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Baritone uke strung as a piccolo bass - anyone tried this?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by HeavyDuty, Oct 17, 2016.

  1. HeavyDuty

    HeavyDuty Supporting Curmudgeon Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 26, 2000
    Suburban Chicago, IL
    I have a cheap baritone uke here. A few friends of mine are really into ukes, but I just can't get excited over strumming one or the standard uke tunings - I've tried.

    What I'm thinking about doing is stringing this baritone uke as a piccolo bass EADG up an octave from "normal" bass using the low four strings from a classical guitar set. This would give me a bass instrument relative to the other ukes - I've tried using my ABGs a few times for this, but IMO they are tuned too low in this setting.

    Has anyone tried this? What were your results?

  2. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    I've done a double piccolo with a bari uke. Two octaves above bass using the high 4 from a classical set.

    That tuning puts the lowest note a whole step above standard bari tuning, a whole step below soprano uke tuning.

    Trying to do regular piccolo with the low 4 classical strings would have very low tension because bari scale length is several inches shorter than a classical guitar. And the body isn't big enough to reproduce that low very well.

    Try it. It won't hurt anything.
  3. HaphAsSard


    Dec 1, 2013
    ^ This. Scale-wise (not tuning-wise as you're well aware) baritone ukulele scale (19") equals capoing a guitar at 5th fret.
    In order to get the same tension at EADG on your bari uke you should use a BEAD set. So:
    - you can get the right 7-string classical set; make sure it's for BEADGBE Steve Vai tuning, like Brazilian 7-string classicals are tuned to, as opposed to Russian guitars (DGBDGBD or open G with an added B as the third thickest, and the lowest one is just a D) and 7-string classical-classicals (DEADGBE where the 7th is again a D, not a B); in practice it has to specify that the 7th is a B (this one from La Bella is not OK, whilst this one from Pyramid should be, save for errors);
    - alternatively use the EAD strings from a normal 6-string set (or get a "bass set", like this one) and add a single B, .054" or bigger.
    La Bella Silverplated Wound Single Strings | Classical Guitar Strings
    Savarez Silverwound 7-13 String Singles | Classical Guitar Strings

    If you want a little more depth/low-midrange volume you could modify a 3/4 classical (cut two new nut slots between the 2nd+3rd, and 4th+5th, and widen the high E one; get a taller bridge saddle, file 4 slots in it - the middle strings would reach their respective slots diagonally from their tie-block holes, or you could drill new holes in it) and use the lowest four strings from a high-tension set to compensate for the shorter scale (22.8" or 2nd fret capoing). I'm suggesting a 3/4 because they have a 45mm nut vs. 50 or 52 of full-scale classicals, and because they're probably cheaper than "crossover" 4/4s (which also tend to have wideish nuts - 48mm).
    HeavyDuty likes this.
  4. blue4


    Feb 3, 2013
    St. Louis area
    I've done it, but ultimately it was unsatisfying. By itself it's ok, but you disappear when playing with another person unless you really bear down.
  5. I have a Lanakai baritone uke, maybe the same model as pictured, and I have it tuned E-A-D-G. I use La Bella FG 112 nylon classical fractional guitar strings, 1/2 length. They’re designed for smaller guitars for kids, coincidentally for the exact scale length of my baritone uke (about 20 inches). The tension feels great, even all the way across. I had concern about not having a truss rod but this string set is just right.
    HeavyDuty likes this.
  6. HeavyDuty

    HeavyDuty Supporting Curmudgeon Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 26, 2000
    Suburban Chicago, IL
    Thanks for the string info! I never did anything about this, but I’ll look for those and get moving.

    I assume you used the lower four strings?
  7. I tune my baritone uke like a bass. I usually keep the low string tuned to D not an E. But, it is tuned in 4ths like a bass. It allows me to work on my bass scales and chords.
  8. HeavyDuty

    HeavyDuty Supporting Curmudgeon Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 26, 2000
    Suburban Chicago, IL
    That’s what I’m looking. Are you an octave up, though? I want to be able to play with ukes, I’ve found normal bass tuning is too low. I want a *relative* bass instrument.

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