The Baritone Ukulele Ultimate Guide [Everything You Need To Know About Baritones]

The Baritone Ukulele Ultimate Guide [Everything You Need To Know About Baritones]

Baritone Ukulele Tuning & FAQ

If you are just getting acquainted with this awesome instrument -- 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:

 

If you are a beginner considering purchasing your first baritone, we'd highly recommend either the Makala Baritone ($109) or the Satin Mahogany Baritone ($159) for the best value.

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, it's 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 Tuning (GCEA) is 2 ½ steps higher than the Baritone Tuning (DGBE). Practically speaking, 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 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 size comparison blog.

 

Ari-Chi-Baritone-Ukulele

 

Can I Use Standard Ukulele Tutorials and Tabs with my Baritone?

Yes, but only by making some adjustments to your approach.

The Baritone Tuning is 2 ½ steps lower than the Standard 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, you will directly mimic the Standard Tuning. The capo is an extremely helpful tool for ukulele and guitar players alike to quickly transpose their instrument. Check out our blog on the 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 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. 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?

Baritones have their own string sets unique to their tuning and size. With the rise of popularity for this size, most ukulele string manufacturers now have a variety of offerings for baritone.

Every Kala baritone uke comes stock with the Aquila Super Nylgut Baritone strings. For more variations in tone and texture, check out additional sets like the Aquila Red and Aquila Lava

 

How Do I Restring a Baritone Ukulele?

The process of re-stringing here is actually identical to any standard Soprano, Concert, or Tenor ukulele, while adhering instead to the Baritone 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 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.

 

dodie-ukulele

 

How is the Baritone Ukulele Similar to a Guitar?

Guitar players may quickly find it to be very familiar: the Baritone 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, baritones 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”) 

 

Kingston-Trio-Baritone-Ukulele

 

When Should I Use a Baritone Ukulele?

Due to its larger size and lower tuning, the baritone 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 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.”

For some inspiration, we recommend checking out some of the incredible Kala Artists that champion this instrument, including dodie, mxmtoon, Ari Chi, Boris Mogilevski, Vana Liya, and Hula Hi-Fi.

 

 

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 this size, Kala is the primary designer and builder for baritone ukuleles globally.

The Makala and Satin Mahogany baritones represent the most classic and economic options available anywhere. One of the ukulele’s most traditionally used woods, the mahogany body provides a soft and balanced tone that pairs nicely with this larger size, at an affordable price.

MAKALA BARITONE MK-B

SATIN MAHOGANY BARITONE KA-B

For lovers of a gloss finish, the Gloss Mahogany, Ziricote, 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.

 

Santiago-Prieto-Baritone-Ukulele

 

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 both acoustic-electric baritone ukuleles that come pre-outfitted with an on-board tuner and pickup for amplified play.

SOLID ACACIA BARITONE (KA-SA-B)

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 ukuleles and experimenting with wood and feature combinations. Let us know your wishlist and suggestions⁠— connect with us on Instagram and Facebook (@kalabrandmusic)!

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