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Tenor Guitar Vs Baritone Ukulele: The Ultimate Guide (2022 Edition)

Table of Contents

If you’re curious about the difference between a tenor guitar vs baritone ukulele, this post is for you!

I’ve been a guitar player since 2003 and have messed around with plenty of instruments since then. 

So what’s the difference between a tenor guitar and a baritone ukulele?

Check out the table below to get a sense of their differences:

Quality
Tenor Guitar
Baritone Ukulele
Standard Tuning
CGDA (the exact same tuning as tenor banjo or viola)
DGBE (the exact same tuning as the first four strings of the standard guitar)
Scale Length
Usually around 21 to 23 inches
Usually around 19 inches.
String Type
Steel
Nylon
Sound
Somewhat like a steel string travel guitar
Somewhat like a classical guitar because of its nylon strings and tuning similar to standard guitar
Price
More expensive
Less expensive
Learning Materials
Fewer
More

I’ll explore these differences more in the sections below.

Tenor Guitar Vs Baritone Ukulele: Tuning

The tenor guitar has an interesting sound when strung to its standard tuning of CGDA.

The tenor guitar sounds a bit old-fashioned to me, perhaps because it’s the same tuning as a viola, and tunes on the viola are often from a different era.

Regardless, it’s a flexible tuning that is particularly popular in folk music.

The baritone uke, on the other hand, has the same tuning as the first four strings of the guitar: DBGE

This is actually in the same intervals as a ukulele but tuned down a fourth.

Thus, the baritone uke has a sound that’s a nice cross between guitar and uke, perhaps with slight guitar sound bias since its lowest string isn’t pitched up an octave like the standard uke’s.

I’ll discuss their differing sounds more in the sound section below.

Comparing Scale Length

Scale length is often a good proxy for the size of an instrument.

For instance, if one instrument’s scale length is longer than another, it often has a bigger body as well.

This isn’t always the case.

But in this case of comparing the tenor guitar and baritone ukulele, it’s true.

The tenor guitar has a longer scale length and usually has a bigger body than the baritone uke.

Thus, if you’re evaluating these instruments based on size and which will travel better, the baritone uke might be a better bet.

Tenor Guitar Vs Baritone Ukulele: Strings

As mentioned above, the tenor guitar has steel strings, and the baritone uke has nylon (or, more likely, nylgut) strings.

This string difference gives them a very different sound.

Steel strings cut through the mix and tend to ring brightly and clearly.

Nylon strings are warmer, softer, and more mellow.

This is consistent with the overall tone of these instruments.

Here‘s a popular string set for the tenor guitar. And here‘s one for the baritone uke.

Sound Comparison

You can get a sense of the tenor guitar and its sound in the video below.

As I mentioned above, this instrument has a classical sound to me in the sense of originating from the classical music time period (as opposed to a classical guitar sound).

Nevertheless, it’s got a cool, versatile tuning and sound that can be used to spice up all sorts of standard guitar music.

Now let’s compare this instrument’s sound to a baritone uke in the video below.

In this fun video, Kevin with AllforUke plays Country Roads by John Denver on the baritone uke.

If you’re familiar with the standard ukulele, you know this baritone sounds a bit different.

It’s a little closer to the sound of a classical guitar, but maintaining a bit of ukulele sound thanks to the smaller instrument body and four strings.

And of course, this sound differs significantly from the tenor guitar demoed in the video above.

Price

Specialty instruments sometimes skip the low-range, entry-level price point since they aren’t for beginners.

And this is the case for tenor guitars.

There just aren’t many entry-level tenor guitars available with entry-level pricing.

Instead, the few tenor guitar models you do find will likely be $200 or more.

On the other hand, you can find more entry-level baritone ukuleles with entry-level pricing like this one.

Thus, as far as pricing goes, a starter baritone ukulele will probably be less expensive than a tenor guitar.

Tenor Guitar Vs Baritone Ukulele: Learning Materials

You can find many learning materials for the guitar and ukulele, but fewer materials specifically for the tenor guitar and baritone ukulele.

That said, you will probably find more dedicated learning materials for the baritone uke than the tenor guitar.

Although I found a handful of resources for the tenor guitar, I found several more for the baritone uke.

This is important to consider when learning an instrument.

Without an abundance of learning materials, getting started with an instrument can prove difficult.

Which instrument should you pursue?

So, which instrument should you pursue? Check out this table to find out:

You might pursue the tenor guitar if several of the following are true.
You might pursue the baritone ukulele if several of the following are true.
You already play the tenor banjo or viola and want to explore a guitar-like instrument that can be tuned to the same tuning.
You already play the standard guitar or standard uke and would like a nice crossover instrument.
You are willing to pay a premium to add a specialty instrument to your collection.
You are looking for an inexpensive instrument to add to your collection.
You are willing to learn this twist on the guitar with few dedicated learning materials.
You prefer having more learning materials at your disposal.

Tenor Guitar Vs Baritone Ukulele: Conclusion

I hope this article helped you learn more about each of these instruments!

As usual, let me know in the comments if you have any further questions!

And if you want to learn more about guitar-like instruments, check out this post!

Or, if you’re looking for more instrument comparisons, then check out:

3 Responses

  1. Andrew Poretz says:

    Your chart at the end of the article keeps mentioning “baritone guitar” but not “baritone uke,” so I think there was a typing error

  2. Andrew Poretz says:

    Also, as made clear in the videos, a tenor guitar can be tuned either like a member of the violin family/a banjo, or like a guitar. This seemed lost in the chart at the end.

    1. Thanks, Andrew!

      I tried to update the article with your observations in mind.

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