Oooer – where have my fingers gone?

As I have mentioned in earlier posts, I have acquired a nice tenor ukulele, and this month have been pretty much exclusively concentrating on that, music-wise. At first, my playing was a bit halting, but now I am finding I am reaching the chords quite well, and have had good fun working out what popular songs go well with the ukulele.

However, tonight I was trying some Joe Jackson, and one particular song that I thought would work well, just didn’t. However, I was enjoying myself with the song, so I put down the ukulele and picked up my old EKO, to try it on there.

Except I couldn’t – my fingers were all in the wrong places, essentially trying to play 4-string chords on a 6-string fretboard. If I looked at what I was playing, I was fine, but the moment I looked away, I was all over the place. It is all rather weird.

I realise that with practice I will be able to switch instruments without problems, but for now I might just put the uke away until after filkcon. After all, I am going to want to be able to play my guitar!


  1. January 15, 2010

    Or play the uke at the filkcon, which would be definitely interesting. The last person I heard play uke in a filk stream was Blind Lemming Chiffon at Worldcon last year, it makes a nice change from guitar.

    • chris
      January 15, 2010

      What I was intending to do was bring both. However, if my ukulele practice gets in the way of playing the guitar, I will probably put the ukulele to one side until after the con. I don’t think I have enough material to do a whole convention on the uke.

      For quite a few years I have tried various small stringed instruments, to bring something in that range into my repertoire; but I had always failed abysmally to actually fit my finger physically onto the fretboard. With this tenor uke, I found the fretboard fairly roomy, which is why I am quite pleased with it. The fact the fingering is essentially the same as the top 4 strings of a guitar doesn’t hurt either, although playing what I know as a G pattern, when reading a C chord does my head in a bit.

  2. January 15, 2010

    G versus C I would just treat as a transposition (I assume that all of the other patterns are the same relationship), I’ve done that when accompanying people and don’t want to use a high-fret capo. But then I have been doing transpositions in my head when playing since a teenager (on organ/piano originally, later on various recorders) so it’s something I find easy.

    I suspect I’m not the only one who will be interested in the tenor uke…

    • chris
      January 15, 2010

      Yes, it is the same relationship. Essentially the “normal” Ukulele tuning is G-C-E-A, which is basically the same as the top 4 strings of a guitar – D-G-B-E – transposed. However the “bottom” G string is normally tuned an octave high, which is part of what gives it the distinctive sound. (As far as I know this is always the case on soprano and concert-sized ukuleles, although tenor ukuleles may have the G tuned down or up – I like the sound of it being high).

      However, note that there seems to be as many different ukulele tuning variants as there are guitar ones.

      The baritone ukulele is more commonly tuned D-G-B-E, like the top 4 strings of a guitar.

  3. January 15, 2010

    “How do you tune a ukelele?”

    “Well, it’s got the little twiddly things like a guitar…”

    It seems to be common with a lot of ‘folk’ stringed instruments that they are often tuned in different pitches, I’ve heard the same about the mandolin and banjo families (some of it varies by country or region, other times it seems to be personal preference).

    And I remember a certain person, when a Well Known Filker said that it wasn’t possible to retune a 12-string for each song, who twiddled the knobs, struck a chord and said “you mean like this?” *g*

    • chris
      January 15, 2010

      Or there was another time when Tim Broadribb saw me sitting in a corner tuning my 12-string, before going on stage, and said in a loud aside to everyone. “Of course, it’s mathematically impossible to tune a 12-string”.

      As I passed the sound desk, I turned to Tim and played a chord. “By the way,” I said, “I’m a maths graduate”.

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