View Full Version : Cracking the Baritone Code

10-09-2013, 02:29 AM
I tried and tried, but can not get used to a "low" bottom string....
I used to play classical guitar and accounted for three "low" strings in various pieces of music. But now I've locked into the groove of having a chiming open string that insinuates itself into melodies, adding a pleasing ambiguity to proceedings. So I use re-entrant tuning on soprano, concert and tenor.
Anyway... I bought a baritone to experience that end of uke world. I kept it in low D tuning to maintain its "bass-i-ness", and for six months tried to adapt myself to it's needs. It never felt right. Tonight I replaced the low D of an all plain Living Water DGBE set with a LW "E" string from a tenor set to create a re-entrant dGBE set ( I know Ken offers such a set too).
Whooo! welcome home!! Like slipping into a warm bath. I don't feel like I'm trying to fit into the uke now, I'm just playing. It has a great deep, resonant voice, while still being "uke-like". I've only really lost a few low notes. I'm aware of all the other tuning possibilities, but this is fine for now.
I don't mind the "different" chord shapes - keeps my mind active, and less prone to dementia. Also a good tonal range to accompany singing.
Are there any other dGBE re-entrant baritone fans out there?

10-09-2013, 02:46 AM
Yes there are others. I am using a set of Southcoast strings with a wound 3rd and it sounds very nice

10-09-2013, 02:50 AM
Yes, I love reentrant G on my baritone. I use Southcoast heavies (strings) and they sound great. I had linear Bb for a while and that was also nice but I like the lower notes. The guitar chord shapes for dGBE (example: the D chord is the same on both guitar and baritone) also bring me back to my 30 years of guitar until I discovered the ukulele.

10-09-2013, 02:50 AM
It's more usually the other way around - many people can't get used to re-entrant tuning. It's "wrong" ! xD

10-09-2013, 05:22 AM
I had understood that the lower frequency allows for less tonal separation in the chords and thus the benefit of being able to get that 5th on the g and C (or d and G) aren't there for lower ranges and you lose the great advantage of having at least the A below C or the E below G for soloing in minor keys. If you want the 5th you downtune to CGBE. A tenor with a low G will have all of the notes that a Bari with high d has, right?

I'm not arguing with your tuning. If it works for you it works. I'm just trying to figure out why they don't usually do this. I'm in the low G soprano crowd myself, which makes the strumming less bright but again, offers a clearer ground for minor and mixolydian solos.

10-09-2013, 06:31 AM
Are there any other dGBE re-entrant baritone fans out there?

I have one bari strung High d and one strung Low D. Both with Living Waters on. I use them for different things.

10-09-2013, 01:22 PM
"A tenor with a low G will have all of the notes that a Bari with high d has, right?" from prooftheory

Yes it does, with a little extra oomph from the longer scale length. BUT when I set up my tenor as a low G - I don't take to it.
It doesn't make sense - why would any one purposely limit the amount of available notes on their instrument? But it does feel right.
Jake Shimabukuro seems to find as many notes as he needs. Azo Bell - the great Aussie musician, gets so much music out of a re-entrant tuned soprano. You'd think that he would move to tenor - with those big sausage fingers, but he extols the virtues of limitation as a path to freedom.
I can't really explain it, but my baritone was sitting in the cupboard unplayed until I changed the tuning last night, and the first thing I did this morning was pick it up and dive into its re-entrant joys.....

10-09-2013, 01:55 PM
Oh yeah!

My Pono has Southcoast heavies dGBE on it. It's my daily player. (I also have a nice Airline baritone with linear tuning that mostly hangs on the wall. It's a nice old uke with good, low action, so why does it sit? The tuning.)

10-09-2013, 03:40 PM
Well said Bill1! We're not talking about commandments set in stone and handed down to Manuel Nunes on top of Maunakea by the Big Strummer In The Sky. It's finding what works for you and the music you play.
I did get curious about the origins of re-entrant tuning for ukulele. Over at http://www.coolhanduke.com/index.html I found some great stuff. Here's a quote from his "tuning page":

Both the challenge and the joy of the true ukulele come from the re-entrant tuning -- a challenge because oftentimes the bass note you need to complete a melody line just isn't there, nor is the bass there to "comfort" your vocals. Many of us sing under the ukulele, not within it as we can with the guitar. But the spritefulness of the uke comes from that happy re-entrant tuning that places two high notes either close together or in unison. That is the design and aura that can be traced back to the pyramids and forward again through the Moors, Portugal, Madeira and, finally, Hawai'i. To play the larger instruments with straight, guitar-style tuning is to give up too easily, in my mind. This is not a condemnation in any way of the music or musicianship of those players who opt to play small guitars and call them ukuleles. I just think the real ukulele deserves respect for its ancestry and uniqueness of design.

For such a small device, the ukulele keeps opening up as a wonderland for our adventures....

10-10-2013, 01:48 AM
There really isn't any reason to resort to mysticism in justifying the reentrant tuning though, as I said before. Having the "bottom" string tuned up an octave makes the interval between the two "bottom" strings a fifth rather than a fourth and thus lets you avoid the chord inversions that you would have to have with low G or low D. In a high g concert for instance if you play the bottom three strings the notes are C E G, a straight C chord like you learned in piano lessons. On the other hand in a low G tuning this would be G C E, which leaves some ambiguity. One can almost hear that fourth and the major 6th as well. You might even see this chord written as C/G rather than just C. Part of what makes a soprano or concert sound the way it does is the clarity of the intervals.

Empirically, however this seems to have less validity as you go down in pitch. One can notice that piano compositions seem to prefer inversions on the left hand for instance. I was making the case that psycho-acoustically the clarity of lower intervals is less important. Maybe it is because the notes are farther apart in an absolute sense so that the intervals are easier to perceive as you go down in pitch.

As far as the "limitations" that the reentrant tuning put on you and how that makes a better instrument, however, I don't buy it at all. As I said, there are practical reasons for the reentrant tuning without having to invoke "aura that can be traced back to the pyramids."

10-12-2013, 03:05 PM
I have this dGBE re-entrant set up with Ken's Living Water strings on a tenor banjo and really like it. Need to try it on a baritone soon...