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View Full Version : Changing Tuning for a ukulele?



Dan Uke
05-28-2013, 01:51 PM
I've read that people drop tune and up tune to make the uke sound better. How do you figure out what is the "right" key for the uke? Secondly, I can't imagine luthiers building their ukes to be played in a different key but don't know.

I prefer all my ukes to be tuned GCEA since I occasionally play with others and not smart enough to figure out the corresponding chords.

RyanMFT
05-28-2013, 02:05 PM
I have a really early ukulele (built around 1900) and the sound is not great when tuned gCEA. However, tune that baby to aDF#B and it really sings. That was the common tuning used at the turn of the century. I talked with Jake at Antebellum and he shared with me that the thickness of the top, the bracing and others are factors that luthiers do consider in building. So, from what I have learned, luthiers do build somewhat to the tuning that will be used. Tuning gCEA does not put a great tension on the bridge, but putting more or less tension on the bridge will impact the sound, projection, depth, ect...

Of course, if I am incorrect about any of that I am happy to defer to those who know much more about this stuff!

fernandogardinali
05-28-2013, 02:14 PM
I find the gCEA tuning is not optimal for many ukes. Personally, I just like it in concert sized ukes. I tune my sopranos aDF#B (one of them with a Low A), my concert ukes gCEA and when I had a tenor, fBbDG.

UKEonomics
05-28-2013, 02:53 PM
I have a really early ukulele (built around 1900) and the sound is not great when tuned gCEA. However, tune that baby to aDF#B and it really sings. That was the common tuning used at the turn of the century. I talked with Jake at Antebellum and he shared with me that the thickness of the top, the bracing and others are factors that luthiers do consider in building. So, from what I have learned, luthiers do build somewhat to the tuning that will be used. Tuning gCEA does not put a great tension on the bridge, but putting more or less tension on the bridge will impact the sound, projection, depth, ect...

Of course, if I am incorrect about any of that I am happy to defer to those who know much more about this stuff!

I think you're right on the money. Most vintage ukes just sound better tuned up to A for all those reasons.

Dougf
05-28-2013, 04:20 PM
I tried tuning down to F Bb D G after Caukulele told me that's what she uses (with linear tuning). I had tried it before on one of my other ukes, and it just seemed to sound dead and flat, but with my homemade ukes it seems to work quite well. I tuned my latest to Bb re-entrant, and I like how it sounds.

One reason I can see for tuning up or down, besides going for optimal tone of the instrument, is to try to fit my vocal range better for a given song. It is surprising how just going up or down a whole step can make a song easier to sing.

redpaul1
05-28-2013, 11:38 PM
[snip] I prefer all my ukes to be tuned GCEA since I occasionally play with others and not smart enough to figure out the corresponding chords.

I've just tuned my tenor down to Bb, originally as an experiment*, but now I think I'm going to stick with it. The action's a lot easier, as the tension is surprisingly, but undeniably noticeably lower; and more importantly, it sounds bettter.

As to figuring out chords, I play with others all the time, at various uke jams and with my group. I just have to remember to read 'A' whenever I see a 'G', 'F#m' whenever I see a 'Em', 'D' whenever I see a 'C', etc. You soon pick it up :)

*In response to this discussion here (http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?70343-Rentrant-Bb-tuning-on-tenor-uke)

mm stan
05-29-2013, 12:28 AM
Aloha Danny,
Way too much to write ....he he in short though....I use tunings to adjust the voice of my uke and also drop tuning makes it easier to sing along with my bad voice....another
good thing is the lower tension makes it easier on the fingers...keepin it short...LOL

redpaul1
05-29-2013, 03:24 AM
I just put up a video comparing Bb and C tunings on tenor uke here (http://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

Dan Uke
07-15-2013, 08:55 PM
Aloha Danny,
Way too much to write ....he he in short though....I use tunings to adjust the voice of my uke and also drop tuning makes it easier to sing along with my bad voice....another
good thing is the lower tension makes it easier on the fingers...keepin it short...LOL

I just dropped tuned my MBU as I noticed Andrew's review had your spruce uke dropped tuned. I don't think sounded good on mine or I am used to a particular sound. Fun to experiment

Mattyukaholic
07-15-2013, 11:45 PM
All my ukes are tuned to what suits them. I even have some tuned in Db.

Since I play alone there is no need to transpose keys etc. I just play them as they are and adjust my voice accordingly. When playing live I normally have one ukulele in regular C tuning and one in D. That way I can pick whichever one suits the song/my voice.

It's different if you play in a band I guess as you'd need to transpose chords. It's fine for a billy no mates like me though! :o

armchair_spaceman
07-16-2013, 12:50 AM
I've been experimenting a little with this lately... I have a sturdily built Blackwood tenor that seems to be in it's happy place tuned down just a semitone to f#BD#G#. It didn't sound quite so good to me tuned down further to Bb, neither did Low GCEA sound so good to me on this Uke (haven't yet tried low G tuned down). So far I'm just playing on my own so I'm ok with it without transposing, if I were to play with others in gCEA I suppose i could tune back up or capo the first fret, or just reach for my other uke.

Doc_J
07-16-2013, 02:44 AM
Folks have presented good reasons to lower string tuning/tension, such as easier fretting, better tuning for their voice, as well as sounding better on some ukes.
Likewise the some sopranos and sopraninos sound so much better tuned up to D tuning, or higher.

A lot of sound is subjective, but it has to do with the fundamental frequencies of the soundboard as assembled. While I don't have much data, I have found the instruments that have a wider or bigger soundboard ( and thus a lower fundamental frequency) sound good in lower tuning. The only estimate I have for the soundboard fundamental frequency is to use an electronic tuner with a vibration sensor and tap the soundboard. On the ukes that sound good in B tuning I often see a B frequency appear on the tuner. So maybe it's the resonance. Excite an object at its fundamental frequency, and it will vibrate more than any other frequency.