Make a baritone cuatrolele

No, it’s not a tongue-twister. Rather, it’s a new cool-sounding tuning that you may want to try. Ingredients: a baritone ukulele, an extra guitar 5th string (or baritone uke 4th). It sounds particularly good using a capo.

Some time ago, I wrote this post about making a “cuatrolele,” meaning a ukulele where the 1st string is one octave down, rather than the 4th being 1 octave up from linear tuning. The cuatrolele tuning, which is exactly one whole step up from the standard tuning for a Venezuelan cuatro, is one of the four possible “close harmony” tunings for a ukulele, where the open strings pitches are all within one octave, thus leading to a sound that many perceive as “sweet” or “mellow,” especially when strumming. Then I wrote this other post about bringing a tenor ukulele down to “baritenor” tuning in open G6 rather than open C6, by changing only two strings. This post completes the set, so to speak, by converting a baritone uke to cuatro-like tuning, or bringing a “cuatrolele” down from C6 to G6, whichever way you want to look at it.

This conversion turns out to be the simplest of all. Since a standard baritone uke already has a “low D” 4th string, the only thing we need is to make a “low E” 1st string, one octave down from standard tuning. This is easily accomplished by swapping the 1st string for a string similar to the 4th, such as a classica guitar 5th string. If you can find a wound string that is a little thinner (but not as thin as the 3rd), even better. It has a rather high tension when tuned to E, but nothing that will break the instrument (or the string).

When to use it? Any time you want to accompany a song sounding “a little lower” than with a regular uke. The new low E is not the lowest pitch (that’s still the 4th string), so the body is well suited to handle it. It does graze the edge of muddiness, however, but I’ve found that strumming closer to the bridge adds enough harmonics to keep it sounding good, especially for slow or sad songs. Bringing the tuning up with a capo pulls the sound away from muddiness right away. To bring it to regular “cuatrolele” tuning (open C6), capo it on the 5th fret.

But you be the judge. Here’s a sample containing a strummed chord sequence: G-C-G-D7-B7-E7-A7-D7-G. Hope you like it.

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