know, but When I play out, I play three ukes: the 8 string, the baritone, and the custom concert. The Martin and the electric are super fun at home now and again, and the Mele travels. But the difference in sound between the traditional, the bari, and the 8 string are enough to have me bring them all three along for longer gigs.

dalamaricus
03-25-2015, 06:22 PM
Here's a recent video of Corey playing an 8-string Pono


https://vimeo.com/123058444

blue_knight_usa
03-25-2015, 06:27 PM
The six-string is pretty popular among gigging traditional Hawaiian musicians. I have one, and I really like the sound. I also like the five-string, with octave G strings. The eight-string for me is similar to a 12-string guitar, just getting that fuller sound. I find he six string does pretty much what the eight-string does with fewer strings.

In the right hands, the six string is pretty magical!

http://youtu.be/S9ssL7mYIpM

Hana Hou!!

Luke El U
03-25-2015, 06:54 PM
In the right hands, the six string is pretty magical!

http://youtu.be/S9ssL7mYIpM

OMG, he's awesome! Thanks for sharing!

Hippie Dribble
03-25-2015, 06:54 PM
6? 8? Sorry, not even Corey could make that 8 string sound good.

dsummers
03-25-2015, 06:55 PM
I have:
BP concert Kayak 5 string (octave g's)
BP baritone D body style 5 string (octave g's)
Kiwaya concert taropatch 8 string (matching courses on the strings)

I really like the sounds!

Doc_J
03-25-2015, 07:41 PM
Had a Kanilea 6-string and a custom 5-string from Jack Clark. Both were excellent instruments, and had a unique and beautiful sound. They were richer and fuller in sound. The 6-string didn't sound great on every song, but had killer overtones, seriously beautiful sound. I thought it sounded best strummed. The 5- string was more normal sounding with the added richness of both high and low G. In the end I decided that I was a four string guy, and sold both of them.

mattydee
03-26-2015, 05:10 AM
6? 8? Sorry, not even Corey could make that 8 string sound good.

Diff'rent strokes...

TheCraftedCow
03-26-2015, 05:43 AM
I traded my koa 8 string for a 1923 T-18 Martin with 2-3-3-2 stringing. With the Adirondack spruce top, it is really mellow. It is strung Dd GgG BbB Ee. It strums and picks easily. The fretting is the difference between walking in deep snow with boots to wearing snow shoes. It actually lessens the tracks in the fingers. Others who have played it have been surprised at how easy it is on the fingers. The Yasuma all mahogany is strung the same way, but the sound is much brighter. Moving the cupped hand up and down over the hole makes it sound as though it has a whammy bar.
Flat back mandolins double strung with GCEA tuning gives a nice sound. A banjo mandolin strung double as GCEA is a sound monster! The songs on the 8 strings are well done. Thank you!!

Coconut Willie
03-26-2015, 06:06 AM
Love my 6 string, saving up for a 8 string!!!

blue_knight_usa
03-26-2015, 07:02 AM
Love my 6-string and my 5-string. On the 5 string, sometimes the spacing is a bit wider so it feels very strange under your fingers but you get used to it. In my case I had a custom nut width and spacing because I knew what worked for me, so you can always adjust that on any instrument. For the 6 string you have the versatility of finger style and strumming and also using doubles of the same octave to get a very cool harmonic vibrato effect.

Here is a sound sample of the 5 string:

https://soundcloud.com/ukulele-jay/anakoneke-shark-uke-fast-strumming-ukulele-jay

This is my 6-string, but I have changed the octave strings for Spanish style chord progression and playing which doesn't work as well with the octave courses. However I just change 1 string and I'm back in business with a 6-string sound most are used to hearing. Thus, I love the versatility of the instrument and all the different sounds you can get out of it.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=giffgPpQyrs

wayfarer75
03-26-2015, 07:35 AM
I think they can sound really awesome, but I don't think they're right for me. I'd have to try it myself before I decide.

Lots of great examples of some fine uke playing on this thread, though! Thanks to everyone who shared!

JonThysell
03-26-2015, 08:09 AM
I kept wavering back and forth on getting a 6 or 8 string, mostly because I think I got a bad impression when I played them when I was first starting - cheap models plus my amateur technique plus shops not keeping them in tune and I was convinced that I like the idea of them more than actually playing one.

Fast forward to now when I finally played a Kamaka 8 string in tune, and for a Hawaiian like me it was a hit in the gut of nostalgia and good times so I bought it. Now I also have a six string KoAloha on the way and I can't be more excited. I don't really like tenors in general, but the 6/8 stringers are so much fun to play.

Steve in Kent
03-26-2015, 09:08 AM
Even though I've got an LU8E, the thought of a 5 string is tempting.

greenie44
03-26-2015, 12:41 PM
A 6 string tenor was the uke that hooked me, and another 6 string is my go to uke. I think the 6 string gives most of the fullness of an 8 string, but it's not quite as shimmery. I do have an 8 string and a few 4 strings, which do sound better sometimes, but still, my 6 string is right by my side.

hollisdwyer
03-26-2015, 02:03 PM
....This is my 6-string, but I have changed the octave strings for Spanish style chord progression and playing which doesn't work as well with the octave courses.

Just to clarify, in the video, what you have done is use doubles of the same octave on the C and A courses?

blue_knight_usa
03-26-2015, 10:00 PM
Just to clarify, in the video, what you have done is use doubles of the same octave on the C and A courses?

Correct and the courses are tuned opposed where each string is a few cents opposite the other.

FiL
03-27-2015, 03:09 AM
My Lanikai O-8E has been my go-to instrument for about eight years now. When I play a four-string it's usually my banjo-uke. I like fingerpicking on both.

Here's a fingerpicking example on my 8-string:


https://youtu.be/cKX2pwwbw9k

8-stringers are certainly not for everyone. One of the reasons I like it is that it sounds good when paired with acoustic guitars. It also sounds fuller when just accompanying myself on the folk and rock stuff that I like to play. Tin Pan Alley stuff tends to sound better on 4-string ukes.

- FiL

k0k0peli
04-25-2015, 10:34 AM
Hi -- I'm new here at UU. I've fingerpicked guitars for a half century and applied mostly the same techniques to a soprano uke (Kohala KT-SPTU) for almost two years. (I've been flatpicking mandolins intermittently for a couple decades and fingerpicking mandos seriously for a few months. I fingerpick my Ovation 12-string, too, so I'm no stranger to multi-course axes.) My big fingers have a hard time at that soprano's first fret. :(

I've a multi-course uke-like instrument, a cheap cuarto-menor I bought in Paracho, Michoacan. (I wanted a guitar but my car was stuffed to the roof; the mandolin-sized cuarto was all that would fit for the drive home across Mexico.) It's like a fat flatback mandolin with four 3-string courses which I tune in Taro Patch. VERY rich sound, VERY easy on the fingers, and only slightly bitchy to keep in tune. Sounds great with a slide, too.

I bought a Kala KA-6 six-string uke a few days ago and immediately hit a snag: the top course had the low octave on the outside. Fine for strumming, lousy for fingering melodies. I swapped the strings, with the high A on the outside. I pick right near the bridge to minimize the low octave when needed. My index fingertip is growing a nice callous. Ouch.

How have other fingerpickers here adapted guitar or banjo right-hand techniques to 6-string ukes? Am I only only one to swap strings in the top course?

CeeJay
04-25-2015, 01:01 PM
Hmm ,have to tread careful.

In the wrong hands a Lanakai 8 string can sound loud and obnoxious.

Just Saying .

Chris.

k0k0peli
04-26-2015, 08:42 AM
Would I be a heretic if I went the Mandolele route? Maybe one of those cheap US$45 Rogue mandos from Musician's Friend, restrung linear? Or is that just laziness? Sure, I'll eventually work out techniques for the Kala KA-6. But I'm old and impatient. An easy-to-play mandolele would nicely match a cheap Kohala soprano restrung to mando tuning, a ukelin. Think of them as hybrids, not bastards.

wayward
04-26-2015, 09:12 AM
Would I be a heretic if I went the Mandolele route? Maybe one of those cheap US$45 Rogue mandos from Musician's Friend, restrung linear? Or is that just laziness? Sure, I'll eventually work out techniques for the Kala KA-6. But I'm old and impatient. An easy-to-play mandolele would nicely match a cheap Kohala soprano restrung to mando tuning, a ukelin. Think of them as hybrids, not bastards.

I posted this link on a thread about 5 strings the other day (having recently picked up a Kala ATP5 which I'm loving the full sound of - but I play rhythm & only pick it occasionally..) : http://joaofrazao.net/?c=6&id=1 It might be of interest to you k0k0peli.

k0k0peli
04-26-2015, 10:56 AM
I posted this link on a thread about 5 strings the other day (having recently picked up a Kala ATP5 which I'm loving the full sound of - but I play rhythm & only pick it occasionally..) : http://joaofrazao.net/?c=6&id=1 It might be of interest to you k0k0peli. Yes, that's an interesting axe. I might go in that direction when my budget catches up with me.

I'll repeat my question about the Kala KA-6 and similar 6-strings with the A doubled at octaves and the bass string on top when shipped from the factory. Does anyone else flip the strings in that course? For strumming, that's not really important, but for fingerpicking, it's A Big Thing to me.

mama207
04-27-2015, 02:28 AM
I love love love my Luna 8 string. I love the way it sounds, playing it, and the strong vibrations it gives off. I strum and sing and have found it great for that, no trouble with chording including bars. Don't do any picking so can't speak to that. The doubled strings are pretty close together though

lizziep
04-27-2015, 05:28 AM
I love the sound of a 6-string uke, but I don't like playing it. I guess I like to keep it simple when I'm doing the strumming!

andylama
04-27-2015, 11:19 AM
I own 3 ukes: a 4 string, a 6 string, and an 8 string.
I play the 6 string the most. I just like the overall vibe the best. The sound is fuller and has a chime-like quality that I just love. A regular 4-string sounds small and thin by comparison.

Finger-picking is definitely going to be trickier with any doubled strings, however...
I find that plain old strumming is actually EASIER when you have more than 4 strings. The strings feel closer together (actually, the spaces between courses feel narrower), so the strumming finger(s) glide across them with less resistance or 'bumpiness'.
As for fretting chords, it stands to reason that it would take more pressure than with 4 strings, but I have big hands, so I don't perceive it as being substantially more difficult. I just have to be mindful whenever a barre is involved.
Fretting the common shapes is absolutely no different than with a 4 string. Restringing is no hassle at all. The sound is worth it.

So I'm definitely in the narrow niche of uke folks who prefers having more than 4 strings.
Sometimes I think I want an Ohana Tiple (10 string), but at that point, restringing becomes a 'resource management project'. ;)

All that said, I like having different instrument configurations for different applications. There is no one-size-fits-all uke for me.

Domiuke
05-04-2015, 02:36 AM
This is a great famous player 6 strings tenor :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tjqNS7UE14A

strumsilly
05-04-2015, 03:33 AM
Hmm ,have to tread careful.

In the wrong hands a Lanakai 8 string can sound loud and obnoxious.

Just Saying .

Chris.
mine does, that's what I like about it

SteveZ
05-04-2015, 05:03 AM
Hmm ,have to tread careful.

In the wrong hands a Lanakai 8 string can sound loud and obnoxious.

Just Saying .

Chris.

In the wrong hands, anything will indeed sound loud and obnoxious.

An 8-string can sound "orchestral" whereas a 4-string often sounds like it could use some backup.

k0k0peli
05-05-2015, 12:34 AM
I own 3 ukes: a 4 string, a 6 string, and an 8 string.
I play the 6 string the most. I just like the overall vibe the best. The sound is fuller and has a chime-like quality that I just love. A regular 4-string sounds small and thin by comparison.

Finger-picking is definitely going to be trickier with any doubled strings, however...
I find that plain old strumming is actually EASIER when you have more than 4 strings. The strings feel closer together (actually, the spaces between courses feel narrower), so the strumming finger(s) glide across them with less resistance or 'bumpiness'.
As for fretting chords, it stands to reason that it would take more pressure than with 4 strings, but I have big hands, so I don't perceive it as being substantially more difficult. I just have to be mindful whenever a barre is involved.
Fretting the common shapes is absolutely no different than with a 4 string. Restringing is no hassle at all. The sound is worth it.

So I'm definitely in the narrow niche of uke folks who prefers having more than 4 strings.
Sometimes I think I want an Ohana Tiple (10 string), but at that point, restringing becomes a 'resource management project'. ;)

All that said, I like having different instrument configurations for different applications. There is no one-size-fits-all uke for me. I play mandolin and 12-string guitar, and a 12-string Mexican tenor-'uke-like cuatro-menor with four courses of triple strings, tuned tarapatch, so the two doubled strings on my Kala 6-string tenor are no bother, fretting-wise. Fingerpicking is indeed trickier on the Kala KA-6 because its A is doubled an octave down! In a few posts here, I've mentioned the technique changes needed to deal with this. BTW playing that Mexican 12-string 'uke is really really easy. Each course of triple steel strings just slides beneath my fingers.

I haven't tried an 8-string 'uke yet. (I'm about to restring a mandolin as an 8-string 'uke but that's not the same.) If I ever get one, I'll have to deal with issues like: Are the doubled strings at octaves or unison? If octaves, is the lower string physicall above or below the higher? This greatly affects fingerpicking.

Anyway, I like playing with many strings. The more, the merrier, eh?

SteveZ
05-05-2015, 03:30 AM
I play mandolin and 12-string guitar, and a 12-string Mexican tenor-'uke-like cuatro-menor with four courses of triple strings, tuned tarapatch, so the two doubled strings on my Kala 6-string tenor are no bother, fretting-wise. Fingerpicking is indeed trickier on the Kala KA-6 because its A is doubled an octave down! In a few posts here, I've mentioned the technique changes needed to deal with this. BTW playing that Mexican 12-string 'uke is really really easy. Each course of triple steel strings just slides beneath my fingers.

I haven't tried an 8-string 'uke yet. (I'm about to restring a mandolin as an 8-string 'uke but that's not the same.) If I ever get one, I'll have to deal with issues like: Are the doubled strings at octaves or unison? If octaves, is the lower string physicall above or below the higher? This greatly affects fingerpicking.

Anyway, I like playing with many strings. The more, the merrier, eh?

Have done that, nylon strings and all, and was quite disappointed. As I feared, the mando is just too thick and strongly braced to allow nylon strngs to perform worth a darn. Trued it on an old A-style Fender 101 and also on a flat-top Army-Navy - same sad results, but fun in trying.

k0k0peli
05-05-2015, 05:06 AM
Have done that, nylon strings and all, and was quite disappointed. As I feared, the mando is just too thick and strongly braced to allow nylon strngs to perform worth a darn. Trued it on an old A-style Fender 101 and also on a flat-top Army-Navy - same sad results, but fun in trying. I already figured that nylon strings on a mandolin and steel strings on a uke were bad ideas -- although I *could* use steel or slik-n-steel strings on a soprano uke if I kept the tension down to a dull roar, er I mean to a safe level. No, the mando will get metal strings. It's time for me to whip out the online calculators and determine which are the best gauges.