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View Full Version : SATB: Why "concert"?



itsme
12-19-2010, 03:12 PM
This has always kinda bugged me. A standard for voices is soprano, alto, tenor, bass (or baritone, I guess), so why is the uke equivalent to an alto called a "concert"? Anyone know?

OldePhart
12-19-2010, 03:54 PM
This is purely, 100%, completely and totally a guess - but I know that guitar body sizes include parlor, concert, then dreadnaught and finally jumbo - so maybe the uke "concert" comes from that convention?

John

Chris Tarman
12-19-2010, 03:59 PM
I would guess that OldePhart is on the mark, especially since, with the exception of the Baritone, they're all tuned the same. I think it's a "concert" because it's a bit louder than a soprano. Not sure about tenors, unless they were originally tuned differently (it seems like I once read that tenors were always in C tuning, but that D tuning used to be the standard for sopranos, so maybe that is it...).

Ukulele JJ
12-19-2010, 05:15 PM
This has always kinda bugged me. A standard for voices is soprano, alto, tenor, bass (or baritone, I guess)

Saxophones too.

JJ

bassfiddlesteve
12-19-2010, 06:02 PM
The family of ukuleles as we know it today did not evolve in the same manner as saxophones where each member appeared at the same time and was given a different range or voice. What we now call a "soprano" ukulele was the standard size and was usually tuned in C or D. The "concert" ukulele was designed to utilize the same tuning with a larger body that offered more volume (at least in theory), hence the name. The larger "tenor" ukulele followed soon after and was originally designed to be tuned dGBE according to Martin and Gibson catalogs and string packages of the time. It was truly a tenor voiced ukulele in it's original tuning. However, even the Martin catalogs from the 1920's stated that it could also be tuned the same as a standard ukulele if desired, which of course is now common practice. The "baritone" came several decades later and was tuned like the tenor except with a low 4th string, making it the same tuning as the four highest string on the guitar. Keep in mind that other manufactures (Harmony, for instance) had their own ideas of how ukuleles should be sized and pitched, but the designs made by Martin (in terms of body size and scale length) are considered standard for the most part.

- Steve

KamakOzzie
12-19-2010, 06:02 PM
Sam Kamaka explains it in this factory tour. This is part 1 of 3.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=szlxol9C894

Bill

chiefnoda
12-19-2010, 07:20 PM
A standard for voices is soprano, alto, tenor, bass, so why is the uke equivalent to an alto called a "concert"?

100% guessing, but SATB is based on the range of notes, right (ie, frequencies)? Soprano is tuned A D F# B; Tenor is one full step lower, G C E A. Baritone is two and a half step (5 frets) lower, D G B E. Concert is tuned same as Soprano (assuming ADF#B) so it is not really lower in the range and thus cannot be Alto and they have to come up with a name.

Guitars were like that. In 19th century, CF Martin was making sizes 2, 1 1/2, 1, 0 (small to large). Then they made a 00 size (double Oh). Demands came in, so they introduced a 000-size which they called a concert-sized body. The trend continued and they made a dreadnaught, a jumbo etc (they also technically had 0000 which is more commonly known as M-body).

So I think when they made a body larger but retained the same tuning as soprano, they called it a concert ukulele.

My wild guesses.....

Cheers
Chief

bassfiddlesteve
12-19-2010, 08:24 PM
So I think when they made a body larger but retained the same tuning as soprano, they called it a concert ukulele.

Your "wild guesses" are 100% correct. The only thing I would add is that the tenor ukulele was originally tuned like a baritone except with a high/re-entrant fourth string. Lyle Ritz and Jim Beloff still tune their tenor ukes this way.

- Steve

brucemoffatt
12-19-2010, 08:24 PM
100% guessing, but SATB is based on the range of notes, right (ie, frequencies)? Soprano is tuned A D F# B;

OK, I'm a complete new chum at uke so forgive my ignorance. Isn't Soprano tuned GCEA (re-entrant G), same as Concert and also same as Tenor uke? I know I'm missing something. My Soprano is tuned that way, and my friend's Tenor is as well.

Bruce in Adelaide

DaveVisi
12-19-2010, 08:45 PM
Bruce,
No, you're not missing anything. The modern tuning of ukes is typically what you have. Unless there's a reason to change, just keep it at GCEA and you will be able to play along with your friends.

mm stan
12-19-2010, 09:18 PM
Aloha Bruce,
If you're just starting playing, I'd stick to C regular tuning...and don't complicate things in the learning process...Like Dave said if you're playing with others, it is best to stay in the same tuning unless you like
standing out like a sore thumb...for playing solo or by yourself...you can use alternate tunings....I hope it helps...Have Fun and enjoy!! Happy Holidays down there, down under...Cheers, MM stan...

Howlin Hobbit
12-20-2010, 12:05 PM
While I agree with the idea of staying in the same tuning as your friends if you're just learning, a couple of the posts leave the impression that there'd be some sort of weird dissonance if there are ukuleles playing in different tunings. This just isn't so.

As long as you're playing the same chords--that's chords, not fingerings--everyone will be fine.

My band occasionally plays Tiny Bubbles. Thadd plays it on a C-tuned (GCEA, re-entrant) soprano and I play it on an F-tuned (CFAD, re-entrant) sopranino and it works great.

scottie
12-20-2010, 12:45 PM
call 'em whatever you want, the soprano, concert and tenor distinctions are false as there's no range or clef distinction between soprano concert and tenor other than that of the baritone standard tuning or whatever you decide to use for whatever reason, correct?

I just think of my uke as a soprano guitar.

zachbdude
12-20-2010, 12:52 PM
actually voices are soprano, alto, tenor, bass, baritone and for males falcetto is the even higher than soprano. still, i have no idea why its concert.

Tor
12-20-2010, 12:56 PM
Yeah the naming _is_ a bit strange.. when I played a brass instrument as a boy the 'alt' was an Eb instrument while the 'tenor' was a B instrument, and so on. For ukes it's only the baritone that's actually tuned (standard) to another key.

bassfiddlesteve
12-20-2010, 01:02 PM
If you'll read some of the previous posts in this thread, it will explain why the family of ukuleles are named the way they are. Keep in mind that the tenor uke was originally tuned lower than is common practice today.

- Steve

Tor
12-20-2010, 01:29 PM
Ah, indeed. You explained it in #5. And #6 has a link.