Steel strings on a baritone ukulele...

rustydusty

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For the last 18 months or so I've been wanting a tenor guitar. Today I was looking at tenor guitars for sale and ran across a cheap Kmise "tenor guitar" for under $100. It got pretty good reviews but several of the reviews mentioned that it was basically a baritone ukulele with a truss rod. So I gets to thinking; I've got a Caramel baritone uke with a truss rod that I don't really play, plus a set of "light" acoustic guitar strings. Tomorrow I'm going to install the steel strings on the Caramel and see what happens. If it damages the uke, no big deal, I didn't pay that much for it. If it works, I've got a nifty little steel string uke...20211027_122830.jpg
 

anthonyg

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Well this instrument has a pin bridge which is good for steel strings. You won't rip the bridge off, however the intonation won't be right. The less flexible a string is, the more saddle compensation it needs, and steel strings are considerably less flexible than classical/nylon type strings.
I expect the intonation on the two bottom strings will be woefully sharp.
 

rustydusty

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IT'S ALIVE!! Just installed the steel strings and it sounds great. Intonation seems good, the tension feels about the same to me (light bronze strings) and the sustain is remarkable. This is an all solid mahogany uke with a built in pre amp and tuner. I imagine that the "purists" would tell me that it's not a ukulele anymore but that was the whole idea. I have two other baritone ukes and was lusting after a tenor guitar that wasn't in the budget. Win-win for me...
 

jer

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Interesting for sure. I'd watch for a bridge that is leaning forward over time due to stress on the top. Nylon string instruments are not internally braced to handle steel strings, unless this was overbuilt. If it's built more like a guitar, then maybe it'll be fine for a long time. You seem happy with it though, so enjoy it however long it lasts eh?
 

kissing

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Since this is a low-cost uke that you weren't playing much anyway, as long as the tension is light enough I'm glad you're getting some enjoyment out of it.
 

rustydusty

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So far, no signs of warpage. The uke does seem to be over built, with quite heavy bracing. I like the dimensions better than tenor guitar with a wider nut and smaller body...20220509_125929.jpg
 

Jim Hanks

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It's your uke, but I sure wouldn't risk it. Best of luck 😬
 

rustydusty

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I have two other baritone ukes that I would not try it on, but this one is built like a tank...
 

bsfloyd

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Have you considered trying silk and steel strings? More of a lighter load, still nice sustain.
 

rustydusty

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Holy sh☆t! I plugged this into my 80 watt "CoolMusic" busking amp and this thing rocks! I actually hadn't tried this uke on the amp when it was strung with "nylon" strings as I was mainly using my Clearwater baritone with a passive pickup. It worked okay, I wasn't at all impressed with it's sound amplified and was planning on adding a "pre-amp". The Caramel baritone has a built-in pre-amp with a graphic equalizer and is a totally different animal. With some added reverb, some sustain and gain, it really has some punch. Gotta get my teen age son to teach me how to record on "YouTube" and I will give you a sample...20220514_191649.jpg
 

rustydusty

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Update: after farting around with steel strings on one of my baritone ukes, I realized that what I really wanted was a tenor guitar. I ordered an Ibanez that arrived today and love it! Aside from some corrosion on the wound strings, it sounds great. I will change the strings tomorrow...20220622_190222.jpg
 

Enrico A

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After reading this post, I actually just installed D'Addario bronze strings 10, 14, 23, 30 on my Caramel A/E tenor which has a truss rod. It's a cheap throw away uke so I thought, why not? It has been four days and the uke is still good, no warping. I may loosen the strings if I don't plan to use it for a long period, which is always the case since I have better ukes. How does it sound? Unplugged it sounds like a tinny guitar. Louder and a tad higher pitch than nylon or fluorocarbon strings. The sound is like a cross b/w uke and guitar. Sustain is long and not very uke like. Great for playing lead or individual string plucks. Plugged in, it sounds incredible. It loses the tinny sound. So there you have it.
 

rustydusty

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Maybe someone should make the suggestion to Caramel that they start a line of steel string ukes? It's been almost two months since I put steel strings on mine with no noticeable changes...
 

Enrico A

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Yeah, maybe Caramel should make steel string ukes. I have been looking for a really small guitar but couldn't find one (I have a Yamaha jr. travel guitar, and Ibanez Talman which is small bodied, but I want a smaller one to put in my backpack. I had thought of doing this for a long time, but didn't have the guts to experiment. One thing I want to add, strumming a steel string tenor uke is a bit jangly, but not bad once your ears get used to it. I really don't think it's a uke anymore except for the chording.
 

rustydusty

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Kmise sells a tenor guitar that's only an inch or two longer than their baritone ukulele. Might be worth checking out...
 

Enrico A

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Thanks, I checked the Kmise tenor at Amazon. I didn't know they made that. I listened to several Youtube sound reviews. It actually sounds like my steel-converted Caramel tenor. Of course there's nothing like hearing it live. I think I'll just keep mine for now since it's acoustic electric and sounds great plugged in.
 

Bill1

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Look up the Ibanez Piccolo Guitar. It has a 17" scale length, probably close to the size of a tenor ukulele.

Also look up Cuartros, they are built for steel strings and are similar to ukuleles in some ways.

There are plenty of small six and four course steel string instruments around if you look for them.