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View Full Version : NUUD: Lichty Baritone with a Twist



Rakelele
08-12-2017, 11:17 PM
I have been looking for a custom baritone for a long time, and Jay Lichty was on the list of luthiers I wanted to try, so when this one popped up for sale, I felt lucky. Not just was it offered at a reduced price for being used, but its previous owner was none other than Ukulele Ambassador Kimo Hussey. A uke with a "Huss-tory", so to speak.

You can tell this instrument was played a lot, as there are several playmarks on the top, most of them right where the soundhole usually would be. I guess a regular centric soundhole does have its purposes, apart from just projecting. However, the design of this uke - Jay calls it a "Modified Baritone" he named after his dog "Ziggy" - is a mere stroke of genius. Instead of a centered soundhole, it has a slot on each shoulder, expanding both onto the soundboard and the sides. This enlarges the vibrating area of the soundboard and moves the ports to a spot where the sound can emanate both frontally as well as upwards and downwards. Virtually, there is music all around you. As a matter of fact, to me, this seems to work even better than those side ports you see more frequently on ukes these days, as the upper slot is pointing right at my face when I sit on a chair playing the uke in my regular position, at a slight upward angle.

The sound is just what I was hoping for: full, deep and rich with great clarity, very much like a classical guitar. Here is a sound sample by one of my favorite players, Neal Chin:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QaJAMHLyXbg
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QaJAMHLyXbg

The Spruce top is amazing, the bearclaw marks pop out like 3D as you turn the instrument in the light. Same goes for the Cocobolo back and sides. Here are some of Jay's own photos:

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Some more pictures and a little back story about the build can be found on Jay Lichty's website:
http://lichtyguitars.com/2016/05/04/modified-baritone-ukulele-in-the-making-u106/

dkcrown
08-13-2017, 01:46 AM
Congrats on your beautiful new baritone. And what a pedigree!

Ukulele Eddie
08-13-2017, 02:41 AM
Congrats, Rainer. Your search for a special baritone is finally complete. What a gorgeous sounding and looking instrument. The top really is stunning. It's readily apparent that Neal is enjoying making music with this very special instrument, as I'm sure will for many, many years to come.

Osprey
08-13-2017, 04:12 AM
Congratulations! That's a super looking and sounding Baritone. Great playing as well.

Mezcalero
08-13-2017, 04:43 AM
I had my eye on that one Rainer. If the scale had been longer it would probably be with me now :) I already have a couple of 19" scale baritones and they are a lot of fun to play. I was curious about the sound holes, and it sounds like besides being a fantastic looking design idea, they are very functional as well.

I am glad to hear you're happy with Ziggy. You'll have to play a song for David Bowie on her :)

lfoo6952
08-13-2017, 05:04 AM
Congratulations Rakele. It sounds lovely.

Rakelele
08-13-2017, 08:08 AM
I had my eye on that one Rainer. If the scale had been longer it would probably be with me now :) I already have a couple of 19" scale baritones and they are a lot of fun to play. I was curious about the sound holes, and it sounds like besides being a fantastic looking design idea, they are very functional as well.

Thanks, Kevin. Good to know others were interested in this rather unique ukulele, too. By the way, the scale on this is more like 20.5", I just measured (518 mm). I think this scale length works perfect for DGBE tuning, along with the broader body shape. This really helps with the guitar-like sound, something that could probably not be accomplished so well with a 19" scale. Therefore, a longer scale was an important point in my search for the perfect baritone. I think, this one is it for me.


I am glad to hear you're happy with Ziggy. You'll have to play a song for David Bowie on her :)
I was thinking more like Ziggy Marley... :cool:

southcoastukes
08-13-2017, 11:46 AM
Congratualtions, Rak! Jay certainly produces innovative designs and the materials look beautiful as well.

Do I understand you now have it tuned d g b e' ? If so, what made you decide to "tune down"?

Nickie
08-13-2017, 12:11 PM
Wow, congratulations! That is one fine lookin' uke. Very unusual, I bet there's not another like it.

sam13
08-13-2017, 12:54 PM
Congrats Rainer.

Neil Chin shows off that beauty in a fabulous way.

Enjoy.

Doc_J
08-13-2017, 01:47 PM
Excellent addition to your ukes Rainer. I was drawn to that Lichty baritone also. It sounds amazing.

Rakelele
08-14-2017, 05:48 AM
Do I understand you now have it tuned d g b e'? If so, what made you decide to "tune down"?

You mean because Kimo Hussey mentions that for him, the sweet spot was at Bb? I wanted G tuning all along and have consulted with Jay if it could be done, which he answered positively. When the instrument arrived, it was tuned to G just like I wanted, and it sounded so rich this way that I never bothered to try any higher tuning. I think the slightly longer scale, the wider body, and the enlarged surface of the soundboard work very well with G tuning.

mmfitzsimons
08-14-2017, 09:54 AM
What a special ukulele!! Congratulations!!!!!!!

southcoastukes
08-14-2017, 12:35 PM
You mean because Kimo Hussey mentions that for him, the sweet spot was at Bb?

Hey Rak - thanks for the reply.

No, not really just because Kimo liked it tuned there, but because on Jay's site he mentioned "g to g" (think he might have meant "f to g") tuning as his "target". And he had also mentioned it was to be a "nylon string uke" (don't know if he truly meant "nylon" specifically, or just "non wound" strings).

I remember when this was first built; we were the only ones I knew of who had built a "hybrid" (as Kimo calls it) with this general intention. And so at first glance, while the visuals on this are what draw remarks, the fact that the most important element, the sound, was going to be different was of most interest to me. And of course the sound sample from Shawn is dramatically different than the orginal samples still on Jay's site.

The combination of a body a touch wider and a touch shallower than typical makes sense with a higher pitched tuning. The slightly longer scale (20 1/8" is common on most modern instruments) makes sense if you're going with plain strings; that extra bit of length could firm up the tension.

That's not to say there's anything about your instrument that would indicate it couldn't be tuned down to match the tradtional sound of a Baritone. What I really wondered is if you had tried it in it's orginal tuning and thought that Jay had perhaps missed his "target". At any rate, you've got a fine instrument that suits you. And because of heavy construction on a lot of Baritones, tunings higher than the traditional linear G sometimes don't work out too well. At least you know if you decide to try going back to the original set-up you certainly won't have that problem.

Congratulations again!

Rakelele
08-15-2017, 10:02 AM
Hey Rak - thanks for the reply.

No, not really just because Kimo liked it tuned there, but because on Jay's site he mentioned "g to g" (think he might have meant "f to g") tuning as his "target". And he had also mentioned it was to be a "nylon string uke" (don't know if he truly meant "nylon" specifically, or just "non wound" strings).

I remember when this was first built; we were the only ones I knew of who had built a "hybrid" (as Kimo calls it) with this general intention. And so at first glance, while the visuals on this are what draw remarks, the fact that the most important element, the sound, was going to be different was of most interest to me. And of course the sound sample from Shawn is dramatically different than the orginal samples still on Jay's site.

The combination of a body a touch wider and a touch shallower than typical makes sense with a higher pitched tuning. The slightly longer scale (20 1/8" is common on most modern instruments) makes sense if you're going with plain strings; that extra bit of length could firm up the tension.

That's not to say there's anything about your instrument that would indicate it couldn't be tuned down to match the tradtional sound of a Baritone. What I really wondered is if you had tried it in it's orginal tuning and thought that Jay had perhaps missed his "target". At any rate, you've got a fine instrument that suits you. And because of heavy construction on a lot of Baritones, tunings higher than the traditional linear G sometimes don't work out too well. At least you know if you decide to try going back to the original set-up you certainly won't have that problem.

Congratulations again!

Thanks for adding your thoughts Dirk. I wondered what Jay meant by tuning "g to g", and your assumption that he meant "f to g" makes total sense to me now. Or perhaps he meant tuning between G and Bb? This is the range he recommended to me. Anyway, I'm so happy with DGBE for now that I won't try other tunings soon, but I'm glad to know that higher tunings would work well, too. I might be interested in trying different strings for DGBE though...

Rakelele
08-15-2017, 10:06 AM
By the way, I just found a video of Jay Lichty playing this very instrument in his workshop:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Il_sD77vWI
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Il_sD77vWI

Ukulele Eddie
08-15-2017, 10:28 AM
By the way, I just found a video of Jay Lichty playing this very instrument in his workshop:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Il_sD77vWI
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Il_sD77vWI

Such a beautiful instrument, Rainer! For anyone not familiar with Jay, not only is he a talented luthier, he is an amazing musician and composer. Plenty of sound samples on his site. I highly recommend checking them out.

DownUpDave
08-15-2017, 11:54 AM
Rainer sorry I am late to the party but congratulations on an outstanding baritone. Jay is on my list of "must own" so I was very pleased to see you got this wonderful instrument. It looks and sounds fantastic.

Rakelele
08-20-2017, 09:12 PM
Thanks everyone! Dave, I'm looking forward to seeing and hearing your own custom baritone soon.

Dirk, I did tune up to FBbDG and it worked very well. But still, for me, the magic is at DGBE. So sonorous!

southcoastukes
08-23-2017, 05:00 PM
Hey Rak,

The video you found sounds a lot more like the audio samples Jay posted. But there's an interesting difference. It sounds like he has plain strings on with the audio on site samples. It's pretty clear that while he kept the same B flat tuning in the video, if he didn't change out the strings completely, he at least has a wound 4th. So maybe he didn't feel he hit a bulls eye, or maybe when he made that video he was just trying out something else to see where it went. It's a bit "sharper" sound, for sure.

This is the kind of thing that happens when you build a rather new form of instrument and have a "target". You may hit it first time out, or maybe not. When you have a situation like Jay does, where most of the variables are known, you have a pretty good chance of hitting the mark the first time. We're working with a new builder at the moment, and there are a lot more variables. We have a very specific target for both pitch & sound and our 4th (and should be, final) prototype is just getting underway.

But I notice Jay gave you a "range" of pitch to try. I know you said you liked G tuning, but just for a bit of reference, here's what I hear.

First, you mentioned you "tuned up" to B flat. That may or may not have been a good idea based on what sort of strings you have. It would appear Shawn restrung it. Strings with even somewhat firm tension in G tuning would be pretty taut in B flat. If that were the case, not only would the strings not be at their best, but if the bracing is as light as I would guess, you may have "locked up" the soundboard, compromising the sound in two ways.

I'm not here to hawk strings, this is just an instrument that merits comment. But I'll simply couch what I would do in terms of strings I'm familiar with. I'd string it with a set of our LHL-WBs. That set on your scale will generally perform best roughly in between G and B flat tuning (you might be able to come up with something similar). So in that case, you wouldn't be too taut in B flat nor too loose in G. And if Jay gave you that range, it might be logical to assume that an A tuning (right in the middle) would be well worth listening to.

But unless there is some sort of group play mandate with this instrument, I wouldn't use fixed notes at all. Simply tune with a variety of strings without reference to the best combination of sound & feel. You might still end up with G tuning, but this is how you really find (as Kimo says) the "sweet spot". And even if you need fixed tuning on occasion, if you find your sweet spot is indeed around an A tuning, a set of strings that works well there could go down to G tuning for occasional group play without much compromise. Certainly not enough for the lesser demands of group play sound. Two steps is pretty much always too much (sometimes even dangerous).

Just a guess, but my guess is that splitting the difference in those two sound samples would be awfully nice.

Rakelele
08-24-2017, 07:09 AM
Dirk, thanks again for adding your knowledge. I was indead going to ask you about which of your string sets you think would work, so I appreciate your comment on this very much. I will definitely try them.