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Thread: Tenor ukulele for a CBOM player?

  1. #1

    Default Tenor ukulele for a CBOM player?

    So, I've been thinking that for solo gigs--which in my case are song-oriented--I could use a secondary instrument to supplement my bouzouki, to give the punters a bit of contrast and all that. I've tried tuning both of my mandolins in GDAD, but I don't like the result; song accompaniment wants a longer scale and a bigger body, at least to suit my voice, even though I do have songs that work very well capoed up between the ninth and the twelfth frets.
    If I had the money, I'd get a (tenor) mandola and either tune it CGDG or do the Andy Irvine thing by stringing it for FCGC, but I really can't afford even a semi-decent one just now.
    And then it hit me that I'm seeing tenor ukuleles (17 inch scale length) for around a hundred bucks which look like fairly decent instruments. I'm well aware that the standard tuning is some wonky gCEA thing, but there are strings for fifths tuning. Somebody told me that the GDAE sets for soprano uke aren't long enough for the tenor scale, but there is a set (Aquila 31u) for tuning a concert to CGDA, or I have to believe there's some way I could use classical guitar strings. I've also thought of tuning a baritone uke to DAEA, the way Andy tunes his 20 inch mandolas, but I have a bad feeling I'd end up needing fishing line for the high A.
    So, has anyone done anything like this? Is there a maker whose ukuleles are more up to the job? Or one I should avoid? I've seen an Alvarez going for ~$100 on Musician's Friend that looked decent, and Sam Ash's site has an Ibanez for $109.
    That said, I'm planning to go out and see what I can actually try in person, but I've never bought an instrument that I was going to immediately restring for a new tuning. It's a weird feeling. :-)
    Thanks so much for any advice!

  2. #2
    Registered User NotMelloCello's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tenor ukulele for a CBOM player?

    Check my thread elsewhere on this forum...
    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...highlight=finn
    The difference between death and taxes is that death does not grow worse every time Congress convenes. - Will Rogers

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  4. #3

    Default Re: Tenor ukulele for a CBOM player?

    I have a tenor uke tuned in fifths.

    You can do it by keeping the top A and then working down from there using classical guitar strings, or as you say, the Aquila 31 U (v. difficult to find a supplier).

    What I like is that the instrument itself is really light, and moving from my Octave mandolin it’s nice to have so many notes within a small traveling distance. The strings have a relatively lower tension, so much easier on the fingers (great for students wanting to learn fifths). Price is another one, the uke cost 55 dollars. With a reasonable acoustic pickup you can get a reasonable range of very different electric guitar sounds. (Yes, Led Zeppelin etc)

    The things that are just ok though:
    It’s not a mandolin.
    It sounds like a classical guitar, wont take magnetic pickup amplification, the strings have to be the exact right weight otherwise during a tune you can go from a pinging C on the third string to an slack D note on the second string (for example).

    Also because of the cheap tuners and lower tension, you have to retune often (strings pull through the nut and stick) and be careful not to push too hard onto the frets to avoid playing notes that are a bit sharp. (Upside being that playing bends is cool with a reasonable amount of sustain).
    Last edited by atsunrise; Sep-11-2019 at 4:28am.

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  6. #4

    Default Re: Tenor ukulele for a CBOM player?

    I had a Mainland Ukulele Baritone tuned in fifths with high tension classical guitar strings that worked great for sing alongs.
    I don't know if a tenor body has enough volume to resonate adequately.

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  8. #5

    Default Re: Tenor ukulele for a CBOM player?

    Thanks!
    I'd searched the forums for posts on the theme, but hadn't found that one. Interesting stuff. Can't seem to locate an eight-string ukulele anywhere round here, but if I do, I'll definitely consider it.

    Sorry, I'm not used to the thread structure here yet. :-)
    Last edited by Aindriú Ó Ciardha; Sep-12-2019 at 1:50pm.

  9. #6

    Default Re: Tenor ukulele for a CBOM player?

    [QUOTE=atsunrise;1734369]I have a tenor uke tuned in fifths.

    Thanks!

    Good point about the top A. I'm wondering if I could actually keep the top two strings and get it into DAEA. I do a lot of stuff with the zouk capo'd at the seventh fret. It even tends to be my go-to for picking in a session, especially if there's a piper or it's led by a flute-player, when I don't feel like shifting up to get the high B.

    Aye, the not-mandolin part is a bit of a downer, but I reckon it might be good to have something that sounds different. I used to play classical guitar a fair bit, back in the day. A uke might even do well for a travel instrument, although I'd feel a bit odd showing up to a session with such a beast. ;-)

  10. #7

    Default Re: Tenor ukulele for a CBOM player?

    Quote Originally Posted by fifths View Post
    I had a Mainland Ukulele Baritone tuned in fifths with high tension classical guitar strings that worked great for sing alongs.
    I don't know if a tenor body has enough volume to resonate adequately.
    Thanks! If I might ask, what pitches are you using?

    I'm not really in need of another GDAD instrument, but I see your point about the body volume, and I do like the idea of a 20 inch scale in DAEA or CGDG.
    I suppose I could tune the G of a regular baritone set up to A, and then move the E over as a second string. And actually... I just looked it up and the fifth fret on a classical guitar is about 19.5 inches from the bridge, so maybe a classical high E would be just about right for an A.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by NotMelloCello View Post
    Check my thread elsewhere on this forum...
    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...highlight=finn
    Thanks!
    I'd searched the forums for posts on the theme, but hadn't found that one. Interesting stuff. Can't seem to locate an eight-string ukulele anywhere round here, but if I do, I'll definitely consider it.

  11. #8
    Registered User Drew Streip's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tenor ukulele for a CBOM player?

    I built a StewMac tenor uke kit last year and, for various reasons, it hasn't gotten much play time. I tuned it in "fifths" last night, but with the caveat that the fourth string is still higher than the third. I'm not sure what notes I actually tuned it to....

    For chording, you can play your familiar shapes but it retains a little of the trademark ukulele sound. It's an interesting thing to experiment with! I may try different strings for future solo accompaniment and true fifths tuning.

  12. #9
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tenor ukulele for a CBOM player?

    Quote Originally Posted by Aindriú Ó Ciardha View Post
    ... Can't seem to locate an eight-string ukulele anywhere round here, but if I do, I'll definitely consider it...
    Where's "around here?" Eight-string tenors are getting pretty common, as far as I can see; bunches of them on the internet. I have one, a '30's Regal, which I used to call a "taropatch," but I've been told I'm misusing the term. Kala and Lanikai have them, price $150-225, so they shouldn't break your bank. Can't offer any insights into how you'd string them for fifths tuning, since I use standard ukulele re-entrant tuning.
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  13. #10
    Harley Marty
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    Default Re: Tenor ukulele for a CBOM player?

    Some food for thought, go over to the Tenor guitar threads & see what cornfield has posted recently regarding putting nylons on banjos, that's one way of giving an audience a different flavour. I've a cheap tenor uke in the mail from China when it arrives there is a set of Hannaback 1/8th nylon guitar strings ready to go on it for GDAE octave below mandolin tuning. I'll put a plain steel on it for the top E as I'll be mainly playing tunes on it (reels & jigs).

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