Ukulele Guide - What Size Should I Get?
Ukuleles are growing in popularity – from classrooms filled with young children just learning to play an instrument to professional musicians who love the portability and entertainment of this stringed instrument that originated in Hawaii (based on a Portuguese instrument called the machete). No matter your age or playing skill, the ukulele is a fun, lightweight instrument that you can take anywhere. But, there are some things to know about the ukulele before you decide to purchase one.
What are the standard ukulele sizes?
- Soprano ukulele
- Concert ukulele
- Tenor ukulele
- Baritone ukulele
The soprano uke is probably what you think of when you hear the word ukulele. It is the most common size and makes the classic ukulele sound you’ve heard. It’s the smallest and lightest model we carry and has the shortest scale and tightest fret spacing.
The soprano size is ideal for players of any skill or experience level. Younger players and musicians with small hands and fingers will find the petite soprano ideal. They make great traveling instruments and they are usually less expensive than the larger sized ukuleles.
The action is very light, so you won’t have to strain to fret the strings. It has a brighter, softer tone with less projection and resonance than the larger sizes. The standard ukulele tuning of G/C/E/A applies to the soprano size.
Be aware that the small neck and tight fret spacing may pose a challenge for musicians with larger hands. Sopranos also have the most limited range of all the ukuleles. Soprano ukuleles come in a wide range of colors which make them fun for classrooms and young students.
The concert uke (sometimes called an alto ukulele) is about an inch longer than the soprano, the neck is a bit wider, and it’s somewhat heavier. That extra length allows for more frets with wider spacing between them. Players of any skill or experience level will enjoy the concert sized uke and the slightly bigger size will accommodate musicians with somewhat larger hands. The concert ukulele has a fuller sound and warmer tone with more mid-range than the soprano. It also projects better. The standard ukulele tuning of G/C/E/A applies to the concert size.
If you want to stay close to the iconic look and sound of the soprano ukulele, but need to accommodate bigger hands or a wider range of notes, then the concert ukulele will be a great option for you.
The tenor ukulele, the next step up from the concert, is where we’re starting to get quite a bit larger than the soprano. The tenor uke is about two inches longer than the concert model, the neck is wider, and it’s a heavier. The extra length allows for wider spacing between the frets which makes the tenor suited for fingerpicking. The tenor ukulele is the favorite of many professional performers, but it’s still a great instrument for any skill or experience level. For players with large hands or long fingers, a tenor may be even more comfortable than the concert size.
The larger size gives the tenor a warm, deep, full sound and the tenor projects better than the concert. The standard ukulele tuning of G/C/E/A applies to the tenor size.
If you’re a serious student with hand size that can handle the larger size, or you’re a guitarist looking to expand to another instrument, the tenor ukulele may be right for you. But, be prepared to invest more on this size of ukulele.
The baritone ukulele is even larger than the tenor. It has the longest scale at three inches longer than the tenor and it offers wide fret spacing and a wider neck. These characteristics make the baritone great for fingerpicking. As with all ukuleles, the baritone is suitable for all skill and experience levels, but will better for musicians with larger hands and longer fingers.
The baritone is a deeper, darker sounding instrument and sounds more like an acoustic guitar than a traditional (soprano) ukulele sound. It is also tuned similarly to a guitar - D/G/B/E – making it easy for a guitarist to try a new instrument without a large learning curve. It could also be a good option for a young student who may not be big enough to comfortably hold a three-quarter sized guitar; however, the student shouldn’t expect the standard ukulele-type sound.
Which ukulele is right for you?
Now that you understand the sizes, sound and tuning of the various ukuleles, you can make the decision about which one is right for you. If you’re looking for the traditional ukulele sound, go for the soprano or the concert. If you have much larger hands or you’re a professional player or you’re looking to transition from the acoustic guitar, the tenor or the baritone might be best.
If you need help selecting the right ukulele for you, your child, or your students, call our music experts at 800.348.5003. Music educators can take advantage of incredible school pricing by calling 800.346.4448. We carry all the top brands including Kala, Luna, Lanikai, Mahalo and more. Browse our full selection of ukuleles to find the best one for your needs and budget!