Sunday, December 11, 2011

Today is the Best Day Ever to be a Baritone Ukulele Player

Yes it is. Why is it? Well the ukulele is more popular than ever and many of us that started off with a standard GCEA tuned ukulele have moved beyond the novelty of just playing a few songs with friends to people that have a growing love of music and getting together and playing with friends. People I know are exploring the Kala bass, mandolins, harmonicas, concertinas, lap steels, etc. Some of us now play both the GCEA ukulele and the DGBE baritone ukulele. 

Okay but why is it the best time ever for the bari-uke player? I have been doing research on this blog for over two years and I have seen quite a bit of growth. Here's what I'm seeing:
  • The Internet allows us access to more music than was ever possible before.
  • YouTube allows us to see so many players and a wide variety of genres.
  • Bruce Emery's Baritone Ukulele From Scratch is a highly detailed and a fantastic tool for beginner to intermediate players. I highly recommend this book because Bruce's book is jam-packed with information and he moves you along into a better understanding of: simple songs, chord families, essential theory, chord melody, finger-picking, Travis picking, and single note playing. I am finding the book a great value.
  • is a website that has an ENORMOUS library of rock music. The site allows you to have chords shown for "baritone" and you can change the scale to suit your voice.
  • Roger Ruthen has many tabs for songs made specifically for the baritone ukulele, including: Baritone Ukulele TABS, Flatpicking on the Bari-Uke TABS, and Tri-TAB Universal TABS. Roger has a large selection of Classical and now he's working on some Flatpicking Bluegrass and Christmas TABS
  • Lil Rev has been writing books for the ukulele. I think that 101 Ukulele Licks should be in a baritone ukulele player's library. (I have a book that I have 'adjusted' to show the appropriate chords for a baritone ukulele since it was written for GCEA tuning.) Lil' Rev also has another Lil Rev Baritone Ukulele Method Book upcoming. (Updated 3-11-2014)
  • Jumpin' Jim songbook called the The Bari Best. He has also put together The Daily Ukulele (Baritone Uke Version). (Updated 3-11-2014)
  • Glen Rose has made an on-line book and has made it available for purchase. Glen has been doing some great work for people that are interested in Jazz. He has Jazzy Ukulele for the Baritone Ukulele and Jazzy Ukulele Up and Down the Baritone Ukulele Neck.
  • Doctor Uke has a website that has many of the old tunes and has them prepared with bari-uke chord boxes. The doctor has a prescription for some challenging chords.
  • So you want to build your knowledge of chord variations. I have two books: Fretted Friends - The Baritone Ukulele Chord Bible (2,160 Chords) (To Order) and Hal Leonard's - Baritone Ukulele Chord Finder (Amazon info). But there are some on-line chord finders that can also give you many variations that are impossible to finger, check out The Ukulele Helper and look for the DGBE tuning at the top left hand corner. Play with this a bit. Try turning off a string. Some chords cannot possibly be held by a human hand but I use the tool regularly.
  • I have also really enjoyed getting issues of Flatpicking Guitar Magazine. The magazines are for the guitar player but there are portions that work very well for the baritone ukulele as well. The magazine has a large number of contributors.
  • I have a second blog for the bari-uke called, The Baried DoGBonE. This blog is used to keep information on a band or player within a single blog post for easier referral. I update this irregularly and have some new finds to add.
  • (12-12-2011) I have another site that I'd like to make you aware of. Canadian Michael Parmenter has a site called Classical Tabs for the Ukulele. Michael has been posting his arrangements for a couple of years and many are noted as good for low 4th string.
  • (12-13-2011) Jen, who shares what she calls "Tutorials for Amateurs" on YouTube also has a blog and has posted some charts as "Gil's Corner Baritone Ukulele Arrangements". Scroll down the page a little below the GCEA chart list. I got the chance to meet Jen at the Ukulele Club of Santa Cruz and she also plays the Native American flute.
  • (12-14-2011) Another reason why TODAY is the best day to be learning the Baritone Ukulele, and perhaps I should have made this first on my list is because of Alistair Wood and his preeminent blog Ukulele Hunt which is always a source of cleverness and inspiration, i.e. today's posting Chuck Berry Run, Run, Rudolph. Now give that a try on your Bari! [NOTE: Al's site is focused on standard high G GCEA tuning.]  If you don't subscribe to Ukulele Hunt as a daily feed you'll be missing the best. Or else be sure to check thru his song charts and tablatures. Al also has made some terrific  How to Play Ukulele e-books with sound files. (I own 5 of these.) He's also the author of Ukuleles for Dummies.
  • (12-24-2011) There is another cool ukulele song focused website that has a unique twist. The Ukulele Play Along site based in the Netherlands has an eclectic selection of songs. They have a red tuner in the upper left hand corner and you can click "Baritone" to get the DoGBonE tuning, yup D-G-B-E. You get to see a video and a moving bar of chords as they come up. What an excellent idea! Merry Christmas!
Do you have anything that you'd like to add to the mix?


  1. I think that many people were turned of to the baritone because of the strings. They seemed so heavy compared to the smaller ukuleles. I have found from reading your posts that there are string options that make the baritone easier to play. I liked Bueno Chen's instructions and also find the all nylon Worth medium brown strings make my baritone sound rich and warm without excessive string vibration. Teddy

  2. @ Teddy -- Thanks for mentioning that, I think that is a critical point I love the nylon strings from Worth. I have them on my Favilla baritone and it is my main player. My friend Chris follows more of the Bueno Chen idea of mixing strings and has an Ohana bari and a new solid Eleuke bari strung this way and I really like their sound too. Jeff / Humble Uker

  3. I have tried just about every string on baritone, and conclude that nothing tops or even equals the brown Worth strings. I even use them on my baritone banjo ukulele (which is a tenor banjo converted via the "uneify your banjo" video on YouTube.

  4. @ JDB -- Thanks for speaking out about the Worth Strings. I appreciate hearing bari-player opinions. Can you clarify your Banjo video link? Did you mean "UKEIFY?"

  5. Another thing is that for all GCEA or even ADF#B ukulele players you can play all of the songs that you already know BUT they are just in a different KEY. Anything that you play in the Key of C becomes Key of G, A become E, G becomes D, etc. Of course if you want the Campanella Sound you need a HIGH D. But if you are a strummer you should be fine.

  6. Also, any guitar piece where the melody doesn't drop below the 4th string, including everything for the 4 course renaissance guitar, is fair game.
    I just ordered a copy of "Guitar Music of the 16th Century" from Mel Bay. Mudarra and LeRoy tablatures transposed to modern notation on the first four strings of a guitar.

    1. Thank you for letting me know about this. I was able to look inside the book via Mel Bay's system. All of the arrangements are made in standard musical notation, not TAB.

    2. Yep, transposed from renaissance tablature to modern notation. There aren't that many people who can read French tablature these days anyway.

  7. New book for Baritone ukulele.

    1) Irish tunes for all ukulele

    Alsou Baritone ukulele have two tab.
    First tablature is recorded “in one line”. We try to play notes of melody on strings that are as close as possible. Second tablature is recorded in campanella style.

    2) Gospel Baritone Ukulele Solos

  8. Why don't baritone players learn to read notes?

    1. You are being a bit radical here but I like it.

  9. F.Y.I. Aquila Nylgut Baritone GCEA strings (23U) are great! They stay in tune and last about 1 year. I hope that they come out with a unwound low G string.

  10. Humble Baritonics minimizes the mentioning of GCEA strings or videos. I know there are 100's of ukulele sites supporting GCEA tuning. Here I try to give voice to non-GCEA. Not that I am against it, but only that prefer a different sound to be supported.

  11. Awesome, still kinda prefer tenor