View Full Version : Baritone advice!

04-08-2011, 11:47 PM
Yet another newbie looking for buying advice! I've been saying I wanted to learn guitar for ages. However, I started looking into ukuleles one day at random and really liked everything I read about baritone ukuleles in particular. I'm new to stringed instruments (I sing and play a little flute) and have very tiny hands/fingers, so a uke seems like it would be a better fit for me. I looked at a few in a local Guitar Center; they had a few concerts and a baritone. I really liked the size of the latter while the former just seemed too small to me when I picked them up.

Since I'm just starting out and not sure how well I'll take to stringed instruments, I was looking to start off with something less expensive and upgrading if I really enjoy playing (I hope I do!) I saw several people here speaking well of the Rogue, which is crazy cheap for an instrument in my book, but I also saw a post where it was said it was harder to play because of a wide neck/string spacing. So I wonder if that wouldn't be good for a newbie with small hands.

I also saw a few decent reviews elsewhere for Hilo and Savannah baritones, but couldn't find very much info on them. Makala is on the high end for me price-wise but still a slim possibility. It seems to be sold out most places right now, though.

Any advice would be appreciated! I've been reading up for a few days now and my head is getting pretty turned around at this point :rolleyes:

mm stan
04-09-2011, 01:18 AM
Aloha Dotted,
Welcome to the UU and our forums....Have fun and enjoy it here...Check out Dr uke for songs, chords, and instruction..My advice to you is go in and try all the sizes out...and look for comfortability, playability,
and sound...not essentially in that particularly order...Many beginners start off on a soprano if you do not have any string instrument experience, to me it's easier to play....there are brands of ukes such as Oscar schmidt that has wider string spacing..ask the salesman.. I own 2 rogue baritones and 3 Rogue sopranos..it was my first ukes, I play mine daily ...only problem you have to use adjusted tuning on them to sound
good..they have consistancy tone issues, but if you can tune them by ear, they can sound really good to me...they are my everyday players..for me they don't sound good in the standard GCEA.. If someone can
help you with the tuning the you can write it down, and you can get a digital chromatic tuner clip on..to set it to that settings..I use a cherub WST 550C.. I hope it helps, good luck...Happy Strummings, MM Stan http://www.metronomes.net/CherubChromaticMateWst-550C.htm

04-09-2011, 02:51 AM
If you have small hands and fingers, I would definitely recommend a concert over a baritone. You will get used to the size very quickly. I have sopranos, a concert, a tenor and a baritone. I wear a man's size large glove, but my fingers are short. The easiest uke for me to play is a concert, followed by the tenor.

04-09-2011, 03:25 AM
Best idea is to go to a shop where you can play around with the different sizes. Keep in mind that over the years as you play, your hands will stretch to the sides (not length, obviously), making it easier to reach notes further on the fretboard with your pinky (my left hand can open a full 1" wider than my right because of playing guitar).

Any size uke will be playable - mostly it's practice, practice, practice to get there.

The difference between each scale length is about 2" top to bottom, so the difference in distance between frets on a concert and soprano, or concert and tenor is really not very much. What will affect you more is the width of the fretboard. Smaller ukes have narrower fretboards, which for some means they are easier to play, but others (like me) find them cramped.

I personally prefer tenor with baritone number two (really depends on the song itself). I can play concert, but find soprano a bit too small for comfort. I have average hands.

04-09-2011, 03:40 AM
I have a makala baritone and hardly play it. Mine is tuned dgbe. I think concert ukulele is the easiest to play but regardless, I still like to play the soprano more. I also have a tenor Makala and it has a low G and I don't seem to play that either. Mostly I am picking up the sopranos.

I don't have a rogue but will say that people play guitars which have wide fretboards ... even people with small hands do that. More string spacing will just make it easier in my opinion because it will be easier for example on chords like D to use a finger on each string instead of having to bar them in a group. Or even if you bar them, I think having more room can be an advantage. I can't imagine the string spacing is that wide to cause a problem. So, the rogue wouldn't be such a bad choice. You could also check out the Mahalo 320. I heard it on youtube and it sounded pretty good. WS64 plays a Johnson here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYG8rgrTn3w&feature=related and they cost about the same as the mahalos, about 70 bucks..

I'd sell you my Makala baritone but it has a case and I would want to sell that with it. Its hardly been played and I put Martin strings on it. I have too many ukuleles around here.

04-09-2011, 04:02 AM
I doubt you'll beat this deal for a beginner's baritone. Demo, $69 with $10.50 shipping. Lifetime guarantee.


04-09-2011, 05:47 AM
I played the Oscar Schmidt baritone (as shown above) and that is a very good deal. It played and sounded very nice and I would have bought it but chose the spruce top version (OU53S).

04-09-2011, 09:50 AM
My advice to you is go in and try all the sizes out...and look for comfortability, playability,
and sound...not essentially in that particularly order.

Hi Dotted

I totally agree with stan. Where are you located? Is there a decent music store near you? (I am not talking about Guitar Centers etc). You should hold in your hands different-sized ukuleles.

I may be over-simplifying but, there are soprano, concert, tenor and baritone. The first three (s/c/t) are usually tuned GCEA, while baritones are usually tuned DGBE. Many ukulele instruction books/DVDs are written assuming you have soprano/concert/tenor. In that sense, it is easier to learn on s/c/t.

The place you visited didn't have a concert or a tenor, and I urge that you find them and try. Asking a salesperson...... It depends. Many have no clue when it comes to ukulele, sadly.

When you are ready to buy, keep in mind that playability and basic set-up is very important for a beginner. If a ukulele is poorly set-up, it is not fun to play and can discourage you. It can be hit or miss on lower price ukuleles, and you should exect to spend $20 - $30 to get one set-up properly. That itself is not a big deal, but you want a store who knows something abut ukuleles.

Or, you can do on-line shopping. I like MusicGuyMike http://stores.ebay.com/Musicguymics-Room/ as he only sends out a ukulele after it is properly set-up. Drop him a note. He does not always list inexpensive ukuleles in his e-Bay store.

Good luck - this forum is a great place to get answers, and you will meet great friendly people here!


04-09-2011, 10:42 AM
It was actually sopranos they didn't have, oddly enough! I should try out a tenor though, as that was the sound I liked the best after the baritone, particularly when strung with a low g. (I've been watching/listening to LOTS of YouTube videos.) I know the baritone is strung differently than the other sizes of ukes, but as much as I love the sound of them, I think it would be worth the extra bit of learning curve.

I live in the L.A. and was planning to stop by the Fretted Frog today. It looks like they're a really good shop and excellent for things like setting up a new instrument.

Huna, I'm a little tempted by your Makala too, even with the case. So many choices!

Please keep the suggestions coming!

04-09-2011, 11:51 AM
Are you saying you want to play a Baritone with standard tuning, or because of it's size and sound? Just want to be sure you know you can buy GCEA string set designed for baritone!

04-09-2011, 11:57 AM
Baritone with standard tuning, I'm pretty sure. I do know GCEA is an option though.

04-09-2011, 12:43 PM
...you can buy GCEA string set designed for baritone!
True, but the string tension is MUCH greater than the DGBE tuning. Strings are not as flexible and are harder on the fingers than standard tuning.

04-09-2011, 12:45 PM
I've never been there, but someone mentioned Larry Larson Music in Glendale.


04-09-2011, 04:50 PM
Went to the store and tried out all of the sizes (as much as someone with know idea what they're doing can try out an instrument) and the baritone still felt the best holding it, although the tenor wasn't bad either. The guy at the shop also gave me a 3/4 classical guitar to hold to compare and that felt WAY too big. Small person obviously needs small instrument :)

So a tenor (with low g stringing) isn't out of the question but I'm still really drawn to the baritone the most.

04-09-2011, 05:12 PM
Hi Dotted

> I'm still really drawn to the baritone the most

If so, by all means, you should get a baritone. And I *think* if you get a set specially designed for a baritone to be tuned to GCEA, the tension would be about the same so you do have an option of GCEA or stay with DGBE.

Also kig kudos for the store. If they know enough to bring out a 3/4 guitar for you to compare, I give them a high mark for knowledge and customer care. Forget what I said about salesperson. This store deserves your business!

A while ago, I played a Kamaka Baritone (at Music Emporium in Lexington MA) and that was a sweet ukulele. For $1295, I am tempted.....


04-09-2011, 05:32 PM
Small person obviously needs small instrument :)
I don't buy that rationale. There are many small children playing full-sized guitars with apparently no issues. (Just go to youtube and search for Korean child guitar.)

But get whatever it is that you want. I also play guitar and find I like tenor ukes the best. Many consider baris to be too guitar-like.

04-09-2011, 06:11 PM
That was meant to be more tongue-in-cheek :) But I definitely do feel more comfortable with the larger ukes than the guitar.

04-09-2011, 07:00 PM
I have a Lanikai LU-21B Baritone and it is an AMAZING instrument (though I ended up buying a soprano too, which I prefer.) Here's a couple buying tips:

1- Amazon has this thing going on that lets you save $40.00 off your purchase if you apply for an Amazon Visa card. They also offer free 2-day shipping if you sign up for an Amazon Prime 30-day free trial. I paid less than $70.00 for my baritone (brand new) and got it 2 days later. You just have to remember to cancel the Prime membership within 30 days, or else they'll charge you $80.00 for the year. I haven't cancelled the Visa card yet, as I'm not sure if there is a down-side to doing so.

2- If buying from an actual store, be sure to haggle! Guitar shops (well, all shops really) will always mark up the merchandise. There's almost always a discount available but you HAVE to ask (they can't legally advertise below a certain amount (the "MAP", which i believe is "minimum advertised price) but, when asked, they can give you the "real" amount that they're willing to accept for an instrument. You will probably annoy them, but it's totally worth it. Also, if you see an instrument online for a lower price (has to be new, and can't be from a site like ebay) they will often match it. If you're willing to be annoying, you will be much less annoyed by the price :)

04-09-2011, 09:38 PM
I actually already did the Amazon CC deal previously when I needed a new scanner. But I'll definitely keep the haggling thing in mind, thank you!

04-11-2011, 05:18 PM
I've been thinking things over for a few days and I'm not really sure if I'd be getting myself in over my head with a baritone. As much as I like them, I know I have to keep in mind that I don't actually know anything about string instruments and my impulse/instincts might not be the best thing to listen to here.

I was sort of considering a tenor as well now and was wondering if you more experienced players would recommend a tenor over a baritone for a beginner...

04-11-2011, 10:15 PM
I would. I have had three baritones, and currently have one and two tenors; one re-entrant and one in linear tuning. I also have two concerts, one a long scale. Probably my long scale concert is the best fit. I have big hands for an average size woman, but also have arthritis, CTS on and off, and broke my right hand and left ring finger, so for me less stretch is better. I love the baritone, but my tenor in linear tuning is a bit more ukey and a lot easier to reach on. Two inches difference in scale length can be a lot for old sore fingers. I also love the bari (actually the hubby's) because it has non wound tenor strings on it tuned to A.

Also you will have to learn baritone chords if you want to do it "right" in DGBE tuning, they are different from C tuning the other sizes use. The advantage to a bari is you can play a lot of guitar stuff written on the top 4 stings. The disadvantage is they aren't standard uke chords.

HOWEVER! You can mess around with a cheaper baritone for awhile and then decide later, and you will have a valid reason to get a nice tenor when you get some time with the instrument and know what else you might be looking for. I would argue that two ukes are a minimum, as there are songs I always want to try that are written for linear tuning and there's all the huge selection for re-entrant. The bari would be your linear tuned uke; the tenor, concert or whatever your re-entrant. The smaller uke would be more natural with that high 4th string.

The nice thing about baritones is you can change the sound a lot with different strings. The thing I did NOT like about them is the wound 3rd and especially the 4th strings usually don't blend well with the top two. (Plus they squeak). A classical guitar doesn't have wound strings on the top three.

Here's a quote from the late John Kavanagh, I surely miss him. He was quite the expert on the baritone, which he played exclusively.

I've restrung five or six baritones this year for students, and several others in the past. They all wanted the same tuning I use on my baritone, which is about as high as you can go on a bari - ad'f#b'. But I experimented on them while I had the chance. With the original strings on, I liked most of them better tuned up to A or Bb. With lighter strings, they made more convincing low4th ukes than most tenors, in C or D tuning. More even response, none of that drony, "doesn't blend" problem with the 4th string.

If you go with the bari you can always get a tenor later. You think now that you will be stuck with just the one, but you have yet to experience UAS, lol. In a few months you will probably have been charmed by several sopranos, look around at your herd and wonder what the heck happened? ;)

04-11-2011, 10:49 PM
One of my biggest frustrations with the baritone, which I love so very very much, is that most tutorials, tabs and such aren't written for bari ukes and I have to transpose them and address the linear tuning as Teek mentioned. Fortunately I also have a tenor (truth be told I have 2 tenors and like 7 bartiones - I lost count). If you think you are going to be playing along with the UU lessons or ukehunt's lessons or something like that, you'd be wise to get yourself the tenor now. I hate to say it, but its good advice. Get familiar with cords and strumming and have a few songs under your belt.

When you're comfortable with that, the rest will probably go something like this: you will most likely feel a ceaseless gnawing on your wallet and 5 to 7 business days later a brown truck will appear at your door with your first baritone which will most likely be a solid rosewood/cedar Mainland baritone.

mm stan
04-12-2011, 01:20 AM
I currently own 5 baritones.. I like then for their rich and deep tones. also I prefer to learn new styles and songs on them first then go to the smaller sizes ukes...because it is louder and you
can hear all the tones better,,,good for fingerpicking too...as for learning how to tune by ear for the same reasons stated before...also it has a wider fretboard for the beginner or guitar convert
such as me....Hope it helps..Happy Strummings..MM Stan

04-12-2011, 06:01 AM
Now I'm really wishing I'd jumped on the red Makala tenor that MGM had on eBay :( I sent him a message about it but that was before I found out that he was dealing with health problems. After seeing so many recommendations for his eBay store on here, I'd been looking at what he had in stock. I really wish him the best; it's really stuck out how much he means to this community.

I am watching the light blue tenor he has listed, though. I just liked the red one a lot better.

04-12-2011, 06:46 AM
The Baritone doesn't have to be a hindrance when paying Uke music. You can tune one gCEA, like other Ukes. Aquila makes strings specific to the baritone to accomplish this. I tried it, and it sounded good, but it didn't suit me. I ended up using the standard baritone tuning, but with a high d. I can play any Uke tabs, but they are just in a lower key. If i play along with others, I just learn the chords I need on the baritone. Or, I can capo it at the 5th fret, and play Uke tabs and chords in the same key as soprano or tenor Ukes. I am finding it to be very versatile so far. I did play a tenor for my first year of Uking, and i liked it a lot. I only have limited time to practice though, and I want to concentrate on just one fretboard size for now. The baritone just suits me better, as far as the sound, and size.

The best thing about all this? You are going to play a Ukulele! You really can't go wrong!

take care,


04-12-2011, 08:04 AM
It sounds like there might not be online tutorials for learning ukulele on baritones in standard DGBE tuning, though? I haven't had a chance to do a thorough search, but didn't find any yet.

04-12-2011, 08:22 AM
Baritone and other ukes are identical for chords except it just sounds 5 half steps lower and the names change, so all you would have to do is use a chord chart for Baritone and convert the chords if you wanted it to sound similar. If you really think you like the deeper tone of the baritone, you should get it. Otherwise, if you get the tenor, you will just hurry up and get a baritone anyways. Basically it sounds a lot more pitch wise like a guitar because it it tuned the same. (as the lower four strings) so you can just use guitar tutorials lol. or guitar tab or chords... or on doctor uke, theres tons of baritone stuff. too much thinking going on and not enough playing ;)

04-12-2011, 08:47 AM

You have received some excellent feedback. This is my perspective and I have to admit, I'm slightly biased. At last count we had 20 baritones in our ukulele collection. These are made up of vintage and new(ish) instruments. We play professionally, and I perform on baritones only. I usually switch between two Pono baritones--one tuned GCEA (low g tuning) and one tuned gCEA (high G or re-entrant tuning) Depending on the selection, which is made up of Jazz and Swing standards of the 20's-50's, I make my choice. Each one is amplified with a Mi-Si/L.R.Baggs pickup system. I use Southcoast Ukulele strings.

Now, I am a big guy and I like the freedom that a baritone fretboard affords me, but it's not like there's miles between frets. My wife is smaller framed and enjoys playing a baritone as well. She plays an Oscar Schmidt OU55CE which happens to have the widest neck of any baritone I have ever played. She also like the tenor and with her smaller hands is able to navigate its fretboard with fair ease.

And here is really what I want to emphasize: Of all the baritones in our collection, not one, not a single one, is tuned DGBE or dGBE. Not one. I don't want to transpose a bunch of music that we already play or have to swap chord positions back and forth. That would be a big hassle. So, I play my baritones like any other ukulele. They sound wonderful and I can pick up any one in the collection and get right to playing.

Obviously, any choice you make will bring you great joy because as engravetom stated above: "You are going to play a Ukulele! You really can't go wrong!"

And I couldn't agree more.

Good luck with your journey,


04-12-2011, 09:18 AM
Mike, if you used D'Addario Classical Strings, could you get it tuned to GCEA? I was wondering how that would work out.

04-12-2011, 10:37 AM
Thanks for your advice, everyone. I went ahead and pulled the trigger on the Oscar Schmidt baritone that was recommended on the first page. I figured if they accepted my offer, than it was meant to be :)

Now I just need to get it and learn how to make non-horrible sounds come out!

mm stan
04-12-2011, 10:43 AM
Thanks for your advice, everyone. I went ahead and pulled the trigger on the Oscar Schmidt baritone that was recommended on the first page. I figured if they accepted my offer, than it was meant to be :)

Now I just need to get it and learn how to make non-horrible sounds come out!
Check out Dr uke for baritone stuff....happy Strummimgs....mm Stan

04-12-2011, 10:47 AM
congratulations! now you should have fun

04-12-2011, 10:49 AM
Very cool!

Welcome to the World of UAS.


04-12-2011, 10:51 AM
I have a few too many *AS at the moment, so any more ukes will wait until I learn to play and have more room :)

04-12-2011, 11:10 AM


Welcome to the baritone band wagon! It is gathering steam!


04-12-2011, 06:38 PM
Check out Dr uke for baritone stuff....happy Strummimgs....mm Stan

mm stan,
I just checked out Dr. uke's site. What a gem! Particularly like this page: http://www.doctoruke.com/theory.html


Sorry , a little off topic.

04-13-2011, 02:04 PM
Great start on getting a Baritone. If you stay with DGBE tuning, then just use the plethora of guitar song chord websites such as 'ultimate guitar tabs archive' where you can play the songs without any transposing.


You can download a great chord sheet from the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain website


Your new bari uke might need some new strings. I recommend Worth Browns, as they are all non-wound, and sound great.

Welcome to the growing band of Bari-uke players.