View Full Version : Which tuning?

08-17-2015, 06:34 AM
I just started learning uke, but I have a strong background as a horn player in big bands and small jazz combos.
Which tuning would you advise if my goal is to be playing with horn players. After a lot of reading on this wonderful site, Bb tuning sounds like it might be the way to go, but I'm not sure.
Also, should I learn standad C tuning with low G first and then switch, which is what I'm in the middle of now? Or should I take the plunge right away this early on in my uke experience?
Thaks for your insights!

08-17-2015, 11:52 AM
I understand there's "Bb" brass instruments (and clarinets), but the relevant question is, what actual, real concert-pitch key do they play in? If their tunes are predominantly "real" Bb (even if they're notated as C), then yes, a ukulele tuned to make Bb an easy key to play in would be a good idea ... this doesn't necessarily mean actually tuning the ukulele to Bb (whatever that might entail), but choosing an overall tuning wherein the key of Bb has an easy set of chord shapes.

... goes away, fiddles with ukulele and returns ...

Right, the key of A on a ukulele isn't difficult (equates to E on a guitar), so to get to Bb easily on a ukulele, just tune all four strings up one semi-tone and play in "A-shapes", I'd guess this might be termed C# tuning ... or maybe use a capo on the first fret if you want to keep things "standard".

Hope this helps ... if your friends aren't actually playing in "concert" Bb, get back to us with a few more details, I'm sure someone somewhere will be able to help :)

Jim Hanks
08-17-2015, 12:01 PM
Learn the chord shapes for standard C tuning. Then get a tenor or baritone and the right strings to make it Bb. Then you can play off the trumpet or tenor sax charts and play your C shapes. Magic. :cool:

08-18-2015, 01:23 AM
A cautionary note.

If you are working from lead sheets, you may find that, while the notation is in Bb/Eb as appropriate you may find that the chords are essentially in concert pitch - eg you see a Bb chord over a C note in the notation.

That is certainly the case with music for Bb instruments and piano.

You need to be aware of such cases and act accordingly. It means either learning to play chords in flat keys on a C tuned ukulele or learning their equivalents on a Bb tuned ukulele. The latter is probably easier as it will mean playing chord shapes you are already familiar with but with different names.

08-18-2015, 02:04 AM
A thought on Eb

The Eb chord will probably be given as 3331 (1 fret down from E) but you can also play it as 0331. It does involve doubling the 3rd which classical theory says is not a good idea but where I find 3331 very difficult, I find 0331 quite doable. The other possibility is to play 3336. I usually play E in the equivalent way (4447)

In the 1920s sheet music, they would specify the tuning to be used for the ukulele. Three common tunings were in use; GCEA, ADF#B and BbEbGC. The last, Eb tuning, is good for playing in flat keys as The keys of Eb and Bb use the same shapes as the C tuning keys of C and G respectively.

Eb tuning is a good alternative to Bb tuning for soprano ukuleles but probably not for larger ukes as the tension might just be too high.

08-18-2015, 01:16 PM
Capo a C6 tenor at the 3rd fret and you've got Eb tuning without increasing the tension or retuning.

Good point. I'd forgotten about using a capo.

That table's also very useful. I've been meaning to make such a table to cover the keys I have various ukes tuned to so that I can quickly check equivalents.