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View Full Version : Been playing a lot of baritone uke lately



ichadwick
09-18-2010, 12:20 PM
I had intially dismissed baritone ukes in favour of tenors, but I ended up with a couple and of late I've been playing them a lot more than my tenors. There are just some songs that sound better (to me) in a lower pitch, plus I like the extra fretboard space at times. And I find when I'm noodling with the radio or playing along with some backing tracks, that it's a bit easier for me to find the right notes (I came from 40+ years of guitar playing).

Not that I would ever switch completely, but it IS nice at times to have baritone ukes on hand as well as tenors. And that larger baritone body is full of fat sound....

Pippin
09-18-2010, 01:41 PM
I think that every ukulele ensemble should have one. They fill in the bottom nicely.

Which baritones do you have?

southcoastukes
09-18-2010, 02:08 PM
We have a little different take on the Baritone. Ours has a slightly different body dimension, and we generally set it up with our no wound linear (low 4th) strings. This gives the key of C which seems much more at home here than it does on a tenor. To me, the same holds true for a standard baritone.

P.S. Please don't get the idea that we are against wound strings on the baritone.

SuzukHammer
09-18-2010, 02:50 PM
I got a Jack Johnson music sheet book and what do you know? The scale requires me to go lower.

I just went and checked the musical scale range on the baritone and it goes to G3; so I cross check with the Tenor Low G (G4 to G3) so, how does the baritone give a lower musical range than the Tenor Low G?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stringed_instrument_tunings

My question is: If I just put low G sting on my uke, is it the same as standard baritone low musical scale range? Or does Baritone go even lower than G3?

southcoastukes
09-18-2010, 04:05 PM
Hello Suzuk,

Am not entirely sure I understand your question. The standard Baritone tuning is DGBE (D4), same notes as 1-4 on a guitar. This is as low as is used on an ukulele. The no wound string set we have for Baritone gives GCEA (G4), the same tuning often used as an alternate on tenor ukes, the same tuning used on sopranos, but with the 4th string an octave lower. This is 3 steps higher than the normal baritone uke tuning. Hope that helps?

SuzukHammer
09-18-2010, 07:14 PM
Sorry Southcoast. I changed my post above. Wow. I couldn't even read my post and understand it.

So, what you are saying is that the baritone has a musical note range that is 3 steps lower than the Tenor Low G?

Please understand I am new to strings and selftaught in music theory.

southcoastukes
09-18-2010, 07:59 PM
No problem Suzuk,

Ukuleles are tuned in a lot of ways, not all of which make sense. It takes awhile to get a grip on it.

Baritone tuning is listed with its traditional linear (low 4th) key of G. This is, as you say, 3 steps lower than the key of C. The history of the baritone, however, is that it was developed and promoted as a "junior guitar trainer for little johnny" sort of instrument - very commercial approach. The "guitar tuning" was forced onto an instrument that is only barely capable of handling notes that low - plus the strings have to be so thick on a scale that short that they could never give optimal performance.

That's not to say we don't like the Baritone. If you read on, the Linear Uke page shows how it can be a superb performer in an appropriate tuning. What we suggest is that it performs best in that linear C tuning I beleive you refer to when you speak of "Tenor low 4th". On the 20" scale of a Baritone, you won't need a wound string to pull this off.

For the guitar tuning, (linear G) we have two bigger instruments that easily outperform a baritone.

Pueo
09-18-2010, 11:23 PM
I have been playing a lot of Baritone lately too, and I also come from a guitar background. It was kind of fun because Brain Damage (Pink Floyd) came on the radio today and I grabbed the Baritone and figured it out pretty quickly. I am hoping that playing baritone wil get me to start playing guitar more again and also allow me to more seamlessly switch instruments. Oh yeah, and I like the sound too.

clayton56
09-19-2010, 12:41 AM
I was messing around with mine and got a very nice sound with re-entrant tuning, and all nylon strings. I really like it - it's not trying to be a guitar, it's still a uke, just a mellower one.

I want to do counter melodies with it, duets with soprano uke. Well we'll see. But it's not overly bassy this way, as it was with regular bari strings. And I get to use some of my re-entrant moves and scales instead of just chop chop.

SuzukHammer
09-19-2010, 01:03 AM
What are "counter melodies"?

ichadwick
09-19-2010, 01:47 AM
Which baritones do you have?
A Pono mahogany and a vintage Lyra (which appears to be mahogany). A Jupiter Creek solid body is expected. I am contemplating another, but am not sure which one would offer a distinct sound advantage or difference. Kala acacai? Mainland red cedar?

ichadwick
09-19-2010, 01:50 AM
...we generally set it up with our no wound linear (low 4th) strings.
My Pono came strung with high-D and it appears to be either Worth clear or D'Addaio clear, non-wound strings. Can't recall what the seller told me they were. I strung the Lyra with Martin strings which have wound D & G (low D). The Pono sounds like a uke, the Lyra sounds like a guitar.

ichadwick
09-19-2010, 02:01 AM
...the Baritone tuning is listed with its traditional linear (low 4th) key of G...
The traditional baritone is tuned DGBE, at the same pitch as a guitar, four whole steps lower than other ukes. It can be restrung GCEA, but that's not the standard tuning.

...The history of the baritone, however, is that it was developed and promoted as a "junior guitar trainer for little johnny" sort of instrument - very commercial approach. The "guitar tuning" was forced onto an instrument that is only barely capable of handling notes that low - plus the strings have to be so thick on a scale that short that they could never give optimal performance.
What's your source for that history? Ive never read anything that suggests that. After all, there were already short-scale guitars and tenor/parlour guitars around when the baritone uke was developed. Why re-invent the wheel? I read that it was co-developed with Arthur Godfrey to suit his vocal range. Every vintage ad I've seen for baritone ukes promotes it as a ukulele, not a training guitar.

The strings on my baritones are quite thin. In fact you can use standard guitar strings for baritones - they're hardly thick! And the baris perform beautifully with rich tones and lots of resonance. You can choose either wound or non-wound strings for a baritone, depending on how you like the sound each produces. I have both.

Kimosabe
09-19-2010, 04:38 AM
Perhaps you've seen my work as Reginald Farnsworth at kjorgensen100 on youtube. I play my Bushman baritone often. It has the absolute sweetest sound, and is extremely light. I would recommend one should you be so lucky as to find one. When I compose a song on my tenor, concert or soprano I'll later try it out on the old Bushman baritone and find that it better suits the register of my voice. Oh by the way, Jeff West's Humblebaritonics is a wonderful site to be perused daily.

Pippin
09-19-2010, 05:35 AM
A Pono mahogany and a vintage Lyra (which appears to be mahogany). A Jupiter Creek solid body is expected. I am contemplating another, but am not sure which one would offer a distinct sound advantage or difference. Kala acacai? Mainland red cedar?

Pretty nice collection going there... I was playing the Ohana BK-32 (solid mahogany with tortoise-shell binding) a little while ago. This one has D'Addario baritone strings on it (two wound). Louis Wu sent me this one. It quickly became my favorite bari. If I added anything more, I'd love to have a vintage Martin or a Kamaka ($1050 USD).

Pueo
09-19-2010, 07:24 AM
My baritone was my wife's Grandfather's. Grandma gave it to me when she was cleaning out her house. It is a Hikare, looks like laminate, the label in the soundhole says "Designed in Hawaii, made in Japan." I guess it's from the late 50's early 60's. I just recently cleaned it up and put Aquilas on it, it is DGBE, low D, two wound strings. It does sound very guitar-like, but not as boomy or bass-y if that makes any sense. I like the sound, and I am having fun re-learning the guitar chords that I knew when I was a kid. It's coming back pretty quickly. I also like that I can play ukulele chord shapes and automatically lower the key on songs that are too high for me to sing comfortably, that has been fun too.

kenikas
09-19-2010, 08:29 AM
I've also picked up my bari's more often lately, but after seeing the nice instruments you all have I'm almost embarrased with mine! I have a Sunlite that my brother in law picked up at a garage sale and gave to me that I just finished putting a new set of geared tuners on. It originally had cheap friction tuners that would not hold tune if your life depended on it! I put a set of Aquila GCEA strings with a single wound low g string I got from MGM and it sounds so much better. Still not as loud or as much projection as I think it should have, but I'm hoping that changing out the cheesy plastic nut and saddle for bone will help that. My other is an old Hilo that had been dropped and has a big dent in the lower bout, it's got D'addario DGBE strings and it is nice to sometimes have the lower notes and different sound, but it doesn't get played much (I got it as a lutherie practice victim, but hope to be able to get it to sound better).

lozarkman
09-19-2010, 01:22 PM
Interesting that Baris seem to have a larger audience than I would have thought. I originally started with a Bari because of Guitar background, but then after a year moved to the tenor world and have been playing my tenors for a couple of years. BUT recently I retuned my Bari to GCEA low g, and wow, I love it. Not that I don't really love my tenors, but I find that I am picking up my Bari more and more. Something about the slightly fuller, deeper sound, but still Ukey. I also, for me, find it a bit easier to fret and pick. Anyway, something in the ukes for everyone. Lozark

ichadwick
09-19-2010, 01:42 PM
...made in Japan." I guess it's from the late 50's early 60's.
That would be typical of a lot of instruments of that era. Back then, Japan was seen as the source of bargain-priced lines (for its cheap labour mostly). But as the Japanese quality and labour costs grew, the prices grew in parallel. Soon manufacturers were moving production to Korea or SE Asia. And when these improved and costs increased in the same way, it moved to China. And now China is going through much the same cycle.

Many instruments back then were made in Japan, but finished in Europe or the USA. My Lyra of that era has a stamp inside that says "West Germany" but it was probably made in Japan, with only some final touches added in Germany (like strings and perhaps tuners). The Japanese instruments of that time were quite good, however, and some have a modest fan base online.

cletus
09-19-2010, 01:58 PM
Interesting that Baris seem to have a larger audience than I would have thought. I originally started with a Bari because of Guitar background, but then after a year moved to the tenor world and have been playing my tenors for a couple of years. BUT recently I retuned my Bari to GCEA low g, and wow, I love it. Something about the slightly fuller, deeper sound, but still Ukey.

I kind of got my baritone by chance and circumstance. I had always had an aversion to the bari ukes that I tried out in stores. The 'guitarish' feel and tuning were a big turnoff to me. When I found this Kamaka, I bought it on faith in the name. It sounded plain crappy in traditional bari tuning to me. So, when I found out that I the shop put gCEA Aquilas on it for me, and heard the sound that resulted, I was pretty blown away! Big, throaty voice that sounds like a ukulele.

southcoastukes
09-19-2010, 05:09 PM
Good evening Ian et al,

Hardly know what to say here. The linear key of G is DGBE – GCEA is key of C. I probably should have used the word “heavy” instead of “thick” in referring to the strings. Just the same, whatever strings that are tuned to key of G on a 26” scale (guitar) can’t be tuned to the same key on a scale of 20” (baritone uke).

I think you have the feeling that somehow I was attacking the Baritone Uke. Just the opposite – I am trying to give it a new life. My “source” for the marketing strategy for the Baritone is admittedly somewhat faded memories. The Baritone is about the same age as I am, but it was Arthur Godfrey who convinced me (on early TV) to convince my Dad to get me one – a Harmony. The phrase “every boy should have one” also remains clear, and I was not the only boy in the neighborhood who persuaded his Dad.

I moved onto guitar, then gave up music altogether for awhile. I had moved to Central America, and started seeing a lot of Calypso bands playing Cuatros – somewhat like a Baritone. That got me back into music again, and the first instrument I picked up was another baritone – a Giannini – one of the best instruments I have ever owned.

Curiosity moved me to get a Tenor Guitar (actually several), and immediately I realized the limitations of a Baritone in “guitar” or as they say in the tenor guitar world “Chicago” tuning. I started looking for a way to produce a Tenor Parlour Guitar for classical strings (the old ones are steel strung) and at the same time, I also started looking for new tunings for my beloved Giannini.

These were really most of the genesis of Southcoast Ukes. We succeeded way beyond my expectations. I know there aren’t any other “big giant ukes” around like our Cuatro or Tenor Guitar, but trust me a little bit – in key of G they are just much better performers than a baritone.

What you can do, however, is try a Baritone in linear C tuning – and without wound strings. We make a set for this (and think it’s best), but I am sure there are other ways to do it. This is not to say you shouldn’t enjoy a guitar-tuned baritone. I like to play our long-neck concerts tuned down to key of A. I just like the sound, even though I know it’s not the set-up that shows off the instruments’ full potential.

Remember that the tenor uke was reviled for years as a corporate gimmick. Finally when players found tunings other than the high re-entrant G it was originally marketed with (another guitar based tuning – get the picture?), it began to lose its negative image and gain in popularity. I just think that a similar switch could do the same for the poor, ignored Baritone. Think it’s better in linear C than the Tenor Uke!

lozarkman
09-20-2010, 03:39 AM
Yeah Southcoast, I bought a set of your linears for my Bari, but have been lazy and have not put them on yet. I need to get it done and see if they live up to your High praise for them. I expect they will. If they sound any better than the Aquilas I currently have on it I will be blown away. I will post a thread in a week or so to give my opinion, or would you rather hear it first :) :) Thanks Lozark p s of course remember I am putting them on an inexpensive MK-B, so it will not probably be a fair test for them!!

southcoastukes
09-20-2010, 12:24 PM
Hello Lozark,

I was looking through the orders (just to see how lazy you really are!), and unless you ordered with two different e-mails, the only order I found was for a combo pack of Medium & Heavy Gauge strings. These are for high re-entrant tuning. Depending on how you like your tension, they'll set up between B flat- A for the Medium Gauge and G for the Heavy gauge. These are nice high re-entrant tunings for a Baritone, but won't give you the low 4th.

Do you have a linear set under a secret identity (or did I lose your order e-mail)?

armytrucker77
09-20-2010, 12:34 PM
Im not big on the baritone uke but if you like then keep on keeping on.

lozarkman
09-20-2010, 01:15 PM
No I have the linears. Put them on this morning. I did buy the combo pack but also recently bought the linears. The linears I put on this morning did tune to low 4th and sound very nice. I really do like the clearness of the chords and picking. But they are still settling and will probably be a few days for they settle down. They have a good feel on the fingers as well. Thanks
Lozark Oh yes, I ordered under same name, address, etc as the combo set.

southcoastukes
09-20-2010, 04:40 PM
Hey lozark,

Found the order - not that old and I hadn't "filed" it yet. I'm glad you like the strings.

If I'm not mistaken, we have the only low 4th - key of C set for the 20" (standard baritone) scale. The others I know of try to formulate it for the 17" (standard tenor) scale. The 4th string just doesn't work well there; to get good tension, it's too thick for good response - to get good response it's too thin for good tension. That's why people usually resort to the wound 4th with a Tenor, and then struggle with all the problems that come with a single wound set-up.

By just moving the linear C tuning linear to the 20" scale, the string that was too loose on the 17" scale now gives perfect tension. You don't have to worry about the overtones, imbalanced volume and horrible transition that come with a single wound set-up. Finally, the volume of the Baritone body is better suited to low C than a Tenor.

That's the point I was trying to get to with this thread. Not that you shouldn't play the Baritone as it was first promoted. Just that for all you folks playing a low 4th C tuning on the Tenor: stop fighting that battle and see how sweet life can be when you move that tuning up to the Baritone!

Lozark said it best:

"recently I retuned my Bari to GCEA low g, and wow, I love it. Not that I don't really love my tenors, but I find that I am picking up my Bari more and more. Something about the slightly fuller, deeper sound, but still Ukey. I also, for me, find it a bit easier to fret and pick. Anyway, something in the ukes for everyone. Lozark"