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WKerrigan
03-09-2014, 07:37 AM
As a new uker, I still find myself confused regularly about terminology and practice when referring to uke strings. Since we talk about standard tuning on a uke, we refer to it as GCEA (or gCEA), but then we call the A string the FIRST string? For consistency's sake, should we not call it the fourth string?

When reading tab, the top line represents the bottom (i.e. "first") string, correct? Presumably because when you hang your head over your uke that is what it looks like?

So in tab, a G chord would be:

2
3
2
0

right?

But if I am describing it in text running left to right, do I refer to it as

2320

or

0232 ?

PhilUSAFRet
03-09-2014, 09:32 AM
It is for consistency's sake the strings are numbered the way they are. A uke can be tuned other than GCEA or gCEA, but the first string will always be the first string, regardless of the tuning. This is true for all stringed instruments to the best of my knowledge.

sukie
03-09-2014, 10:04 AM
Personally I would do 0232. I know what that means.

WKerrigan
03-09-2014, 10:11 AM
It is for consistency's sake the strings are numbered the way they are. A uke can be tuned other than GCEA or gCEA, but the first string will always be the first string, regardless of the tuning. This is true for all stringed instruments to the best of my knowledge.
In that case, shouldn't we be saying that the uke is tuned to AECG or AECg? That would be the more consistent way to state it, right?

WKerrigan
03-09-2014, 10:13 AM
Personally I would do 0232. I know what that means.
So when you describe a G chord as 0232, you are naming the frets starting with the 4th string and working down to the 1st.

wildfire070
03-09-2014, 11:03 AM
This is how I look at it...when stating the string number, I state it as if I'm holding the uke in playing position and the string closest to the floor is #1 and the one closest to my head is #4.

When I'm reading tabs or writing it in text my reference position changes to where I'm not looking at the ukulele in playing position but I'm looking at it straight on, front view with the headstock pointing up and looking straight at the fretboard. And looking at it this way is like reading a book...going left to right...#4 string to #1. So a G chord in gCEA tuning would be 0232

Camsuke
03-09-2014, 11:30 AM
This should help;
http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?809-How-to-Read-Tabs-Thread

freewheeler
03-09-2014, 01:15 PM
I can think of no reason why string numbering and the lettering couldn't have been logical and both of them run in the same direction. I suspect it has just evolved the way it has. I see the lettering being a logical result of the strum direction (top to bottom). I wonder if string numbering originated with the string manufacturers. It would follow standard practice for a manufacturer of a set of graded string to consider the thinnest one as the starting point and call it No.1

WKerrigan
03-09-2014, 01:49 PM
I can think of no reason why string numbering and the lettering couldn't have been logical and both of them run in the same direction. I suspect it has just evolved the way it has. I see the lettering being a logical result of the strum direction (top to bottom). I wonder if string numbering originated with the string manufacturers. It would follow standard practice for a manufacturer of a set of graded string to consider the thinnest one as the starting point and call it No.1 I agree, and believe your theory is correct. Both the down strum and the order most players use to pluck the strings to check if the uke is in tune suggests that the player's natural inclination is to start with the top string, not the bottom.

PhilUSAFRet
03-09-2014, 02:30 PM
In that case, shouldn't we be saying that the uke is tuned to AECG or AECg? That would be the more consistent way to state it, right?

That wouldn't be logical, unless you can play a uke tuned AECG or AECg. To make an absolute statement that "ukes are tuned gCEA" would not be correct. All you can say is that it's the post popular tuning today. It's not necessarily logical to expect the numbering be reversed because you strum the g string first. Strings are numbered with regard to your fretting hand. Again, regardless of tuning, the first string will always be the first. It's universal. Sounds like you are trying to "re-invent the wheel" so to speak. You know the old expression, "if it isn't broke........."....well, it isn't broke.

WKerrigan
03-09-2014, 02:53 PM
That wouldn't be logical, unless you can play a uke tuned AECG or AECg. To make an absolute statement that "ukes are tuned gCEA" would not be correct. All you can say is that it's the post popular tuning today. It's not necessarily logical to expect the numbering be reversed because you strum the g string first. Strings are numbered with regard to your fretting hand. Again, regardless of tuning, the first string will always be the first. It's universal. Sounds like you are trying to "re-invent the wheel" so to speak. You know the old expression, "if it isn't broke........."....well, it isn't broke.

My uke, and probably most of yours, are already tuned AECG (or AECg). I am simply reading the tuning in string number order. When I count, i generally start "1, 2, 3, 4," not "4, 3, 2, 1." I am just perplexed by the custom of describing tuning in reverse numerical order. I am not, of course, trying to "reinvent the wheel." I surely don't have the authority to do so! Just pointing out that there are some inconsistencies in the customs used in labeling strings, and it is for this novice at least one reason for early confusion when reading tab or deciphering number codes for chords. Understanding that they are inconsistencies is the first step in overcoming them.

PhilUSAFRet
03-09-2014, 03:04 PM
Using you fretting hand, you are playing them in order....1, 2, 3, 4. Jim Deville explains the logic of the numbering system as opposed to the lettering method. What if you want to tune your concert EADG?...you would still have the numbering system as a constant. Tunings is a bigger subject than many suspect.

http://www.playukulelebyear.com/tag/the-number-system/
http://www.playukulelebyear.com/category/the-circle/


If you feel better calling it AECG, go for it. There is another "system" that supports what you are saying. It's called the Cipher system. Not sure to what extent it's being used, but I thought it might help you make your point and also point out that you are not alone.

http://www.thecipher.com/ukulele-string-numbers.html

Good post, lots of thinking and discussion.

WKerrigan
03-09-2014, 03:19 PM
[QUOTE=PhilUSAFRet;1490139]If you feel better calling it AECG, go for it. Using you fretting hand, you are playing them in order....1, 2, 3, 4. Jim Deville explains the logic of the numbering system as opposed to the illogical lettering method. What if you want to tune your concert EADG?...you would still have the numbering system as a constant. There's a lot more to the issue than a habit. Alternative tunings is a complex issue.

http://www.playukulelebyear.com/tag/the-number-system/
The inconsistency is all that I am trying to point out. If you believe the numbering system is logical and the lettering system is illogical, then you are recognizing the inconsistency. The history of the world is filled with customs, practices, etc., that aren't consistent. Recognizing inconsistencies is the first necessary step to learning something new without getting tripped up.

PhilUSAFRet
03-09-2014, 03:25 PM
Too bad you replied before I completed my latest reply. I do it in parts, saving what I've done while I check something else, or get a link, the re-open and re-edit it, adding the new information until I have everything I want in it, cutting out anything that looks snarky, etc. If you digest it before I'm finished, it's a little like reading an author's unedited manuscript, LOL. Not a great habit I guess.

janeray1940
03-09-2014, 03:28 PM
The inconsistency is all that I am trying to point out.

For what it's worth - the inconsistency drives me crazy! I'm dyslexic with numbers (dyscalculia) and it's hard enough for me to read rows of numbers in tab in the first place! Through years of playing and repetition I've taught myself that when I see

2
3
2
0

I know that means a G chord, but the minute someone starts talking about playing a chord as a string of numbers verbalized as "0232" my brain starts to short-circuit a bit :)

WKerrigan
03-09-2014, 03:34 PM
Too bad you replied before I completed my latest reply. I do it in parts, saving what I've done while I check something else, or get a link, the re-open and re-edit it, adding the new information until I have everything I want in it, cutting out anything that looks snarky, etc. If you digest it before I'm finished, it's a little like reading an author's unedited manuscript, LOL. Not a great habit I guess.
Well I appreciate all the comments here, including yours. Talking through these things helps me get it sorted in my head.

PhilUSAFRet
03-09-2014, 03:35 PM
This post started With tabs, it's just numbers, strings, and frets.........all consistent. Using numbers for chords another issue. Regarding string numbers, I understand why it is the way it is and don't see it as an "inconsistency."......that cipher method link in my 9:18 post does support that it is a problem for some and offers an alternative method for learning. http://www.thecipher.com/ukulele-string-numbers.html

Andrew Zimmern says, "if it looks good eat it", here we say if it works for you, do it. :shaka:

WKerrigan
03-09-2014, 03:40 PM
For what it's worth - the inconsistency drives me crazy! I'm dyslexic with numbers (dyscalculia) and it's hard enough for me to read rows of numbers in tab in the first place! Through years of playing and repetition I've taught myself that when I see

2
3
2
0

I know that means a G chord, but the minute someone starts talking about playing a chord as a string of numbers verbalized as "0232" my brain starts to short-circuit a bit :)


The way I got myself to visually understand tab notation was to imagine I was a ukulele-playing giraffe, and I was curving my long neck downwards to face the frets, and it is what my upside-down head sees in front of me. But I am still uncertain how to read numeric notation that is presented in a left to right line of text. Maybe I've got a bit of dyscalcula too.

PhilUSAFRet
03-09-2014, 03:44 PM
Many of us, myself included, are not hardwired to find music theory easy to understand. That's why so many good musicians who find it easy would rather eat worms than try and teach it to us.

wkerrigan, did you check out that cipher method?

janeray1940
03-09-2014, 03:52 PM
The way I got myself to visually understand tab notation was to imagine I was a ukulele-playing giraffe, and I was curving my long neck downwards to face the frets, and it is what my upside-down head sees in front of me.

Ha ha, I LOVE this description. And that was kind of my approach too, but without the giraffe - when I first started playing, I would bend forward over my uke so I could "read" the strings in the same order as I was reading the tab!

PhilUSAFRet
03-09-2014, 03:56 PM
Speaking of Giraffes, did you hear about the Danish zoo that euthanized a 2 year old giraffe, butchered it, and fed the meat to the lions in front of visitors, including children? http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/09/world/europe/denmark-zoo-giraffe/

Ukejenny
03-09-2014, 04:55 PM
I usually refer to the g string as the first string, since the tuning is gCEA. It also makes sense to me when thinking of the g string being on "top" when I'm holding the uke. But, when reading tab, it feels bass akwards in my mind.

itsme
03-09-2014, 05:35 PM
I usually refer to the g string as the first string, since the tuning is gCEA. It also makes sense to me when thinking of the g string being on "top" when I'm holding the uke. But, when reading tab, it feels bass akwards in my mind.
Well, you are wrong. There is a long tradition of it being the other way around. I cringe every time I see someone refer to strings incorrectly. Because every time a noobie reads a post where it's wrong, they assume it's right just because you're more experienced and you must know what you're talking about.

When reading tab or just plain chord charts, think of it as holding your uke upgright and it kinda makes more sense.

sukie
03-09-2014, 05:37 PM
Just remember when putting on strings....
When the package says A string, they mean the first string. E is the second string, yada, yada....do whatever works best for you, but an A string is the first string. It's kind of important to know.

Look at tabls as if the fretboard is facing you and you are reading left to right.

itsme
03-09-2014, 05:55 PM
When the package says A string, they mean the first string. C is the second string
Yes, A is the first string, but E is the second string and C is the third string.

sukie
03-09-2014, 06:36 PM
Yes, A is the first string, but E is the second string and C is the third string.

You're right and that is what I meant.. I'm an idiot. I will fix original post. Dumb!

Camsuke
03-09-2014, 06:43 PM
A simple mistake Sukie, this is all very confusing!

itsme
03-09-2014, 07:15 PM
You're right and that is what I meant.
Yes, it was a simple mistake. But just another example of how when you put it out there wrong, people will start to believe it, especially when it's from someone who's been here as long as you have.

Camsuke
03-09-2014, 08:15 PM
Off to the sin bin you go Sukie!

freewheeler
03-09-2014, 10:44 PM
That wouldn't be logical, unless you can play a uke tuned AECG or AECg. To make an absolute statement that "ukes are tuned gCEA" would not be correct. All you can say is that it's the post popular tuning today. It's not necessarily logical to expect the numbering be reversed because you strum the g string first. Strings are numbered with regard to your fretting hand. Again, regardless of tuning, the first string will always be the first. It's universal. Sounds like you are trying to "re-invent the wheel" so to speak. You know the old expression, "if it isn't broke........."....well, it isn't broke.

So. What do you mean exactly "Strings are numbered with regard to your fretting hand". Can you give a definitive musical reason why they are numbered high to low. Even the scales go from low to high, Do, Re, Me etc. Nobody is trying to re-invent the wheel, just trying to find out if there is any reason other than "custom and practice" behind it. One can find the answer to virtually any musical question on the internet but you can't find a consensus answer to this one...because, I think, there isn't a reason. It is as it is, an arbitrary choice, that we just have to accept, get used to, and not question the logic.

phil hague
03-09-2014, 11:50 PM
It is logical. The alphabet begins with A, The A is at the top on written tabs, so A is string one.

della-belle
03-09-2014, 11:51 PM
I just got the internet back and this is the first thread I've seen in weeks and my head hurts :(

The 4321 system is used just about universally across a range of string instruments, including but not limited to the banjo, mandolin and guitar as well.
When you have the ukulele sitting in your lap, it's natural for most people to count from the top string downwards, and your brain makes the association that because you're moving downwards you should count downwards?

I'm not sure, all I know is that it works for 90% of musicians.
If you have a better way that works for you that's great, but I think it's best if you don't spread confusion among new players who already have a tonne of stuff to work out and be befuddled by.

freewheeler
03-10-2014, 12:43 AM
...Also some stringed instruments such as violins and cellos have existed long before tablature was invented so it is likely that an arbitrarily decided string numbering system was already established by the time tab came along. So tab had to sit on an existing string numbering system and not a purpose designed one that shared the same logic.
Perhaps we can blame Nero and his Lyre.

WKerrigan
03-10-2014, 03:15 AM
What amuses me about this thread is the defensive reactions of some of the posters. When ukejenny confesses to being confused by the system, one poster simply declares she is "wrong." Wrong to find the inconsistency confusing? Really? Another poster condemns me for "sowing confusion," as if I am the first person ever to point out that the inconsistency between writing GCEA and 1234. Seriously, folks, this is the internet, but we can still talk to each other like the actual human beings each of us are? Seems to me the solution here is to acknowledge the basic inconsistency, based on long tradition, and move forward. No one is advocating changing the rules.

Uncle Rod Higuchi
03-10-2014, 05:13 AM
When I begin teaching my Beginner ukulele classes I try to dispel the inevitable confusion by saying that the strings are designated from the bottom-up, but that everything else is designated from the top-down. That's just the way it is. So having set the parameters, we simply go from there. 'My Dog Has Fleas', gCEA, 0003, are examples I give re:
how we share some information (but not string numbers) :)

There are times, esp while describing finger placement to form chords, that it really gets confusing... but we muddle through it after a bit. I think, with practice and experience, some of these inconsistencies or confusions sort themselves out in our own minds... eventually :)

If it helps, I know Aunty Puakeala (Royal Hawaiian Center, 10-11a, Wed & Fri teacher of FREE ukulele lessons in the Food Court area) likes to describe the string numbers as floors in a building, the First floor being on the bottom, then the Second on top of that, etc. She doesn't dwell on it, but she uses string numbers to help the students figure out where to place their fingers as they learn the chords they will be forming for the rest of the hour.

If you're in a situation where the numbers are mentioned often, then it will become a more 'natural' way of referring to chord formation/diagram dots, in time. If you only encounter them in this Forum... well, it will be confusing until you figure out how best to understand those numbers (2010, 0003, 0212, 3211, etc) when they come up. it's part of the joy and pain of learning to play our beloved instrument... and of working at communicating with each other.

keep uke'in',... no matter what; and have a great time doing so! :)

bananaminstrel
03-10-2014, 05:39 AM
The way I got myself to visually understand tab notation was to imagine I was a ukulele-playing giraffe, and I was curving my long neck downwards to face the frets, and it is what my upside-down head sees in front of me. But I am still uncertain how to read numeric notation that is presented in a left to right line of text. Maybe I've got a bit of dyscalcula too.
And I've got synesthesia so it's all colors to me. I wonder though, are the numbers the same if you play left-handed?

janeray1940
03-10-2014, 05:39 AM
If you only encounter them in this Forum... well, it will be confusing until you figure out how best to understand those numbers (2010, 0003, 0212, 3211, etc) when they come up.

This is a really good point, and part of why the from-4th-to-1st string numbering convention is confusing to me: the only time I ever see or hear it is in on UU, or verbally from uke players I know who spend time on UU. I had actually gotten to wondering if it was a uke-player-only thing.

Both of my instructors are multi-instrumentalists, and I've never heard either refer to chords that way - if verbalizing chords, they will either tell me the note that my fingers should be on (e.g. "ring finger on Ab"), or tell me the 1st position chord shape and/or what to do to modify it (e.g. "take your B flat, move it up two frets, and flat the 6th"). And most of the time if I'm showing another uke player a chord, I'll do the same.

sukie
03-10-2014, 06:55 AM
It took about 2 years before I figured out my teacher says the order differently. He most likely would say 2320, and not 0232, because he tells me the fingerings from A to G (1st string to 4th string). I always wondered why I got confused sometimes. Now I know.
All this does tend to get sorted out with time. And practice. With lots of practice comes knowledge.

Inksplosive AL
03-10-2014, 08:54 AM
Its amazing the differences in the human brain. Try looking at tab as if you were laying down on your back reading it laying flat on your stomach or if the tab were taped hanging off your uke. Giraffes? Giggles like a little school girl.

I'm a patterns mind myself, the old math sheets in school were a bitch and I still don't do well looking for a product among a lot of colors like say the candy isle.

~AL~

sukie
03-10-2014, 10:09 AM
Off to the sin bin you go Sukie!

Can I come out now? I'll be good. Or at least I will try.

Uke-Conn
03-10-2014, 10:19 AM
It is logical. The alphabet begins with A, The A is at the top on written tabs, so A is string one.

How does that work when dealing with guitar strings - ?? :biglaugh:

Lumpy Wafflesquirt
03-10-2014, 10:58 AM
To make matters worse ..... when I first picked up a uke I struggled to hold the thing because the book said hold it with your right arm on "the top of the uke". I eventually discovered that what I thought was the front is called the top yet the opposite side that you hold against your chest is I think the back.

Inksplosive AL
03-10-2014, 02:11 PM
I guess I lie down a lot, the top is the top.

Camsuke
03-10-2014, 03:54 PM
Can I come out now? I'll be good. Or at least I will try.
Yep, the coast is clear!

WKerrigan
03-11-2014, 01:45 PM
To summarize, if the bottom string is the first string, then:

1) Standard tuning on a uke is commonly called AECG
2) Ukulele players check the tuning on their ukes by singing "Fleas Has My Dog"
3) The way tab is written (with first string on top) makes perfect sense.
4) The G chord, when written in number form, is 2320.

One of these statements is definitely true.

janeray1940
03-11-2014, 01:55 PM
To summarize, if the bottom string is the first string, then:

1) Standard tuning on a uke is commonly called AECG
2) Ukulele players check the tuning on their ukes by singing "Fleas Has My Dog"
3) The way tab is written (with first string on top) makes perfect sense.
4) The G chord, when written in number form, is 2320.

One of these statements is definitely true.

Except... the "bottom string" is the 4th string :)

Which in a way makes more sense if you're playing low G, because the bottom/4th string is the lowest tone scale-wise - so, to my mind anyway, lowest/bottom-most seems logical.

Even though when you're holding your uke and looking down, it's the closest string to your nose.

WKerrigan
03-11-2014, 03:32 PM
Except... the "bottom string" is the 4th string :)

Which in a way makes more sense if you're playing low G, because the bottom/4th string is the lowest tone scale-wise - so, to my mind anyway, lowest/bottom-most seems logical.

Even though when you're holding your uke and looking down, it's the closest string to your nose.

That explanation doesn't reconcile statement one or two, and possibly not statement four. It also makes statement three incorrect. I think there is a pretty universal consensus regarding what constitutes the top edge and bottom edge of a piece of paper.

janeray1940
03-11-2014, 03:53 PM
That explanation doesn't reconcile statement one or two, and possibly not statement four. It also makes statement three incorrect. I think there is a pretty universal consensus regarding what constitutes the top edge and bottom edge of a piece of paper.

I actually can't speak to which of your statements is correct (in my experience, none of them are, but YMMV - if you changed #3 to "tab is written with the first string on top" I might agree, but not about the "perfect sense" part as that's opinion rather than fact). However, we're not talking about a piece of paper here, we're talking about a standardized numbering convention for stringed instruments. Bear with me here, there's a difference :)

What I was trying to explain was that stringed instrument players* generally refer to the lowest-pitched string as the "bottom" string, although when talking about a reentrant ukulele this gets even more confusing. But here's a guitar example (http://www.cuug.ab.ca/~lukivr/String.html) that states what I attempted to say better than I did:



How to find the string numbers:

pick up guitar (UKULELE) as you would to play it.
the string closest to the ground is string number 1.
It should be the thinnest, highest pitch string.
the string closest to the ceiling is string number 6 (4 ON UKULELE).
It should be the thickest, lowest pitch string.
string diameters should gradually go from thick to thin
(ceiling to floor, low to high in pitch, the string numbers from 6 (4 ON UKULELE) to 1)

This method will work whether you hold your guitar left or right handed. (right handed is the most common)

NOTE: Most guitarists (UKULELISTS) refer to string #1 as the top string, even though physically it is on the bottom.
We say this because, MUSICALLY it is higher in pitch.
For the same reason, the 6th (4th ON UKULELE) string is the bottom string because its the lowest sounding string.

If you refer to the A string as the "bottom" string, it's just... musically incorrect. In the above example, substitute the word "ukulele" for "guitar," and the number "4" for "6." Although again, as I said, the reentrant G string further confuses the issue - if you were playing a low G ukulele the above would apply more exactly.

Hope that helps. This whole discussion has actually helped clear up my issues with the non-tab way of numbering chords a bit - I'll never be a fan of it, but at least it's starting to make sense to me!

*When I say "stringed instrument players" here I'm referring to uke, guitar, and bass, the only three that I'm familiar with playing - can't speak for violin, mando, banjo, etc since I don't have that experience.

Inksplosive AL
03-11-2014, 07:52 PM
In watching old videos of Tiny Tim he is holding his ukulele upside down and fingering the chords backwards. Thank goodness there was no tab to mess him up.

~peace~

Camsuke
03-11-2014, 07:58 PM
Yes, he just got on with the job!

In watching old videos of Tiny Tim he is holding his ukulele upside down and fingering the chords backwards. Thank goodness there was no tab to mess him up.

~peace~

phil hague
03-11-2014, 11:13 PM
I think anyone who can understand cricket will get the strings no problem.
You have two teams. The team that is out is in...............................

freewheeler
03-12-2014, 12:39 AM
I think anyone who can understand cricket will get the strings no problem.
You have two teams. The team that is out is in...............................

...and I don't think they're very nice people. They referred to my friend as Silly Mid On. Well I know he's a bit thick but nevertheless...and what about Short Stop, shouldn't he be referred to as height challenged?

vonbiber
03-12-2014, 01:11 AM
I think it makes sense in guitar playing where the strings are named from the lowest to the highest
in standard tuning: EADGBE
It would make sense with a low G uke (lowest to highest note): GCEA
With the tab, the lowest notes should appear at the bottom of the staff (as they would in the standard notation)