For anyone looking to buy their first ukulele, a quick look in a music shop or online will tell you that ukuleles come in all shapes and sizes. What’s more there are also many other factors to consider such as whether to get a laminate instrument, or an all solid wood one – and if so, which woods do you go for? Acoustic or Electric? However, the best place to start is deciding on which size to go for. This guide will tell you the different sizes available and what to expect from them.
Sopranos are probably the size which most people view as the classic, archetypal ukulele, both in terms of appearance and sound. They are usually 21 inches (approx. 53cm) in length and are the smallest of the three main ukulele sizes. Standard tuning is the same as the larger Concert and Tenor ukuleles (GCEA).Due to their smaller size, they offer exceptional portability and also tend to be the size that children will begin to learn on.
A Soprano can be a great ukulele to learn on, but it is important not to think of it merely as a starter instrument as you will also see many professional musicians making it their ukulele size of choice.
Concert ukuleles have been around since the 1920s and with their longer scale and larger body, give more volume and sustain and a fuller sound than a Soprano. They usually measure around 23 inches (approx. 58cm) in length and are typically played in standard tuning (GCEA).
Some players favour the Concert size ukulele, deeming it to be a more versatile instrument than either the Soprano or Tenor. A Concert still retains something of the classic ukulele sound which you will get from a Soprano size, but the extra frets and larger body allow more scope for intricate playing and melodies.
Tenors are the biggest of the three most popular sizes of ukulele, typically measuring 26 inches (66cm) and with a scale length of 17 inches (43cm). Standard tuning is the same as Sopranos and Concerts (GCEA), but they are known for producing a louder, more resonant sound.
Tenors have become increasingly popular in recent years with both amateur and professional players and if you don’t yet have a tenor, it might be time to think about trying one out.
Baritones are the largest instrument in the ukulele family and are renowned for having a warm, deep and mellow sound. Baritone ukuleles typically measure around 30″ inches (76cm) and are tuned differently to soprano, concert and tenor ukuleles. They are tuned the same as the top four strings on a guitar – DGBE – and often will have a low, wound D.
While it may seem daunting to make the transition from a ukulele tuned GCEA to a baritone, most people actually find it easier than they originally expected. The skills that you acquire in learning a ukulele are of course transferable and while the tuning is different, the intervals between the strings are the same. This means that all the chord shapes which you use on a regular ukulele will still be relevant on a baritone – so for example, the shape which you use for a G on a ukulele would be a D on a baritone. Easy as that 🙂
Hopefully this guide will help you to decide which size ukulele is right for you, but of course if you have any questions please get in touch by sending an email to: email@example.com