The 6-string ukulele— an instrument shrouded in mystery for many players, is known for an atypical combination of strings and a sound unlike any other ukulele. What makes a 6-string ukulele desirable? And why is Ohana making its own version of this unique ukulele?
The 6-string ukulele is not a new concept, but a unique instrument among ukuleles regardless. These stringed instruments are a hybrid of two related ideas. The first, your classic 4-string G-C-E-A ukulele. Second is the 8-string “taropatch” ukulele, which features double the strings (GG-CC-EE-AA), or “double course”, for double the volume and voicing. The drawback for some players is the inherent “cluttered” or “busy” sound of having twice as many strings vibrating together at once. The solution? A 6-string ukulele that can still provide greater sound while retaining clarity.
Ohana CK-35-8 ‘taro patch’ strings and headstock details
While designing this unique model, Ohana wanted to improve on the range of the typical 6-string tuning. Traditionally these instruments are made with a double-course octave on the A & C string (G-Cc-E-aA). This means the standard style instrument has a full instrument range of A3 to E6. To give our Alternate 6-String some more range, we’ve chosen to apply our double course to the G and C strings for a gG-Cc-E-A tuning. This alternate arrangement will have the lowest note supported by the additional low G (G3) string. On open strings, it has a full instrument range of G3 to E6, gaining a full step on the lower register.
Simply put, switching the low-A for a low-G increases your playable range, and includes that familiar low-G sound that is common even among 4-string ukulele modifications (g-C-E-A). Moving the additional 6th string from low-A to low-G allowed us to adapt the idea behind our widely successful 5-string model to this new instrument, and maintain that immediate punch of the lower register from the moment you strum. We found that it goes just as well with 6 strings as it does with 5.
Because of the way the double-courses are strung, the traditional 6-string is primarily utilized for strumming. With the high A string (A4) being the last string on a downward strum, it rings out next to that extra lower octave note (A3) immediately preceding it, which is intriguing to many players’ ears. The new Ohana Alternate Tuning generates a more full sound when the instrument is strummed because the two double-course pairs are next to each other. The low-G on the alternate double-course pair immediately sets a bass-y, low voicing to the overall tone, and the octave C pair further broadens both the tone and volume. It almost sounds like there are two instruments playing in unison. With the bottom two strings now being single E and A, the 6-string instrument in this new alternative arrangement can also be finger-picked for single-note melodies comfortably while the lower notes ring out.
Check out Matt from World of Ukes demo the Ohana CK-70-A6!
This new and distinctive instrument’s real talent is revealed when strumming. The alternate string placement produces a sound that differs greatly from the traditional 6-string tuning. The way in which the lower-sounding strings of the A6 are arranged means you will hear a greater bass register early on. By nature, that full voicing will continue to ring out as you finish the strum and transition to your next chord. We find that this alternate sound is rather enjoyable and pleasing to the ear, due in part to the emphasized pairing of C and G.
We hope that once you hear the Ohana CK-70-A6 for yourself, you will enjoy the unique experience that this alternate tuning brings to the table. It is truly an invaluable addition to any band or collection of instruments, both for its tonal range and its plucky personality.