View Full Version : What's your experience with lute like ukes?

12-31-2011, 07:42 AM
I'm making some advances in learning Renaissance pieces on the uke.

They sound nice on an Ohana concert, the kind with the riptide like hole that allows the player to hear better, and they sound nice on my Kanilea K-1. I also have a nice little Kala spruce/lacewood soprano and they sound good.

Will an Ohana Vita or a Mid-east baroqulele make much of a difference. I'm what I'd call an intermediate player. I can play a lot from Mark Nelson's great picking book. thanks

01-01-2012, 05:51 AM
O.K. kimo,

Here’s a totally, totally unbiased view on the best way to go.

First, get a Southcoast Baritone Ukulele. This is not the Baritone made to be Little Johnny’s Junior Guitar, but the one built like an ukulele – light construction, light bracing, etc. Actually, it’s built pretty much like a Cuatro, so you could get one of those as well. Just the same, you’d be safer with the Southcoast. There are Ukuleles masking as Cuatros and too many Cuatros are badly made (not all, of course, by any means). But on top of that, as Cuatro playing is mostly about serious heavy strumming, the action is often pretty high compared to an ukulele.

The reason I make this suggestion is that the Renaissance Guitar was not much bigger than a Baritone Ukulele. When it had 4 strings, the tuning was actually linear G, like a Baritone. Back then, strings were gut – maybe loaded gut for the low notes, and I think both construction technique and string technology have changed the game a bit since then.

The Cuatro is acknowledged to be the most direct descendant of the Renaissance Guitar. It predates the Ukulele by around 400 years. To me the present day low re-entrant Cuatro tuning gives a sound very appropriate to Renaissance works. Chording is the same as with an ukulele (the old “standard ukulele” key of D tuning), although picking will be different since with a Cuatro set-up, you have both a low 4th & a low 1st string.

If you just want to try it out, you can always give it a whirl on a regular Baritone. Those are overbuilt for that sort of stringing, but just the same, they’ll likely sound better with Cuatro strings than Baritone strings, as the range of notes in a Cuatro set-up is a better fit for a Baritone sized body.

For strings, get the Southcoast Cuatro String set. It’s a better performing string set than you could get in Venezuela (I told you there was no bias here). If you get both the Southcoast Baritone and put the Southcoast Cuatro strings on it, as soon as you string it up, you’ll sound exactly like the Venezuelan maestro Leonardo Lozano (or maybe even better). I set up a download from his “Cuatro en Musica Renesantista” here:


The album was issued in Japan and is now out of print. Drop me an e-mail if you’d like to hear more. Good luck on the wonderful music you’re learning, and Happy New Year!

01-01-2012, 06:34 PM
Thank you for your kind and informative reply. I went on line and looked at your baritone and read about it. It would be great if I could sell a beautiful Road Toad black limba semi-hollow bass, Then I could afford it. For someone with small hands, isn't it harder to stretch the pinky three frets below the other notes of a chord? That's why I often use a concert just to make the stretches.

Coincidentally, I had just recently ordered a set of your Cuartro strings and look forward to putting them on my beloved Bushman baritone. I already have some of your strings on my other ukes. You're the best. I didn't realize you make instruments. Thank for the Leonado Lozano. I'm going to listen again.

01-01-2012, 06:53 PM
Will an Ohana Vita or a Mid-east baroqulele make much of a difference. I'm what I'd call an intermediate player. I can play a lot from Mark Nelson's great picking book.
IMO, no.

I have a Mid-east baroqulele and it's nothing but a novelty uke made to look like it's something it's not. It's half decently made for what it is, although I think the bridge is pretty cheezy. It's cute, but its design does not contribute anything to playability or improved sound for Renaissance/Baroque music. In fact, the rounded bowl back makes it nearly impossible to hold without it sliding all over your lap, even with a strap.

BTW, have you seen the recent "Lute to Uke" book? Definitely worthwhile.


01-01-2012, 07:18 PM
I suspected that that might be the case with the Baroquele.

I love the Tony Mizen lute/uke book and have memorized the first four pieces. Beautiful.

I also just ordered the Rob MacKillop Spanish baroque uke book.

Have you any experience with the Vita uke?

01-01-2012, 07:29 PM
I think you're really going to like MacKillop's Sanz book. :)

I have no experience with the Vita, but suspect that its shape is just another novelty, independent of whatever sound qualities it may have, and I've seen some pretty positive comments in that regard.

01-01-2012, 09:23 PM
The Ohana Vita on the other hand is not just a novelty.
Among people who have played one, it is widely agreed that it's one of the best ukes in terms of sheer tone.
The shape gives it a different tone to a normal figure-8 shaped uke, and it truly is built to be a splendid acoustic instrument.
The solid spruce top sings out really bright and loud, and with Aquila nylguts, it certainly has a renaissance feel. Comfortable to hold, comfortable to play - certainly a very high recommendation from me.

It is great for both finger picking and strumming, a quality not common for ukes in its price range.

01-02-2012, 02:32 AM
I have an original Vita Uke (Harmony). It's one of my favorites. As kissing writes, the pear shape, spruce top and double sound holes make for a unique sound ...bright and loud, too, as kissing also writes. I like Aquilas on mine, as well. It's not lute like however.

01-02-2012, 05:31 AM
thanks to all of you for your time and concern--kimosabe

01-10-2012, 10:38 AM
I like the "lute-like" shape for ukes simply because it throws off expectations. When you bring out a Baroqulele, a Teardrop, or a Vita uke, people are less likely to mention "Tiptoe through the Tulips". Most people don't even know that you can play classical, renaissance, and baroque music on an ukulele.

My favorite is my Favilla Teardrop. In fact, it is my favorite ukulele - period. It has good volume, wonderful tone, and great intonation. I have a mix of Aquila Nylgut and Worth strings on it now, but I am going to go to all Worths. I have nothing bad to say about this uke. It is everything I ever wanted.

I agree with some of the comments on the Baroqulele. I have an intonation problem on mine (a concert) on the 2nd fret of the 3rd string (C string). I have to detune the open C or the D fret will be sharp enough to throw me off. I also think that the round back causes you to lose some resonance that you get with a flat back. However - I do find that the Baroqulele can be very expressive. I can get better tremolo and vibrato effects with it than I can with some others.

My most recent "lute-like" uke is a "Maestro" tenor, which I have also seen sold as a "Santini". It is shaped like the Vita uke with F-holes. It is not as loud as I would have liked, but I need to replace the strings and that may make it better. I did get it very cheap. I am planning to use it to play Low-G tabs. All my other ukes are tuned high-G except my baritone.

01-10-2012, 10:41 AM
I apologize for this digression, but "lute like uke" must be almost impossible to say five times fast.

01-10-2012, 12:21 PM
I also think that the round back causes you to lose some resonance that you get with a flat back.

I thought that it was supposed to be the other way around - the round back is supposed to preserve some resonance that the flat back loses.

At least that's Ovation's logic behind their flatback guitars (and ukes)... though to be honest... they're not particularly resonant acoustic instruments in my opinion..