Guide to Ukulele Sizes
In the last five years the ukulele has gone from a novelty, one that your aunt brings back from her trip to Hawaii, to an instrument featured in some of today’s most popular music. This instrument has been closely associated with the Pacific Islands, and now is enjoying a much deserved surge in popularity.
The ukulele is an unimposing and inviting instrument that is simple enough for beginners and yet masters of the instrument can amaze audiences. For the beginner, the task of selecting a ukulele from a range of ukulele sizes can be difficult. Let’s look at some information that can help decide what size ukulele is right for you.
This is the smallest and the most common ukulele. Smaller than even a child size guitar, these instruments offer some advantages. These are small and light, so they make great traveling instruments. They lend themselves well to children with smaller hands. They are usually less expensive than the larger sized ukuleles. The action is very light, meaning that you won’t have to strain to fret the strings.
However, the small size does have some drawbacks. A small neck may pose a challenge for musicians with larger hands. Sopranos have the most limited range of all the ukuleles. The string tension is rather low, making it prone to accidentally bending the strings, making your notes slightly out of tune. If you have a young student who is showing some interest in the ukulele, this may be the right size ukulele for you.
Sometimes called an alto ukulele, the concert ukulele is very close in size with the soprano. Usually tuned the same as the soprano ukulele, the concert serves well as a beginner instrument and the next step in a ukulele player’s education. Concert ukuleles are often priced closely to similar soprano ukuleles. The main difference being the length and width of the neck. Often these ukuleles have a wider neck. If you are looking to stay close to the iconic sights and sounds of the soprano ukulele, but need an larger neck to accommodate bigger hands or a wider range of notes, then the concert ukulele fits you the best.
Larger in body and scale, the tenor ukulele is the favorite of many performers. The tenor ukulele has a warm tone in comparison to the smaller two. The longer scale and larger body make it appealing to musicians coming from other stringed instruments such as the guitar. Also, stringing the fourth string with a low “D” conforms the ukulele to linear tuning like many other instruments. Be prepared to invest more on this size of ukulele. If you are a serious adult student or a guitarist looking to expand your musical resume, the tenor ukulele may be the right one for you.
Another step up in size, the baritone ukulele is a deeper, darker sounding instrument. Somewhat removed from the typical sounds more associated with the instrument, the baritone is tuned lower than other ukuleles. The four strings are usually tuned the same as the lower four strings of a guitar, again blurring the lines between ukulele and guitar. The spacing of the strings are close to that of a classical guitar, making it appealing to play with more of a finger picking style. The baritone’s tuning makes it easy for a guitarist to try a different instrument without the learning curve. It also might be the right solution for a young student who may not be big enough to comfortably hold even a three-quarter sized guitar.
Whether you are a young student, adult beginner, or an experienced musician, learning to play the ukulele can be a fun and rewarding experience. When selecting a ukulele, remember there is no wrong size. Each type of ukulele has its own character that makes it unique. While one size may lend itself to your particular needs, each size has special qualities that are a joy to explore.