Baritone GCEA Round One

Charles Guy

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About a month ago I was looking at some spare ukulele parts laying about and decided to put them on a toy soprano sitting here on a shelf in the home office. It's a First Act soprano that one of the grandkids bought when Toys R Us was going out of business for 75% off so we paid less than $10 USD for it back in 2018. Now it has bone nut & saddle, Grover tuners, Fremont hard black fluros plus Rosette diamond string ties. Was surprised that it really does sound a tiny (tinny) bit better and enjoyed plunking along on it between emails, calls, and reading UU Forums when I did not want to pick up one of the baritones and practice.

This encouraged me to start looking at retuning the KA-B to GCEA and after reading what I could find and listening to lots of clips decided on Low G and ordered a set of PhD strings online. They arrived in record time (3 days) and I installed them after a good cleaning and inspection of the Kala. Slowly brought them up close to tune on the first day then started on day two to get them to correct frequencies. The 1st (A) string snapped at 410 Hz in the string tie and I put the extra string on and very carefully worked for two days bringing it up to 440 Hz. Worked well until day three and seemed settled nicely with a good sound. Then I came back from lunch that afternoon and found the A string had snapped between the bridge and neck over the sound hole. Looking close it had frayed apart like line on a ship when you put to much strain on it.

My question is did I do something wrong string frequency wise or is breaking strings a common issue for baritones when you use GCEA string sets to change the tuning? I swapped the other three out and now have a spare set of DGBE strings on until and if I try again based on any recommendations from this post. Otherwise I believe that I will purchase a nice all wood tenor instead of a different baritone come the end of the year after I have saved up enough. Maybe that is the best option?

As info I was tuning based on this;

4th string - 196 Hz 3rd string - 262 Hz 2nd string - 330 Hz 1st string 440 Hz
 
Not disparaging PhD, but I had the same experience on a 20" scale baritone. Broke 2 A strings even though I brought them up to tune gradually (5 days on the second one). I went back to DGBE on that uke and have since traded it.

I have Aquila GCEA Nylguts plus a wound low G on a different 20" scale bari and like them a lot. No problems getting them up to tune, and they've been on it ~5 months.
 
It’s easier to use standard strings and tuning with a capo on the fifth fret.
 
Not disparaging PhD, but I had the same experience on a 20" scale baritone. Broke 2 A strings even though I brought them up to tune gradually (5 days on the second one). I went back to DGBE on that uke and have since traded it.

I have Aquila GCEA Nylguts plus a wound low G on a different 20" scale bari and like them a lot. No problems getting them up to tune, and they've been on it ~5 months.
Much appreciated response
 
It’s easier to use standard strings and tuning with a capo on the fifth fret.
I've tried that and it does work, however for me it feels like choking up on a baseball bat, just not comfortable.
 
... I have Aquila GCEA Nylguts plus a wound low G on a different 20" scale bari and like them a lot. No problems getting them up to tune, and they've been on it ~5 months.
Which Aquila GCEA Nylguts are you successfully using? Is it a set, or if not can you tell us the string diameters that you used?
 
I saw that Ken has a Living Waters set available (also 2 A strings), has anyone tried them? Also did I have the tuning frequencies correct as shown above? I am learning, however still have huge gaps in my ukulele technical knowledge that I am slowly filling in with experience and information on UU.
 
Which Aquila GCEA Nylguts are you successfully using? Is it a set, or if not can you tell us the string diameters that you used?
Pretty sure it's the 23U set. Aquila 23U

The stretched (mounted) diameters are:

A - .023"
E - .030"
C - .036"
G - .030" (silver wound G from the DGBE set already on the uke)
 
From a previous post. Still swear by the Tomastik-Infields and Worth Browns.
Still have 1 Baritone with the Lava GCEA's on it. Suits that particular uke well but the wound Low G and the wound C really sing.


"I have strung a couple of Baritones with Aquila Lava gcea strings. To me they are smoother feeling than the other Nylguts.
Quite happy with the sound.
I also use Thomastik-Infeld CF30 for a wound Low G, a Thomastik CF27 for a wound C with Worth Browns for the e and a. Love the combo on a Baritone for "Super Tenor" tuning"
 
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Update, I ordered two sets of Lava GCEA for baritone from SBM and will be putting them on for my second attempt to convert the KA-B over. The PhD standard set on it does sound so nice I almost don't want to change, but the D is super floppy so change I will and update everyone on the results.
 
Lava's arrived yesterday (great service by SBM once more) and put them on today. I took extra care with the bridge ties as well as starting on tuner posts. Brought them up to 75% of tune for now and will get them to about 90% tomorrow. Definitely a different feeling string from the PhD gcea set. Will update once at 100% for those interested.
 
Lava's arrived yesterday (great service by SBM once more) and put them on today. I took extra care with the bridge ties as well as starting on tuner posts. Brought them up to 75% of tune for now and will get them to about 90% tomorrow. Definitely a different feeling string from the PhD gcea set. Will update once at 100% for those interested.
Another option: a baritone tuned to octave-GCEA.
I play along with other instruments and got the stink-eye when I stumbled playing "uke unfriendly" keys.
When you use a capo with octave-GCEA, it sounds musical, instead of plinky...

"standard" tension classical-guitar strings are too floppy (the 'G' on a guitar is 21.5" from the saddle)

I use extra-hard-tension bass sets: Daddario SCH-3B or Labella 2001EXHARD-B
For the 1st string, I use Oasis High Tension GPX_HT03 (carbon "3rd/G")

The three wound strings take a little getting used to, but well worth it (to me, anyways).
You could substitute polished strings, but there are many more options with regular round-wounds.


Good luck with your string thing!
 
Strings are mostly settled after 6 days and so far (knock wood) no issues. Tuning nicely to GCEA and feel good on the fingers. Definitely gives the KA-B a totally new voice which is softer and more soothing to me than the soprano. Based on this first week I feel the Lava's are a really good choice for alternate tuning on this particular ukulele.

Has me thinking that the next purchase will be a concert instead of a tenor to get a sound in between the baritone GCEA and the soprano.
 
Found a small issue with having the Lava GCEA strings on the Kala baritone. I like it so much that I haven't played the DGBE Pono baritone more than 15 minutes total in the past 10 days.
 
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Update Time

Definitely been a good experience with the string change. Spending more practice time using standard gcea resources which is improving my overall playing. Sat down with the Pono baritone last night and it sounds and feels totally different than before which I attribute to the extra practice on the Kala. At one time I was thinking of selling the Pono as I did not like the sound, now that I am improving its a keeper.

100% certain that I will be purchasing a Tenor by the end of the year and after lots of research, question asking of vendors, and some hands on with the ones the music store in Greensboro stocks (Ohana's and Cordoba's) I now know exactly which uke I will buy. Only question now is standard or low g?

I swapped the g string from the Lava's with a standard wound g from an extra dgbe set and am playing it this way for a while to see which I prefer. Immediately I learned that the wound has exceptional sustain and that it is teaching me to work my strums in a steady rhythm with no breaks as I change chords or patterns. Might end up with the future tenor as standard, leave the Kala as a low g gcea, and enjoy the Pono as dgbe.

Hopefully this info helps someone else who is considering the change, especially someone like myself who is still more of a beginner than close to intermediate player.
 
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To add to the conversation here. I have a Cocobolo “short neck” baritone that came with Worth Browns. They call it a short neck, but the dimensions are identical to my baritone. The A string broke at the beginning of this month. I had three sets of strings to choose from for a restring. I went with the Ko’olau Aho with the wound G and flat wound C. The wound G is gold with no label and the flat wound is the TI CF27. The G, C, ,and E have mostly settled and I’m not too worried about any of them breaking or the tension being too high. The A string is taking longer to stretch and the tension is pretty high so I’ll have to keep an eye on it. However, approximately 15 days and everything is still working and sounds great!

My other options if this doesn’t work are a set of CF 30, CF27, and some single Savarez classical strings. Or an unwound single Savarez string and the C, E, and A from the Savarez tenor set.
 
GCEA's are off the KA-B and experiment over. Learned that when I am ready to play both tunings I will purchase a Tenor. Almost did until we were told no bonuses this year at work. Back to concentrating on DGBE baritones. Gave me a good excuse to go string shopping and the KA-B has Worth Browns on it now. These are the best strings yet with a mellow, clear, and exactly how I've wanted it to be sound.
 
I'm finding the worth brown D string to be a bit floppy still. Sounds good, but... a bit floppy.

I've been watching the various threads and while there is a lot of material out for GCEA tuning- which is a factor- the main reason I've looked at it in baritone is the fret spacing.

Then again, I find there's just no reason not to play the DGBE- so far i'm not doing group strumming of pop songs, after all
 
Worth Brown D is definitely floppy, but playable. I have Uke Logic soft tensions on the Pono MB and the D is not floppy at all. Interesting how the two string sets sound similar yet have a very different feel. I might try the Lava GCEA set on the Pono at some point with the extra Worth G to give it a low G sound. Sure wont be for a while as it sounds so nice with the current set (no wounds, Hooray!)
 
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