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Play Baritone Ukulele In 2 Minutes

April 2010 60,886 views 9 Comments

by MaryLou Stout Dempler

I have played guitar since I was seven years old. I couldn’t learn to play my guitar fast enough. I had to take three guitar lessons a week. For my birthday, ten years ago my husband gave me a $2000.00 handmade concert ukulele. I fell  in love all over again with music, my new uke and my husband. You can read the complete story, including how I became a Mel Bay author at my website www.allmarylou.com.

After teaching my first soprano ukulele class at Bellarmine University, I formed the Louisville Ukulele Association Unlimited club (L.U.A.U.) and Orchestra. To complete the orchestra’s sound, I wrote the Easy Baritone Ukulele Method Book and taught a Baritone Uke Class. The baritone ukulele is played exactly like the first four strings of the guitar and has the deepest sound of all the ukuleles. Using my guitar background, I developed an extremely easy method to learn to play music on the baritone ukulele instantly.   


Lesson 1


How to Hold Your Baritone Ukulele
Hold the neck of the baritone ukulele in the left hand. If you are left-handed, the ukulele must be restrung and the steps reversed.
Cuddle the ukulele like a little puppy in your arms resting it upon your chest and torso. I had a strap button installed on my baritone ukulele at the base of the body. I use a guitar strap tied at the neck right above the nut and slip the hole on the other end of the strap around the strap button. 

How To Tune Your Baritone Ukulele
    I recommend an electronic tuner like the Intellitouch © professional tuner with a backlight or the Intellitouch © PT-2 Tuner “Bare-Bone” which has no backlight. Lanikia Ukuleles has a programmed electronic tuner. Find the one that works best for you and fits within your budget.

The strings are tuned E B G D for the baritone ukulele.

The First String E, is the string facing the floor.
The Second String B, is above the E string.
The Third String G,  is below the top string.
The Fourth String D, is the top string and the string closet to the chin.

Finger Positions
The left hand index finger is #1. The second finger is #2. The middle finger is #3. The pinky finger is #4. Do not count the thumb.
Rest the thumb behind and in the middle of the instrument’s neck.
The right hand index finger is in a pointing position (all other fingers closed) and pointing to the strings over the sound hold.
I use a pick and I prefer that my students use a pick too. There are several different brands, shapes and size picks for different sound effects. Many ukulele players use a felt pick, which produces a softer sound. I like my ukulele strings to be heard, so I use a nylon 1. mm pick with ridges for easy gripping. Take your baritone uke to your local music store. Try out several different brands and thickness of picks. Find the sound you like when you strum your ukulele.

Fret Board
The baritone ukulele has frets on the neck of the fret board.
The first fret is from the nut right below the tuning pegs to the first fret wire.
The second fret follows and continues down the fret board.
Fret markers (dots or symbols) are placed at intervals on the fret board to help locate frets quickly. The markers usually begin at the third fret, fifth fret and so on.

Finger Positions On The Fret Board
Each finger corresponds with each fret. Finger #1 is played on the first fret. Finger #2 is played at the second fret. Finger #3 is played at the third fret. Finger #4 is played at the fourth fret. Now you are thinking WHOA! I’ve run out of fingers on my left hand. You are right but don’t panic! The #4 finger is used on the fourth and fifth frets. When you play notes or chords through the fifth fret, you are playing in the first position of the ukulele fret board.

NOW START YOUR STOP WATCH. You are going to play the baritone ukulele in 2 minutes or less.

Step 1 Place your #3 (ring) finger on the first string at the third fret. Be sure to place your finger on the tip behind the fret wire of the third fret. NO slouching or bending your finger over the fret wire. If you do not place your finger on the string correctly you will get a dull thud sound. You want to produce a clear sound of the note being played. Strike the first string several times until a clear tone is produced. Readjust your finger until the sound of the string rings clear. You have just made a G chord.

Step 2 Strum the strings down over the sound hole beginning with the top fourth string while holding the G chord formation. Strumming a chord while you sing or someone else plays the melody on a instrument is called playing RHYTHM.  When the melody of the song is played on an instrument it is called the LEAD. You will be playing the RHYTHM ACCOMPANIMENT while you sing the melody. 

Step 3 Keeping strumming and sing. This symbol / means strum down over the strings.
    /        /         /        /        /
Row Row, Row, Your Boat
    /    /       /        /         /      /
Gently Down The Stream
  /     /  /     /     /  /     /     / /    /      / /
Merrily, Merrily, Merrily, Merrily
   /     /     /    /       /
Life Is But A Dream!

You just played your first song on the baritone ukulele!


You can play this version of Row Row Row Your Boat on a guitar but do not strum the fifth and sixth bass strings. You need to form the notes on the 5th and 6th bass strings of the guitar fret board to form a full G Chord.

This was EASY and now you are playing music on your baritone ukulele!  You can use this same method to play a soprano, concert, banjo or tenor uke. Just tune the uke to the A E C G tuning.

 Sing while you play your ukulele. ENJOY MAKING BEAUTIFUL MUSIC!

If you have questions, email me at musiclou42@msn.com I would love to hear from you and your progress on your musical journey.

Musically Yours,

MaryLou Stout Dempler

Kentucky‘s Ukulele Goddess 


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