Workshop: Alternate Soprano Uke Stringing & Tuning

We have a lot of ukes in our family collection. I've picked three out from the bunch that I've kept in oddball alternate tunings to share some ideas.

The first alternate tuning is re-entrant gGBD and I use this on a banjo uke to simulate a sort of old-time banjo sound. It's at the same pitch and tuning as standard G 5-string banjo (gDGBD) but minus the low D string. I use the GCE strings of a normal Aquila Nylgut set for the g-BD and then add in a 25w LaBella low-G string for the low G.

Of course, clawhammer and fingerstyle banjo approaches sound great and peculiar, too, in this tuning.

The next alternate tuning is a "high open G" with a re-entrant dGBD tuning. It can also be tuned to dGBE like a sopranino ukulele and finger baritone uke chords. This has the same fingering as a 5-string banjo but an octave up for the GBD strings and a re-entrant first D. I use this on my little old Oscar Schmidt uke which is a pretty dry, sparkly uke and favors high-stringing.

To get these pitches I'm using the plain strings from the LaBella nylon banjo set below:

This set also provides me with enough length of a 25w nylon string to use for low-G strings on two soprano ukes. The plain 19s can be tuned up to that high E of mandolin pitch, too.

The last tuning is open F and goes FCFA low to high. This uses a low G string for the low F note and uses fingering borrowed from guitar's open C pattern (CGCGCE). This is a lovely tuning to waste half a day in as the root/fifth low portion of the tuning just hums. One can also get this with regular strings re-entrant style, but having the low root F is what makes it worth it.

Of course, all of these tunings can be slapped with a capo to get into different keys to a certain extent.