Last June I purchased my first baritone ukulele from Hawaii Music Supply. I wanted to try something new as I was in the process of gravitating toward larger ukuleles from the soprano. Buying the baritone was one of the best decisions I have made while playing the ukulele.
It is a very versatile instrument especially since it can be played in many tunings. Other size ukes can too but they really don’t handle the lower tunings well especially the linear DGBE. The baritone can also be tuned to a reentrant GCEA. Some people like the way it sounds when tuned that way and some don’t. I do but I still think the tenor is better for that tuning.
I do like having more room on the baritone fingerboard to make chords. My hands are average size but my fingers are short. I still feel very comfortable with the fingerboard. For me personally, on the concert and soprano fingerboard sometimes the chords are more difficult as I don’t have enough room for my fingers.
Recently I posted my first two videos to YouTube. Both songs, Amazing Grace and Fur Elise, were played on my Kala Baritone. I received many comments about the tone of the instrument. Many people really liked it. I do too. It is currently strung with Aquilla 21U strings. I really like the way they sound and my older hands like that fact that they are not too hard to press down. The tension is perfect.
Yes, the baritone is a fun instrument. I only wish I had purchased one earlier.
In the first post of this series, “Things I wish I would have known- Part 1,” I shared my journey in “ukedom.” I shared how I finally got to the place where I realized the tenor and baritone size ukulele works best for me.
On that road I suffered from “UAS- Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome.” The question is why? Why did I buy so many ukes in this last year since I picked up the ukulele? I have bought and sold probably close to 20. I think there are a few factors. These are not excuses, although if you are married your wife may not agree with that statement!
First, there are four different size ukuleles: soprano, concert, tenor and baritone. This is not including some of the smaller ones that are available. Each body size has a different feel and sound. Most of that is due to the scale length and body size. Initially, I was in love with the sound of the soprano. Then I was drawn to the super soprano and concert because they had more room on the fingerboard for making chords. I was then drawn to the tenor because of its fuller sound and longer scale. Finally, I got a baritone as I can sing with it better than any of the others. Personally, I think these are all good reasons for trying different size ukes. It may or may not be expensive depending on your income and tastes.
Second, ukuleles are as a rule made of wood. There are many woods used for the body and each one has a unique sound. I found myself initially drawn to the spruce/maple combination. In fact I owned three of them in various sizes for a time. Mahogany and koa are popular too. There are also other woods used including myrtle and redwood. The list goes on. On top of that you can also buy ukuleles made by Blackbird that are constructed with Ekoa and Carbon Fibre for the body. Each material used has a different sound. I wanted to experience some of that so I could decide what I really liked. Therefore I ended up spending quite a bit of money to get to my next opinion.
During this journey the last year I have spent thousands of dollars on various ukuleles including a Mya Moe Super Soprano and Blackbird Clara. I have also purchased $100 ukes set-up by Hawaii Music Supply that played like butter and got the job done. Here is what I have learned- I don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on one ukulele. If you want to, and many do, I think that is great. The point is you and I don’t have to spend that kind of money so we can have a nice sounding, looking and playing ukulele.
Case in point- after selling most of my ukes I was looking for a nice tenor. I spent hours on The Ukulele Site watching the videos as Corey and others demonstrated the ukuleles. I was primarily concerned with volume, balance and tone. You know what I ended up buying? A Kala tenor uke (KA-ASOV-T) constructed with a solid spruce top and solid ovangkol back and sides! I also had them add a K&K Twin Spot pickup. When it arrived I was blown away by its appearance, playability and tone. It sounds great acoustically and plugged in. All of this for a total of $482.99 with a gold strap button installed in the heel, gig bag and shipped two-day priority to my house in Virginia.
What I have learned is that I can have 3-4 really nice ukes for what I paid for the Mya Moe. A Mya Moe is a fine instrument, no matter what the size, but for me having all of that money in one instrument didn’t make sense, especially when I didn’t play it that much.
On a side note- if you are a musician you will understand this. Sometimes I just don’t bond with an instrument. This is what happened with the Mya Moe. There was nothing wrong with it. It was a fine instrument but we didn’t seem to get along. Ever felt like that? It got sold too!
To be fair, I do own more than one ukulele. I am down to the two sizes but I will end up with a few of each size. Some will be acoustic, some will have pickups installed and some will be acoustic electric like my Tenor Godin Multiuke. Each has its own purpose and I play them all. If I don’t play it, and I don’t give it to one of my grandsons, then the instrument will be replaced with something I will use. I am sure all of you can relate to this.
This post is not meant to be anything other than me telling my story. There is absolutely no judgment on my part for those who spend tens of thousands on their instruments and own 20-30 ukuleles. More power to you. For me, it doesn’t work.
My lesson from this, in hindsight, is I wish I would have known this sooner. I would have saved money and time buying and selling instruments. Should I have owned a soprano uke? Yes. I didn’t need to own 4 at once to figure out it wasn’t my long-term choice of ukulele. The same holds true for the super soprano. Four at once was a little too much. And the list goes on.
As they say, hindsight is 20/20. We all learn and grow in life. At least we should. As a musician I know this last year has been a great adventure. It has been educational as well but it sure has been fun. I have met some great people and played some great instruments. I am thankful to the Ukulele Underground Forum for all the help I have received there. Hopefully I have helped a person or two on my journey.
Until next time, enjoy your ukuleles, if you have more than one! 🙂
Today I was thinking about the last year and all I have learned since beginning to play the ukulele. I also began to think about some things I would have done differently, as hindsight is always 20/20. That morphed into the idea of doing a series entitled, “Thinks I wish I would have known.” I did a similar series on my Fuji X Blog, which turned out to be very popular.
Have you ever gone through something like that? We all make decisions that we regret sometimes. It is part of being human. There are bound to be regrets at times but we learn from those, or at least we should. It bothers me when I see someone on a talk show that is an addict who has been married multiple times. The talk show host says, “Looking back, would you have done anything differently?” Most of the time the person being interviewed says, “No.” Is that the stupidest possible answer? Of course they would have done some things differently like not inserting the first needle in their arm or marrying someone after knowing them for two days. Give me a break! Okay, rant over. Now onto the things I have learned or wish I would have known.
As I look back, the first thing I wish I would have known is that the tenor size ukulele, along with the baritone, would end up being my size preference. My first uke was a Cordoba tenor (20TM-CE). It was all mahogany and had a cutaway and pickup installed by the factory.
I really liked that uke but sold it to buy a soprano and then a concert and then a long neck soprano. Multiple ukes down the road I didn’t even have a tenor but finally figured out it was the better size for me, especially as I learned more difficult chords. My fingers fit on the tenor fingerboard better. I love the sound of a soprano uke and still have a couple but I have sold off the more expensive sopranos, concerts and super concerts. That includes a Blackbird Clara and Mya Moe Super Soprano. Thousands of dollars later I am in the process of downsizing and concentrating on tenors and baritones. I like the sound of a tenor and baritone more than a soprano or concert. It is, in my opinion, more well-rounded and has better volume. Of course that would be expected given the size difference of the body.
Lesson learned. An expensive lesson but a lesson none the less. Had I known what I know now I would have stuck with the tenor and added the baritone later, mostly because it is easier for me to sing with it.
My next post I will talk more about this issue- bang for the buck and UAS (Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome).
Until next time, enjoy your uke and learn something new today.