There are 4 different sizes of the standard ukulele; Soprano, Concert, Tenor and Baritone. Which one will you choose?
- Length: 21”
- Number of Frets: 12-15
- Tuning – GCEA
This is the most common and standard size of uke. It is the smallest in the family and is the one that is commonly associated with ukulele’s as it is little, thin and perfect for travelling. People with larger fingers sometimes get concerned that they will have trouble playing the soprano because the frets are closer together, but I personally think unless your fingers are very large you shouldn’t have too much trouble. The only other slight downside to having a soprano uke is that they have less tension in the strings than the other sizes meaning they may slip out of tune after bending a string. In spite this the soprano ukulele is great fun and is the most affordable out of the 4, so you won’t have to spend a lot to get jamming!
- Length: 23”
- Number of Frets: 14-17
- Tuning – GCEA
Only a couple of inches bigger than the soprano, the concert ukulele produces a more round sound due to the slightly bigger frame. It is usually tuned to the same tuning as the soprano (GCEA) and is a popular choice for people with larger fingers because there is more spacing between the frets. Guitarist like the concert size not only because of the sound but because there is more tension in the strings making it beneficial to players who are looking to bend strings as you will not bend them out of tune as often. Having up to 20 frets means that players can steer to higher notes on the fret board.
- Length: 26”
- Number of Frets: 15-19+
- Tuning – GCEA
The tenor uke is quite a lot bigger than the soprano uke and because of this you will get a much richer and fuller sound along with a heavier, more weighted instrument. This ukulele is a popular choice for performers because of the tonal qualities and the capabilities to reach higher notes on the fret board. It is usually tuned to standard tuning (GCEA) but is sometimes can be tuned lower like a baritone uke (DGBE).
- Length: 30”+
- Number of Frets: 19-21
- Tuning – DGBE
This is the daddy of the ukulele family, the baritone. It is tuned to the bottom four strings of a guitar (DGBE) giving a deeper sound. With this added depth you do lose the bright, snappy tonal qualities that you get from the soprano. A lot of guitarists convert to the baritone because of the similarities to the guitar and with big frets it is ideal for anyone who is looking for that bigger uke with bigger frets.
The 3 most common ones are the soprano, concert and tenor, with each bringing its own sound and characteristics to your playing style. However I think it is always important to remember that it is you that will be choosing and playing the instrument so I would advise to always go with the one that feels right and comfortable for you. As well I think you will need to consider what kind of music you are looking to play as the different sizes will help for different styles. If you’re mostly interested in strumming chords then you may find yourself looking at the soprano or the concert. Whereas if you are thinking you would want to play more of a finger, virtuosic style of music you may lean towards the tenor or baritone because of the spacing and number of frets.
If you are looking for some more advice on the ukulele then I would recommend checking out my Ukulele Buyers Guide as there are some helpful insights into what you should be looking for when purchasing your ukulele.