this is an (experimental) website dedicated to a 4-stringed instrument: the ukulele.
“as if we had not yet enough of these pages” one might think – and you are correct. in fact i am was just messing around a bit on a new hosting platform. but i didn’t like the idea of using dummy texts and the like all over the place so i went for something more inspiring – and who knows, maybe i will really start blogging ukulele related stuff here…
the domain name was inspired by one of my hobbies: ukulele playing. that’s it.
despite some affiliate links eventually being spread over the website this is a private and non-profit web presence without any commercial background.
quickstart for guitar players (dgbe tuning) on ukulele (gcea tuning)
i would assume it is commonly known that guitar and ukulele have some things in common – apart from the 8-shape. i am referring to the tuning intervals of the strings.
standard guitar tuning is eadgbe, standard ukulele tuning is gcea – and believe it or not: the string intervals are the same :-). ukulele is just tuned a bit higher than the top 4 strings of a guitar; baritone ukulele is the exception from the rule and tuned to guitar pitch completely.
quick excursion regarding vocabulary:
a chord is a group of notes in certain intervals. it contains the same notes on any instrument – in other words: this is what you hear.
a pattern (or shape) is the group of finger positions on the fretboard which creates a certain chord – in other words: this is what you do.
this similarity has some fretting advantages especially for people switching back and forth between guitar and ukulele:
guitar and baritone uke shapes are identical. whatever you do on the top 4 guitar strings to fret e.g. a c chord is exactly what you need on the bari for a c chord.
gcea chord shapes can easily be used on guitar (or bari), all you need is a capo in 5th fret. if you use gcea shapes on a bari without capo your chords are different, namely 5 semitones higher (a gcea “c” shape will produce an “f” chord on baritone). as long as you play on your own this is no problem at all, but what if all you have is gcea knowledge and only a bari or guitar in a group of guitar players?
so what could you gcea player do when trying out a bari? sure, you could force the different names for the known patterns into your head. but that’s probably a rather tedious task. the other option is pretty simple (somehow cheating – but who cares? as long as it sounds ok…): assuming you are familiar with gcea patterns and your mind has no problems translating a “c” on the chord sheet to the 0003 pattern you could use the transposition table below to rewrite the chords on your chord sheet.
the correct pattern for the c chord in dgbe tuning is 2010 – this pattern should be known to your brain as “f” pattern. grab your chord sheet and change all c’s in chords to f, change all d to g, etc.
an experienced bari player will now sound way off when using your chord sheet – but you gcea guy can now easily get along on the bari.
best of all: this works both ways. if you want to play along with a guitar/bari transpose the chord letters on your chord sheet (f to c, g to d, etc.) and you’re done.
there’s plenty of fretboard maps out there, showing which note is where on the fretboard of your ukulele. but all of these graphical maps omit the octave, they show only the note names – which can lead to slightly unwanted results…
as this disturbed me for quite some time now i finally decided to quickly draft some kind of tabs showing classical musical notation together with tabs considering all strings:
sometimes a strap comes in handy – but on the original firefly there’s hardly any good mounting point to attach a strap. big banjoleles come with lots of possibilities, just the firefly lacks one. and i do not consider fiddling some shoelace through the tailpiece a good solution, not even a workaround.
fortunately the tailpiece is fixed to the rim with a standard screw. replacing it with a longer one and a strap button is only a matter of less than 15 minutes…
losen the strings and remove the bridge (after all we will undo the tailpiece which holds the strings so we’d better get the tension off it)
remove the cap nut and the screw. you might have to really unscrew the screw from the rim instead of simply pulling it out
depending on your strap button you might need a longer screw with the same diameter. i only had a m4x40mm with matching nut and washer at hand, but a 25mm would have been sufficient. the original cap nut did not fit my german m4 screw btw.
mount the button – this time the screw goes from outside to inside of the rim, the nut secures it from the inside.
make sure the tailpiece does not touch the skin after tightening everything.
one might ask: why “project”, the ubass has already been introduced?
looking closer, the question already contains the answer: the ubass (and all its variants) is in fact not an ukulele but a small scale bass. most obvious proof is the tuning: ukulele is tuned gcea (or adf#b) – ubass is tuned eadg which is the standard bass tuning.
in a group of ukuleles you’re always a bit weak on the bass side, mostly for pure physical reasons: as a matter of fact low frequencies simply do not properly resonate in small instrument bodies with short-scale strings. big bass needs big space (or proper amplification as we see on the ubass). period.
coming from ukulele i do struggle with bass playing, all fretboard knowledge (“which note is where“) is useless and i have to relearn. after all the bass is an instrument of its own. learning the arpeggio patterns etc. is not rocket science, it just takes time and prevents a easy quick flick between uke and bass.
the solution of this “dilemma” is imho quite obvious: for more bass you need a bigger ukulele body with strings tuned below standard c4. the biggest available ukulele bodies are baritones, but these are usually tuned dgbe (like the four highest strings of a guitar). fortunately baritone string sets are available in gcea as well, even in linear tuning.
and this is exactly what i will try: a baritone tuned (low-)gcea, one octave below standard c4 tuning. i know it will not be as low as a real bass but i expect it to be a nice low-end addition to the smaller ukes. see the picture below with tonal ranges of various ukulele sizes (all tuned gcea) and the bass (tuned eadg):
green= soprano, concert, tenor (low g enhancement in light green)
orange= the “bass” ukulele (baritone tuned low gcea)
all necessary materials are ordered, i am curious about the results.
i will start off with a inexpensive standard (re-entrant gcea) set of aquila 23u baritone strings which i will use for linear low g tuning by swapping g, c and e strings to descending diameters from top to floor:
4th string = c string, tuned down to low g
3rd string = e string, tuned down to c
2nd string = g string, tuned down to e
1st string = a string, tuned to a 🙂
btw: this is the easiest way to test linear tuning without investing any money in a dedicated set of strings. the strings could feel a bit sloppy, but in any case they will give you an overall idea of low g sound on your ukulele.
update 12 dec 2015:
the string tension of the aquila 23u is so low on the baritone that i refrained from the low-g trial – re-entrant tension is already pretty sloppy and way less than what i am used on my concert and soprano ukes. the c string is almost in tune once you pulled it tight and fixed it on the peg, hardly no need for a few peg turns if you don’t want to go for adf#b tuning.
anyway, it gives the expected low end even though strummed chords tend to sound “muddy” – but that’s most probably caused by the ear’s disability to clearly distinguish the low frequencies.
bottom line: test passed 🙂
if you need some bass in the ukulele group and don’t want to spend time and money on ubass the gcea baritone is an instant solution.
i couldn’t resist when i saw this koki’o transparent plastic soprano – maybe i will found an underwater ukulele group one day. the only non-plastic parts are the tuners, all the rest should be 100% waterproof. apparently plastic ukuleles are on the raise again, targetting the lower end of the price scale whilst promising a steady level of quality. after buying a flea with plastic body and fretboard, this seems the next logical step. sound samples on the web are still rare, but not disappointing (nor discouraging).
for the time being i can only post pictures from the vendor’s website; these will be replaced by my own photos as soon as possible.
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uas kicked in badly when i saw this beauty for sale… specifications body: all solid (curly) koa, bookmatched back and sides binding/trim: (faux) tortoise and mahogany/maple rope style neck: mahogany (2 pieces) fretboard: ebony, 20 frets (14 to body), fretboard and s...
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i am pretty active posting stuff about ukulele in various related forums like ukulelenboard.de or ukuleleunderground.com (just to mention two). as a matter of fact people keep asking similar questions over and over again, meaning you need to point them to the same resources again and again. that’s why shortlinks are useful – you simply don’t have to remember the full url to everything.
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