Meghan Trainor was right! It really is all about that bass. Stringing a Low-G on a ukulele will give you all the bass you need! But lets get real for a minute. Low-G ukulele strings are a mystery to many players. While many artists opt for using High-G strings, Low-G strings are quickly becoming a popular option. By tuning the top G-string down an octave, you add five additional notes to the bottom of the ukulele range. This produces a deep, warm, and rich sound to the ukulele. Think Barry White!
So what are the differences between Low-G and High-G strings?
High-G strings are used in traditional ukulele tunings. Using this type of string makes for an odd pitch pattern that goes from high (G note) to low (C note), then back to high (E, and A note). This is actually uncommon among stringed instruments. This is why this type of pattern is called ‘re-entrant‘ tuning. So whenever you see the word ’re-entrant‘, know that its referring to traditional tuning with the High-G. Re-entrant tuning keeps the ukulele trebly and bright. It has been said before that it’s impossible to play a sad song on a ukulele when it us tuned with a High-G string.
Famous players that use High-G tuning are Jake Shimabukuro, Kalei Gamiao, and Kris Fuchigami. Check out Kris play his High-G tuned ukulele here!
As High-G strings are tuned ‘re-entrant’, Low-G strings make what is called ‘linear’ tuning. This means the string pitch order goes from low (G note) to high (C,E, and A note), or bass to treble. This pitch order gives the ukulele a rounded, even sound.
Having a second “bass” note can be useful for solo fingerpicking arrangements which allows you to get a fuller sound when playing. It creates a wider range of notes when you play any chord. When you strum a Low-G ukulele for the first time, chills will run down your spine. How can one string change the sound and ‘feel’ of the instrument? Believe me... it really does. It’s like comparing the mellow meow of a cat to the booming roar of a lion!
Players who tune their ukulele to Low-G are Taimane Gardner (she uses two Low-G strings on her five string ukulele!), James Hill, and the ridiculously talented Feng E. Watch Feng E. masterfully play using Low-G tuning here! In the video he’s using the Low-G primarily as a bass string. Prepare to be amazed!
Adding a Low-G String on Your Ukulele
A Low-G string simply replaces a High-G string. You just have to swap it out. So you may being thinking, “Why can’t I just tune my High-G string down an octave?” If you try and tune a High-G string down one octave it becomes way too loose and can’t even produce a sound. So by increasing the thickness of the string, it is now able to play at a much higher tension. And most importantly at a lower note. This is why Low-G strings were created. Without them you couldn’t achieve this.