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Can a Baritone Be Tuned Like Tenor?

In the past year the long neck tenor has become a loved, and longed for new model from Kamaka. The scale of a long neck tenor is 19″, very close to the average baritone 20″ scale.  For years, people have been converting baritones into long neck tenors, but it can be a disaster if you put too much tension on the baritone. How it was built and the strings used are the biggest factors, (the first you may not have control over).  If you’re trying to convert a baritone into a long neck tenor, using strings made for it is the key. There is actually a set from aquila gauged for that purpose and any baritone should be fine.

Always observe your instruments reaction to a new tuning or string. The tension you put on your ukulele is much like us. It can drive us to greatness or cause us to crack. Usually it just erodes us slowly.  The ukulele life span is also determined by it’s environment, how it’s cared for, and the abuse it’s under. So tuning baritone strings up a fourth is not condoned.  That sort of reckless behavior is heavily frowned upon by us. Bad uke owner!  The strings that you can use for tuning your baritone to standard ukulele pitch are these Aquila’s (selectable in the drop down) .  You can only buy them from us… (just kidding!)

SO this was on my mind because last week, Corey bought a Spruce Rosewood Pono Baritone and converted it to GCEA. However, he used his own string concoction. But first, let’s listen to something just recorded with this Pono RBC used as a tenor long neck. He backs himself up with his Pono guitar (Cedar/Acacia ooo-15)

SO what strings?….Corey gives these details:

For the top and bottom strings, I used the D’Addario Nyltech Concert set. I used some leftover from the tenor set but the tension was too high so I switched to a gauge down.  Seems to work out fine.   The C and E strings are Savarez 528R & 529R They produce a really bright tone but at the same time maintain a good body from the mid and lower ranges.  The G and A strings pick up the slack on the upper frequencies and produce a bright bell-like treble tone.  I thought about using Worth strings instead of the Nyltechs but didn’t want to sacrifice volume.  When strummed,  the overall sound is perfect.  I had thought maybe the Savarez would overpower the other strings but they work really well.  I set it up this way for overall balance and these new Pono’s are just amazing.

On this song, Corey is in the higher register quite a bit with complex harmonies. The longer scale tuned up allows precise intonation to be more attainable. Could this be the tenor’s evolution, natural selection for the bigger and sharper? More stable pitch and space in the higher register will give musicians a different freedom. It can also be a challenge for the increased extension required of your fretting hand. It’s an inexpensive experience if you already have a baritone. If not, even inexpensive baritones often sound really good. And the mid priced ones can be incredible.

So that was a look into Corey’s new Pono’s and upcoming album.  This is just a rough track but Kelli Cruz is such a talented engineer.  She used the same mic setup as when she recorded Jake S. under direction from Milan. Together Jake and Milan came up with a recording formula that Kelli shared with me. I am working towards a version of this setup as well.  But we’re into a whole other blog now. The question at hand; Will the baritone scale tenor rise up as a new trend? Are more string companies gonna make sets? Will Corey have his own signature set? Does his girlfriend know that he bought 2 new instruments while she was in Japan? Find out next time on TheUkuleleReview.com! 

Share your experience or post your questions below. A Hui Ho!

Comments 25

  1. In the recorded link of Corey playing a Pono B Uke, is this the instrument he set up as a long neck tenor? The blurb with it says nothing about a different tuning (?). Also, are the Savarez strings guitar or Uke strings? RM

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      Yes, the audio has a Pono Baritone tuned GCEA like a tenor. The 2 outer strings are Ko’olau Alohi. .029 & .028. Here is a link by the two savarez classical guitar strings. The C Savarez 529R and E Savarez 528r It’s been a while but we used to stock these Savarez strings. We will pick them up again soon.

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      I would at least go up to tenor if you want the DGBE. Concert scale is short…. but maybe there’s a high density set that could work. Originally the classic Martin tenor was made to be played at DGBE. People like Lyle Ritz pioneered that sound.Maybe someone else here has tried bari tuning on cancert and can share what they used.

  2. If you can handle it, a Baritone with the GCEA tuning is a marvelous idea. The bigger body gives more intense tone. For me, personally, I stick with my standard Tenor and if I ever earn a Baritone, I would keep the standard Baritone tuning, since my fingers are kinda short and I don’t like to have even more of a stretch, than I already got on my Tenor.
    Anyway, as always, nice playing Corey, you are a genius!

  3. I tuned my Pohaku baritone to GCEA using Hilo Baritone GCEA strings. So, Hilo makes some for this purpose, too. They weren’t bad either. I enjoyed them. However, I don’t think they resonated as deeply and moved that big Bari soundboard like lower tuned strings. What did I do? Southcoast Heavy strings tuned dGBE. Yep, re-entrant baritone tuning! Love it! Corey might try it, too.

    Thanks for the wonderful baritone tuning post, Andrew. I found it truly interesting.

    I pray Corey’s old lady doesn’t wring his neck.

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  4. This gives me even more incentive to purchase a Baritone and tune it GCEA. I would like to do it with a low G. You have any opinions of which string I could use to get a low G? Just love this article, thank you.

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      Thanks Ryan, The plain low G fluorocarbon from companies like Worth does well in a regular or light gauge and normal density.

  5. I’ve done this with my Kala Bari using Aquila strings tuned GCEA for Bari uke. Did it because I wanted a GCEA uke to take on a trip to Hawaii without risking my solid wood ukes in the plane’s overhead compartment. Worked great although the sound was deeper than a typical tenor uke. Not bad at all, though. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend anyone giving it a try.

  6. perfect timing on a great article. I was just thinking of trying this. as always Corey’s playing is fantastic.

  7. Seems silly to me, since there are re-entrant sets available for the baritone. (I play Living Waters on my baritone – dGBE). The premise is the same.

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      Ya, high d is cool. Benny Chong does that too. Have you heard him? Man, that guy is amazing.

  8. This is really interesting. Just start manufacturing the string sets.

    Let us know the outcome if his girlfriend found out that he bought 2 new instruments while she was in Japan. uhauhauha

  9. I see Coolkayaker1 mentions reentrant for baritone. I’m the happy player of a baritone he let go (and it’s strung reentrant). I’m tempted to try one in Quatro tuning now though. It does sound lovely tuned up. Since I can’t fret high tension well, it’s probably not a tuning I would try, however. 🙁

  10. That sounds amazing! I wish I was able to play that well and have access to great sounding instruments like Corey.
    I may consider a similar setup for my next uke!

  11. I n your above explanation, on tuning a baritone ukulele to GCEA, you said that you used the D’Addario NYltech concert for the top and bottom strings.
    You then stated, in reply to a question, that you used KO’olau Alohi .029 & .028 for the top and bottom strings. WHICH IS IT!

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      Oh, sorry, I had asked Corey again and he had switched but in the recording it was the nyltech concert G & A

  12. Hi”. Can a baritone uke be tuned like a bass guitar. E A D G? I would like to use it to practice modes,scales and patterns when traveling. Thanks for your reply ,best regards John

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      It could be tuned to those notes by tuning up a few steps (and in all 4ths) from standard baritone tuning or down a few steps from what Corey is doing here. It won’t sound like a bass though, of course.

    2. A ubass/ bass ukulele is a totally different thing to a baritone ukulele. They do have roughly the same size body. Ubass use a different type of string to the normal ukulele set and sound somewhere between an acoustic bass and upright a sound all of their own.
      There are many videos of DIY/home made ubass’ from baritone ukes and 3/4 sized classical acoustic guitars on youtube out there.
      I also play bass, have a Aria 5 string Active Bass, and would one day love a ubass

      Have fun and if you, already tried this let us know how it went.

  13. I play baritone ukulele and at first I was skittish about having to learn the new names for chord shapes in DGBE tuning. Now that I’m comfortable with that, I’m curious about how my baritone ukulele (a Kamaka) would sound strung GCEA. I’m happy to see that this blog post included string recommendations, because there are very few sets pre-made for GCEA tuning on a baritone scale instrument. This blog post was both encouraging and informative! Mahalo nui!

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