What is a “High” Baritone Ukulele?

Normal Baritone Ukuleles are tuned like the top four strings of a guitar–DGBE–and have a string length that is generally 19″ to 21″ or more. Over the years, I have found baritone ukuleles sound better if they are strung with tenor ukulele strings and tuned up a third to FBbDG, which gives a brighter but still mellow sound. I believe this is because the body of a baritone isn’t quite big enough to support the relatively low pitches of the traditional baritone ukulele tuning. Further, shortening the string length lessens the tension on the top just a bit and improves the sound a bit more. So, what I am calling a “High Baritone” is an instrument with the traditional baritone body shape and size, a string length of 18 3/8″, and tuned nominally to FBbDG.

Here are two recently completed “High” Baritones. One is has Ziricote back and sides, a Redwood top, Curly Maple rosette and bindings, Spanish Cedar neck, and Ebony fingerboard and bridge. It features a Gold Mother of Pearl Plumeria flower inlay on the fingerboard and a slotted headstock with Rubner tuners. The other instrument is made of master grade Quilted Bubinga back and sides, Western Red Cedar top, with Cocobolo Rosewood binding, head plate, fingerboard, and sound hole rosette. It also features a special fingerboard inlay of a dragonfly in white Mother of Pearl and Paua Abalone, and a slotted headstock with Rubner tuners.

Renaissance Guitar Build 2021

This is my first Renaissance Guitar build and a really different challenge for me. We know very little about how these instruments were constructed, but we do know they were very popular, and quite a lot of music survives. We know that the Renaissance Guitar had 4-courses of strings with the lower courses in pairs and the top string a single string. And know that it was commonly tuned from low to high Gg/CC/EE/A. I based my instrument on measurements of another modern builder’s recreation of a Renaissance Guitar (owned by a friend), bits of lute-making practice that could be applied, and my intuition.

The woods used are Mahogany (back, sides and neck), Lutz Spruce (top), Boxwood (tuning pegs), and Macassar Ebony (head plate, fingerboard, and bridge). The rosette is laser-cut in Cherry from Gamut Music in Duluth, MN.

Oregon Myrtle Tenor Ukulele

Tenor Ukulele with Oregon Myrtle back, sides and top; Walnut neck and Ebony fingerboard and bridge.

Medieval Fiddle/Vielle

A new type of build for 2019. This medieval bowed-string instrument was commissioned by my long time friend and virtuoso violinist, David Douglass. The back and sides are Walnut, Spruce top, Ebony tuning pegs, fingerboard, and tailpiece, with Ovangkol veneers.

Ziricote Baritone Ukulele

This Baritone Uke features some stunning Ziricote for the back and sides, a torrefied Sitka Spruce top, Macassar Ebony fingerboard, bridge, and head plate, Curly Koa Bindings and Sound Hole ring, and a slotted headstock and Rubner tuners.

Torrefied Sitka Spruce Top
Ziricote Back
Ziricote Back and Sides with Curly Koa Bindings
Sound Hole Ring in Curly Koa
Slotted Headstock with Rubner Tuners
Side Soundport

Melange of 2018 Ukulele Builds

Long-Neck Soprano with Cardinal Inlay

Recently completed in early 2017, here’s a Long-Neck Soprano Ukulele (soprano body with a concert neck and scale) made of Claro Walnut (back and sides), Lutz Spruce (top), Mahogany (neck), Koa (binding and sound hole ring), and Indian Rosewood (fingerboard and bridge) with Grover Gold open-back tuners.  The instrument features a special inlay of a male Cardinal perched on a branch that extends down onto the fingerboard and ends with an Apple blossom.  The longer string length (14.7″) makes the instrument easier to play, enhances the tonal qualities of the soprano body, and helps to make this ukulele sing sweetly.

LN Soprano

Full frontal view

Inlay detail

Side and front view

Art Deco Tenor Ukulele

This is a recently completed (early 2014) tenor ukulele where the client wanted special inlays using an Art Deco theme.  The headstock is based on a frieze above the entrance to Rockefeller Center by early 20th-century architectural sculpterLee Lawrie depicting “Knowledge” (or Zeus if you like).  The fingerboard inlay is based on the sculpture of Atlas (also by Lawrie) that is located in Rockefeller Plaza.  The inlay uses gold and white MOP with various types of reconstituted stone.  The instrument is made of Cocobolo Rosewood with a Lutz Spruce top and Curly Koa body and fingerboard binding.

End Strip Head Stock Inlay Sound Port Shoulder Front Center Lower Side and Top with Bridge

Baritone Guitar with Wave Inlay, May 2013

I recently finished a baritone guitar with a new inlay design.  The guitar features  curly Claro Walnut back and sides, Lutz Spruce top, Walnut neck and bindings, and Ebony head plate, finger board, and bridge.  It has a 28.04 inch scale and is tune to “B”, a fourth below normal guitar tuning.  The sustain and richness of the sound is amazing.  There’s an earlier post below that has construction shots.

My inlay is a kind of deconstruction of the famous Japanese print called “The Great Wave at Kanagawa”  by the early nineteenth-century artist Katsushika Hokusai, and other similar Japanese prints.  The inlay materials are white, black, and gold mother of pearl, laminated Agoya shell, and blue lapis reconstituted stone.

Baritone Baritone Walnut Back Wave Inlay Fretboard Wave Inlay Head Stock Wave Inlay Full Fretboard Baritone Bridge

New Concert and Tenor Ukuleles

Here’s a pair of ukuleles (concert and tenor) that I just finished and delivered to a customer who lives in Cleveland.  The bodies, body binding, and head plates are curly koa, with mahogany necks, and ebony fingerboard and bridge.   Both sound as good as they look.

Tenor Uke BridgeTenor Full Body

Tenor Body and NeckConcert Body and Neck