Entry to Mid Level Soprano or Concert Uke Suitable for the Blues ?

LorenFL

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This is completely subjective but I often consider ukulele blues silly. It is like playing a funeral dirge with a kazoo or a slide whistle, or like Nina Simone singing Nicki Minaj songs: it just sounds ridiculous. However I consider myself a Roots musician and play a lot of blues-based things and here's what I do: 1. play in low G and 2. loosen the tension of the strings to make them less shimmery/chimey. I typically play in A tuning, 3 half steps looser than GCEA. That gives the timbre a little more bathos. Patently this only applies to chords, because notes are notes when finger picked. And again, I want to remind everyone this is very subjective. If a standard uke offers no problems to your ear, then go for it.

I was going to say much the same. What uke you choose to play the Blues sort of depends on what YOU think the Blues should sound like on your ukulele!

Muck like Ripock, I play a concert with Low G, tuned down to Low F. It's taken a while to learn to work that low-G string because it WILL get very boomy if you don't manage it. But, you can. You can either hit it lightly to not overpower a chord, or... as I've taken to doing lately, bump it with the thumb before striking the chord to give it a little bass-beat. Depending on what you're playing, of course.

FWIW, I picked out a nice Ohana CK-42. Redwood top for excellent resonance and sustain. I like it a lot!

There will likely be some trial and error finding the strings, setup and tuning that makes your uke work the way you want it to. My biggest issue usually ends up being finding a thin enough A string to keep it's "bendiness" on par with the other strings. I like things loose.

But, my uke would sound nothing like the one in the first post... at least not the way I have it set up.
 

kaimuki

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I was going to say much the same. What uke you choose to play the Blues sort of depends on what YOU think the Blues should sound like on your ukulele!

Muck like Ripock, I play a concert with Low G, tuned down to Low F. It's taken a while to learn to work that low-G string because it WILL get very boomy if you don't manage it. But, you can. You can either hit it lightly to not overpower a chord, or... as I've taken to doing lately, bump it with the thumb before striking the chord to give it a little bass-beat. Depending on what you're playing, of course.

FWIW, I picked out a nice Ohana CK-42. Redwood top for excellent resonance and sustain. I like it a lot!

There will likely be some trial and error finding the strings, setup and tuning that makes your uke work the way you want it to. My biggest issue usually ends up being finding a thin enough A string to keep it's "bendiness" on par with the other strings. I like things loose.

But, my uke would sound nothing like the one in the first post... at least not the way I have it set up.
I originally thought that certain ukes might lend themselves to the blues but I now realize it's personal preference .
 

LorenFL

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I originally thought that certain ukes might lend themselves to the blues but I now realize it's personal preference .

It's a lot of that, and also what style of blues you want to play... or what "part" of the arrangement you want to play. (unless you're one of those talented people who just plays "all of it") I like to strum stuff, but with some interesting strum patterns thrown in, and chord variations to add to the melody. And I also like to pick blues style solo stuff... and I like the style of masters like BB King and David Gilmour. That's why my setup is "loose", so that I can get all bendy without straining my fingers.

Gotta do what works for you.
 

ripock

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Since we are talking about which uke lends itself to the blues, let me mention a physical aspect of the ukes. As I mentioned above, I don't ever play "the blues" but most of what I do is blues-based. My ukuleles are custom and I designed them specifically to play what I want. My ukuleles have cutaways. I prefer Florentine cutaways, but that doesn't really matter. With cutaways, I have access to 7 pentatonic shapes (all five of the shapes, plus two at an octave higher). I play super tenors with 19 frets. However even with a concert, a cutaway should give you access to all five pentatonic shapes that you need to play the blues.
 

ripock

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I'd like to hear Nina Simone sing some Nicki Minaj, please provide link!
now that I think of it, I think my analogy would be better represented by Nicki Minaj singing "Mississippi Goddam." I think that would resemble the travesty of a tinny ukulele attempting something with gravitas much better. Or "Strange Fruit" in that upbeat reggae strum that seems to be so ubiquitous in this world of ours.
 

Jag-Stang

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now that I think of it, I think my analogy would be better represented by Nicki Minaj singing "Mississippi Goddam." I think that would resemble the travesty of a tinny ukulele attempting something with gravitas much better. Or "Strange Fruit" in that upbeat reggae strum that seems to be so ubiquitous in this world of ours.
So As different ideas make the world go round I must chime in. Before we had steel strings on guitars guitars had gut strings, their origin somehow morphed into steel strings and then electric amplified instruments. I rarely hear great classical pieces played on amplified electric guitars and when I do they feel garish to me. I think you may be missing the point of the original thread which was a recommendation for a ukulele who’s sound was most subjective to blues. I agree that playing styles may be more appropriate but I do not agree that just any ukulele works just as well. Also the post wanted an opinion on how well Soprano ukuleles will work for blues and what might be a good choice. I did not hear playing styles mentioned and that should be another discussion separate from which ukulele has the more appropriate timbre for blues. I do think different ukuleles have different and unique sounds and this was a fair question and as we all have opinions about sound we all should chime in as to our experience. I am a blues harmonica player I also play guitar and I am although relatively new to ukuleles I have played in groups where ukulele was used.
I am from the Philadelphia area and a local band that uses ukulele comes to mind “The Hooters” the use of ukulele in the rock format is atypical but it works.
My point being I interpreted the question as what ukulele (Soprano) might work best with blues. Yes I agree it is not traditional but if one plays in a style he may be more inclined to use one type of instrument. This is no different than the long standing which is best the Les Paul or the Stratocaster. Those might take either side but the side they take might help sway the questioner into a direction he is seeking.
 

Mike $

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As far as which uke is best for blues, the ukulele one uses won't make a difference, it's the person behind the uke that will. Get one that sounds and plays nice.
 
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kaimuki

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Let me second Mike $ thought on this. The original Blues musicians didn't pick "the best guitar" for their blues. They played what they had at hand.

On a similar note, some of the best Hawaiian music I've heard was played by a guy with an electric Fender.
The title of this thread is : Entry to Mid Level Soprano or Concert Uke Suitable for the Blues

Also , we look to the past for inspiration but we live in a very different world today .

Re: Hawaiian musicians , my favorites play on Martin ukuleles , the classic Mainland East Coast uke .


 

badhabits

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If you have just bought a ukulele and want to get started, and this seems like garble, start with the physical training, use the exercises and simple tunes to train your fretting and strumming fingers to accurately and smoothly find the right fret and pitch. Just leave this post until you have developed your physical fretting and strumming. Then apply some intellectual effort to learn the 48 notes and pitches on your fretboard. Learn them well enough to be able to identify the Blues boxes on your ukulele fretboard. When you get to this stage, you have all you need to get started on learning to play the Blues. Find the information about the tunes, scales and chords and stuff and apply it to make your own Blues repertoire. There is no need to read on if you are not ready yet.

Why do people take time to learn scales and keys?

Many famous blues players claim they have no knowledge of music theory. This usually means they can't read standard notation. But, they will know where all the G notes and Bb notes etc are on their guitars, and they will know the boxes or scales used to play the blue genre music. So in actual fact, they know a lot about the practical application of music theory, but just never learned to read Standard Notation. Also it is not cool for Blues musicians to be publicly knowledgeable about music theory, there are so many critics waiting to pull them apart that they avoid the stuff about the theory and just play the music in public. Maybe in rehearsal and band meetings they operate differently and will use the labelling and theory stuff?

If you do not understand the following, there is nothing to stop you surfing around and finding explanations and stuff so you can understand it. None of it is rocket science, you are allowed to get a notebook and actually write stuff down so you remember it and can keep looking at it to work it out. You do not really need to buy a "Blues Ukulele" or "Blue Ukulele music" if you can learn the 48 notes and pitches that exist on the 12 frets of your ukulele. You can work out a lot of stuff for yourself and then work on it and make your own Blues sound.

As a ukulele player, you may never bother to learn how to read Standard Notation, but that is not an excuse for never learning the notes and pitches on your fretboard and how to put them together for your favourite genre of music. The blues genre has specific scales and "boxes" on your ukulele fretboard. If you are serious about the blues you need to learn them.

The next step is to look at Blues Players. One of the most contemporary Blues/Rock players is Keith Richards. When you study his music and playing, he only have 5 strings on his guitar. He and many others use a scale called the Major Pentatonic or Southern Blues Scale, which is based on an altered G major scale. You can look it up and then find the boxes where it is on your ukulele fretboard, in any tuning you choose to use. However, Keith has made it easier for himself, and has copied his predecessors and Blues heroes, to tune his guitar in X G D G B D . If you have a baritone ukulele, you only need to drop the E string down to D and you have almost the same set-up as is used by Keith Richards. So you should be able to access a lot of Kieth's material and the material of his Blues heroes with a Baritone ukulele, with the E string dropped to D. You can check all the other Blues players and do what Kieth and Mick did, study their guitar heroes and work out the music, without lessons or learning how to sight read. When they were doing this, there was no internet to surf around, now everyone reading this can check out a famous blues player every day just by surfing around.

Another thing you can do is look at another very popular Blues instrument, the Diatonic Harmonica. Look up "Second Position" harp or harmonica to study the notes and chord constructions often used for Blues genre music and apply it back to your ukulele fretboard. You could discover that the best key Harmonica to play the most common Southern Blues scale is tuned to C and played in the Second position? So look at the notes on a Marine Band Harmonica in the key of C, the low C is C4(SPN), exactly the same low note as you have on your re-entrant tuned ukulele. And you can map the notes on the Marine Band along your ukulele fretboard. So you should be able to get some harmonica music in a format you can read in the key of C and translate it to your ukulele fretboard.

Other Blues instruments also exist for you to study.

Tuning like Keith or translating from the harmonica or using a Guitar TAB is just the first step. If you can't get the low notes like you have on a guitar, or get the wailing sound of a harmonica, your ukulele blues may sound thin and squeaky and not very credible. So you need to learn the next piece of knowledge, how to make it sound like the blues on your ukulele. This is where you need to learn about chord inversions and voices. You will be using the same Blues scales, but you need to re-arrange the notes in the chords to get a credible Blues sound. There are only 3 inversions to learn for chords, its not rocket science to write out the notes in the chords you want to use and and the 9(?) possible combinations to work through the sounds of the chords and find one which has the right sound on your ukulele. You can also look at the open tunings, which make the chord playing much easier on the fretting fingers, but you have to re-learn the fretboard.

As discussed in posts above, a lot of "Blues" you hear played on ukulele is thin and squeaky and maybe lacks credibility. You can adapt stuff from other instruments, but you need to work on it to get it to sound like credible blues on your ukulele. If you are really keen on playing the Blues, maybe that is an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of the great players, you do not ever need to learn how to sight read Standard Notation and you can say that you therefore do not know any music theory. But, you do what they did and learn your fretboard and learn how to construct chords on your fretboard and learn how a Blues tune is assembled. You do not need a special ukulele or specially arranged music to achieve this, you can just surf around and find the information and apply it to your fretboard, and then work out an arrangement and play it 100(?) times to perfect it for an audience.

If you have just bought a ukulele and want to get started, and this seems like garble, start with the physical training, use the exercises and simple tunes to train your fretting and strumming fingers to accurately and smoothly find the right fret and pitch. Just leave this post until you have developed your physical fretting and strumming. Then apply some intellectual effort to learn the 48 notes and pitches on your fretboard. Learn them well enough to be able to identify the Blues boxes on your ukulele fretboard. When you get to this stage, you have all you need to get started on learning to play the Blues. Find the information about the tunes, scales and chords and stuff and apply it to make your own Blues repertoire.

Saved...for the day I get around to reading it all.
 

kaimuki

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Yes, I agree with what you're saying. Just wanted to suggest that any ukulele may be suitable for playing the Blues.
I said so in the first line of my post : "Of course the blues can sound good on any Uke ."
 

Squirrel40

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If you dont think blues sounds good on ukulele listen to Jason Arimoto, it might change your view.
 

kaimuki

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Who has seen those stupid TikTok challenges?

So the Blues sound many identify with seems to be unobtainable on a ukulele, especially a re-entrant tuned ukulele. It may be a bit easier with an open tuning, but there may still be some issues with noise not fitting into what is expected of a Blues sound.

Yet, many aspiring ukulele players want to access Blue repertoire on their ukuleles. They may not like a guitar or may have a problem which prevents them accessing a guitar.

First how do you explain the "issues" with the sound and what are the causes?

Then what can you find or do on a ukulele fretboard to deal with the issues and get a noise that fits more comfortably into the Blues category?

Some already seem to agree that it is possible to play Blue repertoire on what ever ukulele you own now, so maybe you do not need a new uke. What do you need to learn or train yourself to do so you can access the Blues on a ukulele?

Even if you currently don't think about playing the Blues on your ukulele because it wont sound "right", what suggestions do you have for those who are very keen to access Blues repertoire on their ukuleles? Can you pay it forward with some suggestions and ideas?
Terry "Uke Like the Pros" Carter offers Blues Ukulele lessons .
 

ripock

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And Tenthumbs is currently in a 15 day blues in D challenge. He periodically has these challenges in different popular keys.
 

PeteyHoudini

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The Martin C1K would be a good choice. Jangly, and more frets than an S-O. I own a style 2k concert. I’ve also played a C1K before.
 

kaimuki

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The Martin C1K would be a good choice. Jangly, and more frets than an S-O. I own a style 2k concert. I’ve also played a C1K before.
C1K is versatile ; Hawaiian , Blues , Jazz , Rock , Pop , Folk , etc ... all sound good .
I hope they will offer a mid -level priced Concert Mahogany version , too .
 
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PeteyHoudini

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C1K is versatile ; Hawaiian , Blues , Jazz , Rock , Pop , Folk , etc ... all sound good .
I hope they will offer a mid -level priced Concert Mahogany version , too .

You’re right, the C1K is great on all those fronts. There is no mid priced mahogany Martin concert uke. Martin never made a budget concert mahogany and only the style 2 that I gave to a friend’s daughter. The koa uke was always less BOOMING and sounded better.


Sorry. I posted orginally a tenor review.
 
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