Saturday, February 28, 2015

Ukuleles - Part Two

Alternate string sets for the ukulele.

The most common tuning today for soprano, concert and tenor ukes is C6 (g C E A) while the baritone has the G6 guitar tuning.(D G B E).  Both of these are sometimes made into the Taropatch open tuning by lowering the 1st string one whole step.   The open tuning with a high 4th string is a good choice for both fingerpicking and clawhammer. The low 4th string is good for fingerpicking and strumming. The normal high 4th string on 4 strings are used for strumming, fingerpicking and clawhammer. 6 string ukes can be played strummed or fingerpicked.  8 strings ukes usually are only used for strumming.

For the remainder of this post we will discuss alternate string sets maintaining the 6th chord tunings.These strings are sometimes available as a set or as individual or extra strings.

First we have the low G (G C E A) strings on a Mainland all solid concert mahogany pineapple with a long neck (tenor size). This uke has very attractive rope binding around the head stock, sound hole and body, it sounds and plays great.

Next we have a G6 set of strings (d G B E) on a Kala Tenor with a solid spruce top and laminated spalted maple back and sides. The higher pitched 4th string on the smaller body size make it sound quite different from a baritone.  The lower pitched strings also are very different from the normal C6 tenors.  The G6 set has a nice mellow tone and it is a favorite of Hawaiians and Jim Beloff for his Martin tenor according to his first video.

Next is a No-Name solid mahogany Baritone from eBay with a set of C6 strings (g C E A).  Nice dolphin inlay and a very mellow sound due to the larger body when compared to smaller ukes.

The Mele all solid Koa tenor 8 string has a very full sound like a 12 string guitar.  It strings are C6 tuning (gG cC EE AA)  Perfect for strumming.

When I bought the Mele solid mahogany double puka tenor it was tuned g cC E AA.  I changed the 2nd A string to be an octave lower for a very different sound.


For my birthday I just received  the new for 2015 Kala 5 String Tenor Uke with a solid cedar top and laminate acacia back and sides.  The fourth course has both high G and low G strings.

In 1919 the C.F. Martin company began manufacturing Tiples.  These were modeled after South American Tiples and Hawaiian Ukuleles.  The instrument had 10 steel string in 4 courses tuned like D6 ukuleles. Today Ohana builds tiples based on the old Martins.  Mine is tenor size and has a solid mahogany top, back and sides. It is tuned gG cCc eEe AA.  There are a number of youTube videos of people playing the American (Martin) style tiples as well as various  South American models. In the 1920s The Golden Melody Boys released a number of records featuring the tiple in the Paramount Old Time Catalog.

Today's new Golden Age of the Ukulele has shown us many new models of ukuleles including the Gretsch Guitalele.  It is tenor size and it has a solid mahogany top and laminated mahogany back and sides with nylon strings.  It is tuned A D G C E A (like a guitar with a capo on the 5th fret).

There are many youTube examples of various ukulele strums.  Aaron Keim has a good number of excellent examples of both fingerpicking and clawhammer ukulele playing.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Ukuleles - Part One

I have enjoyed learning to play the Ukulele over the last several years.  Being both a guitarist and a clawhammer banjo player gave me some advantages with learning chords and strums.  Declining health issues have me enjoying lighter instruments like ukes more these days.

There are lots of  youTube videos to help you learn.  I started with the two Jim Beloff DVDs.

Today good ukuleles are highly affordable.  My favorites affordable brands are Ohana and Kala. These  imports are made in Asia and I understand they use CNC equipment in building them.

I recommend buying a ukulele from either eBay seller MIM or the Uke Republic or Elderly Instruments websites.

Once you get good enough to know more of what you want, you can buy a Martin or a Kamaka or many other different brands where the quality is a couple of steps up and the prices are quite a few steps up.

If you don't have small hands I recommend starting with a Tenor size instrument with at least a solid top. Soprano or Standard size ukes have a short scale and your fingers can struggle to fit inside the fret boundaries. Another disadvantage is many soprano ukes have friction tuners making the instrument a bit harder to tune.  The Tenor size is the most popular in Hawaii today.

There are many different woods used in Ukulele construction, Koa, Cedar, Spruce, Rosewood, Mango, Walnut and Mahogany among others. The are also Banjo Ukes, Resonator Ukes and Bass Ukes on the market today.

The ukes I am discussing in this post are all mahogany instruments in my collection.  Each has a solid top, back and side. Mahogany has a warm, mellow and round tone - the best sounding ukes to my ears.

First we have a Hula UK-145 sopranino.  12 frets with friction tuners.  The scale length is 10 7/8 ".  This a very cool little uke to own after you have no problems with standard size ukuleles.  I bought this uke for a little more than $100 from Mele Ukuleles.  I tune it in the older D6 tuning (a D F# B).

Next is a Koloa KU-500 soprano with 12 frets and deluxe friction tuners. Scale length is 13 5/8 ".   It plays and sounds great.  I paid about $80 for this instrument on ebay Also tuned to D6 (a D F# B).

Now we have a Koloa KU-550 baritone - tuned D G B E (guitar tuning).  B stock $99.  20 1/8 " scale length. 14 frets to the body, 19 total frets.

The Ohana TK-38 tenor is modeled after the Martin 2T.  It is tuned g C E A.(C6 Modern Hawaiian)  17 " scale length. 14 frets to the body, 19 total frets.

Finally we have an Ohana CK-28 Vintage Portugese Style Nunes/Dias reissue Concert Ukulele. Also tuned in C6 tuning (g C E A).  14 Frets total. Friction tuners. Scale length 15 7/8". 

Here are links to
Uke Republic.
Elderly Instruments

More Uke Posts to follow: