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Thread: G, C, E, A string vs 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th string

  1. #1
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    Default G, C, E, A string vs 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th string

    So when I learned ukulele, I never learned to call my strings 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th. As I went along, I noticed a lot of people using that terminology but I have always just continued to call them by their note name (G string, C string, etc.). Anyway, I'm wondering if most people think in terms of 1st, 2nd, etc. and I should call them that when talking to other players. Mostly it's because I make tutorials and I want to be as clear as possible to the people watching. Thanks.

  2. #2
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    G C E A
    4 3 2 1

    I don't know what most people think but this is the order.
    I am the best ukulele player on my block!

  3. #3
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    A lot of people use different tunings on their ukes. I have my tenors tuned dGBE. Others tune tenors down to FBbDG, in some countries ADF#B is the standard for sopranos.

    The obvious consequence of that is you should use 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th when referring to strings.

    That said a lot of people do refer to G, C, E, A and if your uke is tuned differently, you read accordingly. For tutorials definitely refer to strings by number and be aware that some people might be using different tunings.
    Geoff Walker

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  4. #4
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    I go both ways. You should be safe using either terminology in your tutes. If your students can't figure it out, perhaps they should take up the trumpet.
    If everybody wanted peace instead of another TV, then there would be peace.
    -John Lennon-

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doug W View Post

    G C E A
    4 3 2 1

    I don't know what most people think but this is the order.
    Yep, Doug W has it right. I'd encourage everyone starting out to learn the strings by number rather than by the note name, because it's likely what other players will know, regardless of tuning.

    I had a bit of trouble with this when I first started playing since I'm terrible with numbers and it just didn't make sense to me - the "first" string should be the closest to me, right??? But it's not! I can only imagine how crazy it must have made my instructor when every time he'd say "first string, third fret" I'd automatically go to the G instead of the A. Eventually it clicked that the "first" string is the one closest to the ground when I'm holding my uke

    I think playing low G is what really made it sink in, since it's not uncommon to refer to low G as "low 4th."

  6. #6
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    I started playing the uke and guitar in the early 60's, and my brain still wants to believe that the 1st string of the guitar is the low wound E string closest to my head and the little E closest to the ground is the 6th and ditto for the uke but my brain is wrong, it is the other way around. I was never consulted.
    I am the best ukulele player on my block!

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doug W View Post
    I started playing the uke and guitar in the early 60's, and my brain still wants to believe that the 1st string of the guitar is the low wound E string closest to my head and the little E closest to the ground is the 6th and ditto for the uke but my brain is wrong, it is the other way around. I was never consulted.
    I'm guessing, but - it just occurred to me why it's correct to refer by number rather than letter. I'll bet guitarists were doing this long before uke players were. On guitar, if someone says "E string, 3rd fret" there are two possibilities rather than just one, so - string numbers just make sense since there's no ambiguity.

    ETA: Oh and - just thought of something to confuse the issue even more - top string, and bottom string! The "top" string is closest to the floor, the "bottom" string is closest to your face. Again, this makes sense on guitar (or linear uke) because top = highest in pitch and bottom = lowest in pitch.
    Last edited by janeray1940; 03-14-2016 at 04:47 PM.

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    To confuse things more, when we describe the fingering of a chord, we give the numbers from the 4th (G) string to the 1st (A) string; F chord being 2010.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bunnyf View Post
    To confuse things more, when we describe the fingering of a chord, we give the numbers from the 4th (G) string to the 1st (A) string; F chord being 2010.
    Which has never made any sense to me since it's opposite of how it would look written in tab (to my mind, an F chord should be written, top to bottom, 0102)!

  10. #10
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    Science and math are riddled with such ambiguities. Some people have trouble accepting this reality. In computing should you start numbering arrays at zero or at one? There is NO CORRECT ANSWER! Fortran starts at 1, "C" starts at Zero. The two dominant computer languages in our generation.
    You just have to pick and be aware. Sometimes the richest or the most powerful do the picking for you. Enough of that!
    But, what kind of tutorial doesn't teach chords or melody? At least part of the time? How can you do that without declaring a tuning? Or showing a fingering? Personally, I think talking the note names is the one that contains the most important musical information. It forces you to learn 4 crucially important notes. And gives you some bearings. Like "where's the root in this chord? If you know the string names that's fairly easy. If you only know he string numbers.... Well you STILL have to know the string name!9/

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