So you’d like to buy your first ukulele, or perhaps you’d like to add another instrument to your tonal palette? In this article we are hoping to demystify the four most common sizing options you’ll find here in store, giving you a breakdown of all you need to know about the Ukuleles tone, scale length, weight and feel. Hopefully this will help you make an informed decision when selecting your next ukulele!
First up, the small and sweet Soprano!
When one pictures a ukulele, the Soprano size is the most likely to come to mind. The Soprano is the smallest of the four main sizes.
In the purest sense, smallest typically means lightest. This results in a sweet, percussive, and bright tonality, yet often less projection and volume than its larger counterparts.
The compact physical dimension of the instrument also translates to a shorter scale length (the length of the vibrating portion of the strings), as well as tighter fret spacing (the distance between each of the steel bars pressed into the fingerboard). This results in a ukulele which younger players or those with smaller hands or fingers may find more comfortable to play.
The traditional tuning for the Soprano Ukulele is (high) G, C, E, A.
Despite its size, the Soprano is certainly not to be considered as a beginners instrument! Many of the most renowned ukulele pieces ever recorded have been tracked using the humble soprano!
The middle child: the Concert size!
The next step up in size from the Soprano is the Concert ukulele! This ukulele is built to slightly larger proportions on all axes, the scale length is typically an inch longer, and the nut and neck are also wider, all of which makes the instrument slightly heavier than a Soprano.
With the extra length comes wider spacing between frets, so players with larger hands or a background in guitar may find them more comfortable to play.
The larger size also translates to a fuller, thicker tonality with greater volume and projection – particularly in the mid-range frequencies.
The Concert size fits tonally between the Soprano and Tenor, highlighting Soprano like sweetness combined with some of the mid-low richness of the larger Tenor Ukulele.
Typically tuned (high) G, C, E, A, but can also take Low G string sets (where the G string is tuned an octave lower) with ease!
The tremendous Tenor!
The Tenor is the next size up from a Concert ukulele. In terms of scale length, you’ll be looking at about two inches longer. The neck and nut is again a little wider than that of the Concert size which will add to the overall weight of the instrument.
The generous proportions of the Tenor Ukulele offers the player plenty room between the frets, this results in an instrument well suited for more complicated playing styles such as finger-picking and finger-style.
In recent years, the Tenor has become a standard among professional players due to its superior projection, clear tonality and unrivalled low end which sits well when collaborating with musicians playing other acoustic instruments.
In addition to their standard D, G, B, E string sets and tuning, Baritone ukuleles can also be strung with (high) G, C, E, A and (high) D, G, B, E sets which makes them wonderfully versatile.
Beginners (particularly those with a background in guitar) find these to be a very rewarding and versatile instrument to start their ukulele journey with.
Typically tuned (high) G, C, E, A, but can sound incredible with a Low G instead!
The big, beautiful Baritone!
The Baritone size ukulele is the largest of the four main sizes. The scale length is generally around three inches longer than that of a Tenor and subsequently features the widest nut width of the four main ukulele sizes.
A key characteristic of the Baritone is its similarity to the classical guitar in terms of pitch. Typically it is tuned (low to high) D, G, B, E which is in unison with the highest four strings on the guitar. This makes for an easy transition for players who have experience with the guitar.
Tonally, the Baritone ukulele is rich in low end, and is warm and full sounding with considerable volume.