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Kayak Jim
07-07-2013, 03:16 PM
I've been playing mostly concerts for the past year and a half after a few months as a complete noob on a soprano. I play with a couple of strumming groups and am teaching myself chord melodies and fingerpicking. It's been a blast!

I expect to be travelling to Hawaii in Feb. and while there plan to purchase a yet-to-be determined K-brand. While I enjoy playing the concert scale, it does get a bit tight up around the 10th. And I wonder if for the chord melodies and finger picking low G would offer more depth. There has to be a reason the majority of the big guns play tenors.

So..., I just picked up an entry level tenor downstairs to see how I like the size and sound. While there were what seemed like a multitude of string options for the concerts, it has more than doubled with wound vs unwound, high vs low, balancing tensions...

I'm looking for a fairly simple approach to testing the tenor waters, in both high and low G. The uke is a laminate (Kala KA-TEM) so the stock high G Aquilas should be good I think. My question is how to easily move into low G territory? Adding an unwound low G means filing the nut (irreversibly). If I go wound, should the C be wound also or not? I see Aquila offers sets with one or both wound. A search here revealed a suggestion for using a guitar D as a fourth string (D'addario J4304)

Is there a fairly straight forward approach you can suggest that would give me a reasonable impression of the world of tenors?

Thanks a lot
Jim B

PhilUSAFRet
07-07-2013, 03:30 PM
Wow, a big question. Like other ukes, they will vary somewhat with overall length, depth, width, neck thickness/width, thickness of frets, type of tuners, tonewood(s)/tone,finish, and weight. That being said, it would be a lot easier if you spelled out some of your expectations about what you would like, based on your experiences with concerts.

armchair_spaceman
07-07-2013, 03:31 PM
Jim there are a couple of fluorocarbon options for unwound Low G that probably wouldn't require filing your nut. Living Water, Orca black to name just a couple, both are relatively skinny (the orcas are super fine, had to shim my C slot to accommodate), doubtless there are others. They could give you a taste of Low G without taking a file to your uke.

FWIW I wasn't thrilled with Low-G on my tenor but I've been experimenting with alternative tunings and for playing alone I like gCEA tuned down half a step on mine. A capo on the first fret brings it up to regular tuning. Just a thought to throw into the mix but experimentation is easy. I've also been looking at South Coast strings to try Low G again but haven't ordered any yet.

Kayak Jim
07-07-2013, 03:39 PM
Wow, a big question. Like other ukes, they will vary somewhat with overall length, depth, width, neck thickness/width, thickness of frets, type of tuners, tonewood(s)/tone,finish, and weight. That being said, it would be a lot easier if you spelled out some of your expectations about what you would like, based on your experiences with concerts.

Phil, I have the tenor uke (or will shortly), just looking for how I like it vs. concerts. Low G, etc.

PhilUSAFRet
07-07-2013, 03:58 PM
Phil, I have the tenor uke (or will shortly), just looking for how I like it vs. concerts. Low G, etc.

Oops, sorry. You may not have to file that nut for low g. I prefer concert size, but have all but a baritone. I do like to have both reentrant and low g. I just got a new Kala solid mahogany tenor that came with Aquilas on it. Since single Aquila low g strings are available, may try it before I switch. I already know I want low g on this uke...it's my jazz/blues uke.

Johnny GDS
07-07-2013, 09:18 PM
The widening of the nut slot will probably be necessary for the low G set-up, but it is reversible. The slot can be filled using super glue and some bone or plastic nut shavings, and then re-cut for a high g string again. The main thing is having a set of nut files to do the job right.

Sometimes this type of thing will have to be done again in the future because the string can wear through the glue patched nut, but this is much more common with a wound string because the windings act as a file in the nut slot when you tune. A high g string doesn't wear through nearly as much. Obviously having a filled and recut nut isn't the most perfect and ideal scenario for coupling the string vibrations to the neck/body, but the TEM has a plastic nut already (and that series sounds pretty dang good for the money) so I wouldn't lose any sleep over having to fill it to go back to a high G. The main thing is that the slots are the proper width and depth and angle.

Aquila makes single low G strings (just the G, not a full pack), but a nylon guitar D string is a suitable substitute, especially if you are just giving it a try. Uke low G strings seem to have a smaller and tighter (closer together) winding, but the guitar D isn't that different, and I've known a few people to prefer them.

I would go with a wound G first. There is nothing wrong with trying the wound C as well, but the low G will give you a much more "different" sound. A wound C is often used to give the C string (since it has the largest diameter of all the strings) a little more "cut" sonically and make the strings sound more balanced. The larger unwound C can sound duller than the other strings, and the wound C adds brightness and balance (based on my experience).

Some people really prefer both a wound C and G as opposed to just a wound G. This is probably because to their ear the Low G sounds a little too dominant (or boomy) when combined with a regular C.

Just a few opinions of mine on the subject.

ichadwick
07-08-2013, 01:52 AM
Look for a mid-level instrument by a company like Mainland or Kala. Good, well-made instruments but not a house mortgage investment. Once you get one, you can experiment with strings...

Kayak Jim
07-08-2013, 02:09 AM
Look for a mid-level instrument by a company like Mainland or Kala. Good, well-made instruments but not a house mortgage investment. Once you get one, you can experiment with strings...

Ian, I have the instrument, it's the string experiment I'm looking for a bit of guidance on. (clearly my original post was misleading).

Gary52
07-08-2013, 09:27 AM
I have a Kala mahogany tenor strung with low G. It came with Aquila strings, wound G, non-wound C. I didn't like the sound of the wound Aquila G since it tended to overpower the other strings, but it might be balanced by a wound C. Both PhD and Worth clear low G strings are thicker than the wound Aquila, and I prefer their sound. The thicker strings required bit of work on the nut. In the end, you'll probably have to try a variety of strings to get the sound and feel you want. It's all pretty subjective.

strumsilly
07-08-2013, 09:42 AM
I dislike unwound low G strings. I think they feel too thick and sound too much like a rubber band. That really only leaves wound strings, for the G, and or C. or something like the Aquilla red, which is a topic of several other threads and I really don't want to get into here. I have used a generic D guitar stringa nd it wasn't bad,, def would do in a pinch. The squeak is annoying, but for some more $ you can go polished or "flatwound. something like the Southcoast ML-FW. I 'm going to try some Koolau Alohi with the 2 wound bases, I liked the one wound bass set I had on a uke I sold.

Kayak Jim
07-08-2013, 10:31 AM
Thanks for the comments all. In digging through past threads I've also come across a recommendation for the Fremont Soloist "squeakless" which I guess is flat wound or polished. Uke Republic carries them so I'll add one to my list.

I did try someone's tenor with non wound low G for 5 minutes and was put off by the rubber band effect.