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Tuning a Baritone Ukulele by  Kainoa Louis

Most stringed instruments are built in various ranges in terms of the voice they sound. For example, the well-known string instruments that make up the traditional Western string quartet, violin, viola, cello and bass, constitute the soprano, alto, tenor and baritone voices, respectively. Though it is sometimes thought of as a less serious instrument than the aforementioned, there are versions of ukuleles built that occupy those same voices, relative to the pitches of other ukuleles. Baritone ukulele tuning does not approach the depths of pitch so effectively navigated by a bass, but relative to other ukuleles it provides a lush canvas on which to paint the higher melodies of multi-part pieces.

Baritone ukulele tuning presents the player with two options. One may tune the instrument to the pitches G-C-E-A, as is the traditional tuning for ukuleles or one may opt for a guitar tuning. The guitar tuning utilizes the same pitches as the highest-pitched strings on a guitar, D-G-B-E. This latter tuning presents some advantages over others. For starters, there will be less tension placed on the neck due to the more slack strings. It also has playability advantage for those unfamiliar with the standard ukulele tuning.

The higher-pitched tuning, G-C-E-A, may make it easier to move from one ukulele voice to another, but there will be definite tradeoffs. The higher pitches, combined with the larger strings of the baritone ukulele, mean that the neck may be bowed by constant tuning to these pitches. Thicker strings under higher tensions are also harder to fret. Those who use this baritone ukulele tuning may find sounding a clear note a more demanding task than those who opt for the slack strings. For those who read sheet music, this tuning does have the advantage of requiring fewer ledger lines than the other tuning.

The guitar-style tuning, D-G-B-E, has its own advantages and disadvantages. If one is a skilled guitarist, the advantage is obvious. The difference between utilizing this tuning on a ukulele and a guitar is comparable to the difference between using British or American English: same language, slightly different sounds. This tuning is also easier on the neck and the tuning pegs, as there is significantly less tension than in the higher tuning. Tuning either range requires that one knows the correct procedure for tuning a ukulele or any other stringed instrument.

A tuning fork or an electronic meter can be used to get a good baritone ukulele tune. After the first strings are set, however, one must adjust the tuning a few times to get it right. Changing from one tuning to another will likely require some fine tuning to get the exact pitches to sound. Tuning devices are excellent tools but, ultimately, a stringed instrument has to be tuned to itself to sound a harmonious voice. This takes a bit of skill to do correctly, but those who are experienced guitarists will know the process well. Those who play any other ukulele will also have little difficulty.

EasyUkulele.com is your one stop resource to learning how to play the ukulele. At EasyUkulele.com you are able to both listen and watch lessons on playing the ukulele as well as find expert advice from Kainoa Louis on manufacturers, tips on playing, chords, music and more.

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