Easier Transition to Guitar

rlgph

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 11, 2019
Messages
114
Reaction score
69
Location
Western North Carolina
Recently i changed the tuning of my baritone uke from matching the first four strings of guitar standard tuning (DGBE, low to high) to matching the middle four strings (ADGB). I've now had several weeks of experimenting with this tuning, and am convinced that it is probably the most natural choice for those uke players who wish to transition to guitar, particularly those who want to eventually go to alternating bass fingerstyle (usually called, inappropriately, Travis picking).

(Note if you're going to try this on your baritone, you would be going to a lower tension, and needn't worry about damaging your uke; though if you decide to keep it there, you would probably want to go to somewhat heavier strings -- like the middle four strings of an E to E guilele set.)

Guitar players can finger chords the same way as they do on their guitars , simply ignoring any fingering they would do on the first and sixth strings. All the common first position chords are the same with these four strings (with root, 3rd, and 5th notes), with one exception -- the D (and Dm) chord is modal, with no 3rd. Nevertheless, it sounds sufficiently close to D major or minor to be satisfactory in most folk songs.

The picking hand thumb can alternate between the root and 5th (or 3rd, in the case of a C chord) on the third and fourth strings on most common chords, with G being fingered like an F two frets up. (You can also get an acceptable G chord on the open strings 1-3, alternating the thumb between strings 2 and 3).

For the uke player, the chord fingering will be a little different, but once learned, the transition to guitar will be easier than from DGBE, unless you've been consciously using guitar appropriate fingering (rather than using the easiest choice for baritone uke DGBE).
 
Last edited:
Recently i changed the tuning of my baritone uke from matching the first four strings of guitar standard tuning (DGBE, low to high) to matching the middle four strings (ADGB). I've now had several weeks of experimenting with this tuning, and am convinced that it is probably the most natural choice for those uke players who wish to transition to guitar, particularly those who want to eventually go to alternating bass fingerstyle (usually called, inappropriately, Travis picking).

Guitar players can finger chords the same way as they do on their guitars , simply ignoring any fingering they would do on the first and sixth strings. All the common first position chords are the same with these four strings (with root, 3rd, and 5th notes), with one exception -- the D (and Dm) chord is modal, with no 3rd. Nevertheless, it sounds sufficiently close to D major or minor to be satisfactory in most folk songs.

The picking hand thumb can alternate between the root and 5th (or 3rd, in the case of a C chord) on the third and fourth strings on most common chords, with G being fingered like an F two frets up. (You can also get an acceptable G chord on the open strings 1-3, alternating the thumb between strings 2 and 3).

For the uke player, the chord fingering will be a little different, but once learned, the transition to guitar will be easier than from DGBE, unless you've been consciously using guitar appropriate fingering (rather than using the easiest choice for baritone uke DGBE).
Hmmm. Never thought of that. Thanks.
 
I think it's cool that you are having success with your plan.

I would have thought for alternate picking you would be focusing on EADG.
 
I think it's cool that you are having success with your plan.

I would have thought for alternate picking you would be focusing on EADG.
With EADG the G chord would be better, but the A/Am would be modal rather than D/Dm. I find that i use Am more than Dm, so i prefer to have a true Am. Also, many people think that a low E on the fourth string is not as tonally sweet as a low A on a baritone size instrument.

However, a bigger problem is that to use all 4 strings to play B7, C, and F would require different finger placement than on the guitar versions. With the four baritone uke strings tuned like the middle four guitar strings, the finger placements on the uke strings are exactly the same as corresponding fingers on the middle four guitar strings. Thus, you wouldn't have to change finger placements on any of the first position chords between the two instruments.

Although this could be done with DGBE tuning, you would need to plan carefully while looking at guitar chords, because the natural fingering in DGBE does not use the same fingers on the same strings as in some of the guitar chords. In addition, the DGBE tuning does not readily have the appropriate alternating bass notes with the picking thumb for first position A, B7, C, E, or F chords.
 
I play guitar and uke and don't think this is valuable. I for one use the two E strings a lot, for soloing, bass lines, or for drone effects. I don't think that "transition" is a good approach but rather a waste of time for an additional concept. If someone wants to add guitar to their uke skills then they can just do it based on the knowledge that they already have from uke. Which can be plenty.
 
Recently i changed the tuning of my baritone uke from matching the first four strings of guitar standard tuning (DGBE, low to high) to matching the middle four strings (ADGB). I've now had several weeks of experimenting with this tuning, and am convinced that it is probably the most natural choice for those uke players who wish to transition to guitar, particularly those who want to eventually go to alternating bass fingerstyle (usually called, inappropriately, Travis picking).

Guitar players can finger chords the same way as they do on their guitars , simply ignoring any fingering they would do on the first and sixth strings. All the common first position chords are the same with these four strings (with root, 3rd, and 5th notes), with one exception -- the D (and Dm) chord is modal, with no 3rd. Nevertheless, it sounds sufficiently close to D major or minor to be satisfactory in most folk songs.

The picking hand thumb can alternate between the root and 5th (or 3rd, in the case of a C chord) on the third and fourth strings on most common chords, with G being fingered like an F two frets up. (You can also get an acceptable G chord on the open strings 1-3, alternating the thumb between strings 2 and 3).

For the uke player, the chord fingering will be a little different, but once learned, the transition to guitar will be easier than from DGBE, unless you've been consciously using guitar appropriate fingering (rather than using the easiest choice for baritone uke DGBE).
Cool idea! I’m always in favor of experimenting like this. 🙂
 
I play guitar and uke and don't think this is valuable. I for one use the two E strings a lot, for soloing, bass lines, or for drone effects. I don't think that "transition" is a good approach but rather a waste of time for an additional concept. If someone wants to add guitar to their uke skills then they can just do it based on the knowledge that they already have from uke. Which can be plenty.
If you already play both, i agree that it is not worthwhile for you. I suggested it because my impression is that there are a significant number of uke players who want to play guitar, but who have been frustrated trying the conventional wisdom of doing so via a DGBE tuned baritone. It is a plausible way to get a sense of whether a common technique for playing guitar -- alternating bass -- is something you'd like to do, without having to buy a guitar first.

BTW, you could do something similar with a tenor uke. Changing its tuning to DGCE would enable you to finger chords the way you would on an A to A tuned guitar (or guilele).

Playing a uke requires a different approach to music than does guitar -- one that i'm sure can be every bit as fun and valuable as playing guitar. Having tried a uke, i do not considerate it a lesser talent in any way -- just different. However, for myself, as a guitar player who is not a uke player, the ADGB tuning is a fun way to utilize the small, comfortable size of a baritone ukulele with the guitar skills i already have.
 
Last edited:
I don’t think I agree. I just started playing guitar in the middle of April after playing baritone for a year and think it’s been easier because of my time spent playing the baritone. I don’t think an alternate tuning would have made it easier. I actually think it may have complicated things even more. Especially considering there are chords on guitar where you are not supposed to be hitting the 5th and 6th strings.
 
I don’t think I agree. I just started playing guitar in the middle of April after playing baritone for a year and think it’s been easier because of my time spent playing the baritone. I don’t think an alternate tuning would have made it easier. I actually think it may have complicated things even more. Especially considering there are chords on guitar where you are not supposed to be hitting the 5th and 6th strings.
I'm with you on this. I don't see how simulating a guitar with no E strings will facilitate anything. As far as I'm concerned a baritone is neither a guitar or a ukulele. I'm not disparaging baritone ukuleles, I have one and I play it, I'm just saying that they are each their own animal. If you want to learn to play guitar, you need to do it on a guitar, not a baritone ukulele.
 
I'm with you on this. I don't see how simulating a guitar with no E strings will facilitate anything. As far as I'm concerned a baritone is neither a guitar or a ukulele. I'm not disparaging baritone ukuleles, I have one and I play it, I'm just saying that they are each their own animal. If you want to learn to play guitar, you need to do it on a guitar, not a baritone ukulele.
I agree. There are things I can do on a guitar that I can’t on a baritone with the low E and A string. However, the baritone does a fantastic job of adding a lower register to a uke ensemble without drowning out other instruments like a guitar would. It’s also nice to play with by itself. I love my baritone and appreciate that it got me interested in trying the guitar, which I had no plans to do originally when I only had my tenor uke.
 
if playing the middle strings of a guitar helps you to learn guitar, good for you. I would jump right in instead of slowly transitioning into playing guitar, but I already play guitar.
Baritone uke is a soprano tenor guitar with nylon strings.
 
I suppose much of my opinion on it is because I play country/bluegrass so I'm a flatpicker. I walk the root and the 5th a lot.

As far as baritone ukuleles, I like the re-entrant sound of ukuleles. They make re-entrant string sets for baritone ukulele and I've often thought of stringing mine up that way. I think that would be more interesting than an instrument tuned like a guitar but missing two strings.
 
If you already have a guitar, this suggestion is not for you. Just get on learning guitar on the guitar, or if you already know how, keep on playing.

This suggestion is for those who don't (yet) have a guitar, but do have a baritone uke. My contention is that ADGB tuning encourages chord fingering more guitar-like than DGBE, particularly if you'd like to explore "Travis picking".

It also encourages a different way of playing a baritone uke, even if you decide to never move on to guitar.
 
If it works for you great!
Personally I think it's a terrible idea, even for people who don't already play guitar.
As someone who transitioned to guitar from ukulele (and currently play both), just thinking about playing ADGB tuning hurts my brain and raises many questions. It'll probably be harder to learn guitar after learning ADGB than just going straight to learning EADGBE guitar from scratch.
It will likely act as a negative learning set that could potentially hinder learning concepts of EADGBE guitar.

If you can play baritone ukulele, then you can already pick up a guitar and play it by ignoring the two bass strings.
It's not hard to sit down with a guitar chord chart and gradually learn which chords utilize the bass strings.
Not sure how ADGB would help much for melodic/solo lines either given you need both treble strings for a lot of that and most rock/jazz/blues lead lines rely heavily on those top 4 strings (DGBE) being present.
 
I’m not going to weigh in on the issues raised here, but I would say that just working with alternate tunings is helpful in itself.

My main problem on moving to guitar is the guitar’s minuscule string spacing in comparison to my wide nut ukuleles.
 
I’m not going to weigh in on the issues raised here, but I would say that just working with alternate tunings is helpful in itself.

My main problem on moving to guitar is the guitar’s minuscule string spacing in comparison to my wide nut ukuleles.
I play more fingerpicking than strumming and I prefer a 1.75" nut on my guitars.

When I switched from uke to guitar, I didn't "ease in," I just switched. For me, the act of learning chords, strumming, a small amount of music theory, and understanding how a stringed instrument worked via the ukulele was enough to flatten the curve with learning guitar. Most of the chord shapes transition over, so already having practice making them and making chord changes made it so much easier to pick up new chords on the guitar.

I tried to learn just guitar years ago and the difficulties were things like chord transitions, finger pain, only strumming certain strings for certain chords, strumming and rhythm in general. Ukulele helped smooth all of that out and guitar was so much easier to pick up the second time around. Adding a couple extra strings really doesn't make that much of a difference, imo.

The only thing uke doesn't teach you is how to play with a pick, which I still don't do. I dabble a bit, because I'd like to get into flatpicking/bluegrass eventually, but even strumming I either use the flesh of my thumb or I pinch my fingers together as if I was holding a pick and use the nails.

All of that being said, if a different method works, try it! Everyone is different and everyone learns differently, and they should do what works best for them.
 
This probably deserves its own thread, but I thought about it reading the comments on this one. How many here play multiple stringed instruments? Several have said so already. I play ukulele, both re-entrant and baritone. I consider myself primarily a guitar player but I've recently started playing five string banjo in a country/bluegrass group. Mainly because no one else would.
 
Well I am making the move to 6 strings, E-E. I think my baritone uke experience has been a big plus. It would have been a major plus had I learned to finger pick using 4 fingers instead of 3. That's my only regret. If I had done that from day one (7 years ago), I would be much further along. That said, I think after a few months of picking, I'll be all right. Certainly much easier than learning from scratch. I remember when I added my ring finger to the mix it took me a few months. I hope this is true as well. Although the "twin" fingers of the ring and middle are much more difficult to separate. Its only been a few weeks and I'm doing much better - but I have a loonnnggg way to go.

But what fun!
 
Top Bottom