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
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.
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