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View Full Version : 6 vs 4 strings, pros and cons?



Mivo
08-29-2016, 05:21 PM
Many of you have first-hand experience with fretted instruments other than the four-stringed one we all cherish. I'm curious about what you see as the strengths and weaknesses of the 4-string setup vs. the 6-strings of instruments such as the regular guitar, guitarlele, requinto, etc, and vice versa. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?

bnolsen
08-29-2016, 05:29 PM
For one i only have 4 fingers (plus thumb) which is less than 6. I can play any chord on a ukulele with 4 strings and not worry ever about having to mute strings. The ukulele gives up some range but initial learning curve is much quicker than a 6 string, especially if you want to provide your own singing accompaniment.

Croaky Keith
08-29-2016, 09:19 PM
:agree: It is the fact that there are only 4 strings - maybe if I had 6 fingers I might change my mind, but having tried a 'six string' in my earlier years - I'm much happier with a uke. :)

ukulelekarcsi
08-30-2016, 01:39 AM
4 strings:
- ergonomy (the four free fingers argument)
- ambiguity (it's often not clear which is the tonic note in a chord)
- closer spacing, thus allowing faster right hand techniques
- less tuning

6 strings:
- complexer chords (triad with two or three extras - the ukulele usually has to drop the tonic note for that)
- harmonic clarity (the tonic of a chord can usually be used twice - this is the same argument as the 'ambiguity' above, but turned around)
- larger melodic range (at least three octaves vs the ukuleles two or two and a half)

It's not a competition, and thus there is no winner. Perhaps the most intriguing bit is that limitations (two strings less) lead to inventiveness (chord inversions, leaving out tonic notes, using reentrant tunings...)

jddennis
08-30-2016, 02:02 AM
The range is the biggest difference. Also, six strings makes it easier to do chord inversions.

I don't think the 4 fingers/4 strings argument holds a lot of weight. People should be able to do barre chords on the ukulele. If that doesn't happen, speed in chord transitions won't happen.

Jim Hanks
08-30-2016, 02:14 AM
SSP: i just wrote about this (https://jimhanks.wordpress.com/2016/08/25/think-in-c/)
Short version: uke is less hand stress and more sound options

mm stan
08-30-2016, 02:33 AM
The four stringer is an all around uke and more practical
Than a 6, 8, 10 stringer, which are more for rhythm and strumming.
Also mentioned is that you need more stronger flexible fingers.
It certainly is NOT an everyday uke nor your only uke you'll quickly learn, but its unique and nice to have in your quiver.

1931jim
08-30-2016, 02:49 AM
I came from playing guitar for quite a few years (1951 haha) so now that I am playing the uke I find my body appreciates the lesser weight to hold.
One of my favourite ukuleles is a 6 string tenor. Because I am a finger picker as opposed to strumming I have the double courses with the low g' g" and the low a then a". Having the low a for my middle or ring finger of the right hand fits in well with my lamentable attempt at singing.

teryg
08-30-2016, 04:09 AM
I got involved with ukes to begin with because I liked the community. Still do. I found the guitar playing world much less collaborative and more competitive, which I did not like. For me, music is first of all meant to be fun. I actually had a high school teacher take that away for a while. We had a superb teacher who looked at music as all-inclusive and something everyone should have in their lives. She left and they hired a guy who made everyone try out for everything all the time. It suddenly went from being fun and inclusive to being competitive and exclusive, and I hated it. I quit all the music groups because of him.

In the guitar world, I found way too many of what people call pissing matches. Bring a guitar somewhere and there was always some guy (sorry, but it really was always a guy) who would want to try it out then would hog it so he could show off. By the time he was done, no one was much interested in the guitar anymore so it got put away. For me, that was never the point. It stopped being fun so I stopped bringing my guitars places. I saw that for the first time in the uke world the other day. A guy who did not normally play with the group (not my group, it was my first time as well) unfortunately sat next to me with his tenor guitar and kept swinging the head of it in my face until I moved. He also kept playing lead parts that he didn't know, at the wrong tempo. I hope that continues to be as rare as it has been so I can continue to enjoy playing with groups.

As for the instrument itself, there are a lot of things I love about it. I love the sizes and the sounds. It's delightful that you can pick up a baritone and play something, then play it on a soprano and get a whole different sound. I'm not a large person, so I find the size of the ukes more pleasant. Size also makes it easier to have a uke close by so you can play a little now and again all day long. I like that it's less intimidating, so friends I have who would never touch a guitar are willing to try the uke, and then find they enjoy it.

Some of this might also just be me aging, but I'm having fun with the uke in a way I never really did with guitar. It might lead me back to guitar. Or it might convince me to sell my guitars so I can buy more ukes :-).

SailingUke
08-30-2016, 04:24 AM
I agree with "teryg". It is all about the Uke community (family). I have ukulele friends from all over the world.

ukulelekarcsi
08-31-2016, 02:56 AM
I have the double courses with the low g' g" and the low a then a".

I think we're comparing single-course instruments here.

Multi-course instruments are a different thing altogether, and opens up a whole discussion on its own (which strings are doubled - in unison or in octaves - if in octaves, which one is tuned low...).

bearbike137
08-31-2016, 04:05 AM
4 strings:
- ambiguity (it's often not clear which is the tonic note in a chord)


Ambiguity covers a multitude of sins. :)

SteveZ
08-31-2016, 06:37 AM
I came from playing guitar for quite a few years (1951 haha) so now that I am playing the uke I find my body appreciates the lesser weight to hold.
One of my favourite ukuleles is a 6 string tenor. Because I am a finger picker as opposed to strumming I have the double courses with the low g' g" and the low a then a". Having the low a for my middle or ring finger of the right hand fits in well with my lamentable attempt at singing.

Am another member of the "five-decade guitar club" who found the 4-string concept easier on the old hands while being just as versatile. Went from 6-string guitars to 8-string mandolins to 4-string tenor guitar/banjo to 4-6-8-string ukuleles. My last 6-string guitar became a grand-daughter's gift a while ago and I haven't touched one since then.

The "4-string" world has turned out to give me more musical flexibility, especially since I have all the instruments tuned fifths. This "universal tuning" concept has made all the instruments skill-supportive of the other while each instrument maintains its unique voice and porential. As an example, this morning I added the Survivor tune "High On You" to the gig list, first by practicing it on the Martin T1K, then playing it on the Oscar Schmidt 8-string and finishing on the Blueridge tenor guitar. Each one sang differently, and each allowed me to try different free-lance moves which later get to be experimented on others within the stable. This afternoon the 6-string tenor and a banjo-uke will get some time as well.

Wharever the reason for the ease of going from 6-string guitar to the 4-string instrument family, it happened and it's all for the better.

JustinJ
08-31-2016, 09:03 AM
I found that I needed a six strings instrument for classical pieces. I was playing classical pieces on uke and started desiring more bass. So I took up the classical guitar, which is a wonderful instrument. There is resonance and deep tone that a classical guitar gives. You can not get this sound from a regular guitar or a ukulele.


I still enjoy playing ukulele but if I want to play classical pieces I pick up the classical guitar. For Jazz, I play ukulele and guitar.


I found that playing ukulele helped the transition to playing guitar. I find classical guitar challenging so that I have a goal each day. With the uke, I'll just pick it up and play it. Although, the classical guitar techniques transfer very well to uke and other guitar playing. I've noticed that my left hand has gained greater independence. Also, working on right hand technique makes picking the uke much easier.


I do not see one instrument as better only different. I find that the ukulele has a singing voice, at least to me. If you can play the ukulele, you can play the guitar and vice versa. The extra two strings on the guitar are not that much more difficult.

1931jim
08-31-2016, 12:57 PM
Hello JustinJ,
I used to play classical and tried flamenco for a few years. You might find the book by Tony Mizen very interesting if you do not already have it. "From Lute to Uke" Jumpin Jim Beloff series of songbooks published by Hal Leonard (HL 00696570) Regards.