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Thread: String a mandolin to get tenor uke sound

  1. #1

    Question String a mandolin to get tenor uke sound

    Is there a way to string a mando to get the sound of a tenor uke? I was just wondering if anyone had tried this.

  2. #2
    Destroyer of Mandolins
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    New Jersey

    Default Re: String a mandolin to get tenor uke sound

    Hi and welcome,

    You won't get a true uke sound from a mandolin, as the instruments are very differently constructed, but you can re-string any instrument to be tuned like another by choosing the right string gauges. You can use any of a number of string calculators on the net to find appropriate gauges that won't over-stress the instrument. The biggest difficulty for me when I tried it was that the mandolin's neck is too narrow to play easily. A ukulele's neck is proportionately wider and gives the fingers room to make the guitar-type chord shapes. Other modifications may be needed like changing the slots of the nut and bridge to fit the new strings.

    For myself, I would just get a ukulele.
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  3. #3
    Mediocre but OK with that Paul Busman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2004

    Default Re: String a mandolin to get tenor uke sound

    Haven't tried, but a first try would be nylon strings.
    However, you can get decent tenor ukes pretty cheaply and they're a lot of fun. For example:
    For wooden musical fun that doesn't involve strumming, check out:
    Handcrafted pennywhistles in exotic hardwoods.

  4. #4

    Default Re: String a mandolin to get tenor uke sound

    Thanks. Great info.

  5. #5
    Registered User Jim MacDaniel's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Rotten City

    Default Re: String a mandolin to get tenor uke sound

    lol -- I think this may be the first time your question has been posed here, but we have several threads on how to string a uke like a mandolin
    "The problem with quotes on the internet, is everybody has one, and most of them are wrong."
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  6. #6
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Nashville, TN

    Default Re: String a mandolin to get tenor uke sound

    I've had similar thoughts (though I haven't done it) of converting an inexpensive beater mando into a uke. Or a banjolin into a banjo-uke.

    The experiment would be fairly simple, but I don't know about the results. Tenor ukes have ~17" scale, but (I think) are tuned the same as a concert/soprano (GCEA or ADF#B), except the fourth string is usually tuned an octave lower. So one issue would be trying to get a 17" tenor-type sound out of a 14" scale mando.

    I might buy a plastic guitar nut and cut/file it down to 4 string width and shape to fit the mando nut slot. I would probably try metal strings, which I think would intonate better with the shorter scale, and use the higher tension ADF#B tuning.
    You might could use single G and D mandolin strings (for A & D courses), then a very light wound string for the F# course, and a 13-14 guage steel string for the B course.
    Jeff Rohrbough
    "Listen louder, play softer"

  7. #7
    Registered User mandobassman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Delran, NJ

    Default Re: String a mandolin to get tenor uke sound

    I was toying with the idea of learning ukulele. One day I decided to convert my beater Johnson A model into a ukulele. The scale length is exactly the same as a soprano uke so I just removed the second set of each string course and tuned it down to uke tuning. The sound was surprisingly cool (actually sounded better that it did as a mandolin). The only issue I had was that because the tuning is lower and therefore the tension is lower, the strings went sharp pretty easily when fretted when I used the same pressure I would when fretting a mandolin. Now I know this is different than what the original poster was asking about because he was referring to a tenor uke, but I was able to discover that I enjoyed it and later converted the Johnson back into a mandolin and then bought a cheap ukulele from eBay. The link that Paul Busman showed is fantastic. Kala makes some really nice products. I might just have to get one of those.
    Right now I'm in the process of converting a small-body acoustic guitar into an octave mandolin. Can't wait to complete that.

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