View Full Version : Uke Range

05-11-2009, 05:32 AM
Hullo all, just thought I would get your opinions on the range of the ukulele. I know this can be largely affected by which size you are playing (restrict this to soprano/concert/tenor, as much as is possible), and what tuning of strings you are using (high/low top string).

Anyways, I wanted to hear your feelings on the range of the instrument when playing more popular music. I assume that there shouldn't be much trouble with it for playing the traditional music that uke was intended for, since it is built for that. For other music, do you ever feel limited by the range, is it common to find songs that you just can't get to sound right without having someone playing another instrument? How much of a difference does the low g tuning make for you?

From what I have seen and heard, people seem to do a pretty good job playing all sorts of music with the Uke. Unfortunately, that doesn't give you a count of how many other songs people may have wanted to learn, but given up on, due to the limitations of the instrument.

Thanks, in advance, for all your opinions!

05-11-2009, 06:04 AM
It's never struck me as any problem at all. The range from middle-C up is about the same as a good vocalist (it's almost the exact equivalent of a tenor singer transposed up an octave). Just about any melody you might want to be able to play can be made to work in that range.

The limitation is not the instrument but the commitment of the player. If you take the paint-by-number approach (i.e. always rely on other people to tab things out for you and don't know enough theory to change keys) you will be limited in what you can play but don't blame the uke.

05-11-2009, 06:11 AM
I think most people are amazed when they discover how versitile a ukulele is.

05-11-2009, 06:24 AM
The ukulele is hardly limited if you're creative. Playing certain songs in the original key might cause you to run out of strings/frets, so you'll have to come up with your own arrangement. Most good melodies don't span several octaves.

If you're feeling limited by one instrument, use that as an excuse to have more ukes! It's good to have a low G, something with a lot of frets, and something tuned differently. Whatever you can't do on one uke, you can probably do on another!

The nice thing about having a well-rounded uke collection is that it still won't take up your whole couch the way one or two guitars will. ;)

05-11-2009, 06:25 AM
I think that there are so many different variations of ukulele, that you can find one that can fit any style you wish. Size, material, shape, string type all work together to give a certain sound. Banjolele, resonator uke, electric uke, plastic uke, wood uke.... it goes on and on. That is one reason for UAS being so strong for some of us.

I have a tenor mango uke (laminate) and tune it to low G (worth clear strings). It really makes me feel like I am playing a classical guitar, when I am playing those kinds of songs. I come from a classical guitar training, and find the uke very appealing. For more traditional uke sound, I go for a soprano sized long neck, tuned to high G, and get a totally different sound.

One uke won't do it all, but they are small and easy to accumulate. The ukulele category won't limit you–– but your budget might.


05-11-2009, 06:46 AM
as long as you have a complete octave of notes available, there shouldnt be a reason to let the available range hold you back. if your uke doesnt give you a high enough note, then drop it an octave. if it cant bring you a low enough note, then raise it an octave. a C is a C is a C, whether it be a C1, C2, or C3. its still a C. it might not sound exactly the same. but the presence of the music will still be there. take my rendition of "pass the dutchie" that i did for the all things reggae contest. all the instrumentation there was done on one ukulele. the rhythm, the lead, and the bass. its not exactly the same as the original of course. but the notes are pretty much there. just different octaves so i could fit it into the range of my instrument.

05-11-2009, 06:48 AM
Thanks for all the great responses. That is very heartening.

To clarify, I guess I was mainly trying to figure out how much you lose by not having that bass range that something like a guitar has. I wasn't quite as concerned with melody lines.

Anyways, I think you guys have given me quite a bit of fuel to the fire here. Now back to the difficult task of searching for a first uke.


05-11-2009, 09:15 AM
And if you just want a smaller guitar, there are quarter sized guitars. You get the smaller size, but can keep the traditional tuning. Check out this thread

I still think you should get a uke, even if you get a quarter sized guitar. It's well worth it... the tenor size would be an easy transition. And, I think it can inspire you in new ways.


05-11-2009, 09:30 AM
As long as you don't expect big fat bass tones, or play a song that has a riff which requires a lower note than you have, all things are possible. If you treat it like a guitar, it'll bite you sometimes. If you treat it like a different instrument, you'll do fine.

05-11-2009, 10:11 AM
Currently not heading in any way towards a guitar, just looking for the comparison for playing guitar-based tunes. I don't want it to sound like a guitar, but I do want something that I can get a good sound out of to play familiar tunes. I'm also interested in the traditional aspect of it, but that was not a focus of the post for obvious reasons.

Anyways, I've started listening to what people can do with the interest and it sounds like it has a fair enough range there. I think what I'm looking for is not the particularly thick bass, but the support gained by the option of fingerpicking.

Thanks again everyone, for all your help! (More thoughts and opinions are always welcome)

05-11-2009, 06:52 PM
Have a sniff at these two videos, and see what you think. I think they give you a reasonable feel for the ukes fingerpicking capability, in a song accompaniment, rather than a Jake Shimabukuro "hurtling all over the fingerboard" way.


05-12-2009, 12:08 PM
Thanks, the first one was quite different from other things i've heard, I think mostly due to the 8 stringer you were using. The 2nd one was a great example of what i was looking for.