#1: The Form of your TuningTunings on the Ukulele can take various forms, and we offer more than you’ll find anywhere. There are tunings in 5ths, Open tunings, Cuatro tunings and more. The two most common forms today, however, are “Ukulele Reentrant” and “Linear”. There are actually a number of reentrant arrangements; Cuatro tuning and others are reentrant forms. But the Ukulele has its own unique reentrant form. At one time players called this “my dog has fleas” from the little song that they would hum when tuning their instrument. Not surprisingly, we call sets with that arrangement our “Ukulele” sets. They can be also known variously as “high G”, “high A”, “high D”, “high 4th” and more. Linear arrangements are also known as “low G”, “low A”, “low D”, “low 4th” and more. #2: The Key of Your TuningAs the majority of our string customers are Ukulele players, and as for the last 20 years, the predominant tuning in the U.S. has been the Key of C, for the sake of brevity on this page we’ll simply say thattuning to either g’-c’-e’-a’ (Ukulele Reentrant) or g-c’-e’-a’ (Linear) is tuning to the “Key of C”. It’s the name of the 3rd string that is the root of the key - hence the short method for knowing the name of the key is simply to look at the name of the 3rd string. (If you’re unsure of how strings are numbered, click on the Ukulele drawing below.) For a more complete explanation see the Terminology page. We need to use standard notation to write out the wide variety of tunings we offer. Ukulele slang notation is not just inconsistent, it’s inaccurate as well. Standard notation is explained on our Terminology page, but there’s actually no need to write out the common tunings in standard if you have questions for us. Terms like “Linear C” or “Reentrant G”, for example, explain both the Form and Key. It’s easier than writing out a tuning and yet it’s still precise. #3: Your Instruments ScaleScale, in this case, does not refer to a musical scale - it’s scale as in a dimension. The scale of a stringed instrument is the vibrating length of the string. In an ukulele or guitar, this means the distance between the nut and the saddle (to see this illustrated, click on the drawing to the right. (Note: this drawing also shows the how strings are numbered.)If you don’t wish to pull out a tape measure, then there are standard scale lengths that we use on the tuning charts as references for tension. Since scale dimensions will vary slightly from one maker to the next, the numbers are customarily rounded off for simplicity’s sake.Sopranino Ukulele Scale: 11.5 inches (varies)Soprano Ukulele Scale: 13 inchesConcert Ukulele Scale: 15 inchesTenor Ukulele Scale: 17 inchesBaritone Ukulele Scale: 20 inches (some models use 19”)Remember, these standard scale lengths are for standard instruments. If you have a longneck, typically your scale is one step up from standard. In other words, a longneck Concert usually has the 17” scale of a standard Tenor. If you have any doubts, best pull out your tape measure to be sure.#4: How to read the Tuning & Tension ChartsThe “form” of your tuning will take you to the right string category. Then, within your category, you use the Tuning & Tension Charts to narrow your search. Remember, we’re giving you options, so there are no such things as a “Concert Ukulele Set”, for example. Most of our sets can be used on a variety of Ukulele sizes, and with minimum lengths of 30” or more, they’re long enough for any size Ukulele. As you move down the lists, from lighter to heavier gauge, simply click on the expandable Tuning & Tension charts on the left side of the pages. They’ll show you if a given set can be used for the tuning you want on the scale of your Ukulele. Take a look at the example below. You’ll see that for several scale / tuning combinations this sample set is not recommended at all. If the scale and Key have a coloured box, then the set can be used in that application. Sample ChartNow, however,look to the black symbols you see in these boxes to guide you to tension. Most ratings fall within the green area, signifying a usable tension. A symbol in the middle of the green sector indicates an average tension. If the symbol is toward the red, it indicates higher tension. If it is toward or into the blue, lower tension. Sometimes we’ll be asked if a given set has too much tension for a certain tuning and scale. If we feel that would be the case, then it would have a grey box, saying “Not Recommended”. We do not show ratings for any set in the Red area, so a rating close to red represents a high tension. These recommendations, however, are geared toward standard new construction. If you have a delicate vintage instrument, it’s always safer to select a lower tension. Please note: If your instrument varies in scale from the standards used on our charts, remember that these standards always vary a little, and are rounded off to the nearest inch. A fraction of an inch won’t be of any great significance. Once the difference reaches a full inch, then it may be necessary to take those differences into account.A scale that is longer than one of our standards will have more tension than we indicate, a scale that is shorter will have less. This happens most often on the Baritones, where scales can vary by 2” or more. If you have a 19” scale Baritone, for example (1” less than our 20” standard) then the lower tension @ 19” would make it advisable to stay away from set / tuning combinations rated close to the Blue Zone. If you have a 21” scale, conversely, the higher tension might make it wise to avoid sets with tunings rated close to the Red. Also note: If a set is rated in the Blue Zone, this indicates we feel it will not give optimal performance. It will be playable, however, and therefore may be an option for those with hand weakness or disability.Finally, you may find a group of strings with the same ratings for tension. In those cases, simply read the written descriptions for guidance as to the materials used and the type of sound to expect from those materials. .....................................................
YOUR QUICK GUIDE TO STRING SELECTION
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At the bottom of this page is the link to our full list of categories. There are no “Soprano, Concert, Tenor or Baritone” sets. Our String Sets are identified by gauge (or more precisely by “feel”) and depending on your preference in tension can often be used on more than one instrument. You will generally have a variety of options for almost any specific instrument and tuning; choices in tensions, material and voice. More options means you’ll be more likely to find your dream set-up with us. It won’t be at all difficult to understand those options, but only if you understand the very limited standard musical vocabulary we present on this page. While Ukulele slang terms and notation may be sufficient for those companies offering only very limited choice, we here present much more than that. More choice means we need to define the differences. So before you proceed to the String Categories below, here are the: 4 basic things you’ll need to know to select your strings:
Should you still have questions on how to select your strings:A more detailed description of our ratings system, how it works and some pointers on how to get to your best outcomes are on a revised Tips letter, (click below):Southcoast Tension Ratings w/ String Selection Tips