I recently purchased a baritone uke because I wanted one with a deeper sound than my faithful concert ukulele. It’s a great alternative to a tenor ukulele, especially if you have played the guitar. The chords are very similar because the baritone is tuned to DGBE, which is the same as the top 4 strings of a guitar. There is also the advantage of four strings, rather than six, which makes it easier to play for those with RSI or arthritis who may be having problems with left hand fretting on guitar.
Some people are put off from playing this great instrument because it requires different chord shapes from GCEA tuned ukuleles to be in the same key (G chord is C chord shape while D chord is G chord shape). For guitar players this is less of a problem, but it still can be tricky if you a jumping between uke sizes and find yourself playing the wrong chord shape. This can do your head in at times. It does become easier with practice and this type of switching is good for the brain. In the beginning you need to work out the DGBE shapes where a song only gives the GCEA chords. Some songs are easier than others but with practice and a little forethought it will get better. Free Baritone chord charts can easily be found online.
I have played the guitar and I find that some songs just sound richer with the similar tuning of the baritone, particularly songs that I played or wrote on my guitar. Having a baritone in a group gives the overall sound more of a punch. On my instrument the D and G string are wound nickel over nylon, which are very resonant and add a lot of depth to a piece. The other two strings are nylon. I find that when I strum these metal strings with my nails it wears them down so I use a pick. This would not be such a problem for pickers who use the pads of their thumb and fingers or those with synthetic nails.
It is very satisfying to be able to play different sized ukuleles. For me it is the concert and baritone. Others may prefer the soprano and the tenor. If you want to try something different don’t be put off the baritone because the chords seem more difficult. You may have already played these shapes by another name in standard tuning.
Ukulele Mike gave a great explanation of the difference between baritone and GCEA tuned ukuleles with plenty of good advice in the following video.
Here is another baritone ukulele tutorial that packs in a lot of information for both beginners and more experienced players.
For those who want to develop their finger picking on the baritone this lesson takes you through simple to more complex picking patterns with clear instructions.
So give the baritone ukulele a try. Although it is similar to a small guitar, it’s still a ukulele and sounds great when played with other ukes of various sizes.