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.
A lot of beginners have trouble playing the E chord. Manitoba Hal Brolund shows the many ways to play this chord in his helpful video.
Often when you have two or several ukuleles there is one that you play more than the others. It’s your favorite and it just feels and sounds wonderful. So how do you bring back the passion for your other ukes if they are being neglected?
To make the most of your collection it can simply be a matter of increasing your repertoire and playing the right song for the right uke. Some music sounds better when played on a particular size or type of ukulele (eg resonator or banjolele). But if, like me, you have two ukuleles of the same size and a similar type this won’t make much difference.
I have two concert ukes. I bought the second one because I love the feel and the sound it makes and the size suits me. It is so playable that I was not using my other concert ukulele, which seemed a complete waste. A couple of other members of our group have low G strings on their ukuleles which can give more of a bass sound to a song. So I replaced the high G string on my first use with one of the Aquila Red Series low G strings and it sounds completely different. It’s also great to play with a felt pick, especially on the “boom Dit-ty strum” (see earlier post) and makes the uke more resonant.
The low G works particularly well on a Tenor sized ukulele but you can even put one on a soprano uke. You will have a deeper sound while still playing the chords for the GCEA tuning. A Tenor ukulele with a low G is a great alternative to buying a larger baritone ukulele, especially if you find the fingering too difficult with the change of chord structure necessary for the DGBE tuning.
Have a look on You Tube as there are many videos with a comparison of low and high G strings, as well as reviews for wound and unwound strings.
Now I can switch between ukes depending on the song and am enjoying playing both my ukuleles. So if you feel you have been neglecting one of your ukes, try a low G for a change of sound and some renewed enthusiasm.
Swinging the beat can really improve your ukulele strumming style. For those who want to develop their playing technique here is a simple and clear lesson on this method by Katie DeNure.
A lot of beginners have trouble playing barre chords. The Ukulele Teacher gives a great lesson on how to master this technique no matter what size your hands.
Scales can often seem a chore but Ukulele Mike demonstrates a relatively simple exercise that will strengthen and improve the flexibility of your left-hand fingers. This looks like an exercise that will make a difference while being easy to learn for beginners and for those with less flexible hands.
Another great tutorial from Manitoba Hal to expand your chord and playing knowledge. He explains moveable chords for the ukulele in an easy to understand way.