The Baritone Ukulele Ultimate Guide [Everything You Need To Know About Baritones]
Baritone Ukulele Tuning & FAQ
If you are just getting acquainted with the baritone ukulele size -- whether you hail from a traditional ukulele background, a guitar background, or are brand new to musical instruments in general -- we’d highly recommend starting your journey with this thoughtful and detailed introduction to the baritone from All For Uke:
Below, we wanted to address some of the most common questions we receive about the what, how and why of the Baritone ukulele size:
What is the Baritone Ukulele Tuning?
With the instrument in playing position, and counting from the open top string to the open bottom string, the baritone ukulele is tuned to D-G-B-E. This is referred to as the Baritone Ukulele Tuning.
How is the Baritone Ukulele Different from the Soprano, Concert, and Tenor Ukulele?
Soprano, Concert, and Tenor ukuleles are all tuned to G-C-E-A. This is referred to as the Standard Ukulele Tuning.
On the music theory side, the Standard Ukulele Tuning (GCEA) is 2 ½ steps higher than the Baritone Ukulele Tuning (DGBE). Practically, this is the equivalent of five frets of difference.
The Baritone Ukulele is also strung in an ascending order of pitch. This means that when strummed from the top down, the open strings ascend from lowest pitch to highest pitch, with the “D” string as the lowest and the “E” string as the highest. This is referred to in music as a Linear Tuning. Guitar and bass are examples of other instruments that use a Linear Tuning.
In the Standard Ukulele Tuning, however, the open strings do not ascend from lowest to highest. Rather, the middle “C” string has the lowest pitch. This is referred to in music as a Re-entrant Tuning. Violin, mandolin, and banjo are examples of other instruments that use a Re-entrant Tuning.
You can learn more about the other ukulele sizes in our ukulele size comparison blog.
Can I Use Standard Ukulele Tutorials and Tabs with my Baritone?
Yes, but only by making some adjustments to your approach.
The Baritone Ukulele Tuning is 2 ½ steps lower than the Standard Ukulele Tuning, which is the equivalent of 5 frets of difference. With this in mind, there are two quick ways to use your baritone with a Standard Ukulele Tutorial:
Place a Capo Over the 5th Fret - By placing a capo on the 5th fret of a baritone ukulele, you will directly mimic the Standard Ukulele Tuning. The capo is an extremely helpful tool for ukulele and guitar players to quickly transpose their instrument. Check out our blog on the ukulele capo to learn more.
Barre your Chords Five Frets Higher - If you do not have a capo, or prefer not to use one, you can achieve the same effect by shifting your chord formations five frets higher on the neck of your baritone ukulele and barring your chords. This can be tricky for beginners!
In the long term, we’d recommend familiarizing yourself with the unique chord voicings of the baritone ukulele. This will provide you with greater musical context, flexibility and options for transposition and accompaniment on the instrument.
The Beginner Baritone video series by All For Uke is the best introduction to the instrument available for free online.
What Strings do I Need for a Baritone Ukulele?
Baritone ukuleles have their own string sets unique to their tuning and size. With the rise of popularity in the baritone ukulele size, most ukulele string manufacturers now have a variety of offerings for baritone.
How Do I Restring a Baritone Ukulele?
The process of re-stringing a baritone ukulele is actually identical to any standard Soprano, Concert, or Tenor ukulele, while adhering instead to the Baritone Ukulele Tuning (DGBE).
If you use a clip-on tuner or the Kala Ukulele App to assist with your tuning, be sure that your tuner is set to “Chromatic” rather than “Ukulele” or “Standard.” Most tuners do not have a dedicated Baritone Ukulele Tuning setting.
Similar to the smaller ukulele sizes, anticipate at least 1 week for new strings to settle in, stretch out, and achieve a more desired tension for playing and holding their tune.
How is the Baritone Ukulele Similar to a Guitar?
Guitar players may quickly find the baritone ukulele to be very familiar: the Baritone Ukulele Tuning of DGBE is identical to the bottom 4 strings of a guitar’s standard tuning (EADGBE)
This means that many chord shapes and riffs may be very quickly transferable from guitar to baritone ukulele.
For an easy comparison in size, baritone ukuleles are just a tad smaller than the popular “Baby Taylor” acoustic guitar size. Kala baritones have an average scale length of 20.25,” making them just about 2” shorter than the Baby Taylor (BT1) (22.75”)
When Should I Use a Baritone Ukulele?
Due to its larger size and lower tuning, the baritone ukulele presents a unique playing and tonal experience from the traditional ukulele sizes, with so many avenues for exploration:
As a lower tuning than the standard ukulele, try using your baritone to accompany other ukuleles by strumming and harmonizing in an ensemble setting or to uniquely contrast and compliment tenor, alto, and soprano vocals.
As a smaller size than guitar, note the additional tonal clarity your baritone is capable of when fulfilling, or complimenting, the warm role of a nylon string guitar in a live or studio mix.
As a similar size to the mandolin and banjo, try exploring the viability of the baritone ukulele to provide rhythm and melody support alongside other folk instruments, especially while muting the base of the strings at the bridge of the instrument with your palm. This technique is commonly referred to as “palm muting.”
What Baritone Ukulele Should I Get?
With its growing following and broadening musical application, the baritone’s presence has grown in our instrument catalog significantly to where it is today. With over 10 instrument offerings in the baritone size, Kala is the primary designer and builder for baritone ukuleles globally.
The Makala Baritone and Satin Mahogany Baritone represent the most classic and economic baritone options available anywhere. One of the ukulele’s most traditionally used woods, mahogany provides a soft and balanced tone that pairs nicely with the baritone size.
For lovers of a gloss finish, the Gloss Mahogany Baritone, Ziricote Baritone, and Solid Cedar Acacia Baritone represent a wide variety of woods all united by a signature high-gloss sheen. The Solid Cedar Acacia 8-String Baritone is its own unique world for players too; you can learn more about this instrument in our 6 and 8 string ukulele blog here.
For those interested in being able to plug in and play, whether for a practice amp or an onstage gig, the Satin Mahogany Baritone w/ EQ and Solid Spruce Ebony Baritone Cutaway w/ EQ are two baritone ukuleles that come pre-outfitted with an on-board tuner and pickup for amplified play.
Finally, the Solid Acacia Baritone is the cream of the crop for the serious player: an all-solid acacia wood build with beautiful natural figuring and a crystal clear tone.
Kala is constantly designing new baritone ukuleles and experimenting with wood and feature combinations. Let us know your baritone suggestions and wishlist in the comments below.