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Thread: Baritone uke to Tenor/Octave mando GDAE tuning

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    Default Baritone uke to Tenor/Octave mando GDAE tuning

    Recently purchased an Ohana BK-35G Baritone uke, all solid mahogany, and after stumbling with the usual DGBE guitar type tuning decided to "mandolinize" the tuning to fifths, GDAE. Thought I'd share it here.

    Really easy to do:
    1. The 1st string is already an E, so just leave it there.
    2. Drop the 2nd string, B, a whole step down to A. Still plenty of tension to not sound bad at all.
    3. For the 3rd string, remove the G that is there, and trash it. Then, take the 4th string D and move it over to the 3rd string position.
    4. Finally for the now empty 4th string, just take a low E, 6th string, from a classical guitar set and use that. At the 19-20" baritone uke scale length it sounds great tuned to G and the tension is right.

    Now you've got a fifths tuned, short scale, tenor / octave-mando type, nylon strung instrument in GDAE. For not much money either. Sounds very sweet, and I can actually sing with it. It's been my latest go-to instrument when I get home from work. Easy on the fingers too, and the scale length is perfect for me. It sounds very natural, not forced at all, as many tunings do for instruments they were not originally intended for.

    Next: how to tune a tenor uke to GDAE. Not sure about that one. I can see how to do it CGDA (similar to above), but that's it.

    Someday I might even learn to really play the uke as it was intended...but, hey, this is too much fun at the moment!

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    Registered User Tom Wright's Avatar
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    Default Re: Baritone uke to Tenor/Octave mando GDAE tuning

    5ths forever.

    I've considered customizing a uke to serve as a single-strung mandolin. But what I really want is a 5-string mandolin flattop with steel strings. Can't find a category for that instrument here. But tuning in 5ths is what I grew up playing, and make my living on, bowing viola. I love my 5-string electric mando. I'm tempted by a 5-string from Thomas Buchanan--he makes a 10-string and will customize.
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    Default Re: Baritone uke to Tenor/Octave mando GDAE tuning

    Yes I did that a coupe years ago nice instrument. I was at a ragtime show a one of the players was playing a tennor and I ask him what was the difference and ( he said the price) I thought that was funny since I have been kinda put off by the bluegrass players of late ( playing chops is boring) I converted the baritone toa Uke dobro and now play it with 2 finger picks and a slide best of luck fred
    fred davis

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    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    Default Re: Baritone uke to Tenor/Octave mando GDAE tuning

    Quote Originally Posted by Asha View Post
    Recently purchased an Ohana BK-35G Baritone uke, all solid mahogany, and after stumbling with the usual DGBE guitar type tuning decided to "mandolinize" the tuning to fifths, GDAE. Thought I'd share it here.

    ...
    Now you've got a fifths tuned, short scale, tenor / octave-mando type, nylon strung instrument in GDAE. For not much money either. Sounds very sweet, and I can actually sing with it. It's been my latest go-to instrument when I get home from work. Easy on the fingers too, and the scale length is perfect for me. It sounds very natural, not forced at all, as many tunings do for instruments they were not originally intended for.

    Next: how to tune a tenor uke to GDAE. Not sure about that one. I can see how to do it CGDA (similar to above), but that's it.
    I've done that conversion twice before -- first on a Clearwater baritone uke (plastic bowl type with solid spruce top), where it worked really very well indeed (see this old thread). As the existing strings weren't that great to start with, I found the best method was to buy a high-tension classical guitar string set (I used Aquila nylgut) and use string 1, 2, 4 and 5 (low to high).

    I was very pleased with the result, and somewhat regret selling it a few months later when I bought a "proper" tenor guitar. I tried again last year with a considerably more expensive spruce-topped Kala baritone which I thought would be an upgrade from the Clearwater, but unfortunately this didn't work at all -- the Kala sounded terribly forced and compromised in that tuning and I returned it to the shop after a few days.

    I suspect the reason for the success with the Clearwater and the failure with the Kala is that the Clearwater had a considerably larger soundboard than the Kala, making the low G more plausible. For the same reason, I think that trying to get a tenor uke to GDAE is doomed to failure as they're just too small. CGDA is fine (and I think Aquila actually make a string set for that).

    On the other hand, tuning a soprano uke to GDAE in the same octave as the mandolin works just fine and has been discussed here repeatedly -- Aquila definitely make a string set for that conversion, taking out all the guesswork from the choice of gauges.

    Martin

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    Default Re: Baritone uke to Tenor/Octave mando GDAE tuning

    The problem on getting the tenor uke to GDAE seems to be that High E on the first string. It seems like a Classical guitar 1st string could be tuned up an octave higher, and at that string length (about 17") might just get there - but I haven't got around to trying it yet...

    For the other strings:
    4. G is the same so leave it.
    3. D can be obtained by moving the C up a step.
    2. The usual E string can be removed, and replaced with the 1st string A.
    1. That high E is the difficult one...?

    Like you say, getting a tenor uke to GDAE may be doomed to failure...that usually doesn't stop me though!

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    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    Default Re: Baritone uke to Tenor/Octave mando GDAE tuning

    Asha: For the tenor uke conversion, I thought you meant GDAE in the same octave as on the baritone uke, i.e. octave mandolin pitch. Your latest posting suggests you want to end up in the same octave as the mandolin. No chance. It's hard enough to get a working nylon high E string at soprano uke scale, 13", but you won't get a string that can manage this at tenor uke scale, 17".

    Martin

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    Default Re: Baritone uke to Tenor/Octave mando GDAE tuning

    Yes, I did mean the same octave as mando. And I believe you are ultimately correct about not being able to get there. Ah well... CGDA isn't bad...

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    Default Re: Baritone uke to Tenor/Octave mando GDAE tuning

    Guys,
    If youre changing any uke to a mando or tenor tuning, of course youre going to have to do it with nylon-ish strings. Otherwise your neck is going to be toast very soon. Permanently.
    Get yourself a self of Aquila Nylgut baritone ukulele strings designed for G-C-E-A tuning. You can tune it up or down a step on any string. You'll have a nylon string tenor or bari scale length (17 or 21" range)and teh string tension will be right for the instrument.

    I build mainly in this scale length across several instrument families. Nylon-ish strings are the way to go unless you have an instrument with an adjustable truss rod in the neck already. Aquila make great strings. Tune em up and expect the stretch for a few days, then they'll set.

    My main body design will handle octave mando, bari uke, and tenor guitar. Just different strings or maybe a different neck tweak.
    I also make the body shape in the smaller 17" scale body, and guitar too.


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    Default Re: Baritone uke to Tenor/Octave mando GDAE tuning

    Hello Folks,
    Thought I'd chime in here about mando conversions of tenor ukulele bodies. I have had several clients that have asked me to build instruments of this nature for them. The latest is an octave mandolin player desiring a four string nylon instrument in that tuning.
    The weakness of many string conversions is the last small string. It is typically out of balance with the rest of the strings.
    Also, most tenor ukulele string tensions are in the 7#-12# range. While you can put on any strings you please, your ukulele body and bracing may not be up to the additional string tension in the long run.
    An friend of mine is the head string engineer for D'Addario Strings and I asked him about this recommendation for an octave mando tuning on a 17" scale length. His suggestion was as follows:
    I would first try classical guitar strings of the following gauges (with estimated tensions) for a 17” vibrating length:
    - E: 0.040” monofilament nylon = 14.7#
    - A: 0.026” wound = 13.7#
    - D: 0.036” wound = 14.2#
    - G: 0.050” wound =13.0#
    The above gauges are just a starting point since a lot of experimentation will be needed. Adjust the gauges up or down as needed. The main tradeoff will probably be between output and response (feel). The lower tension strings will feel better, but may not be loud enough. Balance between the strings will also be an issue, sometimes one string needs a much higher or lower tension.

    If you are mandolin players looking for nylon strings for converting a tenor or concert to mandolin tuning, I would suggest checking out South Coast Strings. They are offering sets.

    Mark
    www.roberts-guitars.com

  11. #10

    Default Re: Baritone uke to Tenor/Octave mando GDAE tuning

    Does anyone have a suggestion of where to find a chord chart for a Baritone Uke tuned to GDAE? I'm new to the instrument and would like to learn chords alone with picking. Thanks!

  12. #11
    Registered User Cary Fagan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Baritone uke to Tenor/Octave mando GDAE tuning

    You can use an octave mandolin chart.
    Cary Fagan

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