View Full Version : torn...the usual g thread...

03-10-2012, 06:19 AM
So, I've searched and read all the forums on high g vs. low g. And every time I figure out what I want to play, I hear something that makes me change my mind.

Right now I've switched to Low G, which I love for songs like Hallelujah and Somewhere Over the Rainbow. I've even come up with a nice bass pick then strum on Blue Skies.

But then I hear someone like Kalei Gamiao play his hisessions songs and think: am I missing out on one of the primary differences between a guitar and an ukulele...the re-entrant tuning? Or do I need to become a way more advanced player to take advantage of that tuning? I notice that professionals who play the high g play waaaay up the fretboard a lot of the time, so middle c actually sounds quite low. Will it be hard to find workarounds for playing low g songs on a high g instrument?

I did a sound test...I queued up Jake Shimabukuro, Kalei Gamiao, Herb Ohta Jr. and Brittni Paiva and let my friends do a blind listen. They all said the last two sounded like a guitar (the low g players).

Advice I've seen on forums:

Get one of each...this is just another excuse to own more than one ukulele.

Play what you like, and don't let anyone tell you different.

Hi G 4 Lyfe! Lo G is a castrated Guitar! (that's a paraphrase, but a sentiment I've seen)

I'm in an odd predicament (relatively new long term girlfriend) where I can't see myself buying a second ukulele...even an inexpensive one. So I feel forced to choose. I have 3 guitars: an acoustic, classical and electric (which I've played little since getting my 4 stringed friend). I can read standard music notation (treble clef) and plan to quickly shift my focus to learning fingerpicking songs, as my voice isn't stellar.

So, in conclusion, I want your thoughts. Yes, I know that I'll probably be more confused after. But perhaps there are still some insights that could help me out.


03-10-2012, 06:36 AM
Get one of each and play what sounds good to you. Some songs just sound better one way or the other.

03-10-2012, 06:37 AM
Mike, No help from me here. Newbie uke player just having purchased my first tenor uke. It came strung with high G which is very cool, but, I am curious as well about the whole low G thing. I've decided I will just have to pursue another uke and have one of each. I have multiple guitars and leave some of them in alternate open tunings, so the concept is not new to me. My dilemma is whether to spring for another tenor or try something different like a concert size. Good luck with your decision - I personally don't think there is a right or wrong answer.

03-10-2012, 06:39 AM
... I have 3 guitars...

I think you've answered your own question ;)
kidding aside, I prefer high G because it just sounds like an ukulele and also it is a whole new challenge to figure out how it works, the sounds it produces are so rewarding when I learn something new.
Of course, I still plan on getting a second uku just for low G someday :)

Dan Uke
03-10-2012, 07:59 AM
Nothing more to add...Any "new" answer is paraphrasing someone else.

03-10-2012, 08:16 AM
When I first started playing ukulele I was always thinking about low G tuning, I think it's common if you've played guitar before to gravitate that way. But over time, I learned how to optimize the uniqueness of high re-entrant tuning. As for whoever said, "Lo G is a castrated guitar!", try telling that to Herb Ohta Sr.!

03-10-2012, 08:25 AM
Being a converted guitar player, some of the tunes I've transcribed to the uke sound more natural in Low-G. It took me a while to come to that conclusion, but now my tenor is a full time Low-G uke while the others remain in High-G.
I do plan on trying some Low-G strings on the sopranos. Also, through experimenting with a variety of strings, I have found I prefer the feel and sound of an unwound low-g string and currently have the tenor strung with Fremont Blackline Low-G Mediums.

03-10-2012, 08:36 AM
I have to agree--I have low G on the eleuke and hi on the Mainland. I only wish I added a pickup to the Mainland, as my amped uke is only the Eleuke.

I play some songs that are completely improved by hi G and others by low. Some books of music assume low G (is that the Taropatch) and other assume high G. For example, a book of Lute Music (http://amzn.to/xFpsLG)(gorgeous Renaissance music, fun to play) is for High G and a book of Hawaiian tunes (http://amzn.to/xDh70a) I like is low G.

Another advantage, if you are playing duets, or taping tracks to mix, you can mix high G and low G accompaniement and the texture is fantastic. Adds quite a dimension.

03-10-2012, 09:30 AM
You'll probably have a few purists who disagree (and they would not be wrong), but I think most people find some music sounds or plays better with one and other music is better with the other. The music we each choose may differ, or even conflict. Many or most like both for different reasons. Nice thing is all these various opinions are right.

03-10-2012, 09:43 AM
There are many beautiful effects you can create with re-entrant tuning that are impossible with a low 4th string. Check out the playing (and arrangements) of John King and Ken Middleton for more great examples.

'ili puakea
03-10-2012, 10:18 AM
I have one of each, but if I had to give up one or the other, I suppose I would just quit ukulele and take up the harmonica.

03-10-2012, 10:28 AM
I've always held the "eye of the beholder" position (or would it be ear?). The beauty of music is that it is up to your own individual interpretation - what sounds good to me might sound terrible to you.

That being said, what generally sounds good to me on a soprano or concert is the high G. What got me into the ukulele in the first place was the unique sound that is accomplished by the high G tuning. I just can't imagine it any other way.

03-10-2012, 10:31 AM
Ralf, John King is amazing ... absolutely one of my favourites, and a great example of using high re-entrant to it's fullest.

03-10-2012, 11:02 AM
I think you need to approach this as a per instrument basis. Some ukes sound better low and some sound better high. If you have only one, try it both ways and choose based on that. I wouldn't focus on what other players play because you can find great players on both sides, and some great players play both ways (James Hill).

03-10-2012, 11:35 AM
Maybe I have already made up my mind =) I think I'll get sets of both high and low g and see what sounds best to me. I think I may start with high g since that is what most of my books are written for and see how if I can take advantage of the re-entrant tuning. And in a years time i might be able to justify buying another ;-)

Thanks for the heads up about john king and ken middleton...I've been enjoying listening to them on youtube for the past half hour or so now.

thanks again for all the input =)

03-12-2012, 05:55 PM
I have one of each, but if I had to give up one or the other, I suppose I would just quit ukulele and take up the harmonica.

What size Harmonica?

03-12-2012, 06:10 PM
What size Harmonica?

and in what key?

mm stan
03-12-2012, 06:41 PM
I suggest you to learn alternative tunings, maybe to early for you yet..maybe from a half to a full step.
my voice sounds better (I think)in that dropped tuning...B, Bb.... hope it helps.. Happy Strummings..

03-12-2012, 07:13 PM
I went with the 2 tenor solution. The idea of constantly switching strings was unappealing, and it was a small price to pay to preserve the remaining shards of my sanity.

03-12-2012, 07:45 PM
Strings are easy to change... and change back. As a former guitar player myself, I started with a tenor and immediately ordered a set of "guitar tuning" strings so I could use it like a travel guitar and not have to learn any new chord fingerings. That didn't last long before I yearned to try the unique "uke" sound that only the high G reentrant setup could provide. Then UAS hit. Not too hard, no full customs, at least not yet.

I now have five ukuleles, a Kala tenor strung high G, a Kala six string "UTAR" strung low G with the two added basses, a Kala soprano in high G, and an Ohana concert in high G. Between the two tenors and the two smaller ones, I built my own cigar box ukulele in soprano size.

My wife is a very patient woman.