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View Full Version : B Tuning, what are the benefits and how does it change how you play?



hollisdwyer
08-01-2015, 12:11 AM
I just read/listened to a review of 4 fabulous Tenors (Grimes, Hannam, Kinnard and Mya Moe) tuned to B. They all sounded great.

Pardon my ignorance but I'd appreciate it if someone would explain why you would do this. The two groups that I regularly play with tune to C.

When you tune to B does it change the chord shapes. Could you use a capo to quickly bring it up to C (as you can see I don't even know what notes the 4 strings are tuned to).

I am really intrigued and would appreciate learning the potential benefits of this different tuning.

Cheers to all you helpful people in advance.

k0k0peli
08-01-2015, 03:40 AM
Could not many of these benefits accrue by using thicker composition strings?

Mea culpa: for all that I possess a number of 'ukes, most are pretty new; I haven't changed very many 'uke strings (guitars, banjos and mandos are another matter!) and I haven't surveyed the composition string market thoroughly. I assume that, as with metal, various composition gages are offered. Adding heavier strings should give warmer tones, lower tension, high-action relief, etc without detuning.

Not that I normally would need to detune anyway -- natural string-stretch handles that!

caukulele
08-01-2015, 04:09 AM
I use B tuning on most of my ukes, because I love the lower deeper tones most of the time..and a slightly lower range is much more comfortable for my voice when I sing alone.

Doc_J
08-01-2015, 04:54 AM
Could not many of these benefits accrue by using thicker composition strings?


Thicker strings won't change the string frequencies if still tuned GCEA. Higher linear density strings will require more tension in GCEA, than thinner strings of the same material, so they should excite the top a bit more. But, they will sound pretty much the same from a frequency perspective.


I use B tuning on most of my ukes, because I love the lower deeper tones most of the time..and a slightly lower range is much more comfortable for my voice when I sing alone.

Well stated. I agree with Denise.

CTurner
08-01-2015, 07:15 AM
Dirk at Southcoast has written pretty extensively about the B tuning and why, sonically, they can be a perfect tuning for many tenor size instruments. I automatically start with B tuning on all new tenors I've had and go from there.

hollisdwyer
08-01-2015, 07:28 AM
Dirk at Southcoast has written pretty extensively about the B tuning and why, sonically, they can be a perfect tuning for many tenor size instruments. I automatically start with B tuning on all new tenors I've had and go from there.

I subscribe to Dirks newsletter so will look up this info. Thanks to all who so far have provided some very interesting POV's that I will now have to get my head around.
Has any seen a published chord chart for B tuning or do you have to work it out yourself?

igorthebarbarian
08-01-2015, 05:36 PM
Bb is where it's at! For tenors for sure

spongeuke
08-01-2015, 07:55 PM
I have a Treholippee that is essentially a wall hanger until Halloween when I take it down to play Season of the Witch (in costume). this past year I played the song the song on it without checking the tuning. It had changed to Bb and playing the chord shapes A7 D7 & D9 which went to actually G7 C7 & C9 worked much better on the Treholippee than the normal high G. I now leave it Bb tuned .

Mattyukaholic
08-01-2015, 09:23 PM
I have a concert that sounds wonderful in Bb - really deep and warm sounding. Similarly I even have a soprano in B. I personally find tenors in C tuning a bit brittle and strangled sounding. Matching the tuning to the resonance of the uke is the way to go for me.

whistleman123
08-02-2015, 03:08 AM
If I wanted to tune my concert (which is now on C tuning) down to Bb would I need to buy different strings? It is currently strung with low G Reds.

Doc_J
08-02-2015, 03:54 AM
If I wanted to tune my concert (which is now on C tuning) down to Bb would I need to buy different strings? It is currently strung with low G Reds.

They should be ok. It depends on your setup. Tune it down. If it doesn't buzz, you're good.

k0k0peli
08-02-2015, 07:14 AM
Matching the tuning to the resonance of the uke is the way to go for me. Such is easily accomplished with a sound-meter app. I checked my medium-quality concert -- it's resonant at D! But I still keep it in C. If I want that much brightness I'll fondle a playful soprano.

Rllink
08-02-2015, 07:40 AM
I've been hesitant to ask, hoping I would figure it out, but if you tune all your strings a semitone down, then you either play bar chords, or capo the first fret, to bring it back up to C tuning, where do you gain all this "warmth"?

k0k0peli
08-02-2015, 09:27 AM
I've been hesitant to ask <snip> where do you gain all this "warmth"? In the bonfire.

Q: Why is a baritone 'uke better than a soprano?
A: It burns longer.

dirtiestkidever
08-02-2015, 10:07 AM
As others mentioned, B or Bb tuning does often add a lot of warmth and decreases 'jangle'. It definitely depends on what sound you are looking for. But I like a very warm sound and fairly low string tension. I tune tenors and concerts down to B or Bb pretty much all of the time. Sopranos to me are generally fine in C thought I have a large body cedar top soprano which I prefer in B as well. I just play all the songs using the same fingerings so songs in the key of C are now in the key of B. I rarely play with others so this isn't an issue and it often makes them a bit easier for me to sing along with.

I am actually surprised that so many people play tenors tuned to C in re-entrant tuning. That whole setup just feels wrong to me. I normally play sopranos in re-entrant tuning but to me the point of a tenor is a deeper, warmer, richer sound which I think is best captured with softwood tops, low G tuning, and Bb tuning. But if everyone liked Vanilla then Baskin Robbins wouldn't offer so many flavors. It's all about what sounds good to you.

Ukuleleblues
08-02-2015, 10:20 AM
Bb is where it's at! For tenors for sureGoing to have to try that, do you play Low G(low F)?

Doc_J
08-02-2015, 10:31 AM
I've been hesitant to ask, hoping I would figure it out, but if you tune all your strings a semitone down, then you either play bar chords, or capo the first fret, to bring it back up to C tuning, where do you gain all this "warmth"?

Well, I don't use a capo. I just play in a lower key.

Ukuleleblues
08-02-2015, 11:36 AM
I've been hesitant to ask, hoping I would figure it out, but if you tune all your strings a semitone down, then you either play bar chords, or capo the first fret, to bring it back up to C tuning, where do you gain all this "warmth"?

Take a look at the attached. It was too hard to format on the screen

82011

Ukulele Eddie
08-02-2015, 03:42 PM
So I tried this on my Collings UT2 and was not instantly wowed. I need to try it playing a few different songs with a mic and my headphones to get a "listeners" perspective. Even if I stay C on that uke, it's fun for me to experiment like this as it generally provides some key learning experience.

DownUpDave
08-03-2015, 01:06 AM
So I tried this on my Collings UT2 and was not instantly wowed. I need to try it playing a few different songs with a mic and my headphones to get a "listeners" perspective. Even if I stay C on that uke, it's fun for me to experiment like this as it generally provides some key learning experience.

I have had the same experience/reaction as you Eddie. I tuned my re-entrance Mya Moe down to B and some songs sounded nice while others did not sound right. I put it down to "conditioned listening".......just use to hearing something a certain way. It is fun to experiement and I do like my baritone tuned to Bb, can use my regular tenor chord shapes and a G sounds like a G.

Doc_J
08-03-2015, 02:20 AM
So I tried this on my Collings UT2 and was not instantly wowed. I need to try it playing a few different songs with a mic and my headphones to get a "listeners" perspective. Even if I stay C on that uke, it's fun for me to experiment like this as it generally provides some key learning experience.

I agree not every uke or every song will sound great in lower (or higher) tunings. But, it is easy to check out lower tunings when replacing strings. Blues songs (and many folk songs) sound a little darker and sweeter in lowered tunings.

Littlegman
08-03-2015, 02:22 AM
I changed the strings on my Boat Paddle Kayak long neck soprano five times, as each set sounded "choked," with poor sustain. Then I installed some Oasis brights (wound bass), tuned down a half- step to B and suddenly, the soundboard opened up! Notes became fuller, with sweeter sustain. I finally found my instrument's sweet spot! I imagine that the results would have been somewhat similar had I done the same with the other string sets, though. I found that it might be best to start with a new set, then tune down to B; when tuning down an established set, the intonation suffers as the notes diminish... Next step, change to some South Coasts, tuned to B!

ralphk
08-03-2015, 02:28 AM
I like to solo in Bb -- matches my voice better and I capo to C for group play.

whistleman123
08-03-2015, 12:11 PM
I'm an ex-horn playerjust begining on uke. Bb tuning seems to make sense if you are going to be playing with horn players, or out of a fake book which gives the tunes in their stadard keys. After I get my feet wetter in C tuning I'll try Bb tuning with low F!

beowoulfe
08-03-2015, 01:48 PM
After reading all this, I got out of my chair and down-tuned my tenor...................WOW! Love it!!

k0k0peli
08-03-2015, 03:06 PM
I have a hard time testing the change. I detuned an 8-string tenor and 4-string soprano to Bb. I can't say the 8-string sounds any more mellow than my 6-string tenor with its low A on top. I can't say the soprano is any more mellow than my 4-string concert. I *can* say the soprano sounds darker but not appreciably richer than a similar but higher-tuned soprano -- not necessarily better, just different. These guys strung in Bb are merely different voices. Nothing wrong with that. Now I need more 'ukes for better side-by-side sound checks, eh? [/me succumbs to UAS]

Hippie Dribble
08-03-2015, 03:25 PM
After reading all this, I got out of my chair and down-tuned my tenor...................WOW! Love it!!
Nice! I think the tenor scale is where it really works best sound wise. Just makes sense to me...I always avoided tenors because I didn't like the feel of the higher string tension in C6 tuning. Backing it off a bit makes really gives it oxygen in the best possible way.