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Thread: Tune a 4 string banjo (mandocaster) as a uke

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
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    Default Tune a 4 string mandolin (mandocaster) as a uke

    Hi guys,

    I am a uke beginner and I have been given a mandocaster (4 string mandolin).

    The tuning in the mandolin and the uke is different (GCEA vs CGDA). I am still struggling with the uke, so adding a different tuning and different chord shapes is not very appealing. What i am excited about is using the mandocaster as an electric uke

    Do you know how easy and good idea would be to change the tuning of the mandocaster to CGDA (uke tuning)?

    Thanks!!!
    Last edited by Mixy; 04-12-2015 at 06:37 AM. Reason: Correct Mistakes

  2. #2

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    Do you mean converting an electric mandolin for uke tuning? Your headline says banjo but you keep talking about a mandocaster.

    If it is a 4 string mandolin that you want to string up as a uke this video is pretty helpful. Skip ahead to 5:33 when he starts talking about string gauges and setting it up.



    If you do mean a banjo, I'm also curious. I just bought a 19 fret tenor banjo that I'm considering stringing up like a uke.

  3. #3
    Join Date
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    Sumter County, FL
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    Default

    Almost any instrument can be retuned to whatever the musician wants.

    Ironically, almost all my ukes, tenor guitars and tenor banjos I've retuned to CGDA for my own convenience.

    Suggest checking out my favorite electric-instrument site (EMando.com) as it's about the best overall-electric site for strings, info, ideas, etc.

    As far as the opening question goes, no problem! It's just a matter of getting the right strings. For retuning a CGDA-tuned instrument to GCEA, the A remains the same, the D can be uptuned to E, the existing C can be replaced with either a high-G (probably same gauge as the A, just uptuned) or a low-G, and the existing G replaced with an appropriate C.

    What you may find is that the existing C (fourth string) nut slot may be too wide for a high-G string and thus may buzz. If that happens, either a string suppressor at the nut end or needing to use a wider-gauged low-G string may be necessary to avoid replacing/reworking the nut.
    Last edited by SteveZ; 04-12-2015 at 06:11 AM.
    ...SteveZ

    Ukuleles: Martin T1K (T)*, Oscar Schmidt OU28T (T8), Lanikai LU-6 (T6), RISA Solid (C), Effin UkeStart (C), Flea (S)**
    Banjo-Ukes: Duke 10 (T)*, Lanikai LB6-S (S)*
    Tenor Guitars: Martin TEN515, Blueridge BR-40T
    Tenor Banjo: Deering Goodtime 17-Fret
    Mandolin: Burgess (#7)***

    Tuning: *Reentrant C CGDA. **DAEB. ***GDAE. The rest are CGDA

    The inventory is always in some flux, but that's part of the fun.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Captain Simian View Post
    Do you mean converting an electric mandolin for uke tuning? Your headline says banjo but you keep talking about a mandocaster.

    If it is a 4 string mandolin that you want to string up as a uke this video is pretty helpful. Skip ahead to 5:33 when he starts talking about string gauges and setting it up.



    If you do mean a banjo, I'm also curious. I just bought a 19 fret tenor banjo that I'm considering stringing up like a uke.
    Thanks Captain Simian.

    You are right, I did not mean banjo at all... what was I thinking?

    That video was very useful. If I have understood well, this will be the process:
    Buy 2 D'Addario PL010 Plain Steel Guitar Single String
    Buy 1 D'Addario PL017 Plain Steel Guitar Single String

    Using uke tuning as the reference:
    - Move E string to the position of the C string
    - Take 1 PL010 and place it as the G
    - Take 1 PL010 and place it as the E
    - Take the PL017 string and place it as the A

    Thanks again!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Posts
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by SteveZ View Post
    Almost any instrument can be retuned to whatever the musician wants.

    Ironically, almost all my ukes, tenor guitars and tenor banjos I've retuned to CGDA for my own convenience.

    Suggest checking out my favorite electric-instrument site (EMando.com) as it's about the best overall-electric site for strings, info, ideas, etc.

    As far as the opening question goes, no problem! It's just a matter of getting the right strings. For retuning a CGDA-tuned instrument to GCEA, the A remains the same, the D can be uptuned to E, the existing C can be replaced with either a high-G (probably same gauge as the A, just uptuned) or a low-G, and the existing G replaced with an appropriate C.

    What you may find is that the existing C (fourth string) nut slot may be too wide for a high-G string and thus may buzz. If that happens, either a string suppressor at the nut end or needing to use a wider-gauged low-G string may be necessary to avoid replacing/reworking the nut.

    Thanks a lot for your reply!
    The video linked from Captain Simian reply used a different method, but both might work

    Thanks

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Location
    Sumter County, FL
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    Default

    In the video the MandoBird was originally tuned as a mandolin, that being GDAE (G3-D4-A4-E5). The CGDA (C3-G3-D4-A4, which is an octave lower) tuning is not a standard mandolin tuning, but is mainly for mandolas, tenor guitar and tenor banjo. When trying to get to GCEA (G3/4-C4-E4-A4, the G being low or high), the trick is to match which strings give you the desired tonal performance.

    The next question is what's the scale length? A mandolin and a soprano uke are within an inch the same scale length, so getting mandolin strings which match up to what's needed for GCEA tuning for an instrument in the 13-14 inch scale range is not difficult. The Mandocaster should have a 13 7/8th inch scale, or darned close to it.

    If the scale length is longer, then comparing what the scale length for the new instrument is to the comparable scale-length instrument (e.g., octave mandolin, tenor guitar, etc.) is the quick-and-dirty way to assess what strings will work and what probably won't.

    EMando.com has a lot of this data for a variety of instruments.
    Last edited by SteveZ; 04-12-2015 at 08:47 AM.
    ...SteveZ

    Ukuleles: Martin T1K (T)*, Oscar Schmidt OU28T (T8), Lanikai LU-6 (T6), RISA Solid (C), Effin UkeStart (C), Flea (S)**
    Banjo-Ukes: Duke 10 (T)*, Lanikai LB6-S (S)*
    Tenor Guitars: Martin TEN515, Blueridge BR-40T
    Tenor Banjo: Deering Goodtime 17-Fret
    Mandolin: Burgess (#7)***

    Tuning: *Reentrant C CGDA. **DAEB. ***GDAE. The rest are CGDA

    The inventory is always in some flux, but that's part of the fun.

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