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View Full Version : Transition from D to C as standard tuning on sopranos



Lalz
10-12-2012, 10:08 AM
Hello hello!

So I have about 4 sopranos of different kinds (if you don't count my banjo ukulele), and apart from my Kala that sounds its best in C tuning, it seems they all prefer to be tuned to D. They sound fuller and the notes ring better in that tuning (Dirk from Southcoast Strings has very good explanations as to why it is so). I do need to keep half of my sopranos in C for practical reasons and they still sound good in this tuning, but I find D to be just perfect for this size. It just sounds so good! No wonder it used to be the standard tuning back in the days and it still is in several countries.

Which prompts me to ask the following: when and why did the standard tuning for sopranos change from D to C? What happened?? :confused:

Ukuleleblues
10-12-2012, 12:34 PM
I heard it was during Vaudeville days before amplification, the players needed as much volume and projection as possible, don't know if that is true, but I play almost all the time in D.

Lalz
10-12-2012, 12:54 PM
I heard it was during Vaudeville days before amplification, the players needed as much volume and projection as possible, don't know if that is true, but I play almost all the time in D.

Do you mean they switched to C because it sounded louder? Or the opposite, that D was only a standard during that particular era?

Ukuleleblues
10-12-2012, 02:22 PM
Do you mean they switched to C because it sounded louder? Or the opposite, that D was only a standard during that particular era?

That D was more punchier and projected into the audience better so that is how it became the std. on the "East Coast".

Don't know if this is fact or fiction.

OldePhart
10-12-2012, 02:35 PM
Hello hello!

So I have about 4 sopranos of different kinds (if you don't count my banjo ukulele), and apart from my Kala that sounds its best in C tuning, it seems they all prefer to be tuned to D. They sound fuller and the notes ring better in that tuning (Dirk from Southcoast Strings has very good explanations as to why it is so). I do need to keep half of my sopranos in C for practical reasons and they still sound good in this tuning, but I find D to be just perfect for this size. It just sounds so good! No wonder it used to be the standard tuning back in the days and it still is in several countries.

Which prompts me to ask the following: when and why did the standard tuning for sopranos change from D to C? What happened?? :confused:

This is a 100% guess but I think it may have had to do with the introduction of nylon strings. I've never had real gut strings but I've heard that on classical guitars when nylon strings were introduced they were under a little higher tension than gut strings at the same tuning. If that's true, and when one considers that nylon strings were introduced long before electronic tuners were on everybody's headstock, it's quite possible that the lower tuning just "felt more gooder."

The tuning really only matters when you're playing with others so on a "usually solo" instrument like the ukulele there wasn't much to stop the drift in tuning to something that felt closer to what folks were used to. Classical guitar, on the other hand, was more often played in string ensembles so "concert tuning" would be more important.

Just a theory, but seems to make sense and also seems to fit the timeline.

John

Lardy Fatboy
10-12-2012, 03:23 PM
I believe there are two parts to the answer, one although the D Tune works nicely on a soprano (and a sopranino) as the Ukuleles get bigger it works a lot less well so concerts an tenors were c tuned. Concerts particularly were what the professionals used so the c tuning became more the standard. But the second part is it depends a lot on what keys you want to play in and if you look there are a lot more songs that are more easy to play on a C tuned ukulele (and if you have only got one, you can capo the C to D but you cant do that d to c) I believe a lot of the professionals had more than one Ukulele each tuned to a different key so it really came down to amateurs being able to play more songs more easily in a c tuning.

Lalz
10-14-2012, 01:23 AM
Hm, very interesting. Looks like it was a combination of different reasons. Thanks for the explanations!