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View Full Version : Cliff Edwards/Ukulele Ike: linear tuning?



Griffis
05-18-2016, 12:55 PM
Mods--if this belongs more in the "Tips, Tricks & Techniques" part of the forum, apologies. I thought I might get more feedback here and thought it more appropriate here as I'm asking a question and not sharing tips, etc.

Does anyone know if Cliff Edwards played in linear tuning? Did he go back and forth? I have tried to research this and have yet to find a solid answer.

I understand he switched from a soprano early on to a tenor, and have read that he often used a Bb or even A tuning, but I can't seem to find out (or figure out) whether he ever, or usually, or if or when, he used re-entrant tuning or linear.

I've studied many pics with him and his uke(s) and it often appears they are sporting a thicker (i e. lower-tuned) string in what it typically the re-entrant position.

Does anyone know? I appreciate any info...

Griffis
05-19-2016, 04:06 AM
That's good advice, Bill, but that was one of the first things I tried. Multiple searches under his real and stage names, and I've looked high and low elsewhere.

Strikes me as odd since he was so popular and had much to do with the popularity of the ukulele.

I've found several detailed discussions and other sources of info that go into what keys he most often played in, his use of sub-C tunings, etc., etc., but nothing solid on whether he used re-entrant or linear tuning (?)

drbekken
05-19-2016, 05:28 AM
You are right; there are quite a few photos of Edwards from his later years, where he seems to be holding tenor ukuleles with a thick fourth string, seemingly too thick to be in a re-entrant tuning. But alas, there is little or no info on this anywhere... I guess one way to find out would be to play along and listen extremely closely to which chord voicings he uses, and to try to hear which note is the highest or lowest in the chord at all times. The solo recordings from the 40s are probably the best starting point.

southcoastukes
05-19-2016, 06:31 AM
I don't have all his recordings, but I've got a lot. Those later recordings Doc mentioned were put out by Audiophile here in New Orleans and they put out a bunch of new unreleased recordings from those sessions not long ago.

I've never heard anything played in linear form, but I've got an idea on what you may have seen in those photos. Nylon strings started to become widely available in the late '40s. Although I'm not sure about this next string type, I'd guess that wound nylon strings started to come out very shortly after that.

You don't see them around much today (Savarez still offers a few), but they're thicker than plain nylon (or gut) of an equivalent tension. They're noisy under hand, but depending on the gauge can have more volume that a plain string (that volume goes down if they get too thick).

So without real certainty on this, I'd go with wound nylon - not linear tuning.

drbekken
05-20-2016, 09:20 AM
I have tried to play along with several of the songs from those 1940s recordings. So far, it seems a Bb is the lowest note, which means he plays in Bb tuning. It doesn't seem to be any low G, which means he probably doesn't play a dGBE tenor, nor a low GCEA. I may of course be wrong, so if anyone reaches another conclusion, I'd like to hear about it.

Soundbored
05-20-2016, 03:14 PM
I have tried to play along with several of the songs from those 1940s recordings. So far, it seems a Bb is the lowest note, which means he plays in Bb tuning. It doesn't seem to be any low G, which means he probably doesn't play a dGBE tenor, nor a low GCEA. I may of course be wrong, so if anyone reaches another conclusion, I'd like to hear about it.

Bb may not be the lowest note simply because of the recording and/or playback speeds. It's not unusual for a recording from even the 1960s, on analog tape, to be off by a semitone or more.

I'd bet he's in ADF#B tuning, like most people of that era?

drbekken
05-21-2016, 04:36 AM
Bb may not be the lowest note simply because of the recording and/or playback speeds. It's not unusual for a recording from even the 1960s, on analog tape, to be off by a semitone or more.

I'd bet he's in ADF#B tuning, like most people of that era?

On soprano ukulele recordings from the twenties maybe; on the solo tenor ukulele from the forties or later, the D tuning is highly unlikely.

Griffis
05-21-2016, 05:29 AM
Bb may not be the lowest note simply because of the recording and/or playback speeds. It's not unusual for a recording from even the 1960s, on analog tape, to be off by a semitone or more.

I'd bet he's in ADF#B tuning, like most people of that era?


On soprano ukulele recordings from the twenties maybe; on the solo tenor ukulele from the forties or later, the D tuning is highly unlikely.

I have come across info indicating Cliff often tuned Bb and even as low as A. I reckon this is largely after he made the switch from sopranos...from what I gather this happened fairly early in his recording career, ca. very late 20s-very early 30s.

But there is a great deal of speculation.

I came upon the pics below and--strings with ball-ends? Did he have his bridges drilled out for these? I found it odd...

9129091291

phil_doleman
05-22-2016, 03:05 AM
No ball ends needed, those are just pin bridges. I have them on one of my ukes.

He certainly tuned low as people have already noted. I don't know if it's true, but it has also been suggested that he tuned like a Venezuelan cuatro, with a low 1st string (the A in standard tuning). I tried it (so I have high G, regular C and E and then a low G string tuned up to A, an octave below normal). Everything is upside down! treble runs become basslines, picking confuses the hell out of me, and yet it definitely has something of that Edwards sound to it, and sorts out those difficult 'I can hear a low [note name] but I'm sure he's not in that tuning' issues!

drbekken
05-22-2016, 07:30 AM
No ball ends needed, those are just pin bridges. I have them on one of my ukes.

He certainly tuned low as people have already noted. I don't know if it's true, but it has also been suggested that he tuned like a Venezuelan cuatro, with a low 1st string (the A in standard tuning). I tried it (so I have high G, regular C and E and then a low G string tuned up to A, an octave below normal). Everything is upside down! treble runs become basslines, picking confuses the hell out of me, and yet it definitely has something of that Edwards sound to it, and sorts out those difficult 'I can hear a low [note name] but I'm sure he's not in that tuning' issues!

That, my good man, is very interesting indeed.

ukulelekarcsi
05-24-2016, 01:46 AM
He deserves a decent biography - in which I mean more than the short pages or chapters in ukulele books, but something which explores his influences, his private life, his recording career, his touring, his playing style and quirks, his 'eefin' scatting, the uke-friendship with Buster Keaton, what his radio show was about, his living in a former patrol boat, modifying his Martin tenor...

The man's too often reduced to Hannibal, MI, Singin' in the Rain, Jiminy Cricket and the Mickey Mouse Club TV shows, but he was more than that.

lakesideglenn
05-24-2016, 02:38 PM
Agreed, he is worthy of a decent biography. He is still the smoothest and most polished strummer I've ever heard...so many little nuances and flares.
And he did it all with "fussier" strings than we are all used to and without the benefit of an electronic tuner...which leads me to believe he wasn't that particularly worried about the exact key ...only being in tune and keyed for his voice.
RIP Cliff!

Nikoslikos
11-02-2017, 12:08 PM
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

ichadwick
11-04-2017, 03:23 AM
There are some recordings of his radio show online (archive.org, I believe). I downloaded a few, but I recall in one he strums a (soprano?) uke slowly and you can hear the "my-dog-has-fleas" sound very clearly. I'll dig through my files and see if I kept that one.

lelouden
11-04-2017, 09:03 AM
Here is a picture of his tuning from his book Ukulele Ike's Complete Ukulele Method. You'll have to scroll down to find it. It shows it in GCEA but surely that isn't what his uke sounds like.

It sure looks to me like his 1st string is much thicker than the reentrant 4rth on his uke. Sounds that way to me too.

The twitter page https://twitter.com/ukulele_ike/status/710083723182538752


Also featured on the twitter page is this great sound sample. I haven't tested it personally but its a great listen.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=126&v=PF-8naKK2qM


And here is one of his reference books posted and showing a tuning of A D F# B

https://www.scribd.com/document/79878169/Ukulele-Ike-collection-for-the-Uke-n-2

ichadwick
11-05-2017, 06:41 AM
The Ike songbooks I have in the vintage collection show the D tuning.

Ian