Size Does Matter, Choosing the Right Ukulele!
Author: Mary Date Posted:16 August 2019
“Uke-Can Do it!”
So, you’re ready to purchase your first ukulele, but unsure where to begin. Don’t fret! You’re not alone—the variety of choice can often be overwhelming, particularly if choosing your first instrument. The right instrument will set you up for the greatest success and enjoyment, making it a worthwhile investment, and we’re here to arm you with the tools necessary to make a choice with confidence.
As a starting point, there are four (main) different ukulele sizes available: soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone.
The Soprano – Tuned GCEA
Arguably the “O.G” of ukuleles, an image of the soprano will most likely come to mind when picturing the quintessential ukulele. Its small body produces the warm, bright tone attributed to a traditional ukulele sound. The small spacing between frets makes it the perfect choice for children and its light weight makes it the perfect travel companion! The downside to this petite instrument is that some adults may find it difficult to manoeuvre with larger hands. It also has the most limited range of all sizes.
With all that said, though, the soprano ukulele is by far the most popular choice as the longstanding original.
The Concert - Tuned GCEA
A step-up in size from the soprano, the concert ukulele has a slightly larger neck and body. You may also hear it referred to as the ‘alto’ ukulele. The extra size allows for greater production of sound, and a slightly fuller, warmer tone. It’s most appealing feature, though, is by far the extra fret spacing it offers. With is wider neck, players can get their fingers around it with far greater ease than with the soprano. For those looking for a greater ease of mobility, whilst retaining the bright tones of the soprano, the concert ukulele is a fantastic solution.
The Tenor - Tuned GCEA
Even larger than the concert size, the tenor ukulele has wider and longer neck, and larger body yet again. With further spacing between frets, playing chords can be done with greater ease. It is often the choice of professional ukulele players, but is also suitable for the enthusiastic beginner seeking a richer, more resonant and full-bodied sounding ukulele. For these reasons, the Tenor ukulele is the easiest size for adult beginners to learn on and the most common ukulele size we sell at Hans Music.
The Baritone Tuned DGBE
As the biggest of the bunch, the baritone has the deepest tone of all. It is also tuned differently the other sizes, like a guitar (DGBE) rather than its ukulele counterparts. As such, the baritone is more for those seeking a specialised instrument—often a guitarist seeking to expand experience, or transfer skills towards a larger ukulele. Baritone ukulele is also used in ukulele orchestras, to add a bit of bottom end sound to the mix.
Most ukulele method books and music are geared towards the soprano, concert and tenor sizes, which is important to keep in mind when deciding on your new instrument. They are the preferred choice among enthusiasts and professionals alike, rendering the baritone an often unrepresented, but nonetheless uniquely lovely instrument in ukulele circles.
Once you’ve decided on your ideal size, there are a few more optional accessories to consider that will make your learning far easier and more rewarding!
Firstly, felt picks are a popular choice among ukulele players. The softness of felt prevents the often jarring sound of plastic-on-plastic, producing the soft mellow sound associated with the ukulele. They are also gentler on the strings, giving them a greater life span (and gentler on your fingers!). See HERE
You may also want to consider purchasing a tuner alongside your new ukulele. When new, there is a tendency for the strings to lose tension quicker and require more frequent tuning. With an electric tuner this can be done with great ease and confidence, knowing you’ll consistently be optimizing the sound of your instrument. See HERE
Although this information is a fantastic starting point, there is no greater indicator of suitability than what feels and sounds best in your hands. So if you’ve made it this far, it’s time to put this knowledge to use and come and try out some of our ukes!
And who knows—much like in Harry Potter, you might just find that the wand—or in this case, the uke—chooses you!