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View Full Version : What I miss about playing soprano



chikon2000
06-30-2016, 06:10 PM
A few months ago I took up the low G tenor after playing soprano exclusively for a couple of years. Although perhaps not surprising in hindsight, the transition turned out to entail a steeper learning curve than I had expected. Still, the effort has been worthwhile, since tenor is better suited to my music. I take the soprano with me when I travel, though, due to its size and because it is a laminate. I recently returned from a 3 week trip to Cali, which gave us the opportunity to get reacquainted. I found that I missed the soprano's casual portability (a guy on the subway carried one on the train without a case, and proceeded to play for his friends) and the fact that my not so large fingers can stretch across 5 frets, a la Jimi Hendrix (without the talent). What surprised me most, though, is that I missed the soprano's fairly relaxed string tension, since that was what made the ukulele such an approachable instrument when I was first took it up. Michael

bnolsen
06-30-2016, 06:23 PM
portability is certainly a big deal. leaving a soprano laying around the house isn't a big deal. a tenor? doesn't really fit as well on a coffee or end table.

Soundbored
07-01-2016, 12:40 AM
For me it's that plunky woody tone, the size and weight (no strap needed), and the playability.
None of the reasons people give for buying concerts and tenors have ever held any water with me.

Mivo
07-01-2016, 01:12 AM
What surprised me most, though, is that I missed the soprano's fairly relaxed string tension, since that was what made the ukulele such an approachable instrument when I was first took it up.

This largely depends on the strings and the tuning. I found my tenor uncomfortable to play in C tuning, but when I dropped it to Bb (fBbDG), it was a real pleasure to play, and it improved in tone, too. There are lower tension strings for the C tuning, too. On the other hand, if you tune a soprano to D tuning, which was the standard for a long time, the tension is much higher.

What I like about the soprano size is that it's almost a percussion instrument, very suitable for rhythm play. Yeah, John King and some others play(ed) classical music on it, but when I hear the same pieces on a baritone or a classical guitar, I clearly prefer the latter for melodic play.

Tenors, well, I'm trying to find a role for mine. The baritone completely fulfilled my desire for a fingerpicking instrument, and my sopranos are largely for strumming. I ordered dGBE strings for my tenor, so if those work, it'll be my re-entrant G tuning instrument (Lyle Ritz plays dGBE tenors). I thought, for a while, that concerts could be the goldilocks size for me, removing the need for other sizes (to only have one uke), and I still believe it is the best compromise, but currently I prefer the extreme ends of the spectrum as they each do one thing really well instead of doing two things fairly well.

But who knows, my preferences have changed before, and they might again. It's a highly individual journey. And an unpredictable one, for me.

igorthebarbarian
07-01-2016, 10:38 AM
Very good post Michael. Very much agreed.
I have an Ohana sopranino and now the Ohana sopranissimo (O'nino) and they're cute but really the Soprano is a great size. Small but not tooooo small like the smaller ones.

chikon2000
07-01-2016, 10:59 AM
"currently I prefer the extreme ends of the spectrum as they each do one thing really well instead of doing two things fairly well."
This is a good point, Mivo. I find that I tend to approach soprano and tenor quite differently, even if I' not always conscious of doing so (e.g., playing the soprano in a more percussive manner).

Griffis
07-01-2016, 05:38 PM
Soprano is my main love, but I have one of each except a tenor. For different reasons and playing styles.

PhilUSAFRet
07-02-2016, 01:24 AM
I still prefer my concerts over all, but could play my Kamaka soprano all day.

chikon2000
07-02-2016, 01:26 PM
This may been covered already, but are there certain types of strings that have lower tension? And do lower tension strings project less volume than those with higher tension? I'm still using the stock Aquilas that came with my tenor (a Mainland mahogany), but I would be interested in something with a lower tension for my next string change, as long as it sounds good. Any suggestions?

Tootler
07-02-2016, 09:48 PM
I have my tenors tuned to dGBE using worth CF strings. These are high tension strings for C tuning but much lower tension than regular strings on G tuning. The lower tension makes the uke much more comfortable to play and there is plenty of sustain and projection. In fact, I have to sing up to sing over them.

I like lower tension generally and I find my sopranos are great for songs that suit a bright percussive accompaniment. The tenors have a more mellow tone and are great for fingerpicking. I have my concert tuned low G and the drone effect is good for folk songs which is what I mainly sing.

Mivo
07-02-2016, 10:13 PM
I have my tenors tuned to dGBE using worth CF strings. These are high tension strings for C tuning but much lower tension than regular strings on G tuning. The lower tension makes the uke much more comfortable to play and there is plenty of sustain and projection. In fact, I have to sing up to sing over them.

Did you have a chance to try the Living Water dGBE tenor set? (Mine are on the way.) I'm curious how the tension compares between those and the tuned down CF strings you use. I had tried C tuning Worth browns (medium) on my tenor once, and the tension was too high for me, but felt right in Bb tuning.

spongeuke
07-03-2016, 06:35 PM
Started off playing a soprano, with a high G. It all ways says Ukulele to me. I have gone over to Baritones for some songs and the next venture will be a Bass. I have a beautiful Little River Tenor that I take out of its case and play for awhile, marveling at the wonderful sound. Yet the soprano is and probably will be the go to instrument when I want to play a new song, play for comfort and joy, and to schlep around.