Greetings, ukulele friends and fans! Today I’m going to share a little bit with you about what it’s like to play a ukulele with low G and why you might want one of these! Since I started learning how to play the ukulele four years ago, I’ve come to love both the traditional high G and the low G tunings.
Ukulele With Low G: Let’s Talk Tunings
Before we get started on what it’s like to use a ukulele with low G, let’s talk about the traditional tuning of a ukulele. The first ukuleles from way back in 1879 were originally created with what’s called re-entrant tuning. This means that the fourth string (closest to the ceiling when holding your ukulele in front of you) is tuned to the G above middle C; the third string (right below that one, heading down towards the floor) is tuned to middle C; the second string tuned to the E above middle C; and that first string all the way down on the bottom closest to the floor is tuned to the A, a full step above the fourth string.
When you’re using a ukulele with a high G tuning, you can play a series of arpeggios for the chord of C major by fretting the third fret of the first string to make a C major chord, and then plucking the fourth, third, second, and first strings in that order – creating a linear arpeggio starting from middle C moving to an octave above it.
This re-entrant tuning is used in many other instruments, not just the ukulele. Some instruments like a 5-string banjo use re-entrant tuning so that the top (fifth) string creates what’s called a “drone note” that can be used as a root note throughout a song.
Read more: How To Hold A Ukulele?
Most ukuleles in the soprano, concert, and tenor sizes use re-entrant tuning as the traditional C or C6 tuning. Baritone ukuleles, on the other hand, have an entirely different tuning that is similar to the low G tuning on the ukulele. Ah-ha! So let’s talk about what happens when you use a ukulele with low G tuning.
Low G Tuning
Some people prefer to have their ukuleles tuned with a low G string for their top or fourth string. When you use a ukulele with low G, that G string is tuned to the G below middle C – that is, to the G that is below the third string (C string) on your ukulele. This type of tuning is sometimes called linear tuning because the strings go from lowest in pitch to highest in a linear order. Most (but not all) string instruments like violins, violas, cellos, and pianos use linear tuning.
Most of the time, you’ll find tenor ukuleles tuned to low G tuning, although it’s not out of the question on a soprano or concert sized ukulele. You can convert any ukulele to a ukulele with low G by simply swapping out the high G string for a low G string. The low G string will be thicker than the high G string so that it vibrates at a different frequency and creates a lower, more mellow sound to your instrument.
You can purchase special sets of ukulele strings with a low G string, or you can just purchase an individual low G string and change it yourself. (Or take your instrument to your favorite luthier or music shop to have it changed.) In many cases, you’ll find that you can also get a wound low G string, which is a nylon string that has been wrapped (or wound) with tight coils of metal to give your ukulele a lovely sound.
One word of caution: make sure that the slot in the nut (at the top of the fretboard, near the base of the headstock) on your ukulele can accommodate the thicker low G string. This is especially true if you’re using a wound low G string and is the reason why you might not see too many ukuleles with low G strings in the concert and soprano size.
Benefits Of Having a Ukulele with Low G
Being an avid collector of ukuleles, I embraced the chance to buy a new ukulele for my collection have it strung with a low G. (A side note: from there, it was only natural that I wanted to expand my collection to include a pair of 5-string ukuleles that had both high and low G strings on them so I could reap the benefits of both styles of tunings, but more on that later.) And while I was getting to know my new ukulele with low G, I discovered a couple of benefits:
- The ukulele with low G had a slightly more mellow tone. When I used a wound low G string on my ukulele, it gave it a much richer tone than my regular re-entrant tenor ukulele. So depending on the music you’re playing, a ukulele with low G can help create a whole mood!
- More notes to play with! If you’re someone who likes to play chord melody or fingerstyle or solos on the ukulele, having access to those extra notes can mean a whole world of difference. I also loved the way those extra notes allowed me to expand my range of scales that I could play in first position starting on that low G string.
And really, who can resist the opportunity to buy a new ukulele so that you can have the best of both worlds? Personally, I go back and forth between enjoying the bright, lilting tones of my re-entrant ukuleles some days, and other days I enjoy the moodier, lower tones of my ukuleles with low G tuning.
If you’re ready to try something new with a ukulele with low G tuning, you’ll find everything you need at the The Terry Carter Music Store. You can even request a low G string be put on your new ukulele when you choose from the many setup options available! Whether you want a new set of low G strings or a whole new instrument to start on your low G journey, The Terry Carter Music luthiers have you covered. Happy strumming!