You want to be the next famous Ukulele player like Elvis or Zooey Deschanel but have no idea where to start?
Or, you already own a Ukulele and want to advance by buying a new size?
Well, this is the place for you. This article will describe the various differences between Ukulele sizes and the pros and cons between them.
When I first wanted to play the ukulele, I foolishly thought buying any old one off the internet was the way to go. Without completing any research, or reading an awesome blog like this one, I bought the first thing I saw and instantly regretted it.The size didn't feel right, the sound wasn't what I wanted, it was a waste of money.
Don't repeat my mistake. Read this and make an informed decision on which Ukulele size you want.
Types of Ukuleles
When you say Ukulele, most people will automatically picture the soprano, as it is the most common and widely used size for this instrument.
The soprano is typically 20 or 21 inches long and is the size chosen for many children or small handed individuals that can’t handle the bigger lengths. Most sopranos will have 12 frets that are spaced ¾ inch apart, again helping for those that don’t have the finger width.
The soprano has an extremely distinctive sound; sweet and more like the traditional Ukuleles you have probably heard. Here's a pretty good beginner's Soprano Ukulele for not much money. Here are some pros and cons of the Soprano:
- Price: You can pick up a soprano ukulele for around £20 online like this one. Somepacks will also include carry bags and song books.
- Portable: The small size allows for easy travel.
- Easy to hold: Most beginners choose this size.
- Guitar players might want more of a challenge or different sound
- The small size can be difficult for those with larger hands
- A cheaper item may not be as reliable
Try listening to a demo of a soprano Ukulele:
The desire for a different sound meant the concert Ukulele was created in the 1920s. The length is slightly larger than the Soprano, coming up at 23 inches, with each fret separated by ⅞ inch. This minor difference led to the concert having a louder and deeper sound than the soprano.
The larger length means a greater variety of people will find this the easiest sized ukulele.
Concert Ukuleles typically have between 15-20 frets, meaning a larger number of notes to be played. Here are some more pros and cons.
- Larger hands are accommodated
- Warmer sound is appreciated by many over the sweetness of the soprano
- Nice middle choice between soprano and baritone
The following video highlights the different sound created by the mahogany and Hawaiian Koa woods. Both are Concert Ukuleles.
Considering this little gem is only 6 inches bigger than the Soprano, it looks almost twice the size! The wider fret size, 1 inch, is ideal for those with larger hands who find the smaller ukuleles quite cumbersome.
The higher number of frets allows for higher sounds to be reached, so try singing along and you may sound like Freddie Mercury! The Tenor Ukuleles deeper sound is ideal for those guitar players who wish to still have the bass sound but on a smaller instrument.
This size is ideal for advanced players who wish to try out more complicated chords due to the larger frets. Here are some more pros and cons:
- Larger hands are more accommodated
- Deep sound
- Higher notes can be reached
Listen to the sound of the Tenor Ukulele:
The largest size of the Ukuleles comes in at a whopping 30 inches! The large size predictably allows the Ukulele to provide the deepest sound. Therefore if you wish to sound like Barry White while playing this instrument, the Baritone size is the one for you! Disclaimer, you may not sound as good as Mr White!
The sound produced by the Baritone is more alike to the guitar, but still has the same Ukulele tone loved by many. The Baritone’s strings are tuned to different notes than the other sizes, which can be confusing for those familiar with how the Soprano, Concert and Tenor are tuned.
- Great for guitar players wishing to change instruments
- Warm and deeper sound than other sizes
- Larger hands find this easiest to learn on
To hear the deeper sound of the baritone, listen to this wonderful version of Here Comes the Sun:
Deciding which Ukulele size to buy can be time consuming and extremely annoying. Hopefully by reading this post, you have more of an idea on the differences between ukulele sizes.
Each have very distinctive qualities: the Soprano is great for children or beginner players. The Concert is for those just learning who have larger hands. The Tenor size is a great middle size for those used to the Ukulele and like the deeper sound. Finally, the Baritone is nice for guitar players wanting a smaller instrument with a similar sound.
Most importantly, choosing the right Ukulele size depends on what you want. A sweet or deep sound? A portable instrument? Do you have smaller hands or sausage like digits?
I hope you have enjoyed this post, comment on what Ukulele size you have or want to get.
Ged is Founder and Editor-in-chief at Zing Instruments. He’s a guitarist for London based gypsy jazz band ‘Django Mango’ and a lover of all things music. When he’s not ripping up and down the fretboard, he’s tinkering with his ’79 Campervan.