A good-sound producing ukulele is key to getting the most out of your playing sessions. There are four main sizes of the Ukulele: the soprano ukulele, the tenor ukulele, the concert ukulele, and the baritone ukulele. The soprano ukulele is the smallest of the group. The baritone ukulele is not a popular choice, while the concert and tenor ukuleles are suitable for everyone. The soprano, tenor, and concert ukuleles are fan-favorites and come tuned the G4, C4, E4, AND A4 standards. After you have ponied up for your favorite Ukulele, you have to tune the strings from time to time to keep it functioning optimally. But how do you know which Ukulele to buy?
There are a few decent ukuleles in the $100 price range. Anything costing less than this is guaranteed to fail. Here’s a look at the different sizes of Ukulele and their sounds so you can get your mitts on something that will inspire you to more exceptional musical flair:
The smallest Ukulele of the bunch. You can get the sopranino or the pocket ukulele; Kids find these very comfortable too. It is 21″ in length with 12-15 frets tuned to the GCEA or ADFB standards. The smaller they get, the pooper the sound and intonation! When it comes to sound, however, the general musical instrument rule is the smaller, the higher the pitch. The soprano ukulele has the highest pitch compared to the other ukulele sizes. But this doesn’t mean volume because the body doesn’t have enough room for the sound to resonate in. Therefore the soprano ukulele sounds a little bit trebly.
Note that because soprano ukuleles have a small body and neck. They are light and easy to hold. But they are just suitable for strumming chord as the volume is not good, and they get out of tune as you move up the neck. Also, frets are closer together and problematic for people with large fingers. All in all, they are suitable for travelers.
The Concert Ukulele
The Concert Ukulele is 23″ in length with 15-20 frets and tuned to the GCEA standard. It’s also known as the alto. The tuning can be like in the Soprano ukulele standard, or you can get one where the g-string has been linearly tuned down an octave to a low G tuning. Expect more tension in the strings plus slightly more spaced out frets. In terms of volume, the sound is fuller than the soprano. The bigger body produces a little bit more mid-range and base just as the traditional Ukulele. The longer and wide neck make it suitable for both chords and single notes.
A Tenor Ukulele
Has a bigger body, it’s a little bit wider and has a longer neck than the concert ukulele? It is 26″ in length with at least 15 frets. It’s tuned to the same standard as the concert i.e., GCEA (re-entrant) or GCEA (linear). Expect it to sound fuller. It is suitable for performers because it produces rich, full sound. The longer neck will give you a great option of chords. And more frets mean you can reach higher notes too.
A tenor with a high G sounds good when strumming. It has 4 strings: a high note, lower, lower, and a high note such that you are limited in the range of it leading to funny-sounding notes. You can also get a low G tenor that has the extra range for good sounding notes.
The Baritone Ukulele
The Baritone ukulele is bigger and broader than the tenor ukulele. It is 30″ in length with at least 19 frets. Its strings are DGBE or GCEA. Expect a significantly deeper sound. But that bright, crisp soprano ukulele sound disappears. The baritone is excellent for blues players or those who do fingerpicking. But for people with smaller hands, certain chords will be unreachable. The take-home is that there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to playing the Ukulele. Each ukulele size has its strengths and weaknesses.
The logical step will be to get the Ukulele in all sizes unless you are a kid or beginner such that the small soprano ukulele is the only size you are comfortable with. When practicing, use materials specifically written for the ukulele type you are using because, as you can see, the baritone tuning is different from the soprano, tenor, or concert ukulele tuning.