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Thread: Tuning Down a Concert

  1. #1
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    Default Tuning Down a Concert

    In an interview with Ukulelezaza that was shared here a week or so ago, he discussed how he likes keeping his one concert tuned down to reentrant Bb and his tenor tuned reentrant G. I know tuning down a tenor to renetrant Bb, A, or G is a not uncommon practice, but I haven't heard of many folks tuning down their concerts. Obviously, because of the shorter scale and the smaller body size the practical limit of tuning down a concert is likely higher than that for a tenor.

    Still this got me thinking about if there are folks out there who tune down their concerts. Google revealed very few examples though I did note that Ian Kirby (Wunderkammer) states on his page for his concert that "I particularly like it tuned down to fBbDG" and I also ran across this video of Bb tuned concert that I think sounds pretty nice.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gk6G3Akh9cc

    The last tenor I owned I tuned down to for a while A and liked it quite a bit there. I'm not a huge fan of tenors these days, mainly preferring to play sopranos when I play uke, but sometimes I miss having a uke I can tune down, and think about getting a concert (or maybe tenor) again someday for that purpose.

    I think some some sopranos can sound okay at Bb, but C and D is really where they sit best. Concerts sit very well at C and from what little info I can find sit at Bb well too. What about A on a concert or even G?

    So what say you? Who here tunes down there concerts (or sopranos even)? In your experience what is the practical limit for a concert.
    Pohaku "Yellow Label" Mahogany Soprano
    Weymann Model 10 Mahogany Soprano (c. 1918)

  2. #2
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    I had one of my concerts tuned down half a step in order to help me sing some songs that were slightly high for me and I didn't want to change the key. I did it to two separate ukes at different times and they both sounded quite nice tuned down a half step. Over time I found that those ukes tended to get played less so I tuned them back up to GCEA. I blame my shifting voice. One week I can hit the notes on a song and the next week I'm straining to hit them. It's all part of the fun trying different tunings and it might even help some with the lesser tension if that's an issue for them. The sound certainly worked for me when I could sing comfortably with it.
    Money can't buy happiness but it can buy a uke which is basically the same thing.

    Ukes are a lot like potato chips. It's hard to stop with just one!

  3. #3
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    Probably depends on the strings how floppy they go and associated loss of volume and punch.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikelz777 View Post
    I had one of my concerts tuned down half a step in order to help me sing some songs that were slightly high for me and I didn't want to change the key. I did it to two separate ukes at different times and they both sounded quite nice tuned down a half step. Over time I found that those ukes tended to get played less so I tuned them back up to GCEA. I blame my shifting voice. One week I can hit the notes on a song and the next week I'm straining to hit them. It's all part of the fun trying different tunings and it might even help some with the lesser tension if that's an issue for them. The sound certainly worked for me when I could sing comfortably with it.
    Yeah. That's usually when I want to tune down. Sometimes things sound best in a specific open set of voicings where it just works better to tune down rather than to play in a lower key using another postition. Just depends on the song/tune being sung and/or played.

    Quote Originally Posted by merlin666 View Post
    Probably depends on the strings how floppy they go and associated loss of volume and punch.
    For sure with the strings. When I tuned my tenor down to A, I took a low G and used it as the 3rd string, took a C string and put it in the 2nd string slot, put and E string in the 4th string slot, and put the G string in the 1st string slot. I'd probably do something similar on a concert if I were going to keep it in a low tuning....or maybe try some Worth Fats or Fremount dGBE Blacklines.
    Pohaku "Yellow Label" Mahogany Soprano
    Weymann Model 10 Mahogany Soprano (c. 1918)

  5. #5
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    Personally I think having concert Bb and tenor C is exactly backwards

    But I also have a concert with a low G string so even down to dGBE should be plausible with the right strings. I just think that works better with the larger body sizes
    Ukulele:
    Iriguchi Tenor "Weeble" - A, WoU Clarity
    Blue Star 19" baritone Konablaster - DGBE
    Cocobolo 16" SC#1-gCEA, SC SLMU
    Ono #42 19" baritone, Ab, LW
    Imua iET-Bb, M600
    Covered Bridge CLN pineapple - Eb cuatro, SC XLL
    Rogue bari
    Bonanza super tenor, cFAD SC LHU
    Kala KSLNG, Eb SC XLU
    Hanson 5-string tenor, dGCEA
    Bonanza SLN GCEA
    Bonanzalele concert
    Guitars:
    Jupiter #47, G, TI CF127
    Pelem, B reentrant
    Jupiter #71, A, UG1

    !Flukutronic!

  6. #6

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    When Martin began making concert ukuleles they seem to have thought of them as slightly bigger sopranos -
    so I have gone the other way and tuned my concert up to D - tuning - which Wikipedia also claims were common for concerts back in the day.
    - Vintage 50's Martin style 0 soprano (Kluson tuners)
    - Ken Timms Style 0 koa soprano
    - Flight WUS-3 laminate mahogany soprano
    - Kiwaya KTS-4 all solid mahogany soprano
    - Kiwaya KTC-2 all solid mahogany concert
    - Kiwaya KMT-K all solid koa tenor

  7. #7
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    I am wondering what's the purpose of changed tuning? I play a lot with other people in uke circles and acoustic jams and the transposing acrobatics would be quite demanding. On the other hand for the vast majority of songs where key is not suitable to my voice I find it quite easy to transpose to better key.

  8. #8
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    This thread is too subtle for me. As far as I'm concerned, you can down tune any stringed instrument of any scale. The bigger question is: Why? There should be some motivation. I have heard some people say that a different tuning allows them to avoid Wolf Notes and allows their ukulele to sing, in their subjective opinion, more melodically and sonorously and resonantly. I personally always down tune with an eye on string tension. I currently use E or D# tunings because I like how that feels under my fingers. The one thing to think about is ensemble performance. If your down tuned ukulele is played with standard-tuned ukuleles, it may not sound good. It may be very harmonious...depending on the interval between your down tuning and the standard G tuning. However, that is something to think about.

  9. #9
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    I probably woudn't play a uke tuned to anything other than C at a jam or uke club unless I was specifically trying to challenge myself. I mostly play uke as a solo instrument though anyway.

    Anyway, for me one of the main purposes of a lowered tuning is the same reason one would use a capo on a guitar; to allow you to play in a key in an open position that you could otherwise only achieve playing in a closed position. This can be for ease of playing, but the main purpose is to achieve the sound you get from open position playing, which gerenally allows strings to ring together more and generates a more full, continuous sound. Honestly this isn't a frequent occurance for me, but I also just think tuned down ukes have a cool and different sound. In general lower pitches are percieved as warmer and mellower than higher pitches, so at the end of the day it can just be to add something different and interesting to the sound pallete. Lyle Ritz played a dGBE tenor. I think Benny Chong plays in lowered reentrant tuning too (I may be wrong). I just like the effect of those tunings and wonder who out there does something similar with concerts (though likely not as low)

    As a side note. I also play old-time banjo. In old time music changing tunings is standard practice on both fiddle and banjo. Most tunes aren't just played in specific key but also in a specific tuning. Because of this, at old time jams tunes tend to be played in groups by keys. You might play just D tunes for a while, retune, and then just play A tunes for a while at a given jam. Coming from a classical and jazz background the idea of altered tunings was a super wierd concept to me at first. Banjo was the first string instrument I learned and I remember feeling like I was "cheating" when I got started and realized one changed tunings for tunes in different keys. What I came to realize over time is that you could play a tune in two different tunings using the exact same notes and the same chords (though likely different voicings) and have it sound markedly different. I don't generally re-tune my uke, but I have carried the value of this concept into my ukulele playing. There are occasions where I have worked out something a certain way, but come to realize a lower tuning would suit my voice better and there are also times when the warm mellow sound of a lower tuned instrument is the sound that I want at the moment.

    BTW, for this thread I am only talking about changing all the strings uniformally up or down. Tunings that use different intervals can be really cool too...that's something for another day.
    Last edited by CPG; 10-08-2020 at 08:31 AM.
    Pohaku "Yellow Label" Mahogany Soprano
    Weymann Model 10 Mahogany Soprano (c. 1918)

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by ripock View Post
    This thread is too subtle for me. As far as I'm concerned, you can down tune any stringed instrument of any scale.
    Certainly you can, but it won't necessarily sound good. Even with heavy gauge strings the short scale and small body of soprano wouldn't sound good tuned down below a certain point. The same is true for a concert or a tenor. Yes you can tune any of them to a wide range of pitches, but there is smaller window where the instrument will sound good.

    So all I'm getting at here is trying to learn about peoples experiences in tuning down concerts (or even sopranos) and still having them sound good. Yes, "good" is subjective but that's okay. I'm interested in peoples subjective experiences in playing their instruments tuned objectivley below standard c tuning. :-)
    Pohaku "Yellow Label" Mahogany Soprano
    Weymann Model 10 Mahogany Soprano (c. 1918)

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