I've built a few CBGs now, including a regular size uke. (and a 4 string uke-sized solid body Jazzmaster shaped guitar).
I enjoy noodling around on the 3 string CBGs but the only thing I can really "play" at all is the uke. After a lifetime of trying to play musical instruments I eventually discovered the uke, and that 4 strings is just enough for me and my fingers to manage, to make enough chords to be able to play some recognisable tunes.
So I had the idea to build something bigger, but use uke GCEA tuning so I can use the chord shapes I know. I'm trying it out on my first licence plate guitar. Neck is 2 hardwood strips (oak or oak-like) laminated.
What do you advise on strings to use?
Anything I've found online on 4-strings has talked about different tunings from mine and my initial experiments (admittedly with a pile of strings largely leftovers from 6 string sets) have not been very satisfactory. thinnest strings from guitar set snapped before they got to A, and by the time I'd worked up to a gauge that didn't, it was thick enough to sound different from the others. Strings across the instrument in the range I use on CBGs were hard/impossible to crank up to this tuning
It may be unrealistic but I'm aiming for a CBG sound with UKE tuning and chord shapes..
Appreciate any guidance on gauges/types/guitar equivalents you have used that work.
Well Stewart there are a few possibilities here. The chord shapes will be identical on a 4 string tenor guitar tuned DGbe but what is a C chord on uke is now a G chord on the tenor guitar. You still put your fingers in the exact same pattern. This, in fact, is the case on a Baritone uke which has around a 19" scale and is tuned DGbe.. Of course the 4th string won't be a high note like on most soprano ukes. I f you absolutely want the GCea tuning an octave lower I think what might work is the 5th, 4th, 3rd and 2nd strings from a 6 string set. So the A string would tune down to G, the D string to C, the G string down to E and the B string to A. Nylon strings would give a more uke type sound. It might take a few different gauge sets to find what works best. You'll never get that 6 string set up to the high A so what you need to aim for is one octave below standard uke..So instead of A 440 for the high string you want A 220. In summary, the simplest way is to make a 24"scale bari uke or tenor guitar type instrument where your fingers make the same shapes but the chords will be lower.
Here's one of my baritone ukes on a 17" scale using bari uke strings
You'd likely need guitar strings on 24" scale.
One of the first gits I built was a 24" uke. You can use classical guitar strings, they work fine. Beyond that, what Jim says. I didn't have any trouble choosing strings, but I'm not a purist uke player; I just tuned it to the basic notes, ignoring the octave. But it worked; I've played it before in a uke circle at a local music store and it blended right in.
Here's two photos of the one I built:
Thanks. Yeah, they're a pretty tailpiece. Had to kind of kluge the string-holder bit, but it works. Box itself was hand-painted, decoration done using a gold pen.
If I were to do it again I'd probably put some sort of edging on the box to keep the strings from eating into the wood... and perhaps put a cross-bar inside the tailpiece to hold the strings. But for nylon strings it worked fine.
Maybe a piece of old brass formed over the edge and super-glued in place to protect the box edge?
Lovely build. I hadn't thought about using a gold pen.
Yup, could be that simple. Can't do it now because it already sold. But as testament that classical guitar strings work, here's the customer review:
avery talgo on Oct 21, 2015
This is by far the most unique ukulele I have ever seen! It has a slightly different sound than a classic tenor, but that's what makes me love it even more : )
G - #3G tuned to G
C - #4D tuned down to C
E - #3G tuned down to E or #4D tuned up to E
A - #2B tuned down to A
and I agree a classic set will sound more ukulele than bronze phosphor acoustic strings will.