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View Full Version : What strings for long scale tenor?



ukeonthebeach
03-03-2012, 06:37 AM
I have a 19" scale Kamaka tenor. I am becoming a little confused about what type of strings are best. Regular tenor strings are designed for a 17" scale of course, and baritone strings are for a 20.5" scale. So this is just about in between the two.

I know there are others out there with long scale tenors...What have you found to be the best way to string them? Thanks!

dkcrown
03-03-2012, 06:56 AM
Hey ukeonthebeach. I have a William King long scale tenor. The scale measures about 18 1/4" and it is strung with Savarez Alliance KF strings. It just sings. I believe that he strings most of his ukes with these strings.

stevepetergal
03-03-2012, 07:33 AM
I would ask Kamaka, or Southcoast.

zac987
03-03-2012, 09:31 AM
I'd imagine you'd use a standard string set, but there will be a little more string tension with a longer scale

patico
03-03-2012, 10:33 AM
ask for help to Southcoast strings, very nice strings.
you can use diferent gauges for the same tuning (ex AEGC) and feel how the different tensions of the string suit your playing.

Kanaka916
03-03-2012, 12:14 PM
I have a 19" scale Kamaka tenor. I am becoming a little confused about what type of strings are best. Regular tenor strings are designed for a 17" scale of course, and baritone strings are for a 20.5" scale. So this is just about in between the two.

I know there are others out there with long scale tenors...What have you found to be the best way to string them? Thanks!
I'm assuming you are concerned with string length and most tenor strings are approx 30 inches in length or more. D'Addario J71 is almost 40 inches and Worths are 64 inches (2 sets). Measure length from bridge to tuner (C) and allow approx 1-1.5 in. (for the tie bridge) to determine whether or not standard tenor strings will suffice. Someone mentioned Southcoast and I if i remember correctly their string sets are 30 and 36.

Howie1947
03-03-2012, 12:39 PM
Mine came with "stock" Kamaka strings (made be D'Addario), I used them for a while then took them off. They just felt too hard on the finger tips while playing. They didn't sound all that bad. I have some Worth CT on right now and they sound and feel great. I don't think Kamaka makes a set of strings for their long neck Tenors, at least I did not see or were offered any the day I picked up my HF3-L. I think youi just string it with their regular Tenor sized string...............How to you like the look and feel of the HF3-L????? I'm getting used to the length, it is certainly different than my regular Kamaka Tenor

southcoastukes
03-03-2012, 04:44 PM
There are a number of criteria for selecting strings. Maybe a tuning that suits your voice or one you are familiar with; could be your instrument is for some sort of accompaniment or in a group setting and you select based on those needs.

If you're mainly interested, however, in getting the best sound out of it, it's always helpful to know the builder's intent. Especially in a case like a long scale instrument, something that is not the norm, it was likely done with a rather specific purpose in mind.

Good "stringed instrument design" takes strings into account as a critical part of the whole package. Body size, scale, bracing and strings should all work together in a good design. Heavier bracing for heavier strings or tension, for example, or vice versa.

You can change things up, of course, as I mentioned in the beginning, but your instrument won't be as responsive as it would be set up in the way it was designed for.

Three owners have posted so far - two Kamakas and one William King. Do any of you know what Kamaka or William intended for these designs?

ukeonthebeach
03-04-2012, 05:05 AM
Thanks for the responses guys!

Howie, I currently have Worth CTs on mine as well, and they do sound very good. I just was wondering if another set would be better suited to the longer scale length. And I am definitely liking the long scale. It is certainly different than my other tenors. It's a fun instrument to play!

Dirk, I can't say I know what Kamaka intended specifically for this long neck tenor. The two possibilities that come to mind are to have more tension and therefore more volume. Or possibly to enable the uke to be tuned in a different way. Kinda like Pete Seeger inventing his long neck banjo so he could tune it down a couple steps to better accompany his voice.

southcoastukes
03-04-2012, 03:49 PM
First, let me say we build long-neck Tenors.

The beach boy sent me an e-mail on this one, so I know he’s looking for a reentrant tuning. I think that’s fortunate. As I mentioned before, a good design puts together body volume, scale and strings, and there is no compelling reason to go to a longer scale if you want to play a linear tuning.

On the other hand, for a reentrant tuning, if you are looking for the best possible sound out of a Tenor size body, a longer scale gives a definite advantage. A typical Tenor body resonates at about G#. This means that a linear C tuning (g c' e a), is less than ideal (one reason so many have problems getting a good sound out of that low G note), but a reentrant C, (g' c e' a') with C as the low note, does not come near to accessing the full depth of the Tenor body.

Ideally, you would want to come as close to G# as possible without crossing the line. Key of A would be ideal (e’ a c#’ f#’) – the A note accesses the deeper part of the Tenor body and gives this tuning a rich, full sound. Look at the circle of fifths, and you’ll see this key is also a great tuning for guitar accompaniment.

One step up, however, is the key of B flat (f b flat d’ g’). This still gets deeper than C tuning, and is a popular tuning because so many jazz songs were written in this key (b flat, because of the reeds, is the favorite of jazz composers). Play in the key a tune was written in, and you’ll find it is generally both easier to play, and sounds better as well.

What, then, is the relationship between these lower tunings and longer scales? Simply this: as the scale (distance between nut and saddle) increases, three things can happen. 1) If you keep the same strings and tuning then tension will go up. 2) If you keep the same tuning and use thinner strings you can keep the tension the same as with the shorter scale. 3) You can keep the same strings and lower the tuning to keep tension the same as with the shorter scale.

The first two options make little sense to me. With the first option, bear in mind that Tenors are typically at high tension to begin with. As noted, reentrant C tuning is really not deep enough for this body size, so high tension is typically used in an attempt to increase volume. Increase tension even more with the longer scale and you start to get into the realm where not only does playing start to become (even more) uncomfortable, but excessive pull on the soundboard can often begin to reduce volume – in other words, it’s counterproductive.

The second option makes little sense as well. As noted, reentrant C tuning is high for a Tenor body, so maintaining the tuning and going to thinner strings will weaken the sound even more.

This leaves us with option *3. This is why we build long scale Tenors (as our only Tenor). With what I like to call “short-neck Tenors”, to get to the deeper reentrant tunings, you have to start using heavier, and often less responsive strings. With the long scale, you use the same strings you would use on a short-neck, and just drop the tuning. Your instrument is fuller, richer, and you haven’t gone to heavier strings to get there.

With our 20” scale, key of A or B flat are good options. With the 18 & 19” scales of the King and Kamaka, A tuning would still be possible if you like a light tension and the instrument is built for it, but most Tenors are built for relatively high tension and B flat will probably work best.

We have one member here who has said about long scale Sopranos “this is how God intended the Soprano to be”. I feel the same way about long-scale Tenors. I’m not alone in this. Victoria Vox played a B flat tuning on a standard Tenor for a good while until the “C Police” chased her back into the herd. You can still get her first songbook in B flat. We have another member here – fellow named Rick Turner – who has opined on more than one occasion as to how he wants a longer scaled “B Flat Tenor” (just for himself). I think he should find himself a good luthier and get one built (heh! heh!).

To sum up a long story, you few, you proud, you brave long-scale Tenor owners have truly remarkable instruments. Not only can you get a better sound out of this configuration than out of a standard Tenor, you have more room on the fretboard. It is the penultimate reentrant ukulele jazz instrument. The key to their potential should be to use whatever Tenor strings you like (with us our Mediums are the most popular), and tune down to (w/ 18-19” scales) B flat.

foxfair
03-04-2012, 04:33 PM
Not tenor, but I am also curious about long neck concert. How would you suggest to tune long-neck concert, Dirk? I consider that long neck concert is more popular in the market and easier to obtain one if anyone interests.

southcoastukes
03-04-2012, 05:02 PM
...I am also curious about long neck concert. How would you suggest to tune long-neck concert, Dirk? I consider that long neck concert is more popular in the market and easier to obtain one if anyone interests.

This is also the only way we build concerts, although the standard concert configuration is great as well.

Concerts are also excellent at B flat (remember A is actually the best option on a Tenor). Concerts generally resonate slightly below B flat.

Concerts are not typically built as heavy as Tenors, so the higher tensions are not as neccessary. Just use typical Tenor strings, and again tune down to B flat. Ukulele Ike used to like this set-up on a standard Concert - with a long-neck, you'll get a clearer sound because you won't be using heavy strings.

At the same time, if you like C tuning, you can again use Tenor strings if you happen to have a heavily built intrument, or like the higher tension. You can also, however, use a lighter gauge string. This won't have the effect of reducing volume to any great extent on the majority of concerts, because as noted, their construction is not typically as heavy as a Tenor. The lighter gauge actually pushes the sound a bit toward "Soprano", and you have the longer fretboard.

So in our case, Medium (B flat or High Tension C) or Light (Normal Tension C) Gauges.

Another wonderful instrument - while the long scale Tenors can give a truly rich, lush reentrant sound, a long scale concert gives the roomiest layout with "traditional ukulele sound".

ukeonthebeach
03-04-2012, 06:33 PM
First, let me say we build long-neck Tenors.

The beach boy sent me an e-mail on this one, so I know he’s looking for a reentrant tuning. I think that’s fortunate. As I mentioned before, a good design puts together body volume, scale and strings, and there is no compelling reason to go to a longer scale if you want to play a linear tuning.

On the other hand, for a reentrant tuning, if you are looking for the best possible sound out of a Tenor size body, a longer scale gives a definite advantage. A typical Tenor body resonates at about G#. This means that a linear C tuning (g c' e a), is less than ideal (one reason so many have problems getting a good sound out of that low G note), but a reentrant C, (g' c e' a') with C as the low note, does not come near to accessing the full depth of the Tenor body.

Ideally, you would want to come as close to G# as possible without crossing the line. Key of A would be ideal (e’ a c#’ f#’) – the A note accesses the deeper part of the Tenor body and gives this tuning a rich, full sound. Look at the circle of fifths, and you’ll see this key is also a great tuning for guitar accompaniment.

One step up, however, is the key of B flat (f b flat d’ g’). This still gets deeper than C tuning, and is a popular tuning because so many jazz songs were written in this key (b flat, because of the reeds, is the favorite of jazz composers). Play in the key a tune was written in, and you’ll find it is generally both easier to play, and sounds better as well.

What, then, is the relationship between these lower tunings and longer scales? Simply this: as the scale (distance between nut and saddle) increases, three things can happen. 1) If you keep the same strings and tuning then tension will go up. 2) If you keep the same tuning and use thinner strings you can keep the tension the same as with the shorter scale. 3) You can keep the same strings and lower the tuning to keep tension the same as with the shorter scale.

The first two options make little sense to me. With the first option, bear in mind that Tenors are typically at high tension to begin with. As noted, reentrant C tuning is really not deep enough for this body size, so high tension is typically used in an attempt to increase volume. Increase tension even more with the longer scale and you start to get into the realm where not only does playing start to become (even more) uncomfortable, but excessive pull on the soundboard can often begin to reduce volume – in other words, it’s counterproductive.

The second option makes little sense as well. As noted, reentrant C tuning is high for a Tenor body, so maintaining the tuning and going to thinner strings will weaken the sound even more.

This leaves us with option *3. This is why we build long scale Tenors (as our only Tenor). With what I like to call “short-neck Tenors”, to get to the deeper reentrant tunings, you have to start using heavier, and often less responsive strings. With the long scale, you use the same strings you would use on a short-neck, and just drop the tuning. Your instrument is fuller, richer, and you haven’t gone to heavier strings to get there.

With our 20” scale, key of A or B flat are good options. With the 18 & 19” scales of the King and Kamaka, A tuning would still be possible if you like a light tension and the instrument is built for it, but most Tenors are built for relatively high tension and B flat will probably work best.

We have one member here who has said about long scale Sopranos “this is how God intended the Soprano to be”. I feel the same way about long-scale Tenors. I’m not alone in this. Victoria Vox played a B flat tuning on a standard Tenor for a good while until the “C Police” chased her back into the herd. You can still get her first songbook in B flat. We have another member here – fellow named Rick Turner – who has opined on more than one occasion as to how he wants a longer scaled “B Flat Tenor” (just for himself). I think he should find himself a good luthier and get one built (heh! heh!).

To sum up a long story, you few, you proud, you brave long-scale Tenor owners have truly remarkable instruments. Not only can you get a better sound out of this configuration than out of a standard Tenor, you have more room on the fretboard. It is the penultimate reentrant ukulele jazz instrument. The key to their potential should be to use whatever Tenor strings you like (with us our Mediums are the most popular), and tune down to (w/ 18-19” scales) B flat.

Thank you so much for this information. I tried both A tuning and B flat with my current Worth CTs, and wow, B flat makes this thing absolutely sing! Don't get me wrong it sounded good before, but now...wow! Immediately noticeable difference in how the instrument resonates, its volume and sustain! Not to mention the enhanced playability. Thank you again!

So you from your line of strings, you would recommend your mediums for B flat at 19" scale, correct?

southcoastukes
03-04-2012, 07:16 PM
So you from your line of strings, you would recommend your mediums for B flat at 19" scale, correct?

Yes, I would.