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View Full Version : Low G on concerts (Kiwaya, Loprinzi, or vintage Martin)?



cogfasser
05-30-2017, 06:42 AM
Has anyone had good (or great) results with a low g string on a mahogany concert-sized Kiwaya, Loprinzi or vintage Martin? I would love to hear your feedback or advice.

janeray1940
05-30-2017, 07:00 AM
a low g string on a mahogany concert-sized Kiwaya

Yes! I have a mahogany Kiwaya KTC-2 concert strung low G, and while it sounds great strung reentrant, I think it sounds even better with low G. I'm using a Fremont Soloist with Martin M600s, and find it perfectly balanced - it's become my go-to uke for low G.

igorthebarbarian
05-30-2017, 12:54 PM
I've only had Kiwaya/Famous Sopranos. I really want a Concert version sometime (I'm hesitant to spend that much from a Japanese supplier though).

But I would definitely would try the Fremont Soloist as the low G there; they're great on whatever they're used for.

janeray1940
05-30-2017, 01:56 PM
(I'm hesitant to spend that much from a Japanese supplier though).


In case you needed an enabler... :) You can find Kiwayas from U.S. suppliers with good return policies. I was lucky to get my KTC-2 from HMS for a really good price; I've seen them at Elderly and Dusty Strings as well. There's also Fernandez Music (http://www.fernandezmusic.com/Kiwaya_Ukuleles.html), which I don't have firsthand experience with but is an authorized U.S. supplier.

southcoastukes
05-30-2017, 03:15 PM
I've always been curious about why people do this, so I'm hoping people here can give me some insight. I've seen some of janeray's posts in the past - small hands more comfortable on a short scale combined with playing melody in a group setting.

But a standard concert wasn't designed for that tuning and is not the best vehicle for that tuning. In janerays' case there are overiding considerations for doing it. But I'd like to get an idea of how many people fit her profile, or if there are some other reasons for going this route.

Hep' me understand, folks!

Jim Hanks
05-30-2017, 03:34 PM
I've always been curious about why people do this

Because we can? :p

Seriously, even though it may not be the best vehicle, it works well enough, and if you like the low G sound with a smaller body instrument, why not? I have my long neck soprano strung with a low G and it's good. Yeah, the tension is a little lower than optimal, but it sounds good and is well balanced with the other strings.

southcoastukes
05-30-2017, 03:43 PM
Because we can? :p

Seriously, even though it may not be the best vehicle, it works well enough, and if you like the low G sound with a smaller body instrument, why not? I have my long neck soprano strung with a low G and it's good. Yeah, the tension is a little lower than optimal, but it sounds good and is well balanced with the other strings.

Hey Jim,

Thanks much for the reply. Of course we can do anything - there are after all "Bass Ukuleles" and some people might actually enjoy the sound of them without amplification.

I guess what I'm getting at is if it's not the best vehicle, then why? Or maybe what is it about the "low G sound" (choked to some extent on that 4th string) on a small body that you like? And lastly, if this is a set-up for melody, do you find the lower tension to be a problem?

kkimura
05-30-2017, 04:26 PM
Hey Jim,

Thanks much for the reply. Of course we can do anything - there are after all "Bass Ukuleles" and some people might actually enjoy the sound of them without amplification.

I guess what I'm getting at is if it's not the best vehicle, then why? Or maybe what is it about the "low G sound" (choked to some extent on that 4th string) on a small body that you like? And lastly, if this is a set-up for melody, do you find the lower tension to be a problem?

What is the "best" vehicle for low G?

southcoastukes
05-30-2017, 05:37 PM
What is the "best" vehicle for low G?

Tenor is by far the most popular, and it meets some objective criteria as well.

First, typical resonance of a Tenor body allows for full resonance of a g note.

Second, the tensions of medium gauge strings allow for a firm tension on a 17" scale. Linear tuning is usually for melody playing and most folks playing melody aren't generally fond of lower tensions. Of course you could put heavier strings on a 15" scale to get tension back, but then again many Concerts aren't built to respond to higher tension to begin with, and heavier strings can diminish response.

Third, if you're doing this for strumming, 1st position linear chords don't sound all that great. You're better off with linear tuning to play up the neck as with a rhythm guitar. Yet with a Concert, you don't have much room to go up before things get plinky.

That's my take, at least. I'm hoping someone can show me what I'm missing.

stevepetergal
05-30-2017, 05:57 PM
Hey Jim,

Thanks much for the reply. Of course we can do anything - there are after all "Bass Ukuleles" and some people might actually enjoy the sound of them without amplification.

I guess what I'm getting at is if it's not the best vehicle, then why? Or maybe what is it about the "low G sound" (choked to some extent on that 4th string) on a small body that you like? And lastly, if this is a set-up for melody, do you find the lower tension to be a problem?

We've discussed this before. The "best vehicle" is unattainable. A low G tenor is still not the best thing possible. A baritone low G is still not ideal. There is no "best vehicle" for low G. Just like there is no perfect size for any instrument. A 36 inch spinet sounds like a garbage can when compared to a 9 foot concert grand piano. Still, they are tuned the same. The spinet is not the best vehicle. But then again, neither is the concert grand. There are actually a few bigger. Is a 9' 6" Boesendorfer optimal? Nope. Could always be better. Still the string manufacturers make the best strings they can for the instruments people are buying and playing.

Dirk, I sincerely wish you would make strings for those of us that are going to play low G on our concerts (and others who do so with their sopranos). Even though we must rely upon lesser string manufacturers, we will continue tuning our G's down an octave without your expertise. It's kind of a pity. Put your objections and disclaimers on the package and I'd buy your low G concert strings.

southcoastukes
05-30-2017, 06:12 PM
... The "best vehicle" is unattainable...There is no "best vehicle" for low G.
Dirk, I sincerely wish you would make strings for those of us that are going to play low G on our concerts (and others who do so with their sopranos). Even though we must rely upon lesser string manufacturers, we will continue tuning our G's down an octave without your expertise. It's kind of a pity. Put your objections and disclaimers on the package and I'd buy your low G concert strings.

Hello Steven,

A pleasure to talk to you in this way. However, I couldn't disagree more about the statement that a "best vehicle" is unattainable. It's simply that the traditional Concert wasn't designed for this and while some folks have come out with instruments that are "better than typical", unless I have missed it, no one seems to have come out with an instrument that can truly give uncompromised performance for this set-up with a 15" scale.

It's not that it's impossible, and that's the real reason I'm hoping for input here. We're finally getting close to putting out instruments again and one of the options (it's presently at the bottom of the list) would be a 15" scale no compromise "Melody Concert" that would allow for a Linear C tuning.

I'm just trying to get an idea of, first: "who plays this sort of thing", and second, "why?" Instrument design is more successful the more specific it is. Ukulele designs are pretty general. If we're going to do something like this, we'd want to tailor it to a much narrower profile than a typical Concert. I'm just trying to figure out what that profile is.

As far as strings, we have some in house now that are appropriate for a 15" scale if someone had an instrument that would allow for that sort of stringing. That's why we're considering building one ourselves. If you want to try a set, and let's say you're looking for the sort of tensions typical for melody playing, then give the Light Heavy Gauges a shot. With a disclaimer for the fact that Concerts are not generally designed for firmer tension and have bodies that won't allow a full resonance for the g note. Strings can't work miracles. Just can't bring myself to give even a qualified recommendation for a Linear C Soprano. It's certainly viable if you're going amplified, but we've backed off from that whole area and concentrate strictly on acoustic stringing now.

But are there legitimate reasons for doing this in the first place? That's what I'd like help with.

Lori
05-30-2017, 06:19 PM
I like the low G on my Clara (which is concert sized) and I think it sounds great. I like that scale since some of the arrangements we play require finger stretches that are no longer easy for me to accomplish.

–Lori

southcoastukes
05-30-2017, 06:21 PM
I like the low G on my Clara (which is concert sized) and I think it sounds great. I like that scale since some of the arrangements we play require finger stretches that are no longer easy for me to accomplish.
–Lori

Thanks for the input, Lori.

Understood you like the 15" scale. When you say "we" does that mean you're in a group play situation and everyone tunes to C?

That's the other thing I'm trying to get a handle on. Are there groups of mixed size Ukuleles playing melody in C tuning? If it's solo play why tune to C?

wayfarer75
05-31-2017, 12:09 AM
I don't own a tenor, and I have 2 concerts--one mahogany, one koa. One is strung low G, but not the mahogany. The 'hog is a Barron River, and the body is slightly smaller than the koa one, which is a Kelii. The Kelii has a 1/2 inch longer scale and a thicker neck. When the BR arrived, I had a low G showdown on both concerts, and it wasn't so much that the BR sounded bad (it can go either way), it just seemed better on the Kelii. I think that's mostly due to the fact that the Kelii had been low G for ages, and that influenced what I think it should sound like.

Dirk, I appreciate that you want to help, but you come off discouraging. Players can decide for themselves what sounds best. I play concert low G because I want to, and frankly, I think it sounds good. If I want massive resonance on low notes, I will play a guitar.

kkimura
05-31-2017, 01:39 AM
Tenor is by far the most popular, and it meets some objective criteria as well.

First, typical resonance of a Tenor body allows for full resonance of a g note.

Second, the tensions of medium gauge strings allow for a firm tension on a 17" scale. Linear tuning is usually for melody playing and most folks playing melody aren't generally fond of lower tensions. Of course you could put heavier strings on a 15" scale to get tension back, but then again many Concerts aren't built to respond to higher tension to begin with, and heavier strings can diminish response.

Third, if you're doing this for strumming, 1st position linear chords don't sound all that great. You're better off with linear tuning to play up the neck as with a rhythm guitar. Yet with a Concert, you don't have much room to go up before things get plinky.

That's my take, at least. I'm hoping someone can show me what I'm missing.

Interesting concepts, thanks.

My nephew, a budding jazz musician, told me my Eastman low G concert is a great jazz ukulele. (I need to learn how to play up the neck).

PhilUSAFRet
05-31-2017, 02:41 AM
Probably for the same reason that some people enjoy the hell out of eating what I consider to be bad barbecue. LOL

kkimura
05-31-2017, 03:05 AM
mmmmmm, bbq!

WCBarnes
05-31-2017, 03:30 AM
I've always been curious about why people do this, so I'm hoping people here can give me some insight. I've seen some of janeray's posts in the past - small hands more comfortable on a short scale combined with playing melody in a group setting.

But a standard concert wasn't designed for that tuning and is not the best vehicle for that tuning. In janerays' case there are overiding considerations for doing it. But I'd like to get an idea of how many people fit her profile, or if there are some other reasons for going this route.

Hep' me understand, folks!

For me it all comes down to my preferred scale. I like concerts. I have owned a few tenors, and while I loved the sound, I just didn't enjoy the tension or distance between frets. I did tune one tenor down to Bb, and the tension was better, but I still wasn't comfortable playing it. So... back to the concert scale. I recently received a 16" Ono and I think that will be the perfect match for my linear C tuned uke.

Patrick Madsen
05-31-2017, 07:20 AM
I used to play only linear; no matter the size. I then bought a Griffin PineCone concert and spoke with Dirk about strings. It's amazing how patient Dirk is with the many questions and counter questions he fields in a day alone. I decided to try out a set of reentrants for a change and it changed my attitude towards reentrant tuning. For one, it takes runs up the fretboard to a whole new register.

I'm and old guitar player, 58 years, and still prefer linear on my instruments except for the PineCone; it'll stay reentrant. It's so much easier when playing higher lead runs. If I only had one uke (ha!); it'd be linear. I like taking off on the low G yet a reentrant G takes it in a whole different direction.

I'm looking forward to your instruments coming out Dirk. If they are anything like your strings, they'll be spectacular. I go on your site quite often, especially the tip section and learn something everytime I reread them. Perhaps it's finally sinking in.

southcoastukes
05-31-2017, 08:14 AM
For our instruments we are going to design for narrower, more specific purposes. I had been thinking about posting a thread on the topic of something like "in what ways do you play a 15" Linear C tuning". That's one of the designs we're looking at since there seems to be interest, but we don't want to do something so specific we'll miss the mark.

In looking back at the original question, my posting seemed to have hijacked the intent of the OP: to get feedback on specific instruments for Linear C tuning.

We're still a good bit away from doing our design, but when I saw the (related) topic come up, I jumped in and ended up taking things off track. So for now just help cogfasser out if you can. I'll come back to you'all for more questions when the time for it gets closer.

acmespaceship
05-31-2017, 09:27 AM
I've always been curious about why people do this, so I'm hoping people here can give me some insight.
Fair question. Here are my reasons:

1. As someone who wears a "women's size medium" glove, I prefer soprano and concert scales because everything my left hand does is more difficult on a tenor. Why would I sign up for that? If you told me I could get optimal sound by wrapping my fretboard with barbed wire, I would not do it. Playing uke is supposed to be fun and not painful.

2. As a woman with (as my husband puts it) "significant endowments," I can either hold a uke down at my waist (where I cannot see it) or up high on the shelf. A tenor body is too large to fit up there without blocking my view and looking decidedly silly. Just one example of how everybody (every "body" indeed) is different.

3. Tenors are supposed to have a more resonant sound, but I have not been all that impressed. Partly because I have a Blackbird Clara. And partly because at a certain point, I figure if I want an instrument that sounds like a guitar, I should get a guitar.

4. I mostly play re-entrant but I enjoy having low-G as an option for fingerstyle blues and folk-rock songs that use Travis-style alternating bass. But do I enjoy it enough to spend good money on a tenor uke that I will never love? Nope. Keep your tenor Loprinzi.

(A pal of mine has a very nice tenor Loprinzi. It's a lovely uke for him but I wouldn't take it if he gave it to me because I'd never play it.)

"Optimal sound" is not the highest priority for everybody. "I can play this" is a big one. So is "I can afford to buy this." In my world, throwing a Fremont Soloist on a concert makes perfect sense because I do not own a tenor uke nor do I intend to buy one.

Mivo
05-31-2017, 09:50 AM
Low-g on a tenor is sometimes claimed not to be optimal, either, but on my tenor (the Barron River) it sounds stunningly good and gives the instrument a very round sound, but only with the right strings. For me, these are the Aquila Reds/Carbonblacks. I have a variety of guitar strings that I have yet to try (did try the Thomastik-Infelds, but they were third on my list of favorites, with the Fremont Soloist bring second), and I'm only 90% happy with the C string, but I stopped experimenting when I got a sound that I felt was delicious.

Low-g, for me, was only enjoyable when I found strings that worked for me. A plain low forth made my uke sound dead. I also noticed that I like low-g more on 12-fretters (frets to body). Tenors with 14-16 frets to the body never sound quite right to me. But I'm also really used to my tenor and stopped hopping between instruments, so as with many things it's probably partly a matter of what one is used to.

As for concerts, mine have a high-g, because I feel they sound best in that tuning. If I only had concerts, one of them would be in low-g so that I can play pieces or arpeggios (I really like arpeggios) that require a low forth. I'd use a wound string for sure, though I think I might find the tension too low, but I haven't tried it in-depth as there's no need.

I always think that sopranos with a low-g must sound horrendous, because on the paper they should, but then I listen to Otha-San Sr. and I'm so very impressed by how good he makes it sound. One of these days I'll try a low-g on a soprano, probably the Black Bear (it has the biggest body of my sopranos). But the idea of a super floppy string is not so appealing....

Anyway, I think people do what they do because they like it (not necessarily as a compromise, but because it's the sound and feel they want), and because they can make it work. And I think it depends on the instrument (and strings) more than the scale length. An example is D tuning and sopranos. It is the only tuning that makes my Lyon&Healy vintage soprano shine, but used on my Black Bear soprano, it sounds narrow and one-dimensional (but C tuning makes it sing).

I feel the OP approaches this from a good angle: asking fir experiences with specific models and makers rather than just the scale length. Personally, I'd defer to J's experience with Kamakas and Kiwayas. (Even though she somehow can stand the fat C string of the M600 set :p.)

stevepetergal
05-31-2017, 04:13 PM
I play low G on 2 concert ukuleles. One is a custom I had built a few years ago specifically for Low G. I use it for performance and serious practice. I play almost entirely classical finger picking (a lot of Bach). The other is an Oscar Schmidt I keep around goofing around, for lighter practice purposes, and for practice when I don't want the custom out of its controlled environs.

Lori
05-31-2017, 06:38 PM
Thanks for the input, Lori.

Understood you like the 15" scale. When you say "we" does that mean you're in a group play situation and everyone tunes to C?

That's the other thing I'm trying to get a handle on. Are there groups of mixed size Ukuleles playing melody in C tuning? If it's solo play why tune to C?

Yes, I play in ensemble groups where we have a part written for low g, and parts for re-entrant and rhythm. We are all in C tuning (and assorted sizes of ukes), but with the low g players, we can let the melody go below middle C, as well as harmony notes. If we had more players, we might have a baritone tuned to standard DGBE tuning as well. A bass part is also helpful.

–Lori

cogfasser
06-01-2017, 05:00 AM
Thanks so much everyone for your feedback and discussion on the topic. It was VERY helpful in my decision. I'll be receiving a customized low-g concert in 4-5 weeks. I'll post a review on it then!