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View Full Version : Talk me into or out of getting this baritone ukulele...



Mivo
05-31-2016, 12:27 AM
Right, this happened somewhat unexpectedly. I was offered a Pono baritone, the RBSH-PC-S, at a rather nice price, and it's in Europe already, so no importing. It's this model (http://www.theukulelesite.com/pono-pro-classic-spruce-rosewood-baritone-rbsh-pc-s.html). In Corey's hands, it sounds magical.

Might seem like a no-brainer, but I'm pretty torn on whether I want a baritone ukulele. After a bit of an evenful journey, I found a Black Bear koa soprano that made me quite happy and that subdued my interest in concert and tenor sizes at the moment (but you know how long these periods of satisfaction sometimes last). It gets most of my playtime lately, though moods and favorites change (I like my other ukes too).

I had been considering a baritone as a "secondary" uke (I'd sell the others eventually) because I felt it would complement the soprano nicely. The same type of instrument, but sufficiently different to be its own thing. Is it really, though?

I like the sound, it's a nice contrast to the soprano. But it sounds a lot like a guitar, sans the bass strings, so does it make really sense to get a baritone instead of a guitalele, 1/2 or 3/4 guitar? I can't fully shake the feeling that it's a bit of a novelty instrument that is neither here nor there.

But on the other hand I can't deny that it sounds beautiful. I have no particular interest in a full-size guitar, and part of me feels that a baritone is too large already for what I wanted when I embarked on the ukulele journey (a portable, fun instrument), so this isn't really about baritone vs. guitar. I still wouldn't get a guitar if I don't grab this baritone uke (it's not a direction I want to drift into, either, which I guess is always the "risk" when you start embracing the more guitar-y sizes).

But for curiosity's sake: Why would you pick a baritone ukulele over palor/small/tenor guitar? What does it offer that is unique to it? What is its place? (Does this question even make sense, if I enjoy the tone and would make music with it?)

Any thoughts on this particular Pono model? Is set-up an issue with factory Ponos? General feedback and ponderings on the topic of baritones?

I'm not sure exactly what I'm looking for. I'm pretty indecisive about this as I don't really want to pile up even more ukes (this would be #9), but now that it's on my mind and I could grab this model at a good price, I go back and forth on the up- and downsides.

I've never had a baritone, so I could justify it from that angle. :) I do definitely plan on downsizing my uke collection next year, so perhaps it makes good sense to experience a quality baritone as part of the journey, even if I ended up re-homing it in a year.

What do you folks think?

Martynas
05-31-2016, 12:40 AM
if you like it and its already in europe and with good price then pick it!

PhilUSAFRet
05-31-2016, 12:48 AM
UAS is a bear. May be productive to figure out what you want before spending that kind of money for anything.

Croaky Keith
05-31-2016, 01:03 AM
When I started out, the first uke I got was a tenor, but it was too big for me, at that time.
Next was a soprano, a little bit too small, so concert size entered my life.

Spent time getting used to my concert sized ukes, then the urge to get a baritone struck.

It is a huge difference, there is no denying that, but I like Low G on most of my ukes, & the bari is lower, & I'm loving the sound.

Being a picker more than a strummer, I have found that I needed to use an amp to get enough volume to record my Seasons entries.

I am now learning to finger pick rather than using my previous thumb picking technique, & the sound has to be experienced.

So, yes, I would definately buy it. I don't think you would ever regret it. :)

DownUpDave
05-31-2016, 01:13 AM
Get it.

It is a great model with a great sound, both "sam13" and "rakekele" have that one but with cutaway. As you say you can always rehome in down the road. I got my first baritone about 8 months in to my uke journey. I dabbled with it on and off but never spent much time playing it. Then about 6 months ago I began playing it more and more. I am now in love with the sound and can't get enough of it, I now own 3 baritones. I know you didn't want to hear that:rolleyes:

This never would have happened if I had not taken the chance. You never know until you try, really try.

Pirate Jim
05-31-2016, 01:35 AM
The beauty of the Ponos is that you'll get good resale value on it if you decide it's not for you. I would go ahead and get it - you'll spend hours agonising about it otherwise. Give it a go and if it's not for you, move it on. If it is for you then brilliant!

Griffis
05-31-2016, 02:04 AM
For me it would be a matter of economics and space. As others have said, a Pono will hold its resale value well. I have had a few baritones through the years, and have a cheap one now that was a gift.

I certainly enjoy the range of them, but I somewhat share your feelings of it not quite being a ukulele or a guitar. Nevertheless, it's a cool instrument.

I've been on uke hiatus awhile, and when I came back to it, I thought a bari would be my main axe, but I gravitated back to concert and soprano.

Tenor guitars are of course steel string instruments, and the necks are very narrow.

Do you feel as though you might eventually move to 6 string guitar?

Tootler
05-31-2016, 02:31 AM
I don't have a baritone and don't feel the need for one. I have my tenors tuned dGBE (high D) and they serve the same role as the baritone would have done had a got one but with the reentrant tuning. In fact it's my tenors that get played the most these days. In fact, I feel the advantage of the dGBE tuning in a tenor is you are in the same pitch range as a guitar but the tuning being reentrant makes it sufficiently different.

So, I suggest that a good alternative to a baritone is a tenor tuned dBBE.

sam13
05-31-2016, 04:22 AM
I have the RBSH C Spruce top and it is an amazing Uke. Linear tuning: Wound Low D (D'Addario set) with Worth CB for the rest ... it is EXCELLENT. Clear tone. Sustain for a country mile. Tonal colour that makes you salivate.

I go from playing it exclusively to playing Tenors ... my LN Sopranos are getting neglected recently.

If you can get a good price for one, and little or no shipping. I say go for it! You could always sell it.

Mivo
05-31-2016, 04:23 AM
I would go ahead and get it - you'll spend hours agonising about it otherwise. Give it a go and if it's not for you, move it on. If it is for you then brilliant!

You're right, I'd just spend days fretting over this and go in endless circles. If it turns out not to be for me, I'll sell it and the difference in price will have been a worthwhile fee for the experience. I don't really need this, and I think Phil and Geoff are right, this is probably not necessary, but perhaps in the long run I'll really just end up with one soprano and a baritone, as Bill said. Griffis, no, I don't intend to get into the guitar world. That would open a whole new drain for money (classical, steel string, e-guitars...), and even a baritone is bigger than what I originally wanted.

Paid for it, should have it before the weekend. Mostly excited now. :) (No shipping. It's in Germany already and the person who it was originally imported for decided against it because they wanted the cutaway model, so the non-cutaway model would need to be sent back to the US, which made it more economical to sell it at a discount within Europe, especially since taxes had already been paid.)

Pirate Jim
05-31-2016, 05:35 AM
Great stuff, very exciting!

Lori
05-31-2016, 05:46 AM
You're right, I'd just spend days fretting over this and go in endless circles. If it turns out not to be for me, I'll sell it and the difference in price will have been a worthwhile fee for the experience. I don't really need this, and I think Phil and Geoff are right, this is probably not necessary, but perhaps in the long run I'll really just end up with one soprano and a baritone, as Bill said. Griffis, no, I don't intend to get into the guitar world. That would open a whole new drain for money (classical, steel string, e-guitars...), and even a baritone is bigger than what I originally wanted.

Paid for it, should have it before the weekend. Mostly excited now. :) (No shipping. It's in Germany already and the person who it was originally imported for decided against it because they wanted the cutaway model, so the non-cutaway model would need to be sent back to the US, which made it more economical to sell it at a discount within Europe, especially since taxes had already been paid.)
I am sure you will enjoy it. I know going back and forth between different instruments is great fun, and helps you appreciate the differences each instrument offers in tone. It is especially fun to bring it into group playing, since it adds a nice rich low tone that is welcome.
–Lori

1931jim
05-31-2016, 06:43 AM
You're right, I'd just spend days fretting over this and go in endless circles. If it turns out not to be for me, I'll sell it and the difference in price will have been a worthwhile fee for the experience. I don't really need this, and I think Phil and Geoff are right, this is probably not necessary, but perhaps in the long run I'll really just end up with one soprano and a baritone, as Bill said. Griffis, no, I don't intend to get into the guitar world. That would open a whole new drain for money (classical, steel string, e-guitars...), and even a baritone is bigger than what I originally wanted.

Paid for it, should have it before the weekend. Mostly excited now. :) (No shipping. It's in Germany already and the person who it was originally imported for decided against it because they wanted the cutaway model, so the non-cutaway model would need to be sent back to the US, which made it more economical to sell it at a discount within Europe, especially since taxes had already been paid.)

Going round in endless circles, sleepless nights. Congratulations. You are the man. The spruce top will make it sound wonderful. I have only a classical guitar with a spruce top for comparison but I like it very much.

kvehe
05-31-2016, 07:36 AM
Good for you. I was going to say that you should definitely get it, so I'm glad you did.

igorthebarbarian
05-31-2016, 08:56 AM
Good choice. Enjoy it. And if you don't, sell it to another UU'er in Europe.
I do like the idea of downsizing to only one soprano and one baritone (haha though that would be impossible!).
They're different enough voice-wise but let you keep the same fingerings/chord shapes.

Trader Todd
05-31-2016, 10:20 AM
I got my first Baritone about a month ago. I just love that big mellow tone. I say Go For It. Like you said, it can always be re-homed...

MARKbOC
05-31-2016, 03:56 PM
Buy it!

(I assume you wouldn't be asking around here if you wanted boring, conservative advice) :D

hollisdwyer
05-31-2016, 09:14 PM
I think you'll love it Mivo. I have already made a commitment to a new Hoffmann bari and can't wait to get my hands on it. Having been a guitar player for too many decades to mention, I have always loved the sound of larger bodied stringed instruments. Yours will be a nice foil/counterpoint to the Soprano that you love so much. Enjoy, enjoy!

dsummers
06-01-2016, 01:15 AM
Mivo, I am with hollisdwyer- I think you will abosutlety love it! I have 4 baritones (Favilla, Martin, 5 string Boat Paddle D body style, and a Leonard Young)- each are unique in tone in their own right. I really like the sound of a baritone and I can use my old guitar song books!

drbekken
06-01-2016, 03:32 AM
Good to see you stopped thinking, and bought the baritone.

bunnyf
06-01-2016, 07:23 AM
Smart move with the Pono, especially since it was a nice price (tho they are a good value anyway). If you find that it's not your cup of tea, easy to resell. I have a Pono PC, cedar/acacia cutaway, that I absolutely love. I have sold off all my concerts and tenors and split myself between the sop and the Bari (favoring the Bari). if I'm pairing down to just two, it makes sense to me to keep the super small, portable and sweet sounding soprano and the mellow Bari. Why the Bari and not maybe a tenor strung DGBE? Tried it...not even close to being as mellow as the Bari. Why not a parlor guitar or tenor guitar? Tried it...much larger and heavier. My Bari is the perfect compromise, the most mellow sound in the smallest package (and no new skills to learn). I think you'll love it, but you are on this musical journey to find out what YOU love. Good luck with your new Pono. I look forward to hearing how it all works out.

nancyg
06-01-2016, 10:18 AM
Im a little late to this thread, but thought I would chime in. Beware! I bought a Pono baritone NUI 8 months or so ago, and I hardly play my concert, or tenor or banjo uke now. In fact, I am wondering if I belong to the uke fraternity any longer. To make matters worse, it is tuned DGBE. And I have started looking at guitars. So.
Smile Away
Nancy g

Griffis
06-01-2016, 12:49 PM
Griffis, no, I don't intend to get into the guitar world. That would open a whole new drain for money (classical, steel string, e-guitars...)

Wise soul, you. Don't get me wrong--I love guitar, but boy--you think UAS is bad...guitars lead you down a whole path...nylon string? steel string? 12 string? and don't even get me started on electrics...the accessories alone will kill you at the bank...cords, strings, all the mods you get (or at least I got) jazzed up to do--pickup swaps (mmm...I wonder if this set of pickups has a sweeter tone, or more vintage, or more brutal...) new bridges, tuners...and that's leaving aside amps and--god forbid--effects pedals. I literally had a big 5-drawer dresser that was mighty voluminous. It was jam packed with nothing but effects pedals. Yeah, it was a sickness.

If I had back all the money I ever spent on electric guitar and bass gear (possibly also factoring in the acoustic guitars I've owned) I could likely retire to my own private island.

Glad to hear you ordered it and I hope you'll keep us updated!

Griffis
06-01-2016, 12:51 PM
Im a little late to this thread, but thought I would chime in. Beware! I bought a Pono baritone NUI 8 months or so ago, and I hardly play my concert, or tenor or banjo uke now. In fact, I am wondering if I belong to the uke fraternity any longer. To make matters worse, it is tuned DGBE. And I have started looking at guitars. So.
Smile Away
Nancy g

Nooooh! Another victi---um, I mean...nice person who is considering taking up the guitar. It's a trap I tells ya!

warndt
06-01-2016, 02:34 PM
Why would you pick a baritone ukulele over palor/small/tenor guitar? What does it offer that is unique to it? What is its place?

I think you answered your own question.

Mivo
06-01-2016, 05:33 PM
if I'm pairing down to just two, it makes sense to me to keep the super small, portable and sweet sounding soprano and the mellow Bari.

That was the first thing that popped up on my mind, too, but I wasn't really sure whether I was just rationalizing. :) It still makes sense to me, though. For a while, I had tried to find "the one uke", the desert island instrument, but as I experienced more sizes and more ukes, I think I came to realize that this isn't feasible because I cherish mutually exclusive aspects: the sparkling brilliance of the soprano, and the rich, full sound of the bigger instruments. For a span, I thought the concert would offer me this, but perhaps it's too much of a "neither here nor there" solution, and in a way I feel the same way about the tenor, just shifted a bit (both too much like and too much unlike the soprano, if that makes sense).

So I consider just dropping the goal to find the one uke that rules them all and settle (long term) for two that are so different from each other that there is little overlap. It's also why I would prefer to keep the baritone in DGBE, but I have to experience it first and see how I get along with it. Watching videos and listening to performances, the bari is distinctly different from the soprano, but has the richness that I'd like. It's really a nice counter to the soprano (the BB soprano is the only of my ukes that I'm really sure about). It's probably a more sane approach than trying so hard to find just one uke, and keep buying more in the attempt to find that, when two very different ones might just do the trick. But, it could all be UAS-driven rationalizing.

The Pono was shipped yesterday and the tracking page tells me it arrives this morning, in just a few hours. :)

Thanks everyone for your thoughts, really appreciate it!

Mivo
06-02-2016, 12:21 AM
... it arrived.

First thing I did was to order a microfiber cloth, because it's so, so glossy. Very sexy, it's like a mirror! I dread the day I'll ding or scratch it. ;)

It's big. Really big, especially if you have just spent a couple months mostly playing a soprano. I definitely need to figure out how to hold this/etc, and how to best sit with it. I think any bigger and I'd feel it's uncomfortable, but this size is pretty comfortable -- fits my body well. Just feels huge at the moment!

Sound: Woah. Yes, this is what I wanted my tenor to sound like. Sustain is shockingly good, depth, fullness, it's all there. Does it sound like a uke? No, not really, but also not like a guitar, but really, I don't even care, because it sounds good! If I can manage to learn to play this well, I think it's the perfect companion for my Black Bear soprano. They are not at all alike, and I love that, it emphasizes the uniqueness of each of them.

Craftmanship is excellent. Flawless, really. I almost wish it had a few flaws so I fret less about scratches and dings! The arched case is great, too. Ever since I read that flat cases press down on the bridge and how that may damage the tops, I have been wary of my flat cases! Probably irrationally so, but the arched case offers some peace of mind.

I should probably do a proper NUD, and may do so later after some playtime. Just took a quick top-down shot (https://www.dropbox.com/s/mfnzzofr25y780u/pono_baritone_bb_soprano.png?dl=0) together on the bed together with the BB soprano for size comparisons (does not do either justice - bad positioning, bad lighting).

Anyway, first impression: Like a wholly new instrument, love it!

DownUpDave
06-02-2016, 12:36 AM
Wow isn't that great that it got to you so fast. I remember when you ordered the Barron River and you kept me updated on how LONGGGG that took to get through your postal system.

Yes baritones do have a.........ton of tone, guess that's why they are called bari-tone!!!.

A good quality 1-1/2" - 2" wide strap makes playing a baritone much much easier. Congratulations and I am so glad you are happy with it. :music:

Mivo
06-02-2016, 01:07 AM
I'll never forget the postal drama with my Barron River tenor! It got to Germany so fast, and then first the post strike hit, followed by those inflexible clerks at the customs office! Was refreshing that the Pono made it from Berlin to me in about eighteen hours (surprised me, I didn't think it would come before tomorrow).

I'll have to figure out how to properly hold this, but even just sitting there and playing arpeggios is divine. Also shows me how poor my fingers' stretchability is yet -- definitely something to practice. I have a feeling that the baritone will improve my soprano playing, too. Wound strings are odd and new to me. Having two nylon and two wound strings is even more weird, feel-wise. I'll have to experiment some with this.

But yes, it's better than I thought. Thanks for enabling me. :)

Griffis
06-02-2016, 02:49 AM
Why the Bari and not maybe a tenor strung DGBE? Tried it...not even close to being as mellow as the Bari. Why not a parlor guitar or tenor guitar? Tried it...much larger and heavier. My Bari is the perfect compromise, the most mellow sound in the smallest package (and no new skills to learn).

Right on all counts here. After I inherited a 1933 Gibson tenor banjo (since destroyed in a flood) I gravitated towards tenor guitar for a time as well. I tried standard tenor tuning which made the chord voicings jazzier, but I went back to "Chicago" DGBE tuning as I already knew guitar, thus less of a learning curve.

I never truly got on with tenor guitars and banjos as far as playing them myself, though I still think they are very cool instruments. But--steel strings and every one I've played had narrow necks that, for me, didn't lend themselves to fingerpicking, single-note playing and such, at least with my big claws. I see the baritone as the perfect balance between a guitar or tenor guitar and a uke. I guess I consider the bari a "real" uke, but it's the fact it occupies a place between a regular guitar and smaller ukes that I like (also my grandfather and uncle both played baritone uke.) Even though I don't see myself playing the one I have often, I dig the instrument overall.


... it arrived.



Sound: Woah. Yes, this is what I wanted my tenor to sound like. Sustain is shockingly good, depth, fullness, it's all there. Does it sound like a uke? No, not really, but also not like a guitar, but really, I don't even care, because it sounds good! If I can manage to learn to play this well, I think it's the perfect companion for my Black Bear soprano. They are not at all alike, and I love that, it emphasizes the uniqueness of each of them.

Just took a quick top-down shot (https://www.dropbox.com/s/mfnzzofr25y780u/pono_baritone_bb_soprano.png?dl=0) together on the bed together with the BB soprano for size comparisons (does not do either justice - bad positioning, bad lighting).

Anyway, first impression: Like a wholly new instrument, love it!

So happy for you! Very nice pic as well. Both are such beautiful instruments. I hope they bring you many, many years of enjoyment. I have always loved the Black Bears. Never played one, but they are beautiful and, I'm sure, remarkable ukes. If I was ever going to have a uke custom built (which will likely never happen) I reckon I'd go with Black Bear.

Play the heck outta that Pono, man!

Croaky Keith
06-02-2016, 04:25 AM
Baritone - it's a whole new world of fun. ;)

So far, I rest the bit between bouts on my thigh when sitting down, but it tends to swing the headstock out when I play up at the 8th fret, probably just me though. :)

(I'm not sure if I want to fit a strap or not yet.)

Mivo
06-02-2016, 04:34 AM
Yes, I hold it like that, too. Seems to be common and is comfortable for me. I may get a foot stool to make that a healthier posture. (More stuff to buy!) I don't have a strap button on it, and I'm not sure I need one. Not even using a Uke Leash with it so far because it works so well when seated (and I don't see myself playing standing). My soprano has a strap button, but it's small and slippery.

Griffis, the Black Bear is definitely awesome. I never actually thought I'd be able to get one, because he doesn't ship to Europe and doesn't take PayPal, so I didn't expect I'd be able to get one. Then, luckily, YorkSteve from the UK offered his for sale, and I snatched it up. Everything about it is great, and it's much cheaper (even new) than what most luthiers ask.

JackLuis
06-02-2016, 04:52 AM
Mivo:
That Pono is good looking. I had the same size issue with my Big Zebra, the size was so different than my concerts and tenors, but the sound of the Bari is so much nicer than C tuned Ukes, IMHO. I've shifted to Worth Brown Baritone strings, they are not wound at all. It feels better but the sound is a little different.
I did a review of it with the Worths. http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?120664-Caramel-CB-103-The-Big-Zebra-Baritone I can't play more than first position yet but still it sounds good to me.
I did a review of my dGBE Tenors too, I'll be trying re-entrant on the Bari soon. The Worths seem to take long time to set up on the Baritone. It just got stable enough to play without retuning every four hours.

How about a video of your Pono?