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Patrick Madsen
09-14-2012, 03:22 PM
Was conversing with Dirk from Southcoast Uke about using his light/med. rentrant strings on my tenor. I told him that it sounded like someone "Cut the balls off" compared to the linears. He suggested a med. rentrant and try Bb tuning. (f,Bb,D,G) Holy Moly, it changed the how ambiance of the uke and "the boy" got his weblos back bigtime. What a fun tuning.

A person can play the same chords as C tuning but the sound would be two steps down from a C. If I wanted to play in C tuning I can either put the capo two frets up and play reg. C type chords or better yet, play the chord shape that would make a C chord in Bb tuning.

So in Bb tuning a C chord would be played like a D shape in C tuning. F chord would be played like a G shape and G7 would be played like a A7.

What fun and even makes this ole froggy voice sound a little better than a croak.

Thanks Dirk, I learned more about tunings; why they fit particular instruments and why certain strings should be used on a particular instrument, in three days than I've learned in decades of playing stringed instruments.

Try it, it's easy to tune back to C tuning if you don't like it.

Hippie Dribble
09-14-2012, 05:53 PM
I love Bb tuning too Patrick. I've even used it on sopranos, but any scale can sound nice...kinda warms thing up a bit and mellows things out. With the baritone a Bb tuning can sound really nice too; there you're raising the pitch 1.5 steps and it can liven and sweeten things up...increasing the resonance and sometimes - depending on the uke - volume too, with the higher string tension. It's just fun to play with tunings fullstop. Experimentation leads to many breakthroughs. Happy for your discovery mate and here's to many more! Cheers! :)

efiscella
09-14-2012, 08:02 PM
Wow--- love the sound it the Bb tuning on my RTSH. I have it strung with low g (F), and a wound c (Bb) and what a great sound on that instrument. Since I have so many tenors, I am thinking of keeping this one tuned in Bb.

JamieFromOntario
09-15-2012, 01:07 AM
I'm so pleased that more and more folks are trying out lower tunings. As soon as I tuned the south coast heavies I had on my BlueGrass tenor down to A, I knew that I would never be going back to GCEA, at least not on that instrument.

I found that my big-bodied BlueGrass tenor loves being tuned EAC#F#. I tried that tuning on my MP with heavies, but it didn't quite work. The MP's body is likely half the volume (not decibel volume; think cubic inches) of the Bluegrass; I tuned it up to Bb and, man, does it sound good now!


How do you guys like the lower tension when you tune down?

rreffner
09-15-2012, 01:55 AM
I have been using Southcoast mediums on my Kamaka tenor in B flat tuning for awhile now. The ukulele has a fuller sound and my singalongs are more comfortable compared to high G tuning. I highly recommend giving it a try.

kissing
09-15-2012, 04:34 AM
I have re-entrant Bb tuning on one of my baritones.

On the baritone size at least, you don't need to commit to one brand of strings.
I'm pretty sure any brand of regular tenor strings would work tuned down to Bb.

Currently have Fremont Blackline tenor strings tuned to Bb on a baritone. Tension is perfect, sounds great.

Lalz
09-15-2012, 09:03 AM
I totally want to have a B flat tuning on one of my ukes. For me it's the quintessential tuning for jazz, just thinking about it makes me daydream about second-line brass band parades in New Orleans. Then I start nodding along imaginary rhythms. Whoops, doing it now! lol
I'm a big fan of the TV show Treme and I laughed tones when Antoine Batiste kept shouting at one of his musicians to play in Bb, so the idea of having a uke in this tuning makes me giggle inside.
I'll try it on my up-coming baritone when I get it, got advices from Dirk about it too. Although I did plan to have that one in open G tuning... So this might be a good excuse to get a tenor at some point... ;) Tenors tuned GCEA tend to have a bit too much string tension in my taste anyway, so tuning one down a notch might be just the way to go! Hurray!

wendellfiddler
09-16-2012, 03:13 PM
I don't get the advantage of tuning down to play in Bb - as the Bb position with regular "C" tuning is like F in baritone tuning ("G" tuning, right?) and that is a great position for playing swing and jazz chord progressions on the tenor. Lowering it so you would be in the position where you used to play C would mean you would have to play way up the neck to play in C where you used to play in D - not nearly as comfortable a position for swing chords?? Now if it sounds better, fine, but functionally it doesn't seem to help.

However, I could see the advantage of tuning the tenor to "G". What sort of strings would enable that tuning on a tenor?


Doug

Lalz
09-16-2012, 04:24 PM
I don't get the advantage of tuning down to play in Bb - as the Bb position with regular "C" tuning is like F in baritone tuning ("G" tuning, right?) and that is a great position for playing swing and jazz chord progressions on the tenor. Lowering it so you would be in the position where you used to play C would mean you would have to play way up the neck to play in C where you used to play in D - not nearly as comfortable a position for swing chords?? Now if it sounds better, fine, but functionally it doesn't seem to help.

However, I could see the advantage of tuning the tenor to "G". What sort of strings would enable that tuning on a tenor?


Doug

It's an advantage if you play a piece of music that is in the key of Bb

southcoastukes
09-18-2012, 04:44 PM
There's nothing you can do to make your instrument sound better than to find the most resonant tuning! There is a lot of sophisticated acoustical analytics around, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to grasp the concept that a higher range of notes works better on smaller instruments, and lower notes work better as they increase in size. It's true for the violin family, for horns, for bells, for just about anything that makes a sound.

Publishing companies would love to keep things simple, and "best sound" may not be the only reason to select a tuning, but for every other instrument but the ukulele, best sound seems pretty high up the list.

The formula that we like is to select a tuning that has it's lowest note at least 1/2 step above the resonance of the body. A typical Tenor Ukulele resonates at low G, so a low note of A flat or higher would be ideal. Now though, you factor in one more thing. The Tenor was a very commercial design - the first attempt to build an ukulele for "guitar tuning". As a result, the scale is a bit short to have normal gauge strings produce an A flat tuning.

You see Jamie uses our Heavy Gauge set to go down to A tuning. That's a wonderful, mellow sound - fully resonant on a Tenor body. We usually recommend B flat (f' - b flat - d - g'), however, because this puts the strings into the stronger end of the standard gauges - in our case, "Medium Gauge", giving a bit more brightness and response. Both tunings are excellent on a Tenor - it's a matter of personal preference and the instrument itself factors in as well.

While there will obviously be those who like reentrant C tuning on a Tenor, it has lots of problems from an acoustical standpoint. First, it leaves a lot of unused capacity in that big body. Second, to drive the large soundboard, the tensions have to be pretty high. In many cases this is not only uncomfortable, but detracts from the sound in another way, by limiting vibrato.

Finally, B flat has another advantage. If you've learned to play in C tuning, and play in groups from time to time, it's a great place to use a capo. The 2nd position puts you back in C tuning. On a Tenor fretboard, you still have a lot of room. In group settings, optimal sound is usually not all that important, and you're not usually playing up at the top of the fretboard.

BTW, for those of you who are what I call "Big Ukers" (you like the big sizes), the Baritone also is an excellent candidate for B flat. Because of the bigger body, you drop the 4th string an octave for a "low 4th" B flat tuning. A typical Baritone body resonates at around d#, and the low 4th string of a B flat tuning is an "f". Again, it is slightly higher than it could be, but again, string gauges at that pitch make it very attractive versus a slightly lower pitch. Also, once again, a capo puts you up to C tuning in the second position.

On the Baritone, linear B flat is a tuning that's much clearer and cleaner than the traditional linear G tuning; much fuller and richer than tuning to C. You end up with that combination that so many look for: a reentrant (your Tenor) and a linear (your Baritone) instrument - both in B flat - both wonderfully resonant, and both easily converted to C tuning with the click of a capo.

p.s: lalou hit the nail on the head when he mentioned songs written in B flat being easier to play in that tuning. Most jazz songs were originally written in that key, as it is the natural key for horns. If you're playing them in C tuning, wendell, you're most likely playing an "ukulele transposition" of the original arrangement. If you have access to the old sheet music, you can usually find a B flat arrangement, and you'll be surprised how nice it sounds and plays compared to C.

wendellfiddler
09-18-2012, 09:21 PM
It's an advantage if you play a piece of music that is in the key of Bb

Please explain why you find it easier to play in Bb in Bb tuning? I find playing in Bb in C tuning is no more difficult than any other key? I understand how it might sound better based on the vibration of the instrument, but playing Bb to me is like playing in F on a guitar or baritone Uke - position wise - not a difficult key, and in fact a key that gives you good/convenient position options for the VI II V and III chords.

dt

kissing
09-19-2012, 03:39 AM
I guess it could be argued that to a highly experienced musician, the difference in difficulty of playing in different keys on any instrument becomes arbitrary.
But most of us find it easier to play songs in keys which is the "native" key for that instrument.

A regular GCEA ukulele's "native" key is said to be C, due to the low C string.
A lot of us learn to play a song in one key. The C major scale is generally considered the easiest to memorise, because the ukulele is a transposing instrument in "C".

Naturally, someone who is familiar with playing in C on a C-tuned ukulele will find it easier to learn songs in the key of C, as well as improvise/solo along to songs in C.

Playing in different keys adds a bit of difficulty, because the person has to modify what notes they play. They have to learn a different scale, such as the Bb scale.
Introduce a ukulele that is tuned in "Bb", then they can automatically translate everything they play in the key of C on their C tuned ukulele, to playing in Bb on a Bb tuned ukulele.

I also play trumpet. The concert trumpet is in the key of Bb. It is much much easier to play songs in the key of Bb than in other keys due to ease of fingering + using a more familiar scale.

Perhaps to a trained musician, especially those who are classically trained, playing in any key is a given.
But if there is an easier, more efficient way to do it, why not? In addition, playing a song in the key of Bb on a Bb-tuned uke and a C uke will sound different, as the Bb-tuned uke will have some notes that the C uke doesn't (lower octave).

Lalz
09-19-2012, 03:51 AM
Please explain why you find it easier to play in Bb in Bb tuning? I find playing in Bb in C tuning is no more difficult than any other key? I understand how it might sound better based on the vibration of the instrument, but playing Bb to me is like playing in F on a guitar or baritone Uke - position wise - not a difficult key, and in fact a key that gives you good/convenient position options for the VI II V and III chords.

dt

I see what you mean. For me it's easier because a Bb chord in Bb tuning is just a C chord shape, which is easier to fret than a Bb chord shape: less fingers involved so more fingers available for variations. And if you play along by ear to a song in Bb tuning, it's easier to play a IV or V or such along with it because your fingers remember the position for say IV and V in relation to C as open chords F and G, instead of having to think about what IV and V are in the key of Bb and how to make them. Also, the voicing will sound a bit different because the lowest note will be different: a Bb chord will have low F as the lowest note instead of a low Bb if you use a linear tuning, and a Bb instead of a D in reentrant tuning.

(Looks like we answered at the same time Kissing, haha :) )

southcoastukes
09-20-2012, 04:17 PM
Wendell sounds like a very accomplished musician who's worked out some jazz progressions he likes very much. I would like to point out, though, that in pretty much every instrument but the ukulele "good sound" has won out over convenience.

That's not to say that there should be anything incovenient about playing in B flat. For the majority of ukulele players (80-90%) who primarily play solo, you don't have to transpose or change anything at all. Simply tune to B flat, and "pretend" you're playing in C. Everything works the same, the pitch is just a bit lower. George Formby (primarily a solo player), used to have a bunch of ukuleles in "graduated tunings" on stage. He would pick up the one that let him play the arrangement he liked in a range that fit his voice. This is a tremendous advantage!

Now I'm going to imagine some things about Wendell (and of course I will be glad to be corrected). I'm going to imagine that this may not work so well for him, because he plays (professionally?) in a group, and so switching his tuning would mean he has to transpose. I'll also imagine that he plays up the neck a good bit in that group, either chording or in solos.

That's actually a pretty rare situation with ukulele players. If you do play in a group from time to time, it's usually not anything that requires much work up the neck. In that case, in order to keep from having to transpose the arrangements you learned in C tuning, you can convert your B flat Ukulele back to C tuning with one click. This is why the capo was invented. With B flat, your capo goes on the second fret, leaving plenty of room for what pratically anybody would usually play in a group setting.

BTW, altough his jazz style was uniquely "ukulele", and not "guitar on an ukulele", Cliff Edwards played probably the finest Jazz ever heard on an ukulele (o.k., his singing might have contributed a little something). Listen to his later solo work on Jazzology. It's all played on (guess what!), a B flat ukulele.

wendellfiddler
09-24-2012, 03:13 PM
Well, I think you got it about right. I don't use the uke in a "group", but I do use it in a duo if that counts - and I use it to accompany singers and players of solo instruments like fiddles, chromatic harmonicas, etc. Thus, it is helpful if the key I learn a tune originally is the one most commonly used for the tune. Of course with vocalists this can be all over the map - for that reason I've found that playing "by number" is very helpful. Knowing the chords in each key according to the scale one is playing in is a nifty way to transpose more easily - it's not easy to do, and I'm by no means a master of the technique, but I'm working on it. So I don't find changing tuning to be very user friendly - and yes, I play as far up the neck as I can and I suggest to my students that you find at least two and preferably three ways to make every chord you use.

Doug

savagehenry
09-25-2012, 01:16 AM
I have re-entrant Bb tuning on one of my baritones.

On the baritone size at least, you don't need to commit to one brand of strings.
I'm pretty sure any brand of regular tenor strings would work tuned down to Bb.

Currently have Fremont Blackline tenor strings tuned to Bb on a baritone. Tension is perfect, sounds great.

I had my baritone in c, but dropped it to Bb and I love it. There just seems to be a richer fuller sound in this key. I think I'll have to try it on a tenor next.

Millbrook
09-25-2012, 03:14 AM
I just got a new Pono MT-8 8-string tenor for my birthday (it was purchased at HMS). Wonderful instrument and lots of fun, but I need to experiment with the strings. Note: I'm playing fingerstyle on this uke (16th century music written for the 4-course Renaissance guitar, which used low-tension gut strings).

My Pono came with Koolau Mahana strings tuned in C. The tension was so high that I couldn't play my music on it. I tuned it down to Bb, now it's much easier to play and I think it sounds fine. I might even drop it to A.

I would prefer to find lower-tension strings so I can tune in C, as I'd like to be able to play in groups. Any suggestions for a low-tension 8-string set? maybe Aquila, or one of the Southcoast sets? I was thinking of the Southcoast no-wound 8-string set tuned down to C instead of the recommended D.

Patrick Madsen
09-25-2012, 05:18 AM
Like Doug, I like to play many chord shapes of a chord. It's mostly just a matter of making the shape and moving up or down the fret for the key played. Some songs sound better in a particular chord shape so then it's just a matter of barring or capoeing to the key needed.

wendellfiddler
09-27-2012, 06:27 PM
I'm waiting for a set of Aquila U11 tenor strings to tune my Pono tenor to "tenor" tuning - DGBE (high D). I've learned that Lyle Ritz uses this tuning - makes sense - more uke-like than a baritone but same chords/key as a guitar. We'll see how it goes. It will be a challenge to keep the keys straight, but it's also good practice to learn tunes in more than one key, so.......

Doug

Tootler
09-28-2012, 05:42 AM
I use the ukulele to accompany my own singing, so I use a tuning that best suits the keys I mostly sing in. As it happens, gCEA suits me fine most of the time. I know many guitarists and they use capos but though I've used a capo occcsionally, I find it very cramped, especially on a soprano which I favour. An alternative is to have ukes in different tunings, so I have a soprano in D tuning and a concert in Bb tuning and this enables me to sing in a range of keys with relatively few chord shapes.

I appreciate what wendelfiddler is saying, but until I've got on top of certain chord shapes this keeps me going. Anyway, my focus is on the song and I like to keep accompaniments simple.

Also, I don't find Bb a particularly easy chord to play. In fact I find barre chords generally quite difficult. It's not so much making the chord as the transition. Until I get that sorted, different tunings helps. Even when I do I will carry on using them as you get different sounds. Tuning my concert uke down to Bb has given it a more mellow sound which I like. I also like the brightness of my D tuned soprano.

engravertom
09-28-2012, 06:23 AM
I love these alternate tuning discussions!

I have tried a lot of tunings on a lot of ukes. I really like D on sopranos, and I am coming to like A on Baritones. i am going to try A on a tenor next.

I am a converted drummer, so i am not an accomplished stringed instrument player. Also, I play in a group, either the Rochester ukulele suport group, or my own family. We just did a "gig" last night at a retirement home. On several songs, I play and sing, so using the capo for easier chord fingering really helps me.

My wife wants her baritone to stay in linear G, beacause she wants to keep it like a guitar,as far as chord shapes go. I play her baritone in one song we do, because she is only singing on that tune, but we still need the baritone voice. Since i sing on that song also, I checked, and found that the chords in A were easier for the key we were in, than in G, so I stuck a capo on at the 2nd fret, and not only was it easier to play, it sounded better too.

I tried C tuning on the baritone once, but didn't like the tension. I think a tenor in re entrant A would give me a good range for what we do, and the heavier strings will work better for me when strumming on faster songs. When I get flailing away on the light strings I have one my tenor now for C tuning, I seem to get tripped up a bit. i think more mass on the strings would help that.

Southcoast strings have really opened up the Uke in cool ways for me, and they make all our ukes sound better than they did without them.

SailingUke
09-28-2012, 06:30 AM
Someone once told me the when tenor ukuleles were first made they were tuned Bb.
While this is only one full step below GCEA it is two steps below ADF#B, which was the "standard" tuning for sopranos.
I have a tenor tuned DGBE, it fits well when playing with others and adds a bit of low resonance.

wendellfiddler
09-28-2012, 08:29 AM
Someone once told me the when tenor ukuleles were first made they were tuned Bb.
While this is only one full step below GCEA it is two steps below ADF#B, which was the "standard" tuning for sopranos.
I have a tenor tuned DGBE, it fits well when playing with others and adds a bit of low resonance.

What kind of strings are you using on the tenor tuned DGBE? Which tenor do you have tuned that way?

The more I think about it, the more it seems logical that G reentrant tuning should work well on a tenor because the lowest note is G as it is in low G tuning. Similar overall tension on the instrument.

Doug

SailingUke
09-28-2012, 10:11 AM
I found this by accident. I have an Ohana TK-50 (Rosewood/Cedar).
The bridge pulled off and was repaired by Ohana. When I first noticed the loose bridge I slacked all the strings.
It was a week or so before I got it into the shop and another week or so before Ohana received the uke.
By the time I got is back it had been without tension for almost 6 weeks.
I was afraid to just crank the strings up to tension so I stopped when I got a clear tone.
As it turned out it was just a tad below G tuning. Suprisingly I tuned it to DGBE and was very pleased with the voice.
The strings are PHD clear florocarbon tenors. It is reentrant tuning (high d), but I am keeping it this way.
The string tension is ok, but just a little soft.
Aquila makes a DGBE set for tenors that I have used in the past.

Maineuker
12-18-2012, 03:09 AM
So I've been playing my Bari uke in FBDG and really like it. But when I first did this it did not sound right so tuned up to F#BD#G# on my snark tuner does the# indicate sharp ? Then I saw it written in here as f'BbDG' tried that and not sure if I did it right but did not sound right to me. Then was playing with a friend the other night him on guitar and he said we did not sound right together so I tuned to GCEA and he thought that sounded better. I would think the lower tuning would work better with a guitar. Now really confused but having fun and learning so much. Thanks for any help

drbekken
12-18-2012, 03:36 AM
First of all, let me say that I like this thread. Lots of good constructive advice.
I have used a re-entrant G tuning on a tenor, having it stringed with Southcoast heavy gauge. The sound is wonderful, albeit not very loud, and the string tension becomes very low. That's why I keep playing the baritone instead with such tuning. I can imagine that a tenor will sound and feel just great if it's tuned to Bb. The tension will increase, and the sound may become a little louder, yet mellow.
As for playing different ukuleles in different keys; that's the way harmonica players have been working for years. You bring a pile of instruments to the gig, and pick up the one you need for that particular song. I'm a lazy dude, though, so I prefer one instrument only to drag along...trying to fake knowledge of all keys at any time. Playing piano has enabled me to avoid dragging instruments along at all, but then I had to make do with whatever piano they had in the club... I haven't yet played a ukulele gig, but if I ever do, I'll bring as few ukuleles as I can - preferably just one.

southcoastukes
12-18-2012, 02:08 PM
... I'm a lazy dude, though, so I prefer one instrument only to drag along...trying to fake knowledge of all keys at any time....I haven't yet played a ukulele gig, but if I ever do, I'll bring as few ukuleles as I can - preferably just one.

"Lazybones, sleepin' in the shade, how you gonna' get your corn meal made?"

Com'on Doc. Ukuleles are small! Not that much bigger than harmonicas - fo'sho, not like draggin' 5 pianas aroun'! George Formby used to drag around more than a few just for that reason.

If you really want to be lazy, though (not the worst sin in the world after all), get a longneck tenor and a capo!

engravertom
12-20-2012, 10:09 AM
I just put South Coast heavy Re entrant strings on my tenor a couple of weeks ago. I have it tuned to A. The tension is great, the volume is good for a laminate Uke, and the sound is very nice. I have used it in two "gigs", if you will, and the capo makes it very versatile. I have capoed it at the 3rd fret for C tuning, and the 5th for D. Sounded good in all those places. I am finding that songs written in C can be played as tabbed on my A tuned Uke, and sound good, and often suit my vocie better. Classical tunes sound especially good in A, and if I want the brighter sound, the capo is right there for me.

I can vouch for Dirk's ideas. The strings, and the capo concept, work very well for me.

take care,

Tom

FierceRabbit
12-24-2012, 05:02 PM
Saw this thread and tried it on my soprano. It sounded much better then the GCEA tuning. Then I tried D tuning and it sounded dull. I will be playing with the FBbDG.

I will try it on my concert next.

Now I need to figure out chords. I see lots of tips in this thread and will go over them when I have time.

Thanks for the tips and Merry Christmas.

Ukuleleblues
12-25-2012, 01:00 PM
Now you got me thinking about trying this. We play ukes C, D and a Baritone. Then I do a C6 lap steel, open E on Guitar, Std guitar, capo 1st and 3rd. Sometime I get so confused my head starts to explode (but in a good way). So I need to find a subject to DETUNE. Wheeee!!!

Patrick Madsen
12-25-2012, 04:13 PM
Saw this thread and tried it on my soprano. It sounded much better then the GCEA tuning. Then I tried D tuning and it sounded dull. I will be playing with the FBbDG.

I will try it on my concert next.

Now I need to figure out chords. I see lots of tips in this thread and will go over them when I have time.

Thanks for the tips and Merry Christmas.

Fairly easy to figure out the chords for Bb tuning Tom. You can use the same chord shapes and use a capo on the second fret for a C tuning. Or figure out that since it's tuned down from a G to an F the chord shapes do the same. For a C play a "D" shape chord we use in the c tuning. For a G play an A shaped chord and for an F play the G shaped chord etc.

FierceRabbit
12-25-2012, 05:29 PM
Thanks Patrick. That gets me started.
Richard

igorthebarbarian
05-11-2013, 06:37 PM
I just tried this on my Mainland Tenor tuned gCEA and dropped it 'down' to fBbDG. And I really like the sound of it! It doesn't have the same "bite" to it as before, but that's ok. Now it's a lot jazzier and more mellow, somewhere in between a normal uke and a baritone.
I am not going to bother with transposing and re-calculating what chord is what now, since it's just me here (not a group).
It's also a little easier on the fingers and seems to fit the tenor size better.

Patrick Madsen
05-11-2013, 09:59 PM
I just tried this on my Mainland Tenor tuned gCEA and dropped it 'down' to fBbDG. And I really like the sound of it! It doesn't have the same "bite" to it as before, but that's ok. Now it's a lot jazzier and more mellow, somewhere in between a normal uke and a baritone.
I am not going to bother with transposing and re-calculating what chord is what now, since it's just me here (not a group).
It's also a little easier on the fingers and seems to fit the tenor size better.


It may sound jazzier because most of the old jazz stuff was written in Bb. It is easier on the fingers for sure. fairly easy to transpose chord shpes. Since it's a step down, a D shape in Bbtuning would be a C. An A shape would be G and a B shape would be an A etc.

OldePhart
05-12-2013, 08:33 AM
Some think that Bb tuning is probably the "natural" tuning for a tenor sized uke - I tend to agree though I like my strings to fight me a bit so I use very heavy strings when I tune down there.

John

Ambient Doughnut
05-13-2013, 02:58 AM
I've got the southcoast medium strings on my tenor and it sounds nice in Bflat but more often I tune it down to A. String tension feels just about right to me there and it resonates nicely. I've tried it a step further in G tuning (ie baritone tuning) and it doesn't sound half bad. A is better though.

strumsilly
05-13-2013, 05:59 AM
I just read through this thread an now my head hurts. I think I'll go strum a uke for a while to clear it.

Orson
05-13-2013, 10:22 AM
Great thread! It is really inspiring ,and brings us closer to the roots of music when a A was at 415 hz not 440 or enve higher for some orchestra .

Nickie
05-13-2013, 03:16 PM
What happens to the action when a capo is clamped on? Will it make some frets buzz?

Jim Hanks
05-13-2013, 04:58 PM
Not unless they buzz without the capo. Not trying to be a smart-aleck but a properly installed capo is just like a barre chord. If it buzzes with a barre it'll buzz with a capo and vice versa.

lakesideglenn
05-14-2013, 01:08 AM
A question for Dirk at Southcoast...I want to tune a concert uke down to Bb to play along with (and steal from) Cliff Edwards. What strings would you recommend? I prefer string tension a bit on the high side.

Ambient Doughnut
05-20-2013, 11:28 PM
There's plenty of info on this on the southcoast website.

http://www.southcoastukes.com/ukulele.htm

sound like you'll want want one these:

HMU-NW: Heavy Medium Gauge Ukulele Set - no wound strings
HU-NW: Heavy Gauge Ukulele Set - no wound strings

BigMamaJ40
05-21-2013, 03:49 PM
I have a concert uke with a tenor neck. When it comes to choosing the optimal string/tuning combination, do I treat this instrument as a concert because of the body resonance or as a tenor because of the scale?

mm stan
05-21-2013, 04:34 PM
I have not commented on this thread till now....I do play in altered tunings either dropped or raised...it depends on the ukes voice and tone as Jon said...it's personal preference..
too. You can adjust the tone and tempo by going either way...for richer sweeter drop tune it, if your uke is too bright and or brash....for a sweet lower duller uke,uptune tune it.. raise the tuning to
bighten the hi notes.... yes either way every half step you will find a sweet resonate spot....it is easiest if you can do it by ear and hear the pitch...also you can use the same chord
patterns and on only some songs wont sound right but most do...as Dirk said...It is mainly for soloists, but your group can also play in the same tuning and it will work....also when drop
tuned you can lower the string tension and it will be more comfortable for beginners and slows the tempo for picking or slack key...the lower tension also allows your string to resonate and
substain much better . way better... you can do it for GCEA or Baritone DGBE ... in half step either up or down and it works...there is no best in any way, like stings you
have to pick and select the best one for your ears....and the trade off also is the comfort in your fingers...singing slows down the tempo making if easier for people like me with bad low voices
l...Like I said, all ukes will require different tuning to match "their voice" it is what I call compromising and fixing the tone to suit you...happy strummings...

redpaul1
05-29-2013, 03:26 AM
I just posted a video comparing Bb & C tunings on a tenor uke here (http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?81401-Comparison-of-Bb-amp-C-re-entrant-tuning-on-a-tenor-uke). I'd be interested in people's comments

Mxyzptik
05-29-2013, 07:40 AM
redpaul, without hijacking your comparison thread I'd like to test a couple of assumptions and then learn from the responses. I have read this whole thread and now my head hurts.

Assumptions
You are essentially tuning each string down one full tone ?
It just gives the ukulele a different ( lower ) voice ?
If you wanted to play with others you would need to capo the 2nd fret ?

My scenario.
I have to tenors. One a Fender Nohea and the other a Collings UT2, both are strung with living waters strings ( low g )
They each have 19 frets and the fret boards are exactly the same length. The distance from the bridge to the nut appears to be 1/16th of an inch longer on the Fender. The string tension is tauter on the Collings ( I love it's sound ) but it is harder on my finger tips.

Questions
Why is the string tension tighter on my Collings ? Is it just the 1/16 of an inch ?
Why does it have to be a whole tone down ? Could you just tune it a semi tone down and capo on the first fret when playing with others ?

70sSanO
05-29-2013, 12:09 PM
Here is the long and short of it for me...

For a couple years I tuned down to Bb on my Kinohi tenor. Really hit the sweet spot with a tad less tension. If you play by yourself or even play just fingerstyle it works great.

However, if you want to play out in a group, transposing chords on the fly will drive you crazy. Been there, done that, won't do it again. And a capo doesn't work out for me as well as it does on a guitar.

But this thread has a silver lining... since I have 2 tenors now I am going to try Bb again on the Kinohi, and leave the other one in C for playing in a group.

John

CTurner
05-29-2013, 02:12 PM
Since working with Southcoast strings on my tenors, I've found the Bflat tuning with medium strings a revelation. Both the sound and the tension level fit my style and comfort for playing. If you haven't tried it, it is worth the effort to experiment.

redpaul1
05-29-2013, 05:13 PM
redpaul, without hijacking your comparison thread I'd like to test a couple of assumptions and then learn from the responses. I have read this whole thread and now my head hurts.

Assumptions
You are essentially tuning each string down one full tone ?
It just gives the ukulele a different ( lower ) voice ?
If you wanted to play with others you would need to capo the 2nd fret ?

Hi Mxyzptik

I would answer your assumptions thusly. "Yes, no & no":

Yes, I am tuning each string down one full tone.

No, it doesn't "just" give the uke a lower voice, it (hopefully) gives it its voice. To understand why, go back for a moment to Dirk's OP (#10 in this thread). There he spoke of choosing a tuning "that has its lowest note at least a 1/2 step [fret] above the resonance of the body" (not sure why he said "at least" there; "a minimum" might have been better), i.e., to choose a tuning that "drives the soundboard", i.e., one which is so in sympathy with the materials that make up the uke, that it allows the body of the uke to resonate to its greatest degree.
He also noted in passing that ukuleles seem to be the only musical instrument where 'best sound' took second place to convenience of tuning (I paraphrase here, but this is how I interpret his comment). Dirk's comments are backed up by Stan's (#44 in this thread).

No, if I want to play with others, (as I was doing tonight), I simply transpose on the fly. I do this in any case in our band, where I play baritone uke, which uses standard (for bari) DGBE tuning, and the principle is the same. If the song's key is in G, I imagine, when playing the bari, that the key is in C; as the DGBE 'G' shape, 0003, is identical to the gCEA 'C' shape. Similarly, with the Bb tenor, if the key is in G, I imagine I am playing in A. Patrick Madsen made much the same point in post #31 of this thread. Or rather, instead of reading G, C, & D as G, C & D, I read them as I, IV & V. If my root, I, chord shape is 'A', then all the other chords shapes naturally fall into place.
If I use a capo, I use a trigger one, similar to this 53748, and attach it from above (so if the fretboard is horizontal, the 'finger' of the capo is pointing down). Despite its clumsy appearence, it never gets in the way.


My scenario.
I have two tenors. One a Fender Nohea and the other a Collings UT2, both are strung with living waters strings ( low g )
They each have 19 frets and the fret boards are exactly the same length. The distance from the bridge to the nut appears to be 1/16th of an inch longer on the Fender. The string tension is tauter on the Collings ( I love it's sound ) but it is harder on my finger tips.

Questions
Why is the string tension tighter on my Collings ? Is it just the 1/16 of an inch ?

Sorry can't help you here, I know neither the ukes you mention, nor have I any experience with Living Water strings (nothing against them btw, I actually do have a baritone set that I've not yet had the chance to use). From what you have described, I would imagine, all else being equal, the action to be higher on the Collings than on the Fender, but I don't have enough information even to speculate.



Why does it have to be a whole tone down ? Could you just tune it a semi tone down and capo on the first fret when playing with others?

You're right, it doesn't (have to be tuned a whole tone down). Again I refer you to Dirk's post (#10), and my reply to your second assumption above about why. I'm not sure though why you think that tuning it down would require the use of a capo when playing with others. To recap the points I made in reply to your third assumption, you don't have to be playing the same shapes to produce the same sound, just the same chords (to learn more about this, take a moment to look at Bosko's CAGFD System for Fretboard (http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?69690-Bosko-s-CAGFD-System-for-Fretboard)).
So, if both our ukes were tuned gCEA, you could voice a 'C' chord as 0003 while I voiced it as 5433, and they would both sound correct.
By extension, if my uke is tuned fBbDG, and yours gCEA, if I play 2220 or 2225 while you are playing 0003, we will both be voicing a 'C' chord and they will both sound correct. Similarly, your 'G' shape would yield a 'F' chord on my uke: so if you use 2010 to voice an 'F' chord, I would use 0232 to voice that same 'F' chord.

The long and the short of it is, find the tuning that makes your uke 'sing' (in other words "what Patrick sez!" in his OP #1 :) ). Then re-label your chord chart accordingly, and join in with everyone else (capo or no capo!). :cool:

Hope this helps.
redpaul

mm stan
05-29-2013, 11:24 PM
For me You don't have to tune it exactly a half step or full step...I find the sweet spot by ear from pitch on one particular string an go from there....if you know what I mean...
sorta like fine tuning...

redpaul1
05-30-2013, 12:55 AM
For me you don't have to tune it exactly a half step or full step...I find the sweet spot by ear from pitch on one particular string an go from there....if you know what I mean...
sorta like fine tuning...

Know exactly what you mean. The only thing is, unless you tune to a(ny) given standard (piano) note, you won't be able to play along with others - which for me is largely the point of playing ukulele. But hey, different strokes!

NewKid
05-30-2013, 03:40 AM
I have my tenor tuned to Bb and I use a little chart to remind me of the major chords above the second fret when playing with my uke club:

Chord ---GCEA shape ---Bb tuning shape ---In other words:

C -------0003 ---------2224 (D shape) ----The D shape in Bb is a C chord
F -------2010 ---------0232 (G shape) ----The G shape in Bb is an F chord
G -------0232 ---------2100 (A shape) ----The A shape in Bb is a G chord

Here's the nice part with Bb:

Bb -------3211 --------0003 (C shape) ----The C shape in Bb is a Bb chord
Eb -------2010 --------2010 (F shape) ----The F shape in Bb is an Eb chord
G7 -------0212 --------0100 (A7 shape) ----The A7 shape in Bb is a G7 chord
D7 -------2223 --------1202 (E7 shape) ----The E7 shape in Bb is a D7 chord
C7 -------0001 --------2223 (D7 shape) ----The D7 shape in Bb is a C7 chord


And so on... The point is you use the same C-tuning chord shapes for Bb-tuned ukes. It's easy! The chords above cover 80% of the uke club play along chords.

Hope this helps,

Don

redpaul1
05-30-2013, 05:25 AM
I have my tenor tuned to Bb and I use a little chart to remind me of the major chords above the second fret when playing with my uke club:

Chord ---GCEA shape ---Bb tuning shape ---In other words:

C -------0003 ---------2224 (D shape) ----The D shape in Bb is a C chord

[snip]

And so on... The point is you use the same C-tuning chord shapes for Bb-tuned ukes. It's easy! The chords above cover 80% of the uke club play along chords.

Hope this helps,

Don

Exactly!! (Though I'd look at that D shape if I were you - 2224 is Dmaj7th in gCEA tuning :) )

70sSanO
05-30-2013, 05:45 AM
Herein lies the problem. CAGED was developed for the guitar based on the root notes and the shapes associated with the location of the root note. There is no 5th string root on a ukulele so the location of an F shape to a D shape doesn't exist on the neck. I use it by playing an imaginary 5th string with a guitar shape. It is still very useful and it really helps in figuring out stuff like a G chord on the 7th fret using a C shape.

The on-the-fly playing with more complex chords and worse semi-open chords personally makes it too tough for me to digest in a Bb or B tuning. Now play a G chord on the 7th fret with an open G string and all the CAGED in the world won't help.

redpaul1, I do applaud you if you can take complex chords, and transpose them while just looking a song with chords for the first time.

John

Ambient Doughnut
05-30-2013, 05:52 AM
I tune up or down a bit all the time. It's no big deal.

Tuning to a different key and then transposing chords on the fly to play with others though? Not worth the trouble I'd say just tune back to C or keep another uke on standby.

caukulele
05-30-2013, 06:15 AM
This has been an interesting thread...for me I love the possibility of alternative tunings...It seems that I try now to find the best strings/tuning combo on each ukulele..Like Stan says, I think every ukulele has that "sweet spot", and now, I don't just assume it's going to be G,C,E,A....It's incredible when one finally finds that "perfect" (at least for me, since sound is so subjective) combination of uke with strings, with tuning...it seems to me an almost magical moment. I also think that our tastes and ears are always changing..so a perfect combination may be good for a time or a style of playing, etc...but it can always change and evoke...as we change and evolve.

redpaul1
05-30-2013, 02:24 PM
Herein lies the problem. CAGED was developed for the guitar based on the root notes and the shapes associated with the location of the root note. There is no 5th string root on a ukulele so the location of an F shape to a D shape doesn't exist on the neck. I use it by playing an imaginary 5th string with a guitar shape. It is still very useful and it really helps in figuring out stuff like a G chord on the 7th fret using a C shape.

The on-the-fly playing with more complex chords and worse semi-open chords personally makes it too tough for me to digest in a Bb or B tuning. Now play a G chord on the 7th fret with an open G string and all the CAGED in the world won't help.

redpaul1, I do applaud you if you can take complex chords, and transpose them while just looking a song with chords for the first time.

John

I guess it all depends on what you mean by 'complex' - sure, if I were faced with something jazzy like 'I'll see you in my dreams' or 'At long last love' (two of my faves on uke, btw), I'd need to sit down and have a think (or simply put a capo on the 2nd fret). But if it's just, say, I-V-vi-IV (which covers a great many of the songs I - and, it would seem NewKid, post #52 above - play with others), I can't see where there would be any real problem.

As I say, I (have to) do it all the time with my bari tuned to G, and I've never heard anyone suggest that baritones should be tuned to C.


I tune up or down a bit all the time. It's no big deal.

Tuning to a different key and then transposing chords on the fly to play with others though? Not worth the trouble I'd say just tune back to C or keep another uke on standby.

Or use a capo. The point about tuning to a different key is to make the uke sound good. And if I'm playing baritone, there's no way it's going to sound good tuned to C. Similarly, if a tenor (or any uke) sounds better tuned to Bb, why tune it to any other key?

Finally, I put the same question to you as I do to John (70San0) - do you really need to look at the chord diagrams all the time you're playing a song? If you do, then fair enough, though I'd still recommend that, if Bb tuning is what makes your uke sound good, to keep in that tuning and use a capo on the 2nd fret. Yes, you're losing two frets, but my tenor uke has 18 frets. I can't think of many songs whose performance demands that you go past the 15th and 16th frets.

70sSanO
05-30-2013, 07:08 PM
To get back to the original intent of this thread, I did tune one of my ukes to B and it seems to open up the sound. Over the years I had tried so many strings to get a tension that wasn't too bad so I could tune to C, but I'm going to keep one ukulele in B and the other in C.

redpaul1... Quite a while ago I played bass at the Church we went to. I'm not a musician by any means, I did play guitar, but nobody else would play bass. Usually things went like this... here is the song we are going to learn play, and we would each get a sheet with a bunch of words (lyrics) and some scribbled chords (A, Em, etc., no diagrams) the rhythm guy had figured out. Then we'd listened to the song on a CD, and work through it changing the key to suit the vocalists. We'd get the right key and breaks and someone industrious would type up new sheets and off we'd go. This still required adding some personalized notations and arrows for future reference because you knew the lead guitarist would always want to add a few more riffs and the lead vocalist another repeat of the chorus.

Fast forward 15 years and if you show up at a ukulele play-along-sing-along there are usually sheets with a bunch of words (lyrics) and letter chords above the words.

I know some people can just take those chord designations, transpose real time, and jump right into it, and I am being sincere when I say that I do admire that you are able to do it. But for me I'll have a uke tuned to C so I don't need to. Besides after lugging a bass, an amp, and cabs, taking a second uke along doesn't seem to be too bothersome.

John

redpaul1
05-30-2013, 08:47 PM
To get back to the original intent of this thread, I did tune one of my ukes to B and it seems to open up the sound. Over the years I had tried so many strings to get a tension that wasn't too bad so I could tune to C, but I'm going to keep one ukulele in B and the other in C.

redpaul1... Quite a while ago I played bass at the Church we went to. I'm not a musician by any means, I did play guitar, but nobody else would play bass. Usually things went like this... here is the song we are going to learn play, and we would each get a sheet with a bunch of words (lyrics) and some scribbled chords (A, Em, etc., no diagrams) the rhythm guy had figured out. Then we'd listened to the song on a CD, and work through it changing the key to suit the vocalists. We'd get the right key and breaks and someone industrious would type up new sheets and off we'd go. This still required adding some personalized notations and arrows for future reference because you knew the lead guitarist would always want to add a few more riffs and the lead vocalist another repeat of the chorus.

Fast forward 15 years and if you show up at a ukulele play-along-sing-along there are usually sheets with a bunch of words (lyrics) and letter chords above the words.

I know some people can just take those chord designations, transpose real time, and jump right into it, and I am being sincere when I say that I do admire that you are able to do it. But for me I'll have a uke tuned to C so I don't need to. Besides after lugging a bass, an amp, and cabs, taking a second uke along doesn't seem to be too bothersome.

John

Well, when you put it like that... :) I take all your points. Thank you for sharing your experience (which sounds a lot like the way we go about learning new songs for our band) and for the compliment.

It has surprised me, though, that I've got so used to using Bb tuning in little over a week. Last night I was performing at an open mic using my newly returned tenor, and decided at the last minute that I needed to do one of my numbers in the key of C rather than D, the key in which I had learnt it. "That will be easy." I thought to myself. "I'll just go back to playing my uke the way I'm used to" (i.e., as though as though it was tuned to C). It was my third song in though, and it was not quite as easy as I imagined it would be. I had to run through an impromptu "instrumental" verse at the beginning to get my fingers to go back to using the fingering for C tuning!

Mivo
02-12-2016, 10:56 AM
This is an older thread, but I didn't want to start a new one just now. :)

I've had my spec/custom tenor for a bit over half a year now (the one in the signature), and I didn't get as warm with it as I felt it deserves. It's a superbly built instrument that oozes quality craftsmanship, and it has had quite the journey to travel across continents to come to me. And yet, both tension and sound (re-entrant C tuning) didn't work for me. The tension was too high, and while plucked it sounded fantastic, chords felt "stunted". I can't really describe it well, just as if something was missing. Bottled up, in a way.

This bugged me, though I concluded that tenors just aren't for me, since my ukuMele acacia tenor didn't sonically grab me, either. Today, I spent the evening reading Dirk's excellent treatises on the subject of tunings, and while I lack the musical and scientific background to understand everything, it made sense to me that one tuning for differently sized ukuleles can't really be optimal. I didn't want to do the test to find the instrument's note just yet (don't have replacement tenor strings at hand), but I gave the Bb re-entrant tuning a try.

And what a difference that made!

The Worth Browns (medium) seem to handle it just find, and the instrument sounds much more "complete". The tension of these strings (I realize I could have tried lower tension strings for the "standard tuning" too) is much more comfortable ("concert-like") for me. Not wobbly, but also not cutting. But mostly, I feel the instrument found its voice now. I wondered if it would be too muddy, but it actually has a nice warmth now, better than before, more fitting. I also tried the A tuning, but the A (originally C) string got too floppy, and the tenor started to boom a little too much. (I'll do that test when I next change strings.)

I'm both happy and unhappy about this. :) Happy, because it feels like a new instrument, like it came into its own, and unhappy, because this complicates my learning process a little. Using the standard materials will require extra effort (tabs in particular), but I believe this is not only a small price for a better sound, but it will also benefit my musical education a bit, in the long run. I had real trouble putting aside the tenor tonight; it was so enjoyable playing it.

cpmusic
02-12-2016, 11:14 AM
It's interesting that this should come up now, at least for me. Recently I tuned an old soprano down to Bb to make singing a particular song a little more comfortable. That uke isn't really suited to Bb, but once the strings settled in it was an interesting experience. I have an inexpensive tenor coming soon and think I'll try Bb on that one.

Thanks, all, for the information!

Mivo
02-12-2016, 01:31 PM
I just tuned down my acacia tenor (ukuMele, fairly light build) to Bb as well, and just like with the Barron River the sound is phenomenal. Like a new instrument. In the acacia's case the strings are Martin ones, which have less tension than the Worth Browns, but still very workable in Bb (they chime noticeably more than in the higher tuning, though the "attack" is a slightly slower due to the decreased tension).

A few months back, Rakalele suggested I try different tunings for my "tenor problem", but I was kind of stubborn about it, not wanting to make things more difficult (finding tabs etc). But in light of how much nicer these two tenors now sound, I wish I had given this is a try sooner. :)

The Bb tuning changes my view on tenors quite substantially. I'd ask why that isn't the standard tuning for tenors, but Dirk is probably right that for the music publishing industry it's much nicer to have one universal tuning for the three major ukulele sizes. Maybe for us, too. It makes things easier in some ways, but from a sound perspective it's not ideal. I'd never really thought about this before.

engravertom
02-12-2016, 02:57 PM
Tabs are absolutely no issue. Just play the tabs you already have. They will sound beautiful, just a full step lower. If you want to play C tuning on a tenor, try low G. Dirk has great strings for that tuning on a tenor. If you want/need your tabs to sound in C when you play them on an instrument tuned Bb, just put a capo at the 2nd fret.

Welcome to the wonderful world of non C tuned ukuleles!