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View Full Version : 5-string baritone uke for playing songs/melodies?



aarondminnick
06-26-2014, 09:44 AM
I'm learning to play melodies on both uke (C tuning) and guitar and was musing over the challenges of playing melodies on baritone uke (or actually, any uke in G tuning). The main difficulty is that many popular songs/songbooks for general use (such as the Daily Uke books) have a range of somewhere below middle C, up to C or D in the staff.

That range works very well (perfectly, actually) for a low-G tenor, which is my main axe. They also work well on a guitar played an octave below written pitch (as is the convention)--you can play down to A on the 5th string, which covers many of the melodies that dip below the staff.

But these melodies don't work nearly as well on baritone uke, since the lowest note is D. You end up either shifting octaves or playing way up the neck since for practical purposes you are starting the range on the 2nd or 3rd string, and high D is on the 10th fret of the 1st string.

It occurred to me that adding a fifth (low A) string to a baritone uke would solve many of these problems. I know that's getting close to guitar/guitalele territory, and the short scale/body size of a bari are not optimal for low A, but I was wondering if anyone had considered building such a beast specifically for melody playing.

iamesperambient
06-26-2014, 09:16 PM
I'm learning to play melodies on both uke (C tuning) and guitar and was musing over the challenges of playing melodies on baritone uke (or actually, any uke in G tuning). The main difficulty is that many popular songs/songbooks for general use (such as the Daily Uke books) have a range of somewhere below middle C, up to C or D in the staff.

That range works very well (perfectly, actually) for a low-G tenor, which is my main axe. They also work well on a guitar played an octave below written pitch (as is the convention)--you can play down to A on the 5th string, which covers many of the melodies that dip below the staff.

But these melodies don't work nearly as well on baritone uke, since the lowest note is D. You end up either shifting octaves or playing way up the neck since for practical purposes you are starting the range on the 2nd or 3rd string, and high D is on the 10th fret of the 1st string.

It occurred to me that adding a fifth (low A) string to a baritone uke would solve many of these problems. I know that's getting close to guitar/guitalele territory, and the short scale/body size of a bari are not optimal for low A, but I was wondering if anyone had considered building such a beast specifically for melody playing.
baritone is just 5 semi tones higher
than c tuned ukes. think of the low d
as the same as a low g it's just a lower
pitch. I found buying strings for reentrant g
(high d) brighten up the uke but still
keep the classic low mellow tone of
the baritone. I find the baritone great
for folk songs classical songs and even jazz
it's just a lower voice that's all the intervals
are the same just in a Lower pitch.
I don't think you need a 5 string
I think maybe you just need to play
the baritone and get used to it's sound
and just look at it as a linear or possible
reentrant tuned uke that's tuned 5 semi tones
lower than standard c.

aarondminnick
06-27-2014, 02:12 AM
Thanks, iamesperambient. I'm pretty comfortable with the sound and chording on baritone uke, and I often use it for strumming and fingerstyle chord patterns. The question I'm musing on is how to align the absolute note range of baritone uke with vocal melodies, specifically for melody playing.

The lowest note in standard tuning bari is D... so if a melody goes down to, say, B below middle C that means I have to play it on the second string (or fretted on the third string), because I don't have anything on the bottom (below the D string). Which is fine and easy. But if I have a C in the middle of the treble staff (written), I have to play it way up on fret 8 of the first string. And if the melody goes up to D or E, I'm WAY up the fretboard on the first string.

So one solution is just to get more comfortable with playing way up on the fretboard for melody playing, and I'll get there eventually. But other possibilities I can think of:

1. Build a 5-string baritone uke with a low A.
2. Devise some kind of extension to the low D (4th) string, like upright bass players often use nowadays to extend their range down. That idea appeals to me, since it would solve the issue of having too short a scale to support a low A.
3. Use an alternate tuning. Southport recommends tuning baritone ukes to F - Bb - D - G linear (1 step down from GCEA linear) or to GCEA linear, which would basically make it a big low-G tenor.

kypfer
06-27-2014, 04:23 AM
3. Use an alternate tuning. ... only a thought, but, for melody playing, might it be worth while trying fiddle/mandolin/tenor banjo/tenor guitar-type tuning, in fifths, GDAE for example. I've got a soprano set up like this, with a set of the appropriate Aquila strings, it really does give a very flexible little instrument. At the other end of the scale, I've also got a 1/4 size guitar modded for four strings and tuned a whole octave lower ... effectively the total range of a six-string guitar (less the three lowest semi-tones) but just in four strings. Once you get used to the tuning it does make for a very playable setup ... obviously ymmv, but it might be worth a try ;)

aarondminnick
06-27-2014, 04:35 AM
Thanks, Kypfer - I've explored fifths tuning in the past (there was a thread about it a month or 2 ago) and may do that again! I'm learning several instruments right now and decided to defer learning another brand-new tuning/chord shapes/etc. but I think that is a very viable option. I tuned my Lanikai bari in fifths awhile back and it seemed to work well.

iamesperambient
06-27-2014, 04:48 AM
Thanks, iamesperambient. I'm pretty comfortable with the sound and chording on baritone uke, and I often use it for strumming and fingerstyle chord patterns. The question I'm musing on is how to align the absolute note range of baritone uke with vocal melodies, specifically for melody playing.

The lowest note in standard tuning bari is D... so if a melody goes down to, say, B below middle C that means I have to play it on the second string (or fretted on the third string), because I don't have anything on the bottom (below the D string). Which is fine and easy. But if I have a C in the middle of the treble staff (written), I have to play it way up on fret 8 of the first string. And if the melody goes up to D or E, I'm WAY up the fretboard on the first string.

So one solution is just to get more comfortable with playing way up on the fretboard for melody playing, and I'll get there eventually. But other possibilities I can think of:

1. Build a 5-string baritone uke with a low A.
2. Devise some kind of extension to the low D (4th) string, like upright bass players often use nowadays to extend their range down. That idea appeals to me, since it would solve the issue of having too short a scale to support a low A.
3. Use an alternate tuning. Southport recommends tuning baritone ukes to F - Bb - D - G linear (1 step down from GCEA linear) or to GCEA linear, which would basically make it a big low-G tenor.

i always keep a capo with my baritone so when i don't have a smaller uke on hand
i put my capo on the 5th fret and i than have a tenor uke essentially so by putting
a capo on the uke it will basically give you a low G tenor (unless your baritone is
reentrant G like mine is). I'm sure any luither would take a stab at your idea though
if its something you really wanted.

aarondminnick
06-27-2014, 04:52 AM
Also a good idea, iamesperambient! I hadn't thought of just snapping on a capo for melody playing. I'm much better on fingerstyle melodies on tenor anyway, so that's a quick and easy solution.

iamesperambient
06-27-2014, 04:55 AM
Also a good idea, iamesperambient! I hadn't thought of just snapping on a capo for melody playing. I'm much better on fingerstyle melodies on tenor anyway, so that's a quick and easy solution.

and much cheaper than a custom 5 string baritone too :P a capo will cost you 10 bucks as opposed to a grand or more hahah

aarondminnick
06-27-2014, 04:59 AM
Truth!!

>>and much cheaper than a custom 5 string baritone too :P a capo will cost you 10 bucks as opposed to a grand or more hahah

iamesperambient
06-27-2014, 05:00 AM
Truth!!

>>and much cheaper than a custom 5 string baritone too :P a capo will cost you 10 bucks as opposed to a grand or more hahah

well there you go hahaha