Does reentrant tuning mislead?

Graham Greenbag

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The standard tuning for a Uke is arguably g, C, E, A and it

Fighting the software again, please see the post below.
 

Graham Greenbag

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The standard tuning for a Uke is arguably g, C, E, A and it’s described as reentrant because the g is out of sequence with the ascending notes after it. If the same strings were re-ordered into C, E, G, A then I guess that it would be linear tuned instead. Anyway it struck me that the A string isn’t needed for all of the minor and major chords, the A string is used for other fancy stuff instead like seventh chords.

Now why the strings are in the order that they are I don’t know but once you think about it a bit their choice is logical enough. the A can provide a sixth, seventh and eighth for the chords root note or double up with the note on the G string. The C, E and G provide a major third plus a minor third for a perfect fifth giving a major chord, normally any chord’s root is on the C string. It makes sense to my basic music theory.

So surely reentrant labelled against a Uke’s tuning is misleading, surely the strings are in a certain order so that our fingers can work the chords.

What’s the view from the experts?
 

Barrytone

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All the chords are the same with low G linear tuning. Re-entrant tuning gives a uke, especially the soprano it’s unique voice.
 

Croaky Keith

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Me being no expert, but having an opinion.... ;)

I think the term comes from the fact that ukes have always been strummed in an up & down manner, unlike other instruments which are normally strummed downwards, (as guitars used to be).

I tend to down strum when playing ukes, more so than down up, but then I use linear low G mainly, (or to be more precise, almost exclusively). :D
 

Graham Greenbag

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All the chords are the same with low G linear tuning. Re-entrant tuning gives a uke, especially the soprano it’s unique voice.

Yes, I think that that is all true. Of course a standard chord played with low G tuning must be some form of inversion where a note from the wrong octave is used. Nothing wrong with that (wrong octave use) in practice, we’ll I guess so and it’s already present in standard tuning (eg. The ‘a’ chord), and most folk like the sound of low G tuning. C as the lowest note for a (Soprano) Uke seems to match its resonant volume well, guess that’s why it was chosen along with string limitations. The original Uke (Soprano) being arguably a form of travel guitar.

I think that part of the unique Uke voice is its cheery treble nature, due to doubling up on the g and a strings, it’s normally nice but sometimes it works less well.

[Edit. I hadn’t thought much of it before but part of the Uke’s unique (?) voice comes from making chords from a restricted range of notes by utilising notes from the wrong octave. The range of notes is restricted by string length (basically one octave to any one string) but also what fingers (on one hand) can reach what frets at the same time.]

I still think that the reentrant description is misleading. The g is needed together with the C and E to form all the basic chords and is in the correct octave to work with them in the normally accepted way used by musicians in general, a reentrant g would actually be an octave higher ie. a g borrowed from a different octave.
 
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Peter Frary

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Me being no expert, but having an opinion.... ;)

I think the term comes from the fact that ukes have always been strummed in an up & down manner, unlike other instruments which are normally strummed downwards, (as guitars used to be).

I tend to down strum when playing ukes, more so than down up, but then I use linear low G mainly, (or to be more precise, almost exclusively). :D

Most early guitars—Renaissance and Baroque—were strung reentrant. And strumming was rasgueado using multiple fingers in both down and up strokes.
 

Graham Greenbag

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Since "re-entrant" refers to the breaking (or really, restarting) of a rising or falling pitch pattern across the fretboard, re-entrant tunings really are re-entrant. If you reordered the strings CEGA (all in the same octave), the tuning would be linear, not re-entrant. Linear doesn't refer explicitly to having G an octave lower; it's just that if the G is an octave lower following the GCEA pattern, the result is a linear tuning: the pitches consistently rise as you cross the fretboard. If you drop both the G and A an octave (as some do), you have another type of re-entrant pattern: rising until you reach the A string, where the pitch falls.

It is not true that the roots of most chords fall on the third string (in re-entrant tuning); I think you mean that the lowest pitch typically falls on the third string, but this need not be the root. We freely use inversions on ukuleles—in fact, more often than we use "root position" (i.e., uninverted) chords.

The first string isn't always redundant in major triad chord shapes. A triad by definition will have only three distinct pitches, so if we strum or pluck all four strings, one string must double the pitch of another, either in unison or at an octave. And while the 1st string often doubles the pitch of the 4th string in triads, it's also common for the 1st string to double the pitch of the 3rd string, an octave higher, or for the 2nd string to double the pitch of the 4th string, an octave higher, or for the 2nd string to double the pitch of the 3rd string, in unison. In other words, in some common triad chord shapes, the 1st string does not double another pitch but plays that triad component all by itself (and is thus essential). Nor in other chords is it always an added note to the triad, like a 6th, 7th or 9th; more often than not, it plays one of the core triad pitches, undoubled, with color being added on one or more other strings.

One reason that the fleas pattern (whether re-entrant or linear) works so well for chording is that the open pitches divide the octave about evenly, unlike with most other tunings, like all-fourths, all-fifths and "open" (triad) tunings. As for why the strings can't simply be ordered lowest to highest (CEGA), it just turns out that other orderings produce less friendly fingerings for most chords, especially when you consider all keys and all chord types.

An excellent answer, thank you very much.

I believe that sometimes you delete old posts, I hope that you don’t mind me capturing your thoughts above ‘cause what you’ve said is worthy of repeated referral to.

For me the reentrant part of Uke tuning has always inferred that the 4th string should be a G below the C and that a g above the C is used as a mater of necessity. I feel that that inference is misleading and that your last sentence captures why gCEA is as it is.
 
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Jim Yates

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For me the reentrant part of Uke tuning has always inferred that the 4th string should be a G below the C and that a g above the C is used as a mater of necessity. I feel that that inference is misleading and that your last sentence captures why gCEA is as it is.

I have never taken that inference from the term "Reentrant". The instrument is tuned that way because it sounds good that way. There are not many instruments that use reentrant tuning, but the ones that do are done that way for a reason.
I would be lost playing a 5 string banjo in linear tuning. That fifth reentrant string allows some techniques that would be difficult (or different) without the reentrant string. (This is what makes clawhammer ukulele possible.)
Another reentrant instrument in my arsenal is the Nashville strung guitar (eadgBE) which is very effective in certain situations.

A question: Are instruments like the tiple (gG cCc eEe AA) or the 12-string guitar considered reentrant?
 

merlin666

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A question: Are instruments like the tiple (gG cCc eEe AA) or the 12-string guitar considered reentrant?

No, the octave string are an add-on to the existing dominating string pattern. Even a five string uke that has both high and low G is primarily linear. On the other hand, a six string uke that is set up as Lili'u is re-entrant even though it has an additional low A string, as it preserves the basic re-entrant sound that occurs with high g in the upper position.