Intro to Baritone Ukulele – A Starter’s Guide

intro to baritone ukulele

The ukulele is a popular instrument that is easy-to-learn and fun to play!  It can make virtually any song sound great and people love hearing their favorite tunes played on a ukulele.  The small size of ukuleles also means they are very portable — making them the perfect option for taking camping or traveling.

But did you know there are many types of ukuleles?  The largest ukulele is called a baritone ukulele.  It is a great choice for anyone interested in a ukulele with a deeper and richer sound.

If the idea of a baritone ukulele sounds interesting, you have reached the right place. This guide will share all of the information you need to know about baritone ukuleles including where they came from and what materials they use.  We’ll also share some of the best ukuleles on the market.

A (brief) history of the baritone ukulele

The ukulele was first created by instrument makers in Hawaii in the 19th-Century, to emulate the Portuguese machete — a small instrument used by Portuguese immigrants.  “Ukulele” loosely translates to “jumping flea” in Hawaiian, which may be a reference to the quick finger movements of skilled ukulele players.  The ukulele eventually became popular internationally and has been used by some very prominent musicians over the years.

The baritone ukulele was sold commercially sometime around 1950 in the United States.  There are conflicting stories about who was responsible for the design of the baritone ukulele, with both Arthur Godfrey and Herk Favilla developing the instrument at different times.

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Do you need a pick to play ukulele?

This is a common question for beginners and it is a very important one too! The overall sound we produce with our instrument depends on our right hand technique. And amongst other things, our right hand technique depends on whether or not we use the pick.

Do you need a pick to play ukulele? Traditionally, the ukulele is played with the combination of fingers and fingernails. But while you don’t need one, you absolutely may use one! The pick can be useful at times and it is your instrument after all! Let’s explore a little further.

Historically, the first ukulele players did not play with a pick. The traditional technique is to use a combination of fingers and fingernails to pluck individual strings as well as to strum. The traditional Hawaiian rhythms, for example, were always strummed using the thumb or the index finger or a combination of both.

As we’ve mentioned in other articles here, this kind of technique (fingerpicking) allows for specific movements, positions and gestures of the right hand that are not possible otherwise. It also produces a specific sound that would also be different with the pick. These are the main features of what we know as the normal technique and sound of the ukulele.

So if you are a stickler for tradition, you will not need a pick. Continue developing your left hand strength and your right hand’s fingerpicking dexterity and you’re good to go! But if there are issues that make you wonder whether you need a pick or not, read on because you’re probably not wrong.

Read moreDo you need a pick to play ukulele?