What Is a Baritone Ukelele?

by Kristin McFarland
A baritone ukulele is larger than a smaller, traditional ukulele.

A baritone ukulele is larger than a smaller, traditional ukulele.

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The baritone ukulele is a four-stringed Hawaiian instrument and the largest instrument in the ukulele family, played by strumming or picking the strings. It has the lowest voice of any ukulele and a more guitar-like sound. The baritone "uke," as ukuleles are commonly dubbed, is a versatile instrument that can play a variety of musical styles.

Size

A baritone ukulele is typically 30 inches in length, making it 9 inches longer than the smallest soprano ukulele and 10 inches shorter than an acoustic guitar. With 19 or more frets, it has the widest range of available notes among ukuleles. The baritone uke's small size makes it easier to hold and play than a large acoustic guitar.

Tuning

The baritone ukulele's strings are tuned to D-G-B-E, just like the highest-toned four strings on a six-string acoustic guitar. Most ukuleles are tuned to a higher G-C-E-A. The tuning and larger size of the baritone uke give it its lower voice. This tuning makes it possible to transition to playing guitar without learning new chords.

Sound

A baritone uke has a deeper sound than the higher-voiced soprano and tenor ukuleles, so if you want to play traditional Hawaiian music, the baritone uke may not be the instrument for you. The baritone uke also has a larger bass range than any other ukulele. It does sound much more like a guitar than a ukulele, making it an ideal instrument for beginners who may wish to transition to playing guitar.

Playing the Baritone Uke

If you're looking for a versatile stringed instrument, you may want to try playing the baritone ukulele. The tuning of a baritone uke will allow you to play guitar songs or baritone ukulele songs, giving you a wider range of selection than a smaller ukulele might. Because of the alternate tuning, you will have to purchase music written specially for a baritone ukulele. Although you won't get the same snappy harmonies when strumming a baritone uke that you will with a smaller ukulele, the baritone uke's louder, deeper sound will allow you to finger-pick more than you could with a smaller uke.

About the Author

Based in southern Indiana, Kristin McFarland has been a freelance writer since 2005. Her work has appeared in the "Indiana Daily Student," "Indianapolis Business Journal," "River Falls Journal," "The Berkeley Daily Planet" and "Rio Grande Sun." McFarland earned a Master of Arts in journalism from Indiana University.

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