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The term “Lyric Baritone” comes from opera, where it designates a singer whose vocal range is at the upper registers of a traditional Baritone.  There is a lighter, more melodic quality to the voice.  We thought that name was appropriate for this instrument, even though much of its range takes in the lower registers of a Tenor Ukulele. It has a soundboard that is similar in area to that of a Tenor Ukulele.  Our bracing, however, is lighter than the typical arrangement of either of the large standard Ukuleles.  The scale, or fretboard length, is like a traditional Baritone and finally, the body is substantially deeper than a Tenor and slightly deeper than a Baritone. When looking at the standard form big Ukuleles, it seemed to us that the helter-skelter nature of their development has resulted in instruments that are less than perfectly designed for the way they are often played today.  The Tenor Ukulele, for example was designed for an Ukulele reentrant G tuning.  It is very seldom played that way today.  That tuning has migrated to the Baritone Ukulele.  Linear C tuning has become popular on the Tenor, but is now also finding its way onto the Baritone.  We feel our instrument, at the very least, gives a new voice to some of these set-ups, and being designed specifically for that range, we feel many may prefer that voice.  Both the standard Baritone and our Lyric model are instruments of a size and scale that make them extremely versatile in how they can be used.  Here’s what we have done with our design. As an Ukulele reentrant instrument:  Here we have a specific recommendation for a Key of G tuning (see previous page).  This is supposedly what the Tenor Ukulele was designed for.  It probably fell out of popularity on that instrument for two reasons.  First, at that time the Concert and Soprano Ukuleles had a much higher, brighter and livelier sound.  The contrast was so great, and so different from anything that had been heard before, that most of the Ukulele players of the day rejected it out of hand as simply not sounding “like an Ukulele”. There were more substantial problems, however.  String those notes on that short a scale, at least in those days, and for many today as well, and a wound string becomes necessary for the 3rd.  The other strings are heavy and/or somewhat slack, so while the body volume is just barely enough to take care of the low note of that tuning, the other strings also give very uninspired performance. All that changes with the longer scale of the Lyric Baritone.  Now you can string with better tensions, and lighter, more responsive gauges.  While the stringing provides a brighter, more responsive tone, the deeper body gives added depth, so that compared to a standard Tenor, the Lyric Baritone manages to pull off a seeming contradiction:  it becomes brighter with a fuller sound at the same time.  Compared to a standard Baritone, the smaller soundboard and lighter bracing make it more responsive.  After all, a standard Baritone is designed and braced for a deeper linear range of notes and the higher tensions those set-ups will have.  As a Cuatro reentrant instrument:  The Lyric Baritone is a natural for this type of set-up, as its layout is very similar to a traditional Cuatro Venezolano.  Our instrument is not as fragile in its construction and has the lower action typical of Ukuleles and Guitars, but with a scale and body size that are relatively the same, the traditional Cuatro tuning in D sounds wonderful on this instrument.  For Ukulele players who prefer to play in the Key of C, it is also well suited to drop down to that tuning (see the two previous page recommendations), and gives a much deeper sound than a linear C tuned instrument.  In B flat tuning, you have a sound with a tonal volume as deep as a standard Linear G tuned Baritone, but without the muddy tone or flabby strings.  In addition, our light soundboard bracing gives the same sort of quick response from a Lyric Baritone that one would expect from a true Cuatro. Ukuleles players can switch to this set-up about as easily as they switch back and forth between Linear and Ukulele reentrant set-ups.  The chord shapes will remain the same.  For more on this type of set-up, follow the previous page link to our Tuning & Strings site, and see letter #007 on the Tips page. As a Linear or Open tuned instrument:  Compared to a standard Baritone, our Lyric model has a smaller soundboard and lighter bracing, and thus, recommended tunings are higher that those of a Traditional Baritone:  the Keys of C and B flat.  When we speak of “Open” tuning, we’re restricting it only to mean the tuning shown on the previous page, sometimes called Taropatch.  As the range of notes is so similar to the linear form, what we point out in regard to linear tuning will apply to this form of open tuning as well. A Linear C tuning is most commonly found on the Tenor Ukulele.  While the Tenor Ukulele was not originally designed for that, it has become increasing popular since the instruments’ introduction.  The low note of a Linear C tuning - the 4th string - is the same g note as the low note of the Tenors’ original Key of G Ukulele reentrant tuning: a g note on the 3rd string.  The reason for the preference for the linear form is partially because of a greater acceptance of linear set-ups in general on an Ukulele today, but mainly because the with the Linear set-up, the other three strings are in a higher range.  As a result the string gauges are more responsive than with the heavier strung Key of G reentrant set-up on such a short scale.    A Tenor Ukulele, then is a very viable choice for this set-up.  With the Lyric Baritone, however, we wanted to present another option - another voice.  Compared to a standard Tenor Ukulele, the differences in tone arise from the three factors of a longer scale, a deeper body, and lighter soundboard bracing. The longer scale requires a move to lighter gauge strings for this tuning.  These lighter gauges with wound strings give a clearer, brighter sound, than a traditional Tenor.  At the same time you realize a lighter, clearer sound, the deeper sized body gives extra depth to the sound.  Finally, the lightly braced soundboard gives this instrument the ability to respond well, maintaining projection and sustain at lighter tension. If you prefer to play at high tension, the heavier strings and heavier braced soundboard of a standard Tenor Ukulele will suit you best for this tuning.  It is very much more “guitar” oriented than our instrument, both in how it plays and how it sounds.  On the other hand, if you like playing at more traditional Ukulele tensions, and with a light, clear, yet full sound -  a sound that has more of the traditional Ukulele character as well, then we recommend you consider our Lyric Baritone. Comparing this tuning on our Lyric model with a standard Baritone, many elements are the same.  With the same scales, and a similar depth, the tensions and the character of sound will not be remarkably different.  The body volume is less on our Lyric model, but is still more than sufficient for this tuning.  In linear C, the bigger standard Baritone body has a lot of unused capacity.  However, the smaller soundboard of a Lyric Baritone is more easily driven with the lighter strings for this tuning, and in addition, a standard Baritone is much more heavily braced than our Lyric model.  A Lyric Baritone is simply better designed for playing in C tuning, and compared to a standard Baritone, will give much quicker and livelier response. With a B flat linear tuning, you have a sound that falls roughly between the sound of a standard Tenor in C tuning and a standard Baritone in it’s traditional linear G tuning.  On our instrument, however, even with a deeper tuning, thanks to the longer scale, B flat will sound at least as clear as a Tenor linear C tuning.  Compared to a G tuned standard Baritone, the sound has so much more life, clarity and resonance that the comparison is stark.  Anther advantage of B flat tuning comes through the use of a capo.  If you are at all familiar with Flamenco guitar playing, you may have noticed that it sounds very different from Classical guitar.  You may also have noticed that these fellows are almost never seen playing without a capo.  As flamenco is instrumental more often than not, so this is not done to adjust for vocals.  It’s because flamenco players prefer a higher, brighter sound, and most importantly, the low action that goes with capo use.  You need a certain scale length for this to be effective, and the 20” scale of the Lyric Baritone does the trick.  Tune to the key of B flat and capo to C, and on our long neck, you will still have 14 frets to work with. In other words, from B flat tuning with a Lyric Baritone, a capoed C tuning leaves you with the same fretboard length as a standard Baritone, the difference being, you have a lower action.  For those who have learned in C tuning, wish to avoid transposing in a group situation, but still love a sound with a rich deep tone, then a B flat tuning is a wonderful place to be. If you prefer the deeper pitched linear set-ups, the body volume of a Lyric Baritone will be too small.  For a tuning in the Key of A, we would suggest a traditional Baritone Ukulele and in Linear G or F tuning, one of our classical Tenor Guitars.  Tenor Largo or Lyric Baritone? These two designs are actually the same instrument with one difference only - the depth of the body.  Our recommended tunings intersect where the low note is a g.  The two most common set-ups with g as a low note are the Ukulele Reentrant Key of G (g on the 3rd string), and the linear Key of C (g on the 4th string).  The deeper Lyric Baritone (LB) body gives a fuller, more reverberant sound in those tunings while the shallower Tenor Largo (TL)  body gives a brighter, quicker sound.  In addition, both of these tunings can be done with plain strings or wound strings.  Our own view is that the all plain string set-ups with slightly lower tension match up best with the shallow body TL, while the longer sustain of a wound string set-up with slightly firmer tension sounds best on the deeper body LB. Cuatro tunings also can have a low note of g (or even higher), and so they can be played on a TL, but our recommendation there is for the LB, as there are two relatively low notes and a deep body gives more of the traditional Cuatro sound.  

the Lyric Baritone Ukulele - design & sound

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