PDA

View Full Version : Low-G Super Concert?



Goats Can Eat Anything
04-27-2012, 12:31 PM
Hello:

I know some people play concerts set up with a low-g, but this is less common than low-g tenor. I suspect that there are two reasons why people prefer the low-g on a tenor: scale length and body size.

Now, I'm wondering about the comparative importance of these factors. How does (or do you suspect) a low-g would work on a super concert? This would give identical tension to a tenor. How would the body size fare?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

Uncle Leroy
04-27-2012, 12:40 PM
I had my super concert strung low g and I really like it. of course, the tenor neck made it very doable.

ukecantdothat
04-27-2012, 12:52 PM
I don't see any advantage to a tenor as opposed to a concert, for the low G. I string one of my concerts low, and one high, with no problem. I'll even string my soprano with low G from time to time. I did have to file the nut a bit to prevent slippage because I bend a lot, but I suspect I would would have to do that with a tenor, too, I don't know.

xtoph
04-27-2012, 01:07 PM
One of the advantages I see with the super concert is the brighter uke-ier sound with the extra space of a tenor neck. For my Nalu super concert, I found that the low-g darkened the sound too much for my ears.

Goats Can Eat Anything
04-27-2012, 05:41 PM
Thanks for the thoughts on this. I've got some good stuff to consider here.

southcoastukes
04-27-2012, 06:46 PM
First, let me say that this instrument is near and dear to my heart. When we started, we had only three models. Since we’ve never exactly made the standard configurations, we called them Southcoast Uke, Southcoast Big Uke, and Southcoast Tenor Guitar.

The Southcoast Uke, was a 17” scale instrument with a relatively small body – basically a “Super Concert”. Now that we’re getting back to building after our Lacey Act hiatus, the model will have a new name: Southcoast Alto Largo. The fact that we called this our “Uke” in the first place shows how much we like this configuration. We think it’s the modern classic ukulele - the largest scaled instrument that maintains a classic ukulele sound.

Now, I’ll admit to a certain prejudice against linear tunings on small bodied instruments. I won’t go into all the reasons now. Just let me say that you could take all the top players who play these set-ups and count them on one hand with 4 fingers left over. Take away amplification and you have an empty hand.

I’ll play devil’s advocate to myself for a moment. If you want to violate a beautiful instrument in this fashion, it will be easier to do it with the longer scale. It means your 4th string won’t have to be either ridiculously thick or ridiculously loose. There’s no getting around the fact, however, that the low G note will be ridiculously deep for a concert volume body.

I know ukuleles are supposed to be fun first and foremost. If you have fun with this set-up, then fine. At least you likely won’t go to hell for this sin.

stevepetergal
04-28-2012, 12:00 AM
First, let me say that this instrument is near and dear to my heart. When we started, we had only three models. Since we’ve never exactly made the standard configurations, we called them Southcoast Uke, Southcoast Big Uke, and Southcoast Tenor Guitar.

The Southcoast Uke, was a 17” scale instrument with a relatively small body – basically a “Super Concert”. Now that we’re getting back to building after our Lacey Act hiatus, the model will have a new name: Southcoast Alto Largo. The fact that we called this our “Uke” in the first place shows how much we like this configuration. We think it’s the modern classic ukulele - the largest scaled instrument that maintains a classic ukulele sound.

Now, I’ll admit to a certain prejudice against linear tunings on small bodied instruments. I won’t go into all the reasons now. Just let me say that you could take all the top players who play these set-ups and count them on one hand with 4 fingers left over. Take away amplification and you have an empty hand.

I’ll play devil’s advocate to myself for a moment. If you want to violate a beautiful instrument in this fashion, it will be easier to do it with the longer scale. It means your 4th string won’t have to be either ridiculously thick or ridiculously loose. There’s no getting around the fact, however, that the low G note will be ridiculously deep for a concert volume body.

I know ukuleles are supposed to be fun first and foremost. If you have fun with this set-up, then fine. At least you likely won’t go to hell for this sin.

I'm shocked, Southcoast. From my perspective, your post here does sound strictly prejudicial. I have a Koaloha concert that I've strung with a wound low G several times. The fourth string is neither too loose nor too thick. I never had to widen the nut slot and it tunes easily. The string plays as well as the three florocarbons and sounds full without overpowering the other strings. This is the instrument I've used in performance more than any other over the years, and with low G tuning, it impresses listeners and every player who's tried it out. In fact I just sold my tenor to buy a new concert to dedicate to low G tuning. I hope others will not be discouraged by this thread from at least trying it out. There's nothing "ridiculous" about a low G concert, and it's definitely no "violation."

Didn't John King sometimes play low G sopranos?

southcoastukes
04-28-2012, 06:04 AM
Didn't John King sometimes play low G sopranos?

Oooooooooooooh, steve,

While you may not be condemned to damnation for abuse of those sweet little instruments with your low G, this statement puts you in mortal danger. From John himself:


Recently a controversy arose involving players who tuned their G strings—that’s the “my” string—down an octave, so-called low-G tuning. The traditionalists, using—you guessed it—high-G tuning, bemoaned the modernists destroying the one thing that made the ‘ukulele unique, all for the sake of a few extra notes. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to tell you, I’m a high-G man, but I don’t feel the least bit threatened by those players who’ve succumbed to the Dark Side. Understandably, not everyone feels the way I do. One of my high-G colleagues told me about a recurring dream he has where he drives legions of low-G players over the Pali—Kamehameha style—thereby uniting the Islands under one tuning, forever and ever. One other wrinkle: Even though I tune to high-G, I do it starting from the other end of the jingle, fleas-has-dog-my. I wonder what Jonathan Swift would have made of that?

You have a point about my quote being predjudicial (although not "strictly"). To some extent, it is. I was doing my best to put that predjudice out there in a humorous fashion. I don't want to make anyone feel bad about playing an ukulele in any way they want to. As you can see above, John had a nice sence of humor on the matter - probably expressed it better than me.

I do, however, as stated at the opening, have a great love for this instrument, based on it's wonderful potential as a reentrant vehicle. I'd just hate to see it get a reputation as the "low 4th alternative". I"ll come back at some point and post a bit more about that.

stevepetergal
04-28-2012, 05:05 PM
I stand corrected. I'll keep one low G concert, though.

As for "strictly", I did say "from my perspective" it "sound(s) strictly prejudicial". And it does. You're not wrong, but for all the others out there, reading this thread and learning, I don't want to disguise my opinions or yours or even John King's as gospel.

Friends?

SailingUke
04-28-2012, 08:05 PM
My KoAloha Super Concert is strung low g.
It was a great sounding uke in high g, but it booms in low g and sounds SUPER.

Goats Can Eat Anything
04-29-2012, 07:56 AM
Much good food for thought.

A follow up: in changing between high and low G set up, how does this effect saddle compensation? Does anyone run into tuning issues?

Thanks.

hibiscus
04-29-2012, 09:50 AM
I have my Ohana Concert strung with a low G, and it sounds wonderful!

Plainsong
04-29-2012, 11:31 AM
If superconcerts were just badly intonated, no one would build or play them. It's just a tenor with a small body. It has tenor scale length and tenor strings. How your own superconcert sounds best to you, is up to you to decide. :)

(I know the first bit has been repeated many times but if people are still wondering how it effects intonation, I thought I'd repeat it. Obviously I'm like the opposite if an expert, only to say my superconcert has been low g'd plenty, and is the most accurate of my ukes.)

Goats Can Eat Anything
04-29-2012, 01:57 PM
If superconcerts were just badly intonated, no one would build or play them. It's just a tenor with a small body. It has tenor scale length and tenor strings. How your own superconcert sounds best to you, is up to you to decide. :)

(I know the first bit has been repeated many times but if people are still wondering how it effects intonation, I thought I'd repeat it. Obviously I'm like the opposite if an expert, only to say my superconcert has been low g'd plenty, and is the most accurate of my ukes.)



I was asking regarding saddle compensation -- here small differences can mean a lot.

Plainsong
04-29-2012, 02:12 PM
I was asking regarding saddle compensation -- here small differences can mean a lot.

Well, my understanding of saddle compensation is to fine tune the intonation from the saddle, so isn't this still about intonation?

fabioponta
04-29-2012, 03:00 PM
I agree with SailingUke: when I still have my Koaloha Superconcert, the worth brown strings with low G strings make the koaloha sc a KOALOHA SC, with very distinctive sounds. I just sold to buy my tenor... I'm still a traditional High G player. In this tune, the koaloha tenor is my best...

OldePhart
04-29-2012, 03:14 PM
I've actually got one of my super sopranos (concert scale) set up low G right now. I did it on a lark since I had a single wound low-g collecting dust. Initially, it seemed a little strange - not bad, just...strange. The other night I grabbed that uke and played for twenty minutes before I even realized, "oh yeah, this is the one I put a low-G on" - it just sounded fine!

John

Goats Can Eat Anything
04-29-2012, 05:10 PM
Yup, and diameter of the string and tension factor in, big time. A big string and a little string require different compensation to intonate correctly.


Well, my understanding of saddle compensation is to fine tune the intonation from the saddle, so isn't this still about intonation?

Plainsong
04-29-2012, 05:37 PM
Yup, and diameter of the string and tension factor in, big time. A big string and a little string require different compensation to intonate correctly.

Well whatever method is used or needed or not needed, the Kanliea is perfect. It's the best intonated uke I have and none of mine are slouches there. Testing with a Peterson stroboclip and my ears. It's a superconcert, and yes it's as accurate in low g (even unwound). It even came from Kanilea as low g. I don't think it's a compensated saddle either. It's just something they've figured out now. Maybe asking that in the luthier's lounge will get you the details you need there.

blue_knight_usa
04-29-2012, 06:08 PM
I play a low G concert, sounds fantastic. I am using a wound G and Savarez clears and am extremely happy with the sound. Several of my friends always compliment the sound when they are over to jam. I tried a Fremont low G clear and it did not work, the tension was in fact too lose but it was a low G, just mushy. Going to a D'Addario wound low G, tension is perfect and it sings.

TheCraftedCow
04-29-2012, 07:49 PM
Since I have discovered the Southcoast site, I have fallen from grace and strung a Lehua soprano with Aquila low g and the same string pulled up a tone for the a string.
For certain kinds of music, it is a wonderful sound. For playing melody, it means running the two inside strings. There is also a Sterling Collegiate mandolin strung cuatro. When I want a certain sound, I just pick the one which makes that sound.

It would be interesting to know which size ukulele was used for the first song beamed to the USA from Hawaii via radio in 1939. It is called Wili-Wili-Wai. It is a musical rendition of a Rainbird Sprinkler. It was written for and played with a low g.

southcoastukes
04-30-2012, 08:37 AM
Friends?

Friends? Of course! What else are friends for but to bounce things back and forth and kid around a bit (if you don’t mind a strange sense of humor)? We’ll just agree to disagree on this one.

As to the issues with intonation, it could prove necessary to make some slight adjustments. It shouldn’t be anything so drastic that it would keep you from evaluating the set-up, and if it’s something you like, then go ahead and tweak things if you even need to.

As far as the string issue, of course we make low 4th string sets for C tuning on the 17” scale. We even have one that works for the 15” Concert scale – we just don’t advertise it for that use because we don’t like that set-up, and don’t want to encourage anyone to go down that road. They are the heaviest strings we have - to me they just seem out of place on a smaller sized ukulele. Still, it’s because of the body size more than any other issue that we don't recommend going this way.

I’m going to try to explain my perspective there a bit more. First of all, this is strictly in reference to acoustic playing. If you’re going to amp a concert body (is that what you’re doing, steve – like Ohta-san?), you can tune it any way you like.

I mentioned my previous post was not “strictly” prejudicial. Let’s do it like this – anything that’s objective I’ll italicize. Those things are the parts that aren’t prejudicial – they are what they are. The standard script will be my perspective – the prejudicial parts. You’ll see they will make up the majority, but as they’re based on some object facts, I hope you’ll understand where I’m coming from.

First, I tend to look at and hear things from the perspective of a builder. I know that’s different from a lot of players. What to me is the single most important element in selecting a good sounding tuning is to know the resonance of the body. For the standard ukulele sizes they are around C# for a Soprano – B flat to A for a Concert – G# for a Tenor – D# to E for a Baritone.

While how to select a tuning will vary somewhat depending on the type of stringed instrument, with ukuleles I like to have the low note of the tuning as close as possible to the resonance of the body, but on the high side. With other instruments, this may or may not be desirable, but the ukulele doesn’t produce a great volume to begin with, so I think this approach gives the best sound.

A couple of things can happen if a note in your tuning goes below the body resonance. If it’s just a touch below, there is a possibility of bad harmonics or wolf notes on that note. While strings also have something to do with it, this is why there can be problems with booming notes on C with Sopranos and on low G with Tenors.

If you go substantially lower than the resonance – say more than a half step – those problems will disappear, but since the note can no longer resonate fully, you have what I call a “choked note”. In other words, you don’t get full resonance.

Now with some instruments, bowed family, for example, this is not a problem. They can be so overpowering that dampening certain parts of the range in various ways is standard practice. On a classical guitar, too, the 6th string is choked. For me, the difference with the guitar is that there are six strings on that instrument, not four. It has a much wider range, much greater volume, and if you want to choke off the lowest note, that seems like an adequate trade-off versus the super-jumbo size body you would need to let it ring out.

The standard practice in all instrument design has always been to pair lower tunings with bigger bodies and vice-versa. When you drop the 4th note an octave on an ukulele, from my perspective, you should move up to a bigger body, and get full resonance across the board. I know that there’s always the argument that “it sounds good to me”, “XXX likes it,” etc. While the traditional reentrant tunings are fully resonant on an ukulele, I don’t think most ukulele players have a good idea of what a resonant linear tuning should sound like.

Here’s something you can try. If you happen to have a guitar, pluck the G string. Compare that sound to what you have with a low G string on a Tenor or especially a Concert Ukulele body. "Well," you may say, "the guitar has a much bigger body – more sustain." Exactly! It’s big enough to let the G note resonate. Now pluck an E note on both instruments. There’s still a difference, but not nearly so dramatic. The reason is that the E note has full resonance on either body.

Well, that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it. The “going to hell” implications for those who don’t agree, of course, were just in fun. If you like that note on a concert body, by all means do it. I simply think you get a much superior sound out of linear tunings when they’re on bigger bodies.

I’m going to come back again later with why I think one of my favorite Ukuleles – the long scale Concert – is such an outstanding instrument for reentrant tuning.

engravertom
05-01-2012, 10:36 AM
I’m going to come back again later with why I think one of my favorite Ukuleles – the long scale Concert – is such an outstanding instrument for reentrant tuning.

Looking forward to hearing that. I've been happy with my long neck soprano for a while, but when i upgrade someday, I'm debating whether to go super concert, or stay with the soprano body.

I'm staying with the reentrant tuning, so your comments will be very interesting.

One question. I'm using your medium re entrant strings on my kala LOng neck soprano. It sounds good in C, and good in D with a capo at the second fret. two of the sopranos we have sound better in D than in C. However, when I cranked up my longneck to D with the strings I have on it now, it didn't sound as good as the sopranos, or as good as C tuning at capo 2. The higher tension is the culprit, I guess. Would that littel bit of extra tension deaden the sound that much? I didn't like the feel of the extra tension either. For now, the versatility of the C tuning works for me, since i find the capo very useful.

So, let us hear what the utlimate re entrant Uke should be! A long neck concert might give me a lower tuning, and complement the Long neck soprano nicely, or replace it altogether, with the capo option making it very versatile.

All you folks who haven't tried the Southcoast strings yet are really missing something!

Tom

southcoastukes
05-01-2012, 05:53 PM
Well, here is why I like a long scale concert so much as a reentrant ukulele. First, many people will find this to be the most comfortable playing fretboard that can give a traditional "ukulele sound". I can understand if some think that sound only belongs to the Soprano. I can understand if some people need the smaller scale. Just the same, a lot of folks will find this a very comfortable fit with a very traditional sound.

As far as sound comparison to a standard concert - here's my take on C tuning. A standard concert is a great C tuning ukulele. The scale means that you'll get a fairly normal gauge, and fairly normal tension with this tuning. The long scale, however, gives you more options.

You can find strings that will put you pretty much where a normal gauge puts you on a standard instrument. You also have the option for higher tension (if that fits your playing style), and the longer scale means you don't have to go to thicker (deader) strings to get there.

You can also go to thinner strings - in this case, the longer scale also means they'll have more tension than on the standard, and with thinner strings you'll need that to maintain good volume. This kind of set-up pushes you toward the Soprano sound, but with a Tenor sized fretboard.

Finally, my favorite. You may have noted in the last post, that a typical concert body has a resonance between B flat and A. To get the fullest sound out of that size body, a B flat for your low note would be ideal. That's what a reentrant B flat tuning gives you (f' - b flat - d' - g') - one step down from C tuning. On a standard concert, you have to go to heavier and not so responsive strings to hit this tuning at proper tension. Not so on the long scale.

I just love this sound. Here's how the tuning worked years ago on a standard concert:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sF7x_VLXy78

Now, let me say straight off, this is not your truly traditional ukulele sound, and yet to me, it's one of the most beautiful ever made. Also, let me say that on a long scale concert, with modern strings, you won't get this exact sound. To really duplicate it, you need a standard concert with somewhat heavy gut strings. Those tend to be very dead on the thicker gauges, and you can see Cliff actually found a way to use that to his advantage, hitting the dead 3rd string like a slap bass.

I wish I could get him to play one of our long scales. A longer scale and modern string material give a much clearer low end. The slap bass technique is not so effective, but the overall sound is much cleaner, better balanced, and the ability to pick with clarity is now present. I think Cliff would like it.

Finally, don't forget Tom's mention of the capo. It works much better on a long scale instrument, and if you choose the B flat tuning, for example, it would be easy to use your capo to get back to C on occasion if you need to.

At any rate, these are the reasons why I like rentrant tunings so much on this instrument, and this instrument in general. That's why I'd hate to see it "misused".

Goats Can Eat Anything
05-02-2012, 04:58 AM
Dirk:

That's pretty compelling. Thanks for sharing you thoughts. The tension argument makes a lot of sense.

As far as uke capos go, what do you suggest? I like the Kyser capos for guitar, but I wonder if that may be excessive clamping pressure? Any particular brand or style suggestion?

southcoastukes
05-02-2012, 10:55 AM
Dirk:
As far as uke capos go, what do you suggest? I like the Kyser capos for guitar, but I wonder if that may be excessive clamping pressure? Any particular brand or style suggestion?

GCEA - The capo question is something I'll have to resolve soon. Our longneck Tenor is for all practical matters impossible to play in C (though it sounds better lower anyway) and we're thinking of including a capo as standard equipment.

We actually have made a nice modification of the old capo-cejilla. Other than the fact it's not a "quick-change" operation, it's about as good as it gets.

To do a really nice one is a bit pricey, however, so we've been looking at manufactured capos. I haven't tried the Kysers - I know they have a good reputation. If I remember correctly, their style is a bit too modern for our very traditional-looking instruments.

We have tried the new Shubb Ukulele standard model. It's the one in solid brass (matches our frets), and it has a very "old time manufacture" look about it, as well as a being very unobtrusive. Doesn't call attention to itself, doesn't interfere in any way with playing, changes quickly and fits our necks well. The pressure you mentioned can be regulated to some extent, and I'm guessing their design is adaptable enough to work on the great majority of necks.

The also have a line of lighter aluminum models in silver and various colors. On our Tenor, I don't find the heavier brass to be a problem. On a Concert, it might be a bit more of an issue.

engravertom
05-02-2012, 04:58 PM
I'm using a Shubb on my long neck soprano right now. It was listed as for an acoustic guitar, and is silver colored, but it has enough adjustment to clamp well on the Uke neck, and it is not overly large looking on my instrument. It is too small for a classical guitar. I find it easier to play than other capos that have the lever sticking up over the neck. I got it at my local GC.

Take care,

Tom