There are several different types of ukuleles. The four main categories of which are soprano, concert, tenor and baritone. The soprano is the smallest, and the baritone is the largest. In this post, we’ll delve deeper into the differences between the other two types of ukulele: concert and tenor.
What is a Concert Ukulele?
A concert ukulele is larger than a soprano and smaller than a tenor. Concerts are typically about 23 inches from end to end with a 15-inch scale length. Being slightly longer than the traditional soprano provides more room between frets, which many beginners find more comfortable to handle.
The larger body creates a bigger sound chamber, so they are louder and fuller sounding than the soprano ukuleles.
Often we associate sopranos with the traditional ukulele sound. The concert may have a bigger body and longer neck, but it still manages to maintain that recognizable uke sound.
What is a Tenor Ukulele?
Tenor ukuleles have become very popular in recent years. With many professional and experienced players showing a preference for a tenor-sized instrument.
Tenors are approximately 26 inches long, with a 17-inch scale. Since tenor instruments are a bit larger than a concert, there is even more space for the fingers to move.
Just as the concert has a fuller and louder sound compared to the soprano, the tenor, with its larger size has a fuller and louder sound than the concert. However, some have said that the sound starts to introduce some classical guitar overtones, which may not be ideal for your requirements.
How are Concert and Tenor Ukuleles Alike?
Before we dive into what separates concert and tenor ukuleles, let’s think about what they have in common.
It’s easy to switch between a tenor and concert instruments because they’re generally tuned to the same notes and played in the same manner. They both use the G-C-E-A standard tuning (though tenors also have a common Low-G alternative tuning option).
While a tenor has more spacing between the frets, this is not significant enough to prevent a competent player switching between the two sizes easily.
When using the same standard tuning, the chords shapes, and scale patterns are identical between tenor and concert ukuleles. In other words: If you can play a tenor, then you can play a concert and vice versa.
Generally, tenors and concerts will have the same number of frets (usually 18, this depends on the manufacturer). However, higher up the neck, the tenor frets are easier to access as the neck joins the body at the 14th, rather than the 12th fret.
To an untrained ear, tenor and concert ukuleles may sound alike.
How are Concert and Tenor Ukuleles Different?
We’ve talked about the similarities. Now, let’s consider some differences.
The main difference between the concert and tenor is their respective sizes. Tenors with an average size of 26 inches are approximately 3 inches (which is 13%) longer than concerts. These sizes are indicative; as there are no standard ukulele sizes. Depending on the manufacturer, an instrument may be off by an inch in either direction. As a point of reference, soprano ukes usually measure about 21 inches and baritones typically around 29 inches.
Concert Ukulele Sizes
Tenor Ukulele Sizes
As stated above, the bodies of the two styles vary, with the larger tenor body providing a fuller sound.
Concert and tenor ukuleles produce slightly different sounds. To many, this is a subtle difference which they would have to listen hard to hear.
Increasing an acoustic instrument’s body size results in a warmer sound with more bass. This is down to the science of sound waves and vibrations. Therefore, tenor ukuleles almost always sound fuller and more vibrant.
Tenor strings have more tension, resulting in enhanced projection, which is useful in live scenarios. Ukuleles are not the loudest of instruments, so the ability to project sound can make an instrument appear louder.
A ukulele’s tone, however, is not solely dependent on size. Craftsmanship, quality and materials all make a significant difference in sound. For example, an instrument crafted of solid wood will sound better, louder and have more projection than a cheaper laminated version.
An acoustic instrument’s scale length is the distance between the bridge saddle (where the strings start) and nut (at the end of the fretboard). Scale length affects string vibration. Additionally, scale length also determines the distance between frets. They’re a little further apart on tenors than concerts, which is why they have become the preference of many professionals.
People with smaller hands sometimes prefer a tenor instrument, but the difference is so subtle that it usually doesn’t make a huge difference.
Strings on a tenor ukulele feel a bit tighter than strings on concert-sized instruments because tenors have a longer scale length and therefore a higher string tension.
The size of a ukulele’s fretboard can affect sound and impact playing style. The Fretboard on a standard concert ukulele connects to the body at the 12th fret. On tenors, it’s typically joined at the 14th fret. Since tenor necks stick out a bit further than concert ukuleles, some people may find accessing the higher frets easier.
Like-for-like, tenor ukuleles are, on average, more expensive than concerts, this is expected as they are larger, so require more materials.
However, materials and quality construction are a bigger price differential, than size alone.
Should I Buy a Concert or Tenor Ukulele?
You may be thinking: They’re so similar! I don’t know whether to buy a concert ukulele or a tenor ukulele? Some players prefer tenors and others prefer concerts, so it really is a personal preference.
It is worth noting that most serious ukulele players typically own one or more of each type.
If you’re not sure what size to get, then my advice is to buy a concert and have fun. As you find out what you like you can investigate other models. Just like those “serious” ukulele players, you are allowed more than one ukulele! 🙂
ADM Mahogany Concert Ukulele
Luna UKE MALU Concert Ukulele
Cordoba 15CM Concert Ukulele
Cordoba 15TM Tenor Ukulele
Caramel CT102A Tenor Ukulele
Lohanu LU-T Tenor Ukulele