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Thread: How to string Baritone Uke in GDAE

  1. #1

    Default How to string Baritone Uke in GDAE

    We finally found someone at a uke store (Bounty Music at ukes.com) who thought stringing a Baritone uke in GDAE sounded like a fun, interesting project and liked the sound of it when finished. The uke is a Pono, the strings a mix of baritone strings and glassical guitar strings (which are a longer string length).

    Here's what he ended with:
    G ... classical guitar high tension low E tuned to G
    D ... baritone DGBE set, move D over one space
    A ... classical guitar high tension G tuned to A
    E ... baritone DGBE set, keep the E

    Sounded good when he played it over the phone and we expect it soon. We paid for a few strings he tried and which didn't work well, but now know what strings to use and will have what I wanted...a nylon string instrument in octave mandolin tuning.

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  3. #2
    Registered User Dave LaBoone's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to string Baritone Uke in GDAE

    I've got my Bari uke tuned to GDAE and I love it. I just used regular BU strings, with lower tension as a result. I'd be interested in knowing if the guitar/uke strings combo sounds better.

  4. #3

    Default Re: How to string Baritone Uke in GDAE

    Will have it soon. They did try tuning B down to A but decided it was too slack and sounded better with the guitar string. The D and E uke strings were good already, just placed in the corect slots, so the G was the only one missing from the get-go...there is another post on the net somewhere which talked about using the guitar string, so he tried that. I think he started with normal tension guitar strings but found the high tension worked better on this uke.

    Single classical guitar strings are cheap (even a set is not bad), so you might try experimenting with normal tension and if that is not quite right try high tension. Different ukes might have a preference.

    Will post an update after the uke arrives.

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    MandolaViola bratsche's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to string Baritone Uke in GDAE

    Here is one video (of many) that I've admired by a guy who plays a baritone uke strung GDAE. He discusses his string gauge choices in the comments section if you view it on YouTube.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfEq0w_ti1A



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    Registered User bruce.b's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to string Baritone Uke in GDAE

    According to the site he links to it's a tenor uke, a Kala with a 17 inch scale. It sure sounds good.

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    MandolaViola bratsche's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to string Baritone Uke in GDAE

    That shows how little I know about ukes! It sounded deeper than that to me. When I read he tuned it GDAE, I figured it was a baritone. Yes, he does sound amazingly good. But now, I don't know which I would rather have, a tenor or a baritone (if I can ever afford one, that is). LOL

    bratsche
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    MandolaViola bratsche's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to string Baritone Uke in GDAE

    Whoops - it looks like that is a baritone uke, after all! At least that's what it says on the Christmas CD that he sells. That would be about a 20" scale I think. That is definitely what I want. I love the sound!

    bratsche
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    Registered User Jim Adwell's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to string Baritone Uke in GDAE

    Well, I know what instrument to build next.

  11. #9
    Registered User bruce.b's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to string Baritone Uke in GDAE

    Kala ukes like that are inexpensive, a couple hundred dollars. The luthier he links to only mentions setting up Kala tenor ukes this way and that does look like a tenor that he's playing in the photo. I've never seen a baritone body that small..... unless Benji is really tall, exactly like the way Iz made a tenor uke look like a soprano when he played it.

    I agree though, I'd get a baritone if I wanted to tune it GDAE. I'm thinking of tuning a concert or tenor CGDA since I have both here. I did tune a soprano in mandolin GDAE and while it worked ok I didn't like it that much.

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    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to string Baritone Uke in GDAE

    I did related experimenting with an electric tenor uke some time ago.
    Classical guitar nylons are definitely the way to go, since these instruments are not built to take the load of steel strings, and nylons are much more flexible regarding tension. Wound nylons, however, can be damaged by frets (the winding can break) when over-tensed.
    the world is better off without bad ideas, good ideas are better off without the world

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    Registered User PT66's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to string Baritone Uke in GDAE

    I put some classical guitar string on my baritone and tuned it GCEA. An octave below normal uke tuning but with a low G. Some day I will get aroung to build one a little bigger to be tuned this was and call it a conta-uke.
    Dave Schneider

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    Flying Fat Fingers Owner
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    Default Re: How to string Baritone Uke in GDAE

    I did it! $50 shipped Baritone Uke from Ebay and $5 worth of high tension classical strings I got a whole lotta fun for not a lot of money. And it does sound very nice tuned to GDAE. Its a nice diversion from my trying to learn to play the mandolin.

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    Registered User mandobassman's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to string Baritone Uke in GDAE

    Quote Originally Posted by notred View Post
    I did it! $50 shipped Baritone Uke from Ebay and $5 worth of high tension classical strings I got a whole lotta fun for not a lot of money. And it does sound very nice tuned to GDAE. Its a nice diversion from my trying to learn to play the mandolin.
    I have a baritone uke that I have been wanting to do this same conversion with. What strings did you end up using?
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    Idiot Savant padawan's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to string Baritone Uke in GDAE

    Thanks in part to this thread (and research elsewhere) I now own an "Ukuzouki !"

    Instrument: Oscar Schmidt baritone ukulele, model OU5B. Because that's what they had in stock (and it sounded pretty good).

    Strings: D'Addario "Pro-Arte" EJ46 (hard tension) nylon strings (Because those are the first 'high tension' strings I found on the rack)

    Removed the baritone uke strings (will recycle as cat toys)

    Re-strung like this:

    Guitar string-------Used as Octave mandolin string
    1 (Low E)---------G
    2 (A)-------------D
    3(D)----------------Not used
    4(G)--------------A
    5(B)--------------E
    6(High E) ----------Not used


    Remember kids (who find this thread via Google search) octave mandolins are tuned to G2, D3, A3, E4 - Don't try to tune them up as high as a mandolin.

    From what I've found out you need to use use high tension strings as the normal classical guitar strings aren't up to the task.

    So far I'm loving this thing. It sounds great (to me at least). The longer scale length is messing with me but I'll get there.

    If I had a mic or decent camera I'd post a sound clip or video. For now though you'll just have to take my word for it that this is a great way to cheap out on an octave mandolin / bouzouki.

    Considering a baritone ukulele can be had for less than $100 and a set of strings is $5 or $6 you owe it to yourself to have a go at it. I can't stop grinning when I play it.


    My GFs: Collings MF, Mandobird VIII, Mando-Strat, soprano & baritone ukuleles tuned to GDAE and a Martin X1-DE Guitar.

  17. #15

    Default Re: How to string Baritone Uke in GDAE

    The bari uke is indeed fun and sounds great in gdae tuning, so I am glad to see more information available for those trying to find out what strings to use. I was lucky to find a uke shop with someone willing to try something nonstandard, but not everyone has such luck.

    In my search, so often threads would have someone recommend getting a Tenor guitar, but that is a steel string instrument so not well-suited to nylon strings. To my ear, nylon string guitars sound better than steel string guitars, so a nylon string uke was preferred over a mandolin (though I do own a Sweat Pea mandolin) or a tenor steel string. The results were worth the search.

    It may be that some bari ukes will sound better with the combination of string I documented initially in this thread, while othersay sound better with the all guitar strings listed by Padawan, while for other ukes either combination (or a different set) will work best. No doubt things like string length and what wood is used to make the uke, as well as how it was made all influence which combination is best.

    Hopefully, more people will add what strings worked for them and so add to the knowledge base.

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    Orso grasso FatBear's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to string Baritone Uke in GDAE

    The slots in the nut and bridge on my mandolin are carefully fitted to the size of strings on the instrument. Is that the case for ukuleles? If so, do you have to file some of them out to do this conversion? And do any slots end up too wide?

  19. #17
    '`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`'`' Jacob's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to string Baritone Uke in GDAE

    This Aquila concert set tunes to octave mando GDAE pitches on a baritone uke and fits the nut slots with no modifications.

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    Orso grasso FatBear's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to string Baritone Uke in GDAE

    Well that's cool. Now another question. It looks like that guy in the video, above, is using a pick. Is that right? Can you use a pick on those nylon strings without excessive wear?

    I ask because I once tried to learn the classical guitar, but my work did not (and still does not) allow me to keep my fingernails all carefully manicured so I gave it up. I still like that mellow sound and if I can get it in an instrument tuned in 5ths and while using a pick I might just have to get a Baritone ukulele and try it out. In fact I have my eye on a Koloa KU-650 right now: $160, "used" but supposedly never played. Is that a decent instrument or a junker?

  22. #19
    Orso grasso FatBear's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to string Baritone Uke in GDAE

    OK, well I did it. I bought that baritone ukulele from the Craigslist ad. It is a Koloa KU-650 model. I got some of those Aquila strings and tuned (and re-tuned and re-tuned and re-tuned) it to GDAE. I tried it with my fingers, with a felt ukulele pick I got, and with my triangular plastic Wegen pick that I use on my mandolin. The plastic pick won hands down. The instrument sounds really nice. Probably not up to the sound of a really high end ukulele, but probably better than I can consistently live up to.

    Here are my impressions. Keep in mind that I am only a third year mandolin player, so things might be different for someone more experienced.

    Tuning: it takes a lot of re-tuning to settle in these nylon strings.

    String tension: the single strings at much lower tension make it extremely easy to fret. I thought that the longer scale length would make the "stretch" hard to get used to, but I think the real challenge for me will be not clamping the strings down too hard. You just barely have to touch them is all. The lower string tension also makes the strings kind of bouncy which might make it hard for playing fast pieces. This is not a problem for me, since I can't play the fast pieces very well, anyway.

    String spacing: these strings are really far apart! I am actually considering drilling some new holes in the bridge and making some new slots in the nut so I can move the strings closer together. If anyone knows a good reason to keep them so far apart I am all ears.

    The "stretch": yes, the frets are pretty far apart on the upper end of the neck where I play the most. This will make some chords challenging, but might just mean that I have to learn different ones. It also means I have to work more on a light touch with my left hand so it can move around more quickly. That's because I simply can't always reach from one note on the first or second fret to another on the sixth without actually moving my hand a bit. This might actually help me to improve my mandolin playing, too.

    Playability: For me the stretch has affected playability on my first few evenings with the instrument. But I am already improving and I don't think it will be a long-term problem. This thing is tuned GDAE and so is the mandolin, but this one is an octave lower. I can read the notes on the treble clef well enough, but not the bass clef. I think it will be a while before I tackle that one, so for now all of my songs will be an octave low. :-) I don't play with anyone else, so that doesn't matter.

    The sound: this is the ultimately most important thing. When I bought the thing my wife was making snide comments about how she wasn't sure she could remain married to a ukulele player. Last night she actually came in and sat down to listen - something she hasn't done for months - and was just amazed at how nice this thing sounds. It is a mellow, resonant sound, more like a classical guitar than I was expecting. The songs I normally play on the mandolin take on a whole different character and some of them sound much nicer on this baritone ukulele. Others will have to stick to the mandolin.

    Volume: this is not a loud instrument. That's fine with me, but may not be for others.

    Stardust, a song about a song about a dream, played on so mellow an instrument and an octave lower sounds almost like you are in the dream, not just playing it.

    It looks like this may be a keeper, so I guess I'd better buy a decent case for it...
    Last edited by FatBear; Feb-02-2014 at 1:30pm.

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    Default Re: How to string Baritone Uke in GDAE

    Quote Originally Posted by Torinsall View Post
    Here's what he ended with:
    G ... classical guitar high tension low E tuned to G
    D ... baritone DGBE set, move D over one space
    A ... classical guitar high tension G tuned to A
    E ... baritone DGBE set, keep the E
    I bought a baritone Uke to play around with and tuned it to GDAE with these instructions above, and it sounds awesome. Really nice thing is I play both Guitar and Mandolin, so I can switch between the two if needed. I did notice however, that the bridge and nut may not exactly fit the difference in string sizes (specifically the low E and G string from classical guitar, but I forced them on in there anyways). I think the string combination is perfect and it really does sound more like an octave Mandolin. The 'A' string seems to go out of tune a lot though, but may be that I am not used to nylon strings and maybe I need to tighten it down better on the tuner? I don't know, but I also think someone mentioned using high tension guitar strings instead, so I might give that a try next time as well. I think a B. Uke is a good alternative (price-wise) to a Tenor Guitar or Octave mandolin, so I may give it a try.

  25. #21
    Lord of All Badgers Lord of the Badgers's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to string Baritone Uke in GDAE

    the next challenge is to do a bari uke with double courses in GDAE then (octave pairs) - I've yet to find one on the interweb video wise... but I am bad at searching
    My name is Rob, and I am Lord of All Badgers

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  26. #22
    Orso grasso FatBear's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to string Baritone Uke in GDAE

    Here's a little update. I originally strung my baritone ukulele with the 31U Aquila set, tuned GDAE. I liked it pretty well, but the G string was a little floppy and the A never seemed quite alive. A few days ago I decided to try the recommendation in the very first posting. I bought D'Addario Pro Arte hard tension strings for the G and A from juststrings.com. Just for curiosity I also bought one of those Red strings from Aquila and a black string from GHS to go in the high E position. I thought I had another Aquila 31U set around, so didn't buy one, but I was wrong.

    First I put the Red string on in the low G (4th) position. Major floppy. Floppy as in slap-bass sounding. I SNIP! cut that sucker right off.

    Then I tried the Pro Arte "classical guitar high tension low E tuned to G". That one is really big. I really didn't want to file out the nut for just a test, but I decided I might as well because I really don't want to have to use the 31U low string anymore. (I have nut files and know how to use them, but you can't put the material back on after you've filed it off.) Then I found that the hole in my tuner is too tight to put the string through it twice, so it was fussy installing on the shaft. I finally got it wound up tight and it is really nice. Much better than before. Tighter, stiffer, not nearly as floppy.

    Since I didn't have another 31U set I left the old D string on. It's a little tired, but OK for now.

    I replaced the A string with the Pro Arte string as recommended and it, too, was wider than the nut slot. But just a hair too large so I filed it out. It's just a big, clear nylon string. It sounds OK, but I can't honestly say it is better than the old one from the 31U set. It is certainly not as loud.

    That left the E string. I was not unhappy with the 31U E string, but I figured in for a penny, in for a pound, and switched to the GHS black string. I really like that one, too. Better than the 31U string I took off, though it's possible it was getting tired. The black string certainly felt stiffer in the hand and came up to tension more quickly than the two Pro Arte strings.

    Then I played the thing. The only one I don't like right now is the A. It's really nice and smooth for sliding my finger up and down, but it isn't as loud or crisp sounding as the other three. I still need to find an A.

    And a D. I hate to think that I need to buy a whole 31U set just to get the D, but it doesn't look like juststrings.com has the D. If I have to get a whole set of strings, I'll probably get the Pro Arte set as proposed by Padawan. I'm sure one instrument is different than the next, but we'll see how that works out.

    I am also ordering a larger diameter GHS black string to try first in the A position. (I have no idea if the blackness is a style thing or if they are actually different, but the .28" black one I put in the E position sure sounds good. Unfortunately you can't just order strings by material and diameter, you have to figure out what instrument they go on and so forth. I think a .34" black would be ideal, but it doesn't appear that they are available. Or juststrings.com doesn't carry them. Or something. So I think I ended up ordering a .32" which may be too small. We'll see.

    Anyway, I'm 3/4 of the way there! And I am enjoying it. Mine is all mahogany and has a very mellow sound. I figured out the basics of The Very Thought of You and now it's my slidey song. Another new skill to work on and keep my self-respect at a very manageable level.

  27. #23
    Bark first, Bite later Steve Zawacki's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to string Baritone Uke in GDAE

    I've been messing around with ukuleles for a while now, tuning all sizes of them (except baritone, don't own one) GDAE and CGDA. With selective string choices, they come out well. Interestingly the smaller the ukulele (five sizes, baritone the largest) the better CGDA sounds instead of GDAE. The smaller the resinator, the sqeakier the E in GDAE seems to sound (to me anyway).

    This thread has convinced me to get an inexpensive Baritone and give it a shot. If it comes out to work as a "parlor sized" tenor guitar, that's great. My tenor ukuleles (second largest sized ukulele)( one is amp'd) sound fine at CGDA and I use them as mini tenor guitars.

    Thanks for the string formula!
    ...Steve

    Current Stable: Two Tenor Guitars (Martin 515, Blueridge BR-40T), a Tenor Banjo (Deering GoodTime 17-Fret), a Mandolin (Burgess #7). two Banjo-Ukes and five Ukuleles..

    The inventory is always in some flux, but that's part of the fun.

  28. #24
    Orso grasso FatBear's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to string Baritone Uke in GDAE

    I'm still working on the full formula, and it may be different for an instrument with a spruce top or different bracing or wood thicknesses or different playing styles or who knows what. But I found this thread to be very helpful so I thought I would try to contribute what I have learned. Finding the right strings isn't as easy as it seems like it should be.

  29. #25
    Registered User fox's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to string Baritone Uke in GDAE

    I would not like to say how long I have spent tying out nylon to get my baritone ukes tuned to CGDA but so far I have not found a good result - in fact I have even strung them up with steel & they still did not sound good!
    I really hope one of you guys can get a good result as I gave up months ago...

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