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View Full Version : Suggestions for archtop/baritone tuned GCEA for accompanying a stringband



ukuleric
01-05-2017, 03:27 PM
Greetings,

Ill get straight to the point,

Im in a bluegrass/folk band and I play ukulele, I currently have blackbirds resin tenor, I enjoy playing it a lot but I am considering moving on to a different sound.

Im looking for a sound that can accompany my band, something rich and full and more "guitar sounding" than the tenor ukulele I currently have. In other words, I want to play a ukulele but not have it sound like a ukulele through the PA. Im considering an archtop with steel strings or wound nylon, or a baritone tuned GCEA, because i find memorizing new chord positionings a bit time consuming right now. Im looking for suggestions for good quality ukes, (meaning nothing like Kala, or any standard generic brand). Also id like some suggestions on what strings I should be using, right now I use dadario strings, they work very nicely but again are not creating the sound im looking for..

70sSanO
01-05-2017, 04:40 PM
Archtop ukuleles are a different animal and there have been threads on them before. Quality = dollars.

But here is a non-archtop steel string that might fit what you are looking for...

http://www.theukulelesite.com/pono-pro-classic-cedar-top-mahogany-steel-string-baritone-ul4-20.html

It shows out of stock but I would give them a call and find out if they are available and what strings you can use to tune it to standard GCEA. Very helpful people. It really comes down to string tension, and if the instrument can handle steel strings, it should he pretty simple.

John

Jim Hanks
01-05-2017, 06:17 PM
Here's a couple in stock:
http://www.theukulelesite.com/shop-by/size/baritone/pono-acacia-steel-string-baritone-ul4-10.html
http://www.theukulelesite.com/shop-by/size/baritone/pono-pro-classic-steel-string-spruce-top-rosewood-baritone-ul4-30.html

21.4" scale is pushing the limits of uke-dom in my opinion. Pretty sure it would come DGBE. I think GCEA would be kinda wasted on such an instrument- just my opinion.

Could also go solid body and get a different sound through amps/effects:
http://www.theukulelesite.com/shop-by/size/baritone/pono-be-mgd-mango-baritone-electric-deluxe.html

JesterBlod
01-05-2017, 11:20 PM
There are http://www.jazzboxukes.com - they are arch tops and have been made/used with steel strings in the past (youtube shows a lovely tenor size with metal strings)

DownUpDave
01-05-2017, 11:56 PM
First off is your Blackbird tenor strung re-entrant......if so switching to low G will make a big difference in sound. You say you use D'Addario so I am assuming re-entrant nylon. If so than try Oasis warm Low G, it will be a huge difference. If you are in low G then taking a baritone to GCEA will not sound much different than a low G tenor. I have done this and the baritone does have a fuller, deeper sound then a tenor but not that different. Tuning to B or Bb would be different but then you will have to transpose.

Different to your tenor would be a baritone tuned to standard DGBE. Getting around the "new chord names" is easy. The shapes are the same the names just change. I take the printed page and change the G to C for instance. I see the C then I form the C but I am really playing a G and I am in the right key. Yeah it is cheating but so what. If you use digital then just hit the transpose button +5.

High quality great sounding baritones are Pono pro classic series, Kamaka or Kanilea.

Croaky Keith
01-06-2017, 12:40 AM
Maybe go electric guitar sound with a RISA, steel string tenor (GCEA). :)

bariukish
01-06-2017, 06:09 AM
If you want the guitar sound in a 4 string instrument the Pono ul4 series is the way to go. As a decades long wanna-be guitar picker, my ul4-30 is the greatest thing since sliced bread and beer. And to echo DUD, you already know the chord shapes. Just spend several practice session to rename them and you'll be glad you did. Good luck with your band.

TheCraftedCow
01-06-2017, 06:30 AM
Keep your guitar....change your amplifier.... I use a Roland mMicrocube and can vary the sound by choosing any one of the six settings. amount of Gain adds more change, as does Tone. The EXF and Delay/Reverb will give you guitar sound from mild to wild that you could ever want. It does not matter if you are reentrant or linear, you are going to be heard. You can also use it as a personal mixer, and run into someone else's system if you want to blow out the windows.

Rakelele
01-06-2017, 07:19 AM
Two great options have already been mentioned:

1. Toby Chennell's Archtop Jazzbox Ukes can be strung with either nylon or steel strings. This is what I did with mine, as mentioned in this thread (http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?117953-NUD-Arched-Jazz-Box-Uke-by-Toby-Chennell).

2. The Pono UL4 is made for steel strings, and with a light gauge set, it can be tuned up to GCEA. However, I think you'll get a better and more guitar-like result having it tuned like a baritone and then either cheat with the chord names, as Dave has mentioned, or learn the "new" names. As a baritone is tuned the same as the top four strings of a guitar, you'll have a perfect gateway to the world of guitars.

Personally, I'd choose the Pono for your purpose. I'm totally with Bariukish: this is the hottest crossover instrument, and my favorite one.

DownUpDave
01-06-2017, 08:05 AM
Like Rakele and bariukeish I own a Pono UL4 and it is a great steel stringed instrument for the uke player. But it really and truly is a tenor guitar and a long way from a uke. It shares the same DGBE tuning as a baritone uke but that is where it ends. It is bigger in over all size and made for steel strings. Don't get me wrong I love mine........it just depends on which direction you want to go.

As uke 1950 said a Risa LP is a great electric steel strung tenor uke. South Coast make a set of of strings called Classic Metals. They are steel strings made for a tenor uke. The first three are wound the fourth plain steel. I had them on a tenor and they sounded very bright and chimney. They are low G and the wound 4th was thin but still bass sounding

ukuleric
01-06-2017, 08:58 AM
Thank you so much for all the suggestions.

Im looking at the UL4 series and I like what I see, HOWEVER, im not all that interested in getting a UL4 just because i actually tried to switch to a tenor guitar at one point and just couldnt do it. The steel strings were such a rough transition from nylon that I couldnt get used to playing them because of the pressure that your fingers have to apply as compared to the nylong strings.

I use a pick while I play uke. I also play bluegrass which requires A LOT of picking, the steel strings made it hard to pick as fast as I was used to. So what im trying to say is if I stuck with one of ponos standard baritones It would be a lot better for my playing. Is the learning curve different on a baritone than it is on a tenor guitar??? Do they make steel strings for the baritone that arent as hard to get used to?

The other problem is id like to tune it to GCEA with aquilas 23u brand strings, but there arent steel string sets to use to tune a UL4 to GCEA, what are your thoughts/suggestions on this matter??

ukuleric
01-06-2017, 09:03 AM
Im looking at something like this http://www.theukulelesite.com/shop-by/size/baritone/pono-pro-classic-spruce-rosewood-baritone-rbsh-pc-s.html Is it going to have the deep rich guitar like sound im looking for? As compared to the UL4 series?

ALSO, I want to tune it to GCEA, what strings would u reccommend to make this happen?? I love Daddario, anything in that line. I was looking at the aquila 23u strings, but I hear they break a lot.. Theres also a set someone makes themselves by using aquila 23u mixed with a sing string by daddario. What do you guys think? Id be looking to tune it GCEA with a LOW G and a wound C. or even steel

*Its important that I try to tune my baritone to GCEA, Like I said I play in a bluegrass string band and I understand it would just be learning new chord names if i switched to standard bari tuning, but you must understand with the level of playing and the speed involved its much harder than youd think to switch over.

ukuleric
01-06-2017, 09:10 AM
Also, I should mention, one of the most important factors into what Im looking to buy is VOLUME, i struggle with being heard at jams, and acoustic sessions, and even at gigs with my current ukulele, so id be looking for something LOUD, and PUNCHY... I shouldve mentioned this sooner.

Futurethink
01-06-2017, 12:27 PM
This may or may not help--Have you considered a baritone tuned one octave down? Mainland sells Guadalupe strings for this purpose. See posts 8 and 9 in this thread;
http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?120690-linear-GCEA-(octave-below-soprano)-on-a-baritone-possible

I still like my set. Deep rich sound. Good for picking, not for strumming.

For volume you'll probably need a microphone and a bigger amp.

DownUpDave
01-06-2017, 01:10 PM
Im looking at something like this http://www.theukulelesite.com/shop-by/size/baritone/pono-pro-classic-spruce-rosewood-baritone-rbsh-pc-s.html Is it going to have the deep rich guitar like sound im looking for? As compared to the UL4 series?

ALSO, I want to tune it to GCEA, what strings would u reccommend to make this happen?? I love Daddario, anything in that line. I was looking at the aquila 23u strings, but I hear they break a lot.. Theres also a set someone makes themselves by using aquila 23u mixed with a sing string by daddario. What do you guys think? Id be looking to tune it GCEA with a LOW G and a wound C. or even steel

*Its important that I try to tune my baritone to GCEA, Like I said I play in a bluegrass string band and I understand it would just be learning new chord names if i switched to standard bari tuning, but you must understand with the level of playing and the speed involved its much harder than youd think to switch over.

I really like your choice of Pono baritone. Sam13 has that same one with cutaway and it has good volume and sustain, very guitar like. Are you going with a pickmup and plugging in? I have tuned both a Pono and Kinnard baritone to GCEA with good results using standard tenor gauge strings. Finding a set with wound 3rd is tough, only one out there is South Coast, HML-WB. I am going to strongly recommend fluorocarbon strings if you want volume.

You can buy Oasis bright low G that come with a wound 4th. Then buy D'Addario NYL027 classical guitar string for the wound third. You can get these and lots more from strings by mail.

Patrick Madsen
01-06-2017, 01:56 PM
I suggest you go to Southcoast website and read what Dirk has to say about turnings and size of the instrument. The resonance Will not be clear but more muddy.

Most of us who own baritones have tried what you're trying to do.
and changed back pretty quickly.

You can also use a capo to raise the tuning.

Jim Hanks
01-06-2017, 02:08 PM
For volume, I don't see how any uke is going to compete with banjos, guitars, and the like without being amplified. Unless it's a banjo uke. :p

If you don't want steel strings (can't blame you - I don't really like them either although I have an electric batitone I play occasionally), AND you want C tuning on a baritone AND you want a more guitar like tone - then I think you should get a standard baritone with a spruce top and put something like Southcoast LML-WB on it:
http://www.southcoastukes.com/linear.htm

ETA: or you could try the ML-WB set on your tenor. Like what Patrick Madsen says, that may be closer to what you're really after - and it cost you $23 to try instead of many hundreds.

70sSanO
01-06-2017, 02:59 PM
As others have said, there is no non-amplified uke that will compete against a D-28 in a bluegrass setting... or any setting for that matter.

If amplification is acceptable, I would look at a Godin Multiuke. It is chambered, so it is not a totally solid body. I've played one and it might be perfect for your setting. You can even get a sunburst. I do own a Godin guitar so I may be a little partial, but I am really impressed with their quality.

As for steel strings, as you go thinner, they are easier on the fingers, but you lose volume and the sound does get thinner. I don't like tenor guitars, not because of the strings, but because of the narrow neck and string spacing.

John

Rank_beginner
01-06-2017, 03:38 PM
Hey, have you considered a resonator uke, like a National?

Rakelele
01-06-2017, 09:12 PM
The other problem is id like to tune it to GCEA with aquilas 23u brand strings, but there aren't steel string sets to use to tune a UL4 to GCEA, what are your thoughts/suggestions on this matter??

As I mentioned above, the UL4 can be tuned to GCEA with an extra light set of strings. If you want to be sure, ask the friendly folks at Pono. Light gauge strings will also be easier on your fingers. Or tune it like a baritone and put a capo to the fifth fret. I just did that with mine, and it still sparkles with great sustain and volume. I can imagine it fitting right in with a Bluegrass band.

There are several things that distinguish the UL4 from a regular tenor guitar, making it easier for ukulele players to play: The nut width is not as narrow, but the same 1 3/8" you have on a uke. The scale is 21" and therefore much closer to a baritone than a guitar. And with the lower tension and low action, it will not be that much harder on your fingers.

I also have a regular Pono baritone with nylon strings (that same RBSH model you have mentioned, but with a cutaway), and yes: it will sound deep and rich with the right strings. But also a lot mellower than a steel string instrument, so you might face the same issues you already have, and tuning it up to GCEA might only add mudiness instead of clarity.

As others have mentioned, another way to go would be using an amp/preamp system that will help you modulate the tone you want.

ukuleric
01-07-2017, 03:06 PM
Alright guys, thanks for all the help. Ive decided what im going to do

Firstly im going to purchase Ponos sunburst spruce top / mahogany back and side here http://www.theukulelesite.com/shop-by/size/baritone/pono-pc-series-spruce-mahogany-baritone-sunburst-mbsh-s-sb-pc.html

Secondly, Im going to try three different approaches as to stringing the instrument.
- Im going to purchase Aquila's set of GCEA baritone strings and buy a single set of Daddarios classical guitar silver wound string for the low G on the baritone.
- im going to purchase a couple sets of southcoast ukes strings, some of which were mentioned on this thread.
- im going to purchase a couple sets of guadalupe's custom bariton GCEA strings as well

Im hoping that atleast one of these options will pan out...

70sSanO
01-07-2017, 04:02 PM
Very nice ukulele. Good luck with your string solution.

John

Rakelele
01-08-2017, 04:07 AM
Congratulations, you'll have a wonderful baritone, that's for sure. I hope you find a tuning you like.