View Full Version : Ukulele Octaves & Repeated Notes

07-13-2011, 10:46 PM
Hey everyone, now I've been fingerpicking around the uku lately and I found that a lot of the notes are repeat, meaning they sound the same. I looked into octaves and I don't know much about it but I guess being that C is the lowest string, the uku lowest octave starts on the middle C. But my question, on a regular saying 15 fret GCEA concert uku, how many octaves does it have?

I found the lowest octave and the highest but the middle I'm really confused...


And to add more confusion to the repeating notes... take A for example: open a string note and g string 2nd fret A note sounds the same which is quite understandable being that they are in the same octave. But the A note on the e string 5th fret sounds the same as the other two as well...

Hope we can have an insightful discussion on this.
Thanks and feel free to respond.

07-14-2011, 01:40 AM
From your open low C string to the C (1st string 3rd fret) is one octave.
count 12 frets up the 1st string to the next "C" and that's your 2nd octave.
So on the uke pictured, there are slightly more than two octaves.
All the other "C" notes are repeated/same notes as those 3 that I mentioned.

Mel Ott
07-14-2011, 08:05 AM
Yeah, a fifteen-fret uke will have two octaves. The lowest note is middle C. Then the E string (open) is the E above middle C, the A (also open) is the A above middle C, then fifteen frets down you have the second C above middle C. That's two octaves. A soprano uke with only twelve frets has slightly less than two octaves available. The more frets you have, the greater your range is going to be (although after a certain point the frets get unplayably close together - in theory you could have a soprano uke with twenty-four frets, but I'd guess that only fourteen or fifteen of them would be usable with a standard-length neck).

There are lots of jokes about how guitar players can't read music, and the biggest reason why they have that reputation is because of exactly the problem you describe, iamfroogle: the same note shows up in a bunch of different places, so it's not always clear from reading (say) a melody line what fret on what string you should play. Keyboard players and wind instruments don't have that problem: there's only one place to find the A above middle C on a piano or a clarinet.

Things are a little better with a uke - only four strings means a lot fewer repetitions than on a guitar - but it's still a little tricky. When you're learning the melody line to a song, you'll have to make sure that the melody falls within your uke's range. Sometimes, that won't be an issue - many songs have melodies that span an octave or less and you can play them as written. Other times, one end or the other will fall out of the range of available notes. Then, you'll have to make some adjustments. You can play the melody an octave lower or higher - that'll keep you in the same key. Or you can transpose the song to a more uke-friendly key. Transposing can be a little confusing, especially if you're doing it on the fly, but it's really helpful for learning how songs are put together.

As an example, I've been playing around with Jumpin' Jim's Ukulele Tips and Tricks. The first song is "He's Got The Whole World In His Hands," which is a super simple song to play - just two chords, and the melody ranges from the B below middle C to the A above it. Unfortunately, that low B isn't available on a high-G uke. I've been playing it an octave higher (which just fits onto my LU-21P), which is a good way for me to get familiar with the higher end of the fretboard. I could, though, transpose the song to being in D; then the two chords would be D and A7 (instead of C and G7) and the lowest note would be a C#, which would be available to me on my ukulele's fretboard.

07-14-2011, 05:38 PM
Mel Ott, glad you stumbled upon my thread again :)

I have enough of a headache on 4 strings, I feel for the guitarist but I don't even want to think about all the notes and ranges on 6 strings. Anyway I think you capture my problem really well...I would be reading the notes on the staff but wouldn't know what to play..

You say that the 15-fret uku has 2 octaves...but how could that be so?
If you could bear with me...There is the low octave nearest to the tuner pegs as I have put in orange rectangles and another (higher) octave from frets 12 to 15 (correct?)

That leaves the notes from frets 4 to 11 largely unaccounted for. Furthermore if we can revisit the A notes example again..
There are A notes on:
-a open string
-g string 2nd fret
-e string 5th fret
-c string 9th fret
-a string 12th fret
-g string 14th fret

From my inexperience ear (and please correct me if I am wrong) the following produces the same tone thus are repeated notes
1. a open string & g string 2nd fret
2. e string 5th fret & c string 9th fret
3. a string 12th fret & g string 14th fret


Thus, if I see an A note on the second space (what string/fret on the ukulele correspond to that A note?)

And likewise what string/fret on the uku correspond to the A note on the uppermost line?

07-14-2011, 06:52 PM
first off, i'm assuming you're using a high G string.

you've almost got it... one flaw though. you said:

1. a open string & g string 2nd fret
2. e string 5th fret & c string 9th fret

actually, all four of these notes are enharmonic. they are repeats. the same exact note. they all ring at 440 hertz. (440 oscillation/vibrations per second) this is the second space in the treble staff. the A that spells FACE.

3. a string 12th fret & g string 14th fret

these notes are one octave higher. they ring at 880 hertz. this is the A on the floater line above the staff ;)

if you play the chromatic scale starting on C (the open C string) when your reach the 1st string 3rd fret that is 1 octave higher than your starting C. everything higher than that C on the first string is in the second octave. same thing on the G string. play the 5th fret. that's a C in the second octave. when you finally reach the 17th fret, you've made it into the 3rd octave.

think of it like this... play a C major scale ONLY on the C string. it looks like this


now play the scale spanning all four strings... it looks like this.

A----------------2-3-(<--same notes)
g----------------4-5-(<--same notes)

these are the exact same notes. anything above the 3rd fret on the A string, 8th fret on the E string, 12th fret on the C string and 5th fret on the G string is in the second octave. everything below these frets are in the first octave. the only notes in the 3rd octave are:


assuming you only have 17 frets.

we have so many repeats because each string can only sound a single note at a time and to make a chord we usually need at least 3 notes. so we tune our stringed instruments so they overlap each other ;)

Mel Ott
07-15-2011, 03:51 AM
In addition to what shutinanxiety said, you can think of it like this, iamfroogle:

There are twelve notes in an octave, going up by half-steps (for example, the sequence of notes "C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B" spans one octave). Each half-step is a fret on your uke. The highest open string is the A string; the highest note you can play on your uke will be the highest playable fret on that string. For a uke with 15 frets, that's going to be C (the 12th fret will give you the second A above middle C, the 14th fret will give you the second B above middle C, and the 15th will give you the second C above middle C). We know from how our ukuleles are tuned that the lowest note on a high-G ukulele is middle C. If the lowest note is middle C and the highest is the second C above middle C, that's two octaves.

07-15-2011, 11:15 AM
If you were playing a piano, every note is only there once. There's an A in every octave, but there's only one middle A on the second space of the treble clef. You have to play that one key if you want a middle A.

On a string instrument like a uke, depending on how your strings are tuned a single note can appear in several places. That "middle A" appears on all four of your strings. The open A string, 2nd fret G string, 5th fret E string, and 9th fret C string are all middle A.

It's up to you whether you consider having several middle A options a headache or a benefit. Suppose you're playing a melody line. You're finding it's hard to get from the A to the other notes you have to play in the melody. Maybe you can move your hand a few frets up and play one of the other middle A options, and maybe at that spot on the neck it will be a lot easier to reach all the notes and play that melody.