Having a hard time figuring out what size of ukulele to buy? Maybe you’re trying to figure out what size of ukulele you have? Whatever your questions are, we’re going to look at the different sizes of ukuleles and the advantages and disadvantages to each.
There are four main types of ukuleles: soprano, concert (or alto), tenor, and baritone.
Lanikai LU-11 Soprano Uke ($49.99)
Great for Beginners
Tuning: GCEA, ADF#B
Number of frets: 12-15
The most common and standard type of ukulele is the soprano ukulele. It’s the smallest ukulele and is known for its thin, jangly sound so commonly associated with ukuleles. Because it’s so small, its perfect for traveling.
Sometimes people with larger fingers or hands have trouble playing the soprano ukulele because the frets are closer together. Because the strings have less tension on a soprano uke, you might find it easy to accidentally bend a string out of tune.
Despite these relatively minor downsides, the soprano ukulele is probably the best bang for the buck. In comparison to other types of ukuleles, it can usually be had for the cheapest price.
Take a listen to how a soprano uke sounds in the following video by doogey9.
Ibanez UKC10 Concert Uke ($79.99)
The concert ukulele, sometimes referred to as the alto, is just a little bit bigger than the soprano and some would consider it to have a fuller sound. It’s commonly tuned in standard like the soprano uke although some people will opt to tune their G down an octave (linear tuning).
Because a concert uke is longer than a soprano, there will be more tension on the strings. This can be beneficial if you find yourself bending strings out of tune as you press your fingers down on the strings against the frets.
The frets are a bit more spaced on a concert ukulele than the soprano, so folks with larger fingers might find it easier to play. There can be up to 20 frets on a concert ukulele which allows players to navigate to higher notes on the fretboard.
Take a listen to the following performance on a concert ukulele by Ribbeemusic.
Fender Nohea Koa Tenor Ukulele ($199.99)
The tenor ukulele is just a little bit bigger than the concert uke. The overall sound and tone is even fuller than it’s smaller brothers. For performers, the tenor ukulele is great because you get a rich full sound, and since you have more frets, you’re able to reach higher notes on the fretboard.
Tenor ukuleles are commonly tuned in standard re-entrant or linear tuning, but some will choose to tune it lower like a baritone ukulele to DGBE.
In this video, IveBenCrazy gives us a performance of “Sweet Caroline” on a tenor ukulele.
Oscar Schmidt OU53S Uke ($175.00)
Number of frets: 19+
The baritone ukulele is the biggest of the ukes. It’s tuned down lower to DGBE, which is equivalent to the tuning of the bottom four strings on a guitar. This is going to produce a deeper sound. While you can still strum it like any other ukulele, you’re going to really lose that bright crisp sound that you’d get with soprano. Baritone ukes are great for blues players and fingerpickers, or those who prefer that deeper and fuller sound.
In the following video, mugambismonkey gives us a performance of an original song he wrote on the ukulele called “Kiss Me.” You can really hear how much lower the baritone uke sounds in this video.
What Ukulele is Best for Me?
Generally, beginners will start out on a soprano uke because you can usually find a decently playable one for a low price, comparatively speaking.
However, the best thing you can do is to go to your nearest music store and try out different ukuleles. What ukulele sounds best to you? What ukulele feels best to you? For some, what ukulele looks best to you? These questions are more often not answered as you start playing different kinds of ukuleles.
What’s your favorite size of ukulele? I have a tenor uke and I love it. It gives me a nice full sound, but I still get the plunky sound when I strum it. I also like that there is a bit more tension on the strings and the frets are wider for my fingers.
Share your thoughts, questions, or comments below.