Baritone Ukulele

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The baritone ukulele is a four-string chordophone and the second largest in the ukulele family of instruments. Its four strings are ordinarily tuned to the standard tuning of an acoustic guitar’s highest four strings, D-G-B-E. A baritone ukulele usually measures approximately 31 inches, is tuned two and a half steps lower and produces a larger sound than its more common soprano counterpart.
History of the Baritone Ukulele
The baritone ukulele shares its history with the ukulele family of instruments that have ancient Portuguese origins. Its likely ancestors are small string instruments known as a machete or cavaquinho, thought to have developed in the Madeira region. These instruments made their way to the islands of Hawaii with migrants in the 1800s and soon there were new Hawaiian influenced designs produced. Migrants such as Jose do Espirito Santo, Augusto Dias and Manual Nunes are widely regarded as the first luthiers to create the recognisable ukulele design. By the 1890s, the first instruments being sold as “ukuleles” were becoming popular. The baritone ukulele arrived in the 1940s and there is some dispute over the exact origins of this unique ukulele variant. Some attribute the invention of the baritone ukulele to Herk Favilla, an instrument maker of Favilla Guitar Inc in New York City, who reportedly wanted to create an instrument that would lend itself to beginner guitar players. Many also believe that popular entertainer Arthur Godfrey first had the inspiration for the baritone ukulele and collaborated with instrument manufacturers such as Harmony on the design. The instrument would later become popular with jazz musicians of the time for its deeper and richer tone than former ukuleles. Though the baritone ukulele hasn’t achieved the widespread popularity of the soprano, popular music recordings by the likes of The Beatles in the 1960s helped to elevate its status.
Inventor: Unknown

Where to Buy

$200 - $800

Hear the Baritone Ukulele

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How to Play

A larger version of the standard ukulele, with a deeper, more resonant sound. Played using standard ukulele tuning and chord shapes.

In Popular Music

Arthur Godfrey popularised the baritone ukulele in many of his music recordings such as ‘For You’ in 1953. World renowned ukulele players Bruce and Jake Shimabukuro have also played baritone ukulele and Jake stated in a Youtube vlog in 2015 that a baritone was featured on his album ‘Travels’.

Famous Players

Taimane Gardner, James Hill, Victoria Vox

Close Relations

Tenor ukulele, concert ukulele
Video Credit: AdventureDenali
Understanding the Baritone Ukulele
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Portugal

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1940s

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Strings

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