The 6 and 8 string ukulele

I asked Aaron to write us a simple overview of the 6 and 8 string ukulele. He did just that, and here it is- (thanks Aaron!)

As an ukulele instructor, one of the most often asked questions I get is, “What’s with the 6 and 8 string ukuleles?” These multi stringed anomalies of the ukulele world have been both amazing and bewildering us for as long as they have graced the Hawaiian music scene. Well, today I will try to shed some light on the 6 and 8 stringed ukuleles and explain some of the local applications and uses.
The 8 string ukulele is widely used for a driving rhythm sound. Walk into any hula halau and odds are there will be atleast one 8 string being played. The characteristic “chorus” effect us brought about by the combination of both octave and unison harmonies that occur from string to string. Like the 12 string guitar, the 8 string ukulele has the highest pitched strings tuned in unison, and the lower pitched strings tuned to octaves. ( G, lower octave G, higher octave C, C, E, unison E, and A, unison A) When holding chords the blend of these notes create the aforementioned “chorus” effect.

The 6 string ukulele, like the 8 string has doubled strings. In contrast to the 8, however, the 6 string has only the 1st (A) and 3rd(C) strings doubled. The biggest difference between the 8 string and the 6 string is that more often than not, the 6 string has a lower octave A rather than the unison A found on the 8 string. This gives the 6 string a distinctly different voice than both the 8 and 4 string ukuleles. I have found this voicing to lend itself well to jamming with a guitar player due to the difference of the “sweet spot”. The “sweet spot” occurs when contrasting frequencies blend together to create a harmonically rich, but not cluttered sound. In conclusion, the 6 and 8 string ukuleles definitely have their place in Hawaiian music. The full, rich tones work well with other instruments as well as for solo work. Hope this clears up the mystery of the 6 & 8 stringed ukulele. Aloha and keep strumming- Aaron – HMS
This video is for the 8 string. The Uke was a little too loud for the mic, sorry about that.

6 string-

Comments 12

  1. Pingback: Kala KA-8 – Tenor Slot Head Eight String with Case

  2. Pingback: The latest from Kamaka!! – 5 different models to choose from!

  3. I just got my 8 string for Father’s Day (yes I got it early, lucky me!) and I have to tell you, I LOVE IT! I had a 4 string before, but in the moving process it just couldn’t make the trip – a prime excuse to buy a new and better Ukulele. Maybe an 8 isn’t for you, but I would suggest picking one up at some point and giving it a try – you may fall in love with it like I did. AND – thanks for this site! Excellent!

  4. I have a 8 string Kamaka , want to play it as a 6 how long can it be played or will the different tension be bad for the neck….?

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      No problem with that. You might want to have a new nut made for the spacing to be just what you want, but there is no structural problems to worry about.

  5. Interested in the Kala Ka 8 Tenor slot head 8 string ukulele. Is it easy to tune. I have only being playing the ukulele for 12 months I enjoy the sound of my uke but thought an 8 string would be fun and an addition to the sound of our group- majority over 70 year olds!!!! Hope you can help. Judy

  6. Recently purchased 8 string Kamaka. I want to try different string combinations other than the suggested above in Aaron’s article. What happens when each string has an octave pairing? To clarify, the G and C are currently octave different, what happens to the sound when the E and A are also octave different strings? Also, what manufacture of strings do you suggest? Thank you.

  7. With a 6 string Uku, if ‘tabing’ from a double string to a single string, is the sound significantly different to upset the overall sound within a Uku band?
    Comments appreciated.

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      Typically the C is a high octave C and then a regular C. The high A is traditionally a low octave A and then a high octave A but some 6 strings do the unison high A’s.

  8. On that first vid, second song, I would really like to learn that! Sounded great! Wasn’t too loud for me. Thanks for the input.

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