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If you have played around with a Uke and want to move up to something with more "Oomph", then this baritone Ukulele hits the spot. Beautifully shaped and with a deeper sound that projects well, this will turn heads.
I not only have a house full of guitars, an awful lot of the violin family knocking about, I also have a secret soft place in my heart for the Uke. Ok, most of them are badly made and cheaply manufactured in bulk due to the recent rise in popularity of this little four stringed wonder, but there are some lovely instruments out there. I have a few of the typical small soprano Ukes including a very old one which I have restored. This one caught my eye on Amazon because I loved the shape and the fact that it paid homage to the mandolin with its fancy f-holes.
INTRODUCING THE BARITONE:
The baritone uke is the bigger brother to the more known soprano. The traditional shape of a uke is the curvy figure of 8, a mini acoustic guitar if you like. There are variants available including the fantastic Flying V uke and the Les Paul inspired uke, but all of the soprano's are limited in projection/loudness. They also have a very distinctive "plinky plonk" tone, which you either love or hate.
Ukes generally have four strings and range in size from the smallest soprano, right up to the baritone. This Blue Moon baritone is ideal for those wanting more from a Uke, and also for those who are bigger and needing a larger instrument to play. A soprano uke is very small and this is one of the reasons that it is a great instrument for children to learn.
A baritone uke is usually around 30" long with a scale length of 19". It is tuned differently to the soprano uke (typically GCEA), instead the baritone is generally tuned DGBE. There are variations in tuning to explore though, so google and have a go on some alternatives.
This looks a lot like a cross between a mandolin with f-holes and the Hofner bass made famous by Paul McCartney. To be honest, this was the main reason for my purchase, alongside the intrigue of playing a baritone. Although I have had a lot of fun with my little soprano's, the "plink plink" gets a bit annoying after a while and the instrument is fairly limited.
The Blue Moon baritone uke is a great starter instrument for exploring the baritone sound. It is not perfect, and some parts of it could be improved, but overall I love mine. The uke arrived very quickly,and was very well protected in its box. I had a set of decent strings ready, as the strings on most ukes are rubbish. My choice of string for all things ukulele are Aquila Nylgut strings, so I had these to hand when I unpacked the instrument.
The instrument is fairly slim and very light, making it easy to play and carry around. I would have preferred a fatter body just for the sound improvement but this is a small issue.
The finish on the uke is good and further enhances the mandolin look, especially with the contrasting fingerboard and binding. The varnish seems to be a standard nitrocellulose, in that it has a matt almost plastic feel to it. Unfortunately most ukes seem to be finished this way, and I would love to see one of these stripped down and french polished.
I took the supplied strings off of the uke as they were cheap and poor quality. The Aquila's went on quickly and held in place well with no play from the fine tuners. You could also use wound steel strings for the bottom two if you preferred. You may need to widen the slots in the nut to fit wound strings but this is a simple task with a nut file.
This has a contrasting darker colour to the main body and is trimmed with a cream colour binding. The fret wire is standard metal and has a few slightly round edges, easily sorted with a small file. The intonation stays true and the neck is nice and straight. The wood on the fingerboard is rosewood, a hardwood often used for guitar fingerboards as it is hard wearing and gets better with age. It was a bit dry but loosened up as it was played.
Blue Moon list this as "pear shaped" and indeed it is. The front, back and sides are made from sapele wood which has a similar look and feel to mahogany. It has a reddish tone and some nice grain pattern across the front. The cream binding of the fingerboard is matched around the body, and the bridge is also matched to the fingerboard in a nice chocolate coloured rosewood.
The fine tuners have a chrome finish and are geared, allowing for more accurate tuning, which is especially important when using nylon strings. They hold well and are well cast with no dimples or annoying flaws. The tuners are also easy to turn which is helpful.
The f-holes across the front are decorative and reminiscent of a mandolin. The are not brilliantly finished and slightly rough around the inner edges, but I sorted that with a very fine grade sandpaper (taking great care not to scuff the finish). In using an f-hole, the instrument is able to project better than just a round sound hole, and it enhances the sound effectively. The position of the holes is important too, and these are designed for optimum playability and projection in relation to the strings, soundboard and the inner bracing.
The baritone uke has a very decent tone for a cheap instrument. Certainly it would not have been as impressive with the standard strings on it, as Aquila strings always enhance tone and stop the instrument from going out of tune quickly. I found that the sound was rich and bassy and quite unexpectedly loud for such a narrow instrument. You do still get a certain amount of "plink" but it is still a ukulele after all!
There is no annoying fret buzz or wonky intonation, and the tuning is tight.
ACTION AND PLAYABILITY:
I found that the action was slightly high for me so I filed the bridge down a tad. This is my personal choice though, and something that a buyer would be unlikely to care about. The action is decent enough, certainly the strings bend nicely with not too much play (although that is also down to Aquila), and not too much pressure is needed to play a chord. As you move up the neck, the playability remains decent, and it is an easy instrument to scoot around the frets on.
This is a beauty in my opinion, but then I do love the look of anything curvy and mandolin styled. This is a good sized instrument and of similar size to my half sized classical guitar. The grain on the front is very appealing and the shape is very eye catching.
* Glorious shape with open F-holes to front
* Nice features and rich deep sound
* GCEA tuning but there are other tunings available including DGBE (trad baritone)
* Overall Length: 730mm
* Depth: 50mm
* Scale length: 490mm
* Weight: 1.50 kg (approx)
* Made in China
For a mass produced instrument, this is good. It has a few flaws, and lacks a bit of finishing finesse, but these are easy to resolve. It looks brilliant and has a nice, rich tone. More importantly, it is still very easy to play. I cannot recommend Aquila strings enough, if you keep the strings on it that it arrives with, then you will not experience the full tonal range that is possible. I would like it to have had a fatter body, but all in all this little lovely gets 4/5 stars from me and I do recommend it.
The Blue Moon baritone ukulele costs £56.08 with free delivery on Amazon.