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View Full Version : Why does low G tuning make so much difference?



Shady Wilbury
03-25-2013, 07:59 AM
Hi, folks.

The more I try and delve into chord melody stuff on uke, I'm coming up against problems. The biggest database of chord melody stuff on YouTube is played by a guy with low G tuning, and I don't understand the difference. I get the 4 extra notes thing, but it shouldn't make that much odds, right? Surely I have access to them, albeit in a higher register?

Please help resolve this confusion.

Thanks,

Shady

chrimess
03-25-2013, 08:14 AM
it changes everything, gives you an actual bass register to work with and changes a beautifully unique instrument into a high-strung two thirds of a guitar...

Paul December
03-25-2013, 08:26 AM
it changes everything, gives you an actual bass register to work with and changes a beautifully unique instrument into a high-strung two thirds of a guitar...

:) ......... :(

Jim Hanks
03-25-2013, 09:13 AM
I get the 4 extra notes thing, but it shouldn't make that much odds, right? Surely I have access to them, albeit in a higher register?
That's exactly right, but that's exactly the difference. You get different chord voicings with low G than high G - not saying better or worse, but different. I'm liking the low G as it makes more sense to me. All you reentrant people are just wrong (ducking - just kidding - don't hurt the newbie :p )

Shady Wilbury
03-25-2013, 09:23 AM
So, what are my options, other than restringing? (I'm a wimp, and I don't know how...can't tie a knot to save my life.)

caukulele
03-25-2013, 09:24 AM
Dear Shady, I do think it is more about personal taste more then anything else. What your preferred sound-tone is....It seems that for my taste I prefer the low G on most songs....but some things sound better with the "high G" for me too. I have a soprano with the High G for when I want that sound. Some people like the high, plucky sound and others like the lower range.... I believe neither one is better then the other. Try both and see what you think...

Cornfield
03-25-2013, 09:26 AM
High and low G both have their place. Low G for picking and high g for strumming and clawhammer. I have a couple soprano's with high g, a couple concerts with low G, tenor with low G and an 8 string tenor that has both. I have a concert size banjouke on the way with high g too.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
03-25-2013, 09:29 AM
That's exactly right, but that's exactly the difference. You get different chord voicings with low G than high G - not saying better or worse, but different. I'm liking the low G as it makes more sense to me. All you reentrant people are just wrong (ducking - just kidding - don't hurt the newbie :p )

You may be new but it's obvious you know what you're talking about. :)

hawaii 50
03-25-2013, 09:38 AM
To me my ukes sound better with a LowG on um..and you can play more songs with it,strumming and picking

wickedwahine11
03-25-2013, 09:55 AM
Low g works better for me since I play mainly instrumental fingerpicking pieces. The extra notes come in handy. I also like the low g strumming for blues, rock and most Hawaiian songs. I do keep two ukes high g for Tin Pan Alley stuff but very rarely play them.

23skidoo
03-25-2013, 11:17 AM
As a guitar player, I started out with a low G just because it felt comfortable to me..... I switched to a high G to start learning clawhammer and enjoyed it very much for a variety of tunes..... I kind of go back and forth now, depending on what I'm playing. You can change only the G string and put the high G back on any time.

You could also use this as an excuse to buy another ukulele - keep one strung both ways. I have a laminate Kala that I started out playing and a nicer Kamoa instrument I got last year. I told myself I would keep one strung each way, but I enjoy playing the Kamoa so much more, I'm back to switching out strings when the need arises. Looking to get another modestly priced upgrade like the Kamoa so I can have one of each while I'm saving up for twin custom Collings, lol.....

As far as the difference..... those extra few notes in the lower register make all the difference on some tunes, just as certain tunes/voicings/styles sound odd with the low G. I'd experiment and see what you like.

And changing strings is easier than you might think - you can buy single low G strings to experiment. I'd recommend ordering two just in case, as well as a back up set of reentrant strings. This video is pretty clear and easy to follow:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Saxrv0y_XYI

Good luck!

OldePhart
03-25-2013, 11:24 AM
it changes everything, gives you an actual bass register to work with and changes a beautifully unique instrument into a high-strung two thirds of a guitar...

BWAAAA-HAAAA! My feelings pretty much exactly. :)

Seriously though there is more to it, of course. Basically, it changes the "inversion" of every chord you play by changing which note of the chord is in the bass. For example, your typical G chord (i.e. 0232) on a reentrant uke is actually a G/D chord because the D on the third string is the lowest note. When you switch to linear tuning the G on the fourth string is now back in the bass.

For many people music is easier to "follow" if the bass line follows the chord progression (i.e. few or no inversions) but personally I think it is the very inversions brought by reentrant tuning that really give the uke it's charm. Otherwise, you really might as well capo a guitar at the 5th fret and play that - and you'll have the advantage of a couple more bass strings available when you want them.

Of course, many guitar chords are also inversions but then there are almost always enough strings to double up on the root to help the ear "follow" the music. Also, most people are a lot more used to hearing and "following" guitars than they are ukuleles.

At the end of the day it is very much a personal preference kind of thing. Almost anything that can be picked on a low G can also be picked on a high G - but you need to change the entire arrangement or it may not sound right - that's why trying to make low-G arrangements work on high-g (and vice versa) can be so frustrating.



John

23skidoo
03-25-2013, 11:33 AM
For many people music is easier to "follow" if the bass line follows the chord progression (i.e. few or no inversions) but personally I think it is the very inversions brought by reentrant tuning that really give the uke it's charm. Otherwise, you really might as well capo a guitar at the 5th fret and play that - and you'll have the advantage of a couple more bass strings available when you want them.


I think it's more than this, though..... the low G just allows you to play a wider variety of styles/tunes. I definitely dig the unique voice of the ukulele and the sound of reentrant tuning, but there are certain things that just don't sound right to my ears without a low G. I guess some folks might just say 'then don't try to play it on the ukulele', but I find sticking to one or the other limiting.... I guess I swing both ways when it comes to my G string.

Appalachian picker
03-25-2013, 11:48 AM
.... I guess I swing both ways when it comes to my G string.

:stop:

TMI!!!

UkerDanno
03-25-2013, 03:02 PM
I think low G changes a ukulele to something else...high G for me!

Katz-in-Boots
03-25-2013, 03:28 PM
I'm pretty new to ukes & can't play guitar. My instinct as an ex-cello player was to have the bottom string as the lowest. Sounded great on my tenor - until I joined a group. My uke sounded different to everyone else's because of the inversion thing that John talked about. Teacher commented that it made it into a guitar.

I'm using re-entrant now but plan to switch to low G on at least one uke when I am able to finger pick better. It does give much more options for picking. Otherwise it's like having two A strings to pick.

hapuna
03-25-2013, 03:50 PM
So I could be wrong but I think when Aldrine came up to the NW he told us that he did not usually use low G due to his playing style. Perhaps that's changed but I don't think so

chrimess
03-25-2013, 04:10 PM
Guys, did not want to upset anyone, in fact I am building a solid-body uke so I can go low G for slack-key and Daniel Ho music.

wickedwahine11
03-25-2013, 04:20 PM
So I could be wrong but I think when Aldrine came up to the NW he told us that he did not usually use low G due to his playing style. Perhaps that's changed but I don't think so

That is correct, he plays high g, so does Jake. A lot of other professional uke players use low g (Herb Ohta Jr., Brittni Paiva, Daniel Ho among them). I think for them it is just like us...personal preference. :)

coolkayaker1
03-25-2013, 04:38 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7eX7r_JOp8

ur right hapuna; adlrine says it in the clip above.

as staci says, many use low g. to my ear, an open low g drones. but, it might be my ear

Example: Here's the always amazing Lil Rev playing an always amazing Mya Moe ukulele in low G. To my ear, whenever he avoids the G (like during the intro where he plays strings 1-3 only), it's all good. When he plays any closed (i.e. fingered) G, it's fine. But, watch his fretting hand...whenever he picks or strums an open low G...drone, drone drone. (to my ear).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vp8Km_TtFJY

Everyone thinks differently about it, certainly. I'm with Aldrine and UkeDan (below). Gerald Ross states in his Bosko and Honey video--and I tend to agree--that the re-entrant tuning is quintessential ukulele; it's what makes the uke unique.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XLIWRfY66A0
(see approx 2:10 min--then gerald drones the c on purpose---he's a madman, he's that good)

But many adore low G

(why, I can't imagine :D)

J-Peg
03-28-2013, 02:07 PM
....Otherwise, you really might as well capo a guitar at the 5th fret and play that - and you'll have the advantage of a couple more bass strings available when you want them.


Have to disagree with you completely there, John. I've played guitar a lot longer than I have ukulele. (IIRC, you play guitar also?) Even with a low G, the two instruments are very different. With almost two years experience on the uke I'm still discovering how to not play it like it's a little guitar. Some songs that I could never make work for me on guitar just work effortlessly on the uke, and some of my best guitar songs just don't translate to the uke.

As to the larger issue, my own preference is low G on my mahogany tenor for modern blues and pop/rock, high G on my CBU for old blues, jazz and tin pan alley. But YMMV.

OldePhart
03-28-2013, 02:26 PM
Have to disagree with you completely there, John. I've played guitar a lot longer than I have ukulele. (IIRC, you play guitar also?) Even with a low G, the two instruments are very different. With almost two years experience on the uke I'm still discovering how to not play it like it's a little guitar. Some songs that I could never make work for me on guitar just work effortlessly on the uke, and some of my best guitar songs just don't translate to the uke.

As to the larger issue, my own preference is low G on my mahogany tenor for modern blues and pop/rock, high G on my CBU for old blues, jazz and tin pan alley. But YMMV.

I know, that statement was about half tongue-in-cheek. ;) I still think of linear tunings (even on my baritone) as "leedle guitar" though because the voicing of chords is more similar to guitar than it is to uke. Since I rarely pick, and mostly play chords or at most pattern picking of chords, the similarity to guitar is greater than the difference.

John

didgeridoo2
03-28-2013, 03:20 PM
This thread just calls for the need to have multiple ukes with different tunings. No right, no wrong. Just different.

Tigeralum2001
03-28-2013, 03:31 PM
It may just be me, but what stuck out in that video was the song about Deach. What ever happened to him?

Hippie Dribble
03-28-2013, 03:36 PM
As for the practicalities, if a piece of music specifies the need for the low G notes you need to use low G tuning to be true to the music. It does not make any difference whether you like it or not, or if the instrument looks like a guitar or a trumpet, if you want to play the tune you need to have access to the notes in the tune.

This thread just calls for the need to have multiple ukes with different tunings. No right, no wrong. Just different.
I agree with these points.

After years of playing in re-entrant tuning I finally played a bari with a low d string and it started to make sense....the wider range of notes was fantastic.

Still doesn't feel right to me to play a concert or tenor in low G, but maybe my mind will change one day as I've really not given it much of a chance. Still, like Bill said, if you have an arrangement calling for those extra notes, you just gotta have access to them, and the only way it can happen is with a low G string

as for that fella who was talkin' bout being a swinger with his G string, I think he was causing trouble on FB earlier today he he... :biglaugh:

jjdejd
03-29-2013, 12:18 AM
Being an old guitar guy, I bought my first uke (Pono MT-PC) in February 2013 and had it set up low G after reading some of these threads. I since purchased another tenor OS5T which came standard tuning. I must say, after a couple of months, I think I'm going to change the Pono back to standerd tuning. I mainly strum and like the sound of the high G. I agree, the low G makes it sound like a guitar, and I have a few of those- LOL. I guess my preference is to have my uke sound like a uke! Just my 2 cents.

23skidoo
03-29-2013, 02:22 AM
as for that fella who was talkin' bout being a swinger with his G string, I think he was causing trouble on FB earlier today he he... :biglaugh:

Yeah, I teed that one up nicely, I thought..... though I'm not sure what I did on FB - maybe it was my dopplelganger....

garyg
03-29-2013, 02:25 AM
You mean you stopped at one uke??? Isn't there a quota, say three ukes, before you can post on the board? Something to think about. <g>



So, what are my options, other than restringing? (I'm a wimp, and I don't know how...can't tie a knot to save my life.)

filipinouker
03-29-2013, 02:57 AM
Still doesn't feel right to me to play a concert or tenor in low G

those of you who do not feel it's right for a concert-sized uke to be tuned to low-G --- may i ask what your reasons are?

I'm asking because I am seriously thinking of getting another uke - my 4th (a concert) - with the intention of tuning it to low-G so i can fingerpick low-g tunes. Will this be a mistake? Should i avoid it?

OldePhart
03-29-2013, 03:15 AM
those of you who do not feel it's right for a concert-sized uke to be tuned to low-G --- may i ask what your reasons are?

I'm asking because I am seriously thinking of getting another uke - my 4th (a concert) - with the intention of tuning it to low-G so i can fingerpick low-g tunes. Will this be a mistake? Should i avoid it?

There is no such thing as a mistake - it's very much a personal choice. I even strung a soprano low-G and, while it's not my preference and I'll be returning it to high-G, there was nothing "wrong" with doing so. It sounded fine if you like the linear sound. There will be minor changes in timbre and possibly volume moving from the third to the fourth string but when you are picking you can easily account for that with the way you attack the string. When you are strumming, the difference isn't so noticeable anyway.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_ENLpF3FS0&list=UUAgBWJlWUS5d95ixRC0Gg8Q&index=1

John

wayfarer75
03-29-2013, 03:21 AM
those of you who do not feel it's right for a concert-sized uke to be tuned to low-G --- may i ask what your reasons are?

I'm asking because I am seriously thinking of getting another uke - my 4th (a concert) - with the intention of tuning it to low-G so i can fingerpick low-g tunes. Will this be a mistake? Should i avoid it?

I'm sure everyone has their preference. I was thinking of a future purchase being a tenor with low G, but I thought I would try stringing my concert low G and see what I think of that first. I don't know that it would be a big mistake. I figure it's better to be out $5-10 buying strings I don't want than $???? buying a uke I don't want.

I'm not so sure I can get used to the tenor body size. I'm a female with small, short fingers, and I just got a concert after playing soprano for two years. I think the concert is plenty big enough. Basically I want to get a low G tenor so I can have a guitar-type sound, but I'm on the fence about the size.

ChaosToo
03-29-2013, 03:27 AM
I've very recently put a set of low G Living Water strings on my tenor. It sings! With a view to recording at some point soon, it gives me a nice contrasting instrument to layer the sound. At some point I'll get another concert and have one in each tuning, again just to have something different.

There is no right and wrong as far as I'm concerned.....it's like saying which apple is right - the answer being the one that tastes better to you when you take a bite :D

filipinouker
03-29-2013, 04:43 AM
There is no such thing as a mistake - it's very much a personal choice. I even strung a soprano low-G
John

Your response, particularly the video, was incredibly helpful!!! Honestly? I think I like the sound that the low-G string gives to the uke! So, maybe it is down to personal taste/preference. Thanks for this. It has helped a great deal.



at some point I'll get another concert and have one in each tuning, again just to have something different.
There is no right and wrong as far as I'm concerned.....it's like saying which apple is right - the answer being the one that tastes better to you when you take a bite :D

Thanks for this too. I think I'm beginning to lean towards getting a 4th uke, a concert, and re-string it to low-G. I have 3 fab re-entrants (one concert, two sopranos) and i think i am yearning for a different, linear sound, and to be able to play some wonderful low-G fingerpicking pieces.

Thanks for the opinions/thoughts!

frisbee fred
03-29-2013, 04:59 AM
Filipinouker - you're only up to your 4th uke?!

I have a concert tuned to a low G. I like to play blues songs and I prefer the low G when I do. Actually, I prefer the longer neck of a Tenor for the blues so I think I'm going to have that stringed with a low G as well.

Dave-0
03-29-2013, 05:34 AM
................... Basically I want to get a low G tenor so I can have a guitar-type sound, but I'm on the fence about the size.

This has been my desire too. I'm still on the fence about a tenor strung low G or a baritone strung that way....to get the sound that we're both looking for. In the meantime I'm learning on a soprano with reentrant tuning and I'm convinced that this current set-up is not for me.

TheOnlyUkeThatMatters
03-29-2013, 06:03 AM
For melodic playing---instrumentals, fingerpicking, chord melody, etc.---low G provides more options for keys and opens up more melodic capability. If your curious, you should try it out. You can always buy a single classical guitar string (a guitar D string works, I believe) to check out the sound and feel---changing strings may be intimidating, but once you do it, you'll see it's not difficult. 23skidoo's got the right idea---switch back and forth whenever the mood strikes.

A low G string may sound good on any scale uke---one of my soprano ukes is strung with low G and it sounds great---but for my low 4th string dollar, nothing beats a baritone and a capo. Capoed at the fifth fret, a baritone uke has about the scale length of a concert uke and that low G sounds so deep and mellow.

HBolte
03-29-2013, 06:33 AM
For me it's simple, when I want the classic ukulele sound I prefer high G. When I want the classical guitar sound like Daniel Ho, I pick up a low G strung uke.

Hippie Dribble
03-29-2013, 08:30 AM
Yeah, I teed that one up nicely, I thought..... though I'm not sure what I did on FB - maybe it was my dopplelganger....

nothing Bill, I was just being an idiot. I think it was me stirring up trouble on the FB truth be told :o

filipinouker
03-29-2013, 09:28 AM
For me it's simple, when I want the classic ukulele sound I prefer high G. When I want the classical guitar sound like Daniel Ho, I pick up a low G strung uke.


For melodic playing---instrumentals, fingerpicking, chord melody, etc.---low G provides more options for keys and opens up more melodic capability. If your curious, you should try it out. You can always buy a single classical guitar string (a guitar D string works, I believe) to check out the sound and feel---changing strings may be intimidating, but once you do it, you'll see it's not difficult. .

Very helpful comments! I think I'm quite decided on what i will do... That is, to get a second concert and keep it was my low-G uke! :) Thanks lovely people!

23skidoo
03-29-2013, 10:18 AM
I know Mike at Uke Republic sells individual low G strings (http://cargo.ukerepublic.com/product/single-low-g-strings-various-brands) from a few different companies.....

23skidoo
03-29-2013, 10:20 AM
nothing Bill, I was just being an idiot. I think it was me stirring up trouble on the FB truth be told :o

Jon - you're a rebel without a pause, hermano....