Ukuleles come in different shapes and four main sizes: Soprano, Concert, Tenor and Baritone.
Understanding the pros and cons of each can be quite a project. It’s worth the work though to find the size that’s right for you.
In this post, we take you through the different sizes of the ukulele to help you make your pick.
First of all, before we dive into the different sizes, we need to understand what scale length is in ukulele terms. When someone says the scale of a ukulele, they are referring to the length of the playing string, from the nut to the saddle.Consequently, each different type of ukulele will have a unique scale length which is the primary distinguishing factor of ukuleles.
Scale length determines the spacing of the frets, but it also affects how the strings sound and how they feel to play. Short scale length ukuleles such as the soprano and concert have very little room to maneuver between the frets, and the shorter strings tend to be strung with less tension. As a result, many ukulele players find that longer scale sized ukuleles such as the tenor much easier to finger pick.
Shorter strings also have less length to allow the overtones to speak, which tends to create a softer, thicker sounding tone. Longer strings will have more room for overtones to speak which will create a clearer and more ringing tone.
The soprano ukulele is the smallest of them all. This is the traditional size of the uke and is what most people think about when they imagine a ukulele. It is the most common type and produces the trademark classic ukulele sound. The soprano ukulele measures about 20 inches.
This ukulele has also the tightest fret spacing. Its small size means it has a brighter, softer tone with less projection than a larger sized ukulele. It is tuned to the standard GCEA tuning.
This uke is suitable for players of any skill level. Young players and those with smaller hands will find this size perfect for them. Kids will almost exclusively choose the soprano ukulele.
Up next is the concert ukulele. It is roughly 23 inches.The concert uke has a bigger body and slightly longer neck allowing more room for the frets. This makes is easier to handle.
Like the soprano, it has the typical and classic ukulele sound albeit a bit louder. It is also tuned in the standard GCEA tuning.
The concert ukulele is great for players at any skill level but is especially suited to those with slightly larger hands or fingers. The larger size gives the concert a fuller sound and warmer tone than the soprano ukulele.
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The tenor ukulele comes next in size after the concert. It measures around 26 inches. The scale for the tenor is a little longer than the concert thus allowing for more frets with wider spacing between them.
Like the soprano and concert ukuleles, it is also tuned to GCEA.
The larger size gives the tenor a deeper, fuller sound with a deep, bass tone. It is also well suited for finger-picking. The tenor also projects better than the concert, making the volume a bit louder.
The tenor ukulele is most popular among professional musicians. Ukulele players with larger hands will find this size very comfortable.
Jenny and Rebecca both play tenor ukuleles with low G tuning.
Finally, the biggest ukulele of all is the baritone. It measures about 30 inches, almost the size of the guitar. It also sounds like a classical nylon stringed guitar due to its deep tone. In addition, the baritone ukulele has the longest scale with the widest fret spacing hence making it ideal for finger-picking.
The baritone tuning is DGBE, similar to the 4 highest strings of the guitar.While this quality makes it easier for guitar players, it probably explains why this ukulele size is least popular.
Almost all song tutorials will be on a ukulele tuned to GCEA. However, you can turn the DGBE tuning of the baritone ukulele to the conventional GCEA by placing a capo on the 5th fret of your baritone ukulele. Read more on capos in Ukulele Capos post.
If you are more into guitars and wondering how to choose the best one, you can head over to Best Guitar HQ and read their comprehensive guide to choosing the best guitar according to science.
Check out the video to hear the different ukulele sizes in action. And why not subscribe to our YouTube channel for more ukulele videos?
And here’s a video of Rebecca and Jenny shopping for Rebecca’s tenor ukulele at MusicWorks in El Cerrito, California.
Now that you know all about ukulele sizes, it’s time to decide what size fits you best.Therefore, go to a ukulele store and try out the different sizes. Place the ukulele in a playing position, pluck a few strings, listen to the sound and try carrying the ukulele around. Choose the size that you like and are comfortable with, not what is most popular.
We hope this post will help you choose the best ukulele size for you.