View Full Version : 4 to 8 string conversion?

11-13-2017, 03:23 PM
Just tossing this out there, to see if anyone has tried doing this? Yes, I saw the YT videos of the guy doing this to cheap plastic ukes, but I'm talking about a serious instrument. I can see reasons it wouldn't be advisable, namely doubling the string tension, but are there ways to strengthen an instrument to accommodate that? I ask because there are so few 8-string instruments of any quality, reflected in their high-ish prices and difficult availability in the used market, while there are a whole lot of decent 4-stringers out there.

I once converted a guitar from 6 to 8 strings - of course I did it the easy way, and attached a tailpiece for support. Can't really imagine doing that on a uke, though. But having played mandola, I am jonesing for an 8-string....


11-13-2017, 04:30 PM
Hi, bratsche (viola)!

Late Wataru Takada is legendary folk song singer in Japan. He tried to make a 8 string instrument, because he thought ukulele is too quiet about 50 years a go.


It doesn't sound enough
" I cut off a part of the neck, connect them with a sprint by screws.
I added 4 strings and made a 8 string instrument. It looked ok, but.
As soon as I strung, the bridge brake.
Very expensive ukulele has turned to be rubbish at once.
(from Bourbon Street Blues by Wataru Takada)

https://s7.postimg.org/cck5kogt7/image.png (https://postimages.org/)

Lately this Kamaka is repaired by a claft man and now it is playable.

Croaky Keith
11-13-2017, 11:40 PM
I don't think I'd try it, even on a laminate, the string tension is very likely to do damage, as a uke is lightly made.

11-14-2017, 12:15 AM
I have 3 8 stringers and to be honest the tops aren't built stronger than the 4 stringers that I can see. If anything most ukuleles are so overbuilt that it takes 8 strings to drive the tops properly anyway.

The problems that you will face is, a, somewhere for the extra tuners as 8 string instruments have longer headstocks and ,b, 8 string necks are usually a fraction wider than 4 string necks.

11-14-2017, 09:15 AM
I don’t have a photo of the bracing of a 4 string but here is a build photo of my Barron River 8:


4 string Ukes have less bracing. Headstock has to be much longer, even if you use the Gotoh stealth tuners which are quite small.

11-14-2017, 03:46 PM
Appreciate the input. I'm not at all convinced I will take on this project, due to the time consuming factor and the uncertainty of outcome. At this stage of life, I'll probably just buy an 8-stringer eventually, if I keep on wanting one. But I find it interesting that some people find ukuleles to be lightly built, while others say they're overbuilt. I only have two ukes (both Pono) and they feel light to me, but I have never held another beside them to know how they compare. They are certainly a lot lighter than my steel stringed (mandolin family) instruments! Best to just get something made with 8 tuning machines and a comfortable neck width, I guess. Also, of course, there is the matter of the internal bracing to consider.


11-15-2017, 08:29 AM
I think the question of lightly built depends on the quality of your instruments. Cheaper instruments are more likely to be overbuilt. I have a 6 and an 8 string both Baton Rouge instruments. I'm very happy with them. They are modestly priced but came with good set up and I like their tone. The have fairly large body which gives them a full and quite rich tone. They are not very expensive and could well be a bit overbuilt. They are all laminate but the top isn't too thick. Baton Rouge is a German company but they have their ukes built in China but ensure the quality control is good and that shows in the quality of finish.

I'm pleased with them and they sound good to me and others seem to agree.

07-02-2018, 08:02 PM
Just saw this thread, wanted to add that I just did it to a tenor uke and it worked quite well.

The Worth C8 strings are excellent, by the way.

07-02-2018, 08:48 PM
Since the thread is re-opened; 8 strings seem to be more common in 2018 than they were when this thread was written.

Kala introduced a Baritone 8 string rather recently...and there is a Makala 8 string tenor on the way...along with 8 string offerings in tenor scale by Kala, Ohana, Oscar Schmidt (really affordable—have no idea about how it plays), Baton Rouge (which I own, thanks to the review by gotaukulele.com), Pono (I think Uke Republic Still has them), and even Kamaka. And that only includes the tenor offerings, and not the Taropatch models (concert sized eight strings). I’m pretty sure that Bonanza can even make you an eight string tenor if you ask for one.

That’s a pretty large range of options for a 8 string tenors, at price points that would make most people just choose to buy a second instrument as an eight string versus converting a four string tenor to an eight string. I can see buying a very cheap ukulele just to prove the point and to be able to do it...but otherwise, I’d buy one just off the shelf.

Incidentally, I use my eight string when I am wanting more volume or at a jam that involves plain strumming.

I’m finding that I really enjoy concert size the best, so I am starting a search of Taropatch models. If anyone has a recent Ohana Taropatch they would consider selling—don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I’ve procrastinated on the last few that Mim had in stock, although I’m sure she’ll get them in again.

07-03-2018, 06:46 PM
There's no such thing as a cheap 8 string uke in Brazil. 8 string ones are very rare here, you will never see one being sold in music stores.

You could ask for a luthier to build one, which will be expensive. The other option is to order online, which will also be expensive to be delivered here.

I managed to buy a regular solid spruce top with zebra wood sides/back specifically to add the 4 new strings.

I know it's a bold move. I added 8 holes to the bridge changing it from "tie-bridge" to "string-through bridge", so that there's no bridge detatching issues.

Of course, one built specifically to become a 8 string uke will give you no worries.

I still have some doubts about the neck bending/detatching, and I'm willing to take the risk.

So far, so good. Everything is working perfectly with it.

07-03-2018, 07:06 PM
I could be mistaken, but don't 8 string ukes have truss rods?

bratsche, I think you'd really love a Kamaka 8 string. Ours is fabulous, sounds a lot like a mandolin...
Or, you could get one for less money by Moku. Very nice, too. Mike Hind plays one.

07-04-2018, 10:12 AM
I got one of these 8-string ukes after someone in our group did. Now we have three people playing them. The price is very good, even including shipping from Germany. It was $113 when I bought mine a few months ago, plus shipping.


07-04-2018, 10:33 AM
That one is really not expensive indeed, and the shipping is $58, making it $184 in total.

The one I bought and changed to 8-string was this solid spruce tenor at $64, plus $9 for the extra tuning pegs from another seller.

https://aliexpress.com/item/Ukulele-Solid-Top-23-26-Inch-Mini-Guitar-Acoustic-Electric-Concert-Tenor-4-Strings-Ukelele-Cutaway/32781898423.html?spm=a2g0s.9042311.0.0.1de7b90adbk lpc

07-04-2018, 11:49 AM
bazmaz at gotaukulele.com speaks highly of Baton Rouge quality at the price point. Geoff’s endorsement should mean something as well.

I got one of these 8-string ukes after someone in our group did. Now we have three people playing them. The price is very good, even including shipping from Germany. It was $113 when I bought mine a few months ago, plus shipping.


07-05-2018, 01:58 PM
Funny to revisit this thread I started only 8 months ago. Just shows how a person's fickle priorities can change. I'm much more interested in playing than diddling around with another instrument conversion, although I enjoy reading about others' efforts.. An eight string is one of those things that now I really think I should try before knowing if it's something I'd even want. I'd have to be able to play it fingerstyle, and I see them mostly described as good for strumming, which is not my thing at all. And now that I've got four ukes (as opposed to only two when I started this thread), I'm wondering if it would be frustrating to keep an 8-string in tune, as nylon (or fluoro) strings have proven to be much more finicky than steel ones.

I'm aware of most of the instruments that have been brought up. I would personally rule out anything that wasn't all solid wood construction. I "missed by that much" a chance to get an Ohana 8-string used here in the Marketplace at a very low cost. I would have bought it, it was such a good deal. I'm reluctant to pay more for one of these beasts, though. Also, I have not sold any instruments I'm not playing (though I've tried), and I've run out of storage space for any more (plus the spouse is giving me stink-eye about that)! So I am just chilling on this subject for the time being.


07-05-2018, 07:03 PM
I really wanted to have a 8 string uke. I already had two tenors (one high and the other low g) and a concert, which was originally a 4 string to and I added the 5th string (high/low G, C E A) about 6 months ago and is working perfectly.

I researched quite a bit before doing it. I confess I haven't heard/read anything about truss rods before. Even if I had read about truss rods, I'm sure the one I was willing to convert certainly wouldn't have it. And it wouldn't stop me. I'd never try it with an expensive uke, though.

One thing that was quite a surprise is how goddamn loud it is. Maybe the solid spruce top with the Clear Worth strings are the reasons it gets so loud and bright when I strum hard, although I have never tried or heard an 8 string in person, perheaps they are all like this.

It has some resemblance with the brazilian 10 string viola (metal strings, 3 pairs in octave and the 2 highest in unison). The songs made for the viola are working quite well with the 8 string uke, at least for me.

Fingerpicking is the same, no changes in style at all, you play it just like you were playing the 4 string. And it's beautiful, fingerpicking gets a new life.

I'll try to upload its picture, I'm not sure if it'll work.


07-05-2018, 08:59 PM
I don’t know how necessary a truss rod is...I don’t see one on my Baton Rouge, and the neck is showing no signs of bending.

I think the challenges of making a four string into an eight string are:

-Nut width (hard to get 8 strings into a space of 34mm)
-Getting a slotted nut with 8 grooves in your ukulele’s nut width (if you are luthier [pro or amateur] you could get a blank nut and cut your own
-Drilling holes in the bridge and headstock

And the biggest challenge, I would think, would be the aesthetic look of a converted 4 string, as the headstock is just never going to look right (most eight strings that I see have an extended height headstock, making it a challenge to buy a hard case for).

My Baton Rouge is loud, and as I think I have mentioned, I use it primarily when strumming is the task and I want to be heard (by myself or with others). Our local uke jams, particularly if I lead, is a great place for the eight string.

As for people that worry about playing one, I’d recommend watching Barry Maz’s review of the Baton Rouge. You don’t notice the double courses of strings (other than in sound and while tuning). If anything, the added neck width is more of a distraction—but even that is stretching the concern a bit.

07-06-2018, 02:34 AM
My interest in getting another 8-string (now that I sorta know what I’m doing) is the low G. I really prefer gCEA tuning, but there are times the gG Cc ee aa offers a nice change of pace. The double courses make things jangly, of course. My baritone is nice and all that, but I’m really not into learning the chords or relying on a capo.

I may just got to a 5-string with octave g’s and call it a day. Or wait for the new Makala to hit the streets.

07-06-2018, 02:56 AM
The 8 strings currently in the market seem to be mostly mid price instruments. If you want something more high end, you will likely have to have a luthier make one for you.

As to stringing arrangements, 8 strings generally come with octave G & C and unison E & A. I assume Kala's baritone has the equivalent. I changed my 8 string to octave G with the other three course in unison. I prefer it that way, it still rings very nicely but a bit less jangly. That arrangement doesn't need special string sets, just get standard high and low G sets.

07-06-2018, 03:32 AM
The nut width was a little bit of challenge, because I added 4 grooves to the nut with a needle file, leaving the original 4 ones in their places. I was doubtful that it would work, I was ready to get a new one to make the grooves in the right places, but in the end it worked out fine. There's no issue regarding the spacing between pairs to form the chords.

Interestingly, the concert to which I added the 5th string has a wider nut width than the tenor one I bought to add 4 strings.

There was some trouble to fit the 4 new tuning pegs. I thought I would be able to add them forming a "perfect" parallel path, in the end I had to fit them in a "zig-zag" pattern. They are very close to each other, making the tuning a little difficult.

The high C string was a bit of surprise to me. Wherever I read about the G and C in octaves, I thought I'd see the regular mid C with a "low C". It's a good thing I was wrong, the high C gives it a lot of brightness.

07-06-2018, 08:10 AM
Ohana makes some nice 8-strings and the concert that I have was around $300. It's a lot of fun! If you want higher end, Kanile'a and Kamaka will make you one in tenor size, not sure about concert. The nut on my 8-string Ohana is 1 1/2", same as my 4-string Kanile'a.

07-06-2018, 08:13 AM
Mim has an 8-string Kamaka in stock at the moment - if interested.