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View Full Version : Do any Tenor Players tune to Linear (low 4th) Key of D?



southcoastukes
08-17-2011, 05:22 PM
Just curious. Key of D (high re-entrant) used to be the main tuning for soprano ukuleles in the early days. The old classic sheet music is readily available and cheap. David "Kawika" Hurd, one of the most famous Tenor builders ever, advocated the linear form for Tenors. James Hill uses it.

It's got some big advantages over linear C tuning on a Tenor. First, you get away from the "boominess" of the low G. Second, it puts you in the range where, if you want, you can leave wound strings altogether behind. An unwound low 4th in D tuning (low A), is a much better string, both in terms of tension and sound than the either thicker, or looser string you get with C tuning.

We make a no-wound set for that tuning. It is one of our most popular. I have a very strong feeling, however, that no one is using it on a Tenor. Put it on the longer scale of a standard Baritone, and it sets up in C tuning.

Of course, I don't go into details with every string customer about what they are using our strings for. Nonetheless, we ask for and appreciate feedback. I'm not sure I've ever gotten feedback on this set saying how great it sounded on the customer's Tenor. Pretty much always, it has been on how great it sounded it their Baritone.

In other words, it seems if you give someone a better option in terms of sound, they'll switch to the key of C in a heartbeat, but switch away? I'm guessing not.

Anybody out there use this tuning, or is James Hill all alone on a lonely island?

erivel
08-17-2011, 07:23 PM
I'd be more inclined to use it on a baritone tuned to C. I just don't want to have to transpose or sing in a different key if tuned to D.

Ken Middleton
08-17-2011, 10:09 PM
Anybody out there use this tuning, or is James Hill all alone on a lonely island?

And James is using mainly re-entrant tuning at the moment. The last 2 or 3 times I have seen him play he has had his low A uke on stage just to play one number: Billy Jean.

southcoastukes
08-18-2011, 03:16 AM
And James is using mainly re-entrant tuning at the moment. The last 2 or 3 times I have seen him play he has had his low A uke on stage just to play one number: Billy Jean.

Thanks for the info, Ken. Maybe James is also one who likes to stay where he is familiar, since D is also sometimes known as "Canadian" tuning.

While it's a great way to go on soprano ukuleles, if he's tuning to high re-entrant D on a Tenor, it works because it's amplified. Dropping (or raising) the 4th an octave makes about a 1-2 step difference in selecting a good sized instrument match.

Raygf
08-18-2011, 04:08 AM
Dirk,
I just purchased 3 sets of your strings. One is a linear set. I love D tuning on my sopranos and will try these in D on a tenor and let you know what I think. My Kala acacia needs some new strings.

I know this is off topic, but I also bought 2 sets of BridgeBoneBeads. I put them on my 2 new baritones and LOVE them. I just ordered 2 more sets. When they get here I'll string up the Kala.

SailingUke
08-18-2011, 04:51 AM
I have not played this tuning, but a good friend of mine plays linear D on a tenor.

CTurner
08-18-2011, 04:51 AM
Dirk,
I'm using your flatwound low g strings on my custom tenor. I'm going to try setting to D tuning with low g when I get home today.:)

southcoastukes
08-18-2011, 12:08 PM
Dirk,
I'm using your flatwound low g strings on my custom tenor. I'm going to try setting to D tuning with low g when I get home today.:)

DON'T DO IT!

The flatwounds don't have the flexibility that regular wound strings do. That'll be a lot of tension.

If you trust your bridge, you could try it with a G650 Round Wound set. The safest way is to go with the Linear Ukulele set - no wound strings - they're designed for that tuning.

southcoastukes
08-18-2011, 12:10 PM
Dirk,
... I love D tuning on my sopranos and will try these in D on a tenor and let you know what I think...

Looking forward to hearing how you like it!

southcoastukes
08-18-2011, 12:22 PM
By the way - everyone hears things a bit differently. Some people will have grown accostomed to linear C and nothing else will sound right. Some others will have actually learned to use what is a slight imbalance to their advantage. Cliff Edwards played this way a lot - tuning down and using a dead gut 3rd string like a slap bass.

I hear the imbalance, and judging from all the posts on this forum about trying to find a "low G" string, a lot of other people do too. I hear some people talking of "laying off" the 4th string to keep it under control. You shouldn't have to do that.

Part of this is string selection - a single wound 4th accentuates the problem, but the other part is simply the G note is borderline low to resonate properly in a Tenor body. For the scientific among you, here's David Hurd's analysis on his "Tuning the 4-string Tenor" page.

http://www.ukuleles.com/SetupnCare/TenorTune.html

By the way, although we both hear something, aparrently David and I also hear it differently. I described the situation earlier here as "boominess". In looking over his page, I see "Kawika" uses the more scientific term: "thunkiness".

CTurner
08-18-2011, 01:29 PM
Thanks for the warning, Dirk. I had only just tried a couple of minutes of it when I read your note. No harm done, the custom is well built. I've set the flatwounds back to the C tuning.

But this makes my curiosity about the linear set more intense! I'll order soon.

southcoastukes
08-18-2011, 05:31 PM
Thanks for the warning, Dirk. I had only just tried a couple of minutes of it when I read your note. No harm done, the custom is well built. I've set the flatwounds back to the C tuning.

But this makes my curiosity about the linear set more intense! I'll order soon.

Glad I caught you there. We post a warning about doing that sort of things with these flatwound strings on the website, but it's easy to forget. They are beautiful strings, but with some unique characteristics.

You couldn't ask for more of a contrast between the G650 flatwounds and the Linear Ukulele set. We feel the first is a gorgeous way to tune a ukulele for a "guitar sound"; full, and smooth, without finger squeak.

The reason we call the non-wound set the "Linear Ukulele Set", is that because it has no wound strings, as much as any linear set-up can, it gives more of an "Ukulele" character. It also gives a lot more performance than the no-wound set-ups for C tuning on a Tenor. You can only push the laws of physics so far, and a good sounding unwound "low G" is still a thing of the future. Technology has gotten us to a good unwound Tenor "low A".

zac987
08-19-2011, 09:15 AM
I've been looking into getting a Kala Acacia Tenor and tuning it to dGBE. Do you guys have a good string set for that tuning?

southcoastukes
08-19-2011, 12:23 PM
I've been looking into getting a Kala Acacia Tenor and tuning it to dGBE. Do you guys have a good string set for that tuning?

Nope - don't quite go that low. Our Heavy Gauge ukulele set (no wound strings) gives that tuning on a Baritone, but you'd be one step up - Key of A, on a Tenor.

What you're looking to do - a high reentrant key of G - is actually the original tuning for the Tenor Ukulele. The idea was to make a ukulele with a "guitar based" tuning (before the Baritone). That third string is pretty low - it was generally wound. These days, you could actually do it without a wound string, but it would be pretty thick.

While I'm not a fan of a single wound 4th string, a single wound 3rd is much better - the adjacent strings are bright enough to transition well. This would be the way to go for that tuning on a Tenor, in my opinion. I beleive Aquila still makes a set like that.

Remember, however, that you are still dealing with overtones from a G string. It's just that in this tuning it's your 3rd string instead of your 4th.

southcoastukes
08-19-2011, 05:16 PM
Well, this is slightly off topic - but while we're on the key of D, here's something the "Big Ukers" may want to consider (are you listening Dave?).

If, by chance, you favor the Tenor and Baritone, and if by chance, you like the linear D on your Tenor, and if by chance, you want to tune your Baritone to the same key, so maybe your wife can play along using the same finger patterns, then maybe you might want to look at this arrangement.

Maybe you have wondered why I usually use the term "high re-entrant". Well, there is actually such a thing as "low re-entrant". Practically no Ukulele players use it, but there are thousands of players in Latin America who use it on the Cuatro Venezolano - the Ukulele's older cousin.

We have a set of strings (Cuatro - low rentrant) for that - it sets up on a Baritone in low re-entrant key of D, the same key where it is usually found on a Cuatro. To explain a bit, if you start with your traditional high re-entrant Ukulele tuning, to get to a linear (low 4th) tuning, you drop the 4th string an octave. To get to a low re-entrant tuning, you drop both the 4th and 1st strings an octave. For high re-entrant, linear, and low re-entrant tunings, the fingering patterns are the same.

If you were to have a Tenor in linear D, and a Baritone in low re-entrant D, you'd play in the same key and your Tenor would probably take the lead. That is unless you had developed a Cuatro player's habit of playing melody on the middle strings instead of the bottom. The only Ukulele player I have seen use these stings like a Cuatro player is Led Kaapana.

The low re-entrant tuning, however, is typically more of a rythym set-up, so this would "back up" the lead Tenor. The two low notes (1st & 4th) give a deeper sound, and of course they're on the bigger body. Although a linear C has a deeper 4th string (low G), the combination of the low A and low B means this tuning is overall the lowest you can go and still get good sound without moving to wound strings. It sounds great on a Baritone! The combo of the two instruments gives great "ukulele style" sound (no wound strings on either), and as the old Jazz Musicians here in New Orleans would say, it also gives you that "Spanish Tinge".

There's a sample of the low re-entrant tuning on our Tenor / Baritone page:

http://www.southcoastukes.com/index_files/inters.htm

Just sayin'.

Dougf
08-20-2011, 05:37 AM
I'm currently using Worth clear unwound low G on my tenor, and a few months ago I tried tuning up to D tuning. Unfortunately, the tension seemed much too tight. What kind of tension could be expected of your linear (low 4th) D strings?

southcoastukes
08-20-2011, 11:39 AM
I'm currently using Worth clear unwound low G on my tenor, and a few months ago I tried tuning up to D tuning. Unfortunately, the tension seemed much too tight. What kind of tension could be expected of your linear (low 4th) D strings?

Not sure if you are speaking of the 4th string in particular, or the set as a whole. If I recall, Worth has at least two different diameters for low 4th strings, depending on the set. To me, the thicker diameters were always king of dead, and the thinner ones too loose. If you have the thicker string, it would probably be too tight in D tuning.

More importantly, with either 4th string dimension, the rest of the set is also probably too tight for good sound. I don't have all our tensions, because I don't get the density on all my materials, and you need that to calculate.

I will say this - all 4 of our strings are selected for a tension that works for C tuning on a Baritone, and D tuning on a Tenor. In other words, with our set, when you play in D on a Tenor, you are not "pulling up" a set designed for Tenor C tuning, but playing at the intended tesnion.

tim_mantis
01-31-2012, 05:00 AM
Maybe you have wondered why I usually use the term "high re-entrant". Well, there is actually such a thing as "low re-entrant". Practically no Ukulele players use it, but there are thousands of players in Latin America who use it on the Cuatro Venezolano - the Ukulele's older cousin.


I'm SURE that Cliff Edwards used this tuning on his solo work rather than linear. I spent far too much time listening to his recordings trying to work out how he got his trademark sound, and came to that conclusion. I've only just learned that it is known as low re-entrant tuning. I think it sounds great!

The question is; can I get a set of strings for a concert-scale uke that will give this tuning? What gauge genuine gut would I need for this? I noticed that Aquila supply a single wound low G and a single wound low A for soprano, which would will replace the 1st and 4th standard strings to give low re-entrant GCEA tuning. I just ordered some to try it!

Ken Middleton
01-31-2012, 06:05 AM
Can somebody explain to me exactly what notes you would tune to to get low re-entrant tuning?

tim_mantis
01-31-2012, 06:11 AM
It's just the same as 'standard' ukulele tuning, but with the 1st and 4th strings an octave lower. So a uke tuned to C with low re-entrant would still be GCEA, but the G and the A would each be an octave lower than in the typical re-entrant tuning found on most sopranos.

Ken Middleton
01-31-2012, 06:15 AM
Interesting. Thanks for that.

Kimosabe
01-31-2012, 07:37 AM
I'm a big fan of the southcoast strings and someday I'll try the D tuning but right now I'm happy with my southcoast c tuning strings on my Kanilea tenor, very sweet and easy on the fingers, no squeak.

But a warning with regard to the cuarto tuning:

I bought some and maybe I put them on in the wrong order but they flopped around like a goose's belly and then when I* went an octave higher they seemed to be on the verge of breaking the neck on my baritone.

southcoastukes
01-31-2012, 09:13 AM
Hello all,

I'm supposedly in a self-imposed exile from the forum for awhile, but couldn't hold back on this one. The idea that someone could damage an instrument with our strings is upsetting to say the least!

I PMed Kimo, so we'll figure it out, but as far as Cuatro tuning, and the key of D, I'd like to try to clear up some bad terminology I've seen creep onto the forum before. I'm not one to want to jump in and correct people all the time, so in the past, I've just let this pass. If it's going to cause people to damage their instruments, however, I'll change that attitude.

We have a page on tunings, it's here:

http://www.southcoastukes.com/stringuide_files/tunings.htm

On the chart on that page, you'll see that the key of D is "A-D-F#-B". The misnomer I have seen from time to time is that people will call the common Baritone tuning - DGBE - "D tuning". It's not!

Tunings take their name from the chord you have when you strum open. The most common ukulele tuning these days is GCEA. When strummed open, that is a C6 chord. Therefore the true name for that tuning, one you will likely have heard - is C6 tuning. In comon usage, the "6" is assumed, and dropped, so you are said to be tuning to the key of C.

The shortcut to the chord tuning names is to just look at the name of the 3rd string. In GCEA, the 3rd string is C, hence you are tuned to key of C. ADF#B, the 3rd string is D - so key of D - the old "standard" ukulele tuning. Same for "F-B flat-D-G" (b flat tuning) & E-A-C#-F# (A tuning). The common Baritone tuning is D-G-B-E. That means it is key of G. I'm not sure why some people started referring to this as D tuning, but common Baritone tuning is not one step up from C - it's 3 steps down.

Cuatro tuning, then, is actually one step up from C tuning, but with a low 1st & low 4th, it sounds deeper. There's a sound sample here (low re-entrant D):

http://www.southcoastukes.com/index_files/inters.htm

Please don't be the cause of a fellow UUer breaking his Baritone's neck!

808boy
01-31-2012, 11:21 AM
Aloha,
Southcoast Linear G650 flatwound + Solid Koa, Double puka Mele Tenor= sweetness + 1 happy uker.................

mr roper
02-26-2012, 06:50 AM
Yesterday I decided to try low re-entrant tuning on my Lanikai NK-T. Not having a low fourth string I put a third string (saved from a previous string change) in the fourth spot and tuned the uke to C. I didn't like the sound of that so I followed Dirk's recommendation and tuned to D. This uke was always a little quiet and dull but now has come alive. The strings are standard Aquilas.