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FrankBungle
03-23-2011, 02:23 AM
lately i'm starting to like to tune my ukulele half a step down.
i play guitar like that (former metalhead ;)) and i wanted to try it out on the uke too...well i feel like the sound got richer and deeper and, differentely from guitar, sustain increased.
sometimes i miss a little bit of the ukulele brightness, but so far i'm really liking it.

i play a kala acacia tenor with savarez alliance strings.

what do you guys think about tuning your uke this way?

Ken Middleton
03-23-2011, 03:29 AM
I would say that unless you have a reason for tuning lower, what's the point? The sustain will decrease very slightly, as will the volume.

The main reason for doing it would be if you were playing with other instruments in an unusual key. For instance, if the piece was in the key of Gb major (or F# major), you could tune your uke half a step down and play in G. It could also make a high song slightly easier to sing.

mm stan
03-23-2011, 04:14 AM
Aloha Frankbungle,
I do that to many ukes I have...mostly ones that have shortcomings...I listen for that certain pitch...and try to keep in the range of the my dogs have fleas...for me a tuner cannot
do what I want..my ears will find the correcrt pitch for me..it improves the playabilty and comfort of the high tension strings, makes it in my voice range, and sometimes I don't even notice
any loss of brightness.. as most times I am not in the 440 hz.. you could say drop or alternative tuning...even when I drop the G string an octave or the A string for slack key..
and you're right I used to slack it for guitar too...Hope it helps..Good Luck and experiment...and listen for that certain pitch...MM Stan

Ronnie Aloha
03-23-2011, 05:27 AM
This tuning works nicely for Hey Soul Sister.

FrankBungle
03-23-2011, 05:59 AM
I would say that unless you have a reason for tuning lower, what's the point? The sustain will decrease very slightly, as will the volume.

i did it, like i do on my acoustic guitars to use higher gauge strings, because i switched from aquila strings to savarez alliance and i like the sound of them but i don't like the playability...too much tension for me, my hands get tired too soon.
i was expecting sustain to decrease but it didn't happen and so far i like the new sound better.

by the way i really like to play your songs (and to listen to them of course). i like your taste for arrangements.

to mm stan:
i will try to listen to that certain pitch. thank you!

Uncle Rod Higuchi
03-23-2011, 06:12 AM
I've done this for the 'performance' uke I use at a gig I have every other (odd) Sunday after church.

I feel more comfortable in that slightly lower singing register.

Of course, when I play with others I use an ukulele which is tuned like theirs, G-C-E-A.

Keep uke'in',

Kanaka916
03-23-2011, 06:13 AM
Friend of mine who plays a Kamaka HF-3 drops his tuning half step also. Only bad part about is when you're jamming with friends, you'll have to re-tune or use a capo. Whatever works for ya!

chiefnoda
03-23-2011, 06:17 AM
I down tune my guitar as it changes the sound, deeper and more resoant. I may lose some volume but I take the richer tone over the volume. As long as I don't play with others, I'm totally fine.

I haven't done that on ukulele but one day, I just might.

I use alternate tunings on guitar a lot (different from down tuning). Again I haven't experimented it on ukulele much but I might do that out of curiosity.

Anyway, do whatever makes you happy!

Cheers
Chief

70sSanO
03-23-2011, 06:59 AM
For a few years I tuned my tenor to Bb instead of C. I think that every ukulele has a sweet spot where the string tension and pitch come together and sometimes it is not when tuned to C. So I understand the richness you are taking about. Keep in mind my tenors have an 18 inch scale length so they have more tension than normal.

But I will echo the comments of others, it is tough to play with others as you are always transposing. I even bought a capo, but I hated using it.

So I have now tuned them to C and have, in my mind, found a compromise with the strings I use. Put me on a desert isle and no tuner and I would be lke Stan, except his island is hardly a desert, and I'd tune to where it sounded the best... which probably would not be C.

John

FrankBungle
03-23-2011, 07:01 AM
too bad i never had the chance to jam with any other uke player...it ain't that popular as an instrument here.
i jammed with some guitar players and of course from now on...they will have to down tune half a step!

the only problem for now is my girlfriend voice...maybe i should change her too. :)

mds725
03-23-2011, 09:16 AM
I recently received the Victoria Vox Original Songbook for 'Ukulele, Vol. 1, and many of her songs are written/played in F#-B-D#-G# tuning.

casarole45
03-23-2011, 12:41 PM
yeah, i used to tune half step down to as I had a uke I prefered the sound of and tension like it.

Ken Middleton
03-23-2011, 01:04 PM
yeah, i used to tune half step down to as I had a uke I prefered the sound of and tension like it.

That is a very good point. Our ears get used to the sound of certain keys. Take the key of C, for instance. It is the most used key on the ukulele. Even Jake plays in C a lot, because he can do a great deal with it. Tune down one semitone and you would be playing in the key of B, a key our ears are not so used to hearing.

Phantasm
03-23-2011, 01:07 PM
When I'm playing by myself I like to tune it down a minor third ( E-A-C#-F#). Really mellow and means I'm not squawking to sing along :P

OldePhart
03-23-2011, 02:08 PM
I would say that unless you have a reason for tuning lower, what's the point? The sustain will decrease very slightly, as will the volume.

The main reason for doing it would be if you were playing with other instruments in an unusual key. For instance, if the piece was in the key of Gb major (or F# major), you could tune your uke half a step down and play in G. It could also make a high song slightly easier to sing.

Actually, Ken, you're one of the last people on earth I'd ever contradict on anything regarding uke...except...I've actually seen where decreasing tension on an acoustic uke increased sustain (or, to be more accurate, increasing tension decreased sustain). I tried a very heavy set of fluorocarbons on one of my ukes and it absolutely killed both tone and sustain. This surprised the bejabbers out of me because I've played guitar for years and have always been firmly in the "thicker is better" camp when it came to strings. But, at some point it seems that too much tension can really kill the sustain and tone and apparently ukes, being smaller bodied, are more susceptible to this than guitars.

Come to think of it, I've also seen the same thing on my Kala acacia pocket uke. With Martin M600 strings, tune it CFAD and it's happy as a lark, tune it DGBE and it is completely stifled.

So, if the OP was using pretty heavy strings to begin with then I can see where tuning down might increase sustain.

John

mm stan
03-23-2011, 02:23 PM
I down tune alot of my ukes to B or I have one lower..it's basically for soloing and you will stand out..hee hee if you want to...
loosing the strings will give it a deeper resonation and a little more substain.. and warmer and richer tone..some like the looser
tension for playabiity and comfort..and bending...enrich youur style and try it... fun always to learn different techniques and styles..
Happy Strumming..MM Stan

Ukuleleblues
03-23-2011, 03:57 PM
I beat on my uke so I tune it to D. One time I tried tuning 1 step down to Bb. Man those strings were so loose for me I got tangled up in them and tripped.;)

If you like it go for it! Post a sound byte for us.

Ken Middleton
03-23-2011, 09:41 PM
Actually, Ken, you're one of the last people on earth I'd ever contradict on anything regarding uke...

No, you are certainly right John. Tighten a string too much and it becomes almost completely rigid with no sustain at all. I was speaking really of normal strings at normal pitch. If they are slackened off too much, they become less audible and have less sustain (at least that can be heard).

I used to tune my tenors to Bb. There were several reasons. One was because it meant I could use the same chord shapes as a guitar with a capo on 3. the main reason though, was because of the different mood you get. Bb is a "darker" key than C. A few 20th Century composers even ascribed colours to the different keys.

808boy
03-23-2011, 09:59 PM
I have 2 concerts and 2 tenors that I play daily and they're ALL tune differently so I can find my vocal comfort range for any key the song is written in. Of course when I play with others, I retune to them. I especially like E A C# F# on my Vineyard tenor, absolutely beautiful voice out of it with comfortable string tension, this is what I use the most and loving it.
So use any tuning you want when playing by yourself, it's your uke and your ears......................BO.................

FrankBungle
03-24-2011, 07:00 AM
i'll see what happens in the next days...i think it takes time to decide what sound you like the most. that's why i almost quit playing the electric guitar...i was tired of always changing equipment to obtain the sound i wanted.
an unplugged acoustic instrument instead has a certain sound that you may like or not...but then we decide to change strings or tuning or anything else and the problems are back again.

i guess that it depends a lot on our mood...it is probably impossible to find our definitve sound.

Ken Middleton
03-24-2011, 07:16 AM
... it is probably impossible to find our definitve sound.

The sound you get from a ukulele has very little to do with the ukulele, or the strings, or the tuning. Getting your "definitive sound" is much more a matter of how you play it.

Let me give you an example. At this year's NAMM, James Hill was demonstrating for Kala Ukes. He was playing a Chinese-made instrument instead of his usual hand-made uke by Mike DaSilva. Most people listening to him would not be able to tell which he was using. He sounds great on anything. I have enen seen him play an envelope with drum brushes. You know what? He sounded great.

OldePhart
03-24-2011, 07:58 AM
...the main reason though, was because of the different mood you get. Bb is a "darker" key than C. A few 20th Century composers even ascribed colours to the different keys.

I was aware of that but I thought the "color" of a key derived from the way various orchestral instruments "fit together" in a particular key back in the day. Playing guitar as the only accompaniment for vocals, for example, I've never really noticed much change when transposing a song from G up to something I could sing in, often A or Bb. Maybe my ear is just not that refined - actually, that's pretty likely!

The main reason I replied to this though, is to mention something that may or may not have anything to do with the "color" of a key, but to mention a wierd condition a friend of mine has. He was born sighted, but with an eye condition that meant he was certain to lose his sight, which happened when he was a teenager. Anyway, he has perfect absolute pitch (it's amazing to watch him change guitar strings and tune right to the exact pitch with no reference) but he always claimed that he saw musical notes as colors. If I remember right, middle C, for example, was a particular shade of purple. I always figured he was having a little fun at my expense until I saw a TV program where they showed people (most of them not blind) who experienced the same thing. There was a scientific name for it that I don't recall at the moment, and it was an extremely rare condition, but most of those who had it were very involved in music.

John

Ken Middleton
03-24-2011, 08:08 AM
I was aware of that but I thought the "color" of a key derived from the way various orchestral instruments "fit together" in a particular key back in the day. Playing guitar as the only accompaniment for vocals, for example, I've never really noticed much change when transposing a song from G up to something I could sing in, often A or Bb. Maybe my ear is just not that refined - actually, that's pretty likely!

The main reason I replied to this though, is to mention something that may or may not have anything to do with the "color" of a key, but to mention a wierd condition a friend of mine has. He was born sighted, but with an eye condition that meant he was certain to lose his sight, which happened when he was a teenager. Anyway, he has perfect absolute pitch (it's amazing to watch him change guitar strings and tune right to the exact pitch with no reference) but he always claimed that he saw musical notes as colors. If I remember right, middle C, for example, was a particular shade of purple. I always figured he was having a little fun at my expense until I saw a TV program where they showed people (most of them not blind) who experienced the same thing. There was a scientific name for it that I don't recall at the moment, and it was an extremely rare condition, but most of those who had it were very involved in music.

John

It is more noticeable on the piano, John, but some keys have a definite mood or feel to them. Some sound "happier" than others. I'm not talking about major and minor here. A is a much brighter key than Ab or Bb, for instance. Back in the good old 20th century some composers experimented with this. It wasn't to do with instruments, but actual pitches of notes. What your friend suffers from may well be connected. Very interesting.

In 35 years of classroom music teaching I have only come across one child with perfect pitch (others came close). She would get very confused if she was reading a piece of music in a particular key but the accompaniment was transposed into a different key. She would sing the notes of the score, not what she was hearing.

OldePhart
03-24-2011, 08:14 AM
In 35 years of classroom music teaching I have only come across one child with perfect pitch (others came close). She would get very confused if she was reading a piece of music in a particular key but the accompaniment was transposed into a different key. She would sing the notes of the score, not what she was hearing.

I started out envying his perfect pitch - 'til I got to know him better. Anything that is "off" drives him to distraction. He hears flaws in music that I don't even notice. In most cases after he points them out my ear is good enough to hear them, but I can enjoy the music anyway. There are a lot well-known popular "iconic" recordings that he has a hard time suffering through. When I realized that I became thankful that I wasn't afflicted with perfect pitch!

John

ukeatan
03-24-2011, 09:10 AM
There was a scientific name for it that I don't recall at the moment, and it was an extremely rare condition, but most of those who had it were very involved in music.

^^ Sounds like synesthesia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synesthesia).

FrankBungle
03-25-2011, 01:02 AM
The sound you get from a ukulele has very little to do with the ukulele, or the strings, or the tuning. Getting your "definitive sound" is much more a matter of how you play it.

Let me give you an example. At this year's NAMM, James Hill was demonstrating for Kala Ukes. He was playing a Chinese-made instrument instead of his usual hand-made uke by Mike DaSilva. Most people listening to him would not be able to tell which he was using. He sounds great on anything. I have enen seen him play an envelope with drum brushes. You know what? He sounded great.

I totally agree with you but has it ever happened to you to listen to an old recording of yours and thinking: how is it possible that i liked this sound!

maybe it's just me, but when i think i found "my sound" after a while i realize i can do something better. i'm not talking about the way i play, because in this case i know i have a lot of work to do to get better...i'm just an amateur player and probably i always will.

an old teacher of mine always told me that as your character change, as you grow older, as you accumulate new experiences in your life, your way of playing will change.
i'm on my late twenties and maybe character's changings are happening fast in my life.

Ken Middleton
03-25-2011, 01:18 AM
I totally agree with you but has it ever happened to you to listen to an old recording of yours and thinking: how is it possible that i liked this sound!


I certainly play a bit better now than I used to. I don't think it has anything to do with the sound of the instrument though. I regularly use inexpensive instruments for recordings, even though I have several top quality ones I could use.

mm stan
03-25-2011, 01:40 AM
I totally agree with you but has it ever happened to you to listen to an old recording of yours and thinking: how is it possible that i liked this sound!

maybe it's just me, but when i think i found "my sound" after a while i realize i can do something better. i'm not talking about the way i play, because in this case i know i have a lot of work to do to get better...i'm just an amateur player and probably i always will.

an old teacher of mine always told me that as your character change, as you grow older, as you accumulate new experiences in your life, your way of playing will change.
i'm on my late twenties and maybe character's changings are happening fast in my life.

As far as I know, I'm a young pup in the 50's...I've noticed that as you get better and older your taste may change...I've been jumping back and forth on different sizes of ukes,
different tunings, maybe my perspective changes due to my perception on a newer outlook as I tend to continue to grow fundamentally diverse musically.

Hippie Dribble
03-25-2011, 02:30 AM
an old teacher of mine always told me that as your character change, as you grow older, as you accumulate new experiences in your life, your way of playing will change.


hi Frank

I've really enjoyed reading this thread. Thankyou everyone for your insightful, perceptive and thought provoking posts.

At least for me, my way of playing changes sometimes on a daily basis, depending on my mood or the piece I'm trying to interpret, whether it be an original or otherwise. I think we are constantly in flux. I do tend to listen with very unkind ears to things I recorded many years ago though. But I tend to think that as a developing musician, it's always gonna be that way to an extent. The hope is that we continue to improve in our playing and always strive to be better.

As far as your tuning question goes, I don't generally like ukes tuned lower than C. I've tuned a couple of them to Bb before and tried different stuff out, but it loses it's bite, it's resonance and it's volume. Just seems to suck the life out of it and completely changes the character of the ukulele sound for me. I do have a sopranino I like tuned up to Eb, as it gives that short scaled uke a sweeter, more lively tone, greater resonance and sustain, and I also have a couple of my sopranos tuned up to D, for the same reason.

I am very new at playing tenor scaled ukuleles and as yet have not been bold enough to either drop or raise the tunings with those. Too busy trying to get my little fingers to stretch across the fretboard. :o

Anyway guys, thanks for the discussion. I learn something everyday on these forums. Blessings. :)

mm stan
03-25-2011, 02:37 AM
I've noticed as my mood changes I play differently..even in the same piece...may be different patterns, in strumming or on the neck....and that's when I experience creativity and learn new things..jus sayin' Stan

Hippie Dribble
03-25-2011, 02:47 AM
I've noticed as my mood changes I play differently..even in the same piece...may be different patterns, in strumming or on the neck....and that's when I experience creativity and learn new things..jus sayin' Stan

agreed Stan. You make a great point. To me that can be down to two things: either the quality of the song - it's light and shade - that gives one some elbow room, and / or the quality of the interpretation, to take us on an emotional journey that is dynamic, that ebbs and flows. I think specifically now of Matt Dahlberg's interpretation of that Bon Jovi song, 'Livin' On A Prayer'. To me, he infuses so much life into that song through his interpretation of it. That is the sign of real creative energy; we rise and fall as we hang on to the movement of his hands and fingers.

I guess all songs are striving for that inner, visceral response at heart, aren't they. Some succeed, some don't.

ichadwick
03-25-2011, 08:02 AM
what do you guys think about tuning your uke this way?
I like tight strings, so I'd probably not lower the tension.

But to get a different resonance and lower pitch, I found a baritone was just perfect for the job.

Huna
03-25-2011, 08:23 AM
Actually since a soprano and concert and tenor are all normally tuned the same, and the tension on a tenor is soooo stiff compared to a soprano, it sort of makes no sense to loosen the strings on a Soprano, but it makes more sense to do it on a Tenor. I have enough complications in my life than to have to deal with all different tuned ukes though lol. I did hear a guy playing a song on youtube and I couldn't match it on my uke because he was playing his tuned down a whole step or two at least. I think it makes more sense to do it on a tenor than on a soprano.

philpot
03-25-2011, 08:49 AM
I like tuning my uke down a half step. Its actually been that way for a couple days now. I do it because it makes a few songs I play easier to sing, but beyond that I do like the sound. I still prefer standard C tuning though :)

LoMa
03-25-2011, 11:35 AM
I find that on some instruments, detuning a half step seems to increase the resonance of the uke or guitar, making it sound like there is an increase in the sustain.

Theory, however correct, doesn't always correspond to what the ear perceives!

There was one tenor Mele I used to have that came alive detuned. Not true of my other ukes, but it sure did make a difference in that one uke!