The ukulele was created in 1879 when Portuguese immigrants brought small guitars to Hawaii. Since then, this iconic instrument has been serenading us with visions of ocean beaches and palm trees.
Believe it or not, the term ukulele actually means “jumping flea” since it was named after the way the player’s fingers hopped from string to string.
If you’re interested in becoming a skilled player yourself, then you’re probably on the search for a ukulele to call your own. But before you can start serenading your friends and family, there are a few options to choose from.
We’ve put together an easy guide to determine which ukulele size is right for you. Whether it’s a soprano vs. concert ukulele or finding a quality wood. Continue reading to discover your perfect ukulele.
Soprano vs. Concert Ukulele
If you are a beginner ukulele player or are just looking into adding variety to your collection, you may be wondering which size uke to choose and why. Luckily there’s no wrong decision when it comes to your choice. It’s actually all about your personal preference.
There are four different sizes of the ukulele to choose from. These are, listed from smallest to largest, known as the soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone. The size of the ukulele determines the sound it produces.
The smallest sized uke, or soprano, has lightest and higher sound. It is a more sparkly and bright sound than the others. Whereas the baritone has a deeper and richer sound. Some liken it to a guitar’s sound.
The two most common ukulele sizes are the soprano and concert. There are some differences between these two ukuleles. However, they are both played the exact same way and are tuned to the same notes. These are notes G-C-E and A.
This means the scales and chords for both of these ukuleles are the same. So you are easily able to switch back and forth between playing each of them. If you can play a soprano then you can also play a concert ukulele!
The soprano is considered the classic-sized ukulele at about 20 inches long and has 12-15 frets. It also makes that light, clear sound that we are familiar with when we think of a ukulele. However, it may not be the best choice for everyone.
How Do You Choose?
Both the soprano and concert ukuleles are so similar that it makes playing both fairly versatile. However, if you are trying to pick between the two, you may be unsure of which one will be best for you.
When it comes to size, the concert is a few inches larger than the soprano at typically 23 inches. If you are a larger person, it may be easier to play the concert ukulele since a smaller instrument is challenging for someone with long fingers and arms.
It also has more frets with 15-20 and a larger body. This means it has a wider range of notes. Typically the larger the size, the more notes you will be able to play. Some players like to have a wider range of notes when playing a variety of songs.
If the sound is more your concern then this comes down to preference too. Since the larger the instrument the more fuller and warmer the tone, the concert ukulele is going to be deeper than the sparkly sound of the soprano. It also tends to be a louder instrument.
We recommend visiting a music store to test out the sound for yourself. Before purchasing either the soprano or concert, try playing them to fully experience each tone. Playing each yourself will also help you get a sense of the scale length.
The scale length is considered the distance between the nut and the saddle. A concert ukulele is generally about three inches longer than the soprano. This will also affect the fret spacing.
Fret spacing can determine how comfortably you can switch between chords. If you have smaller hands and fingers, it might be easier for you to play the soprano ukulele. While someone with large hands might have a hard time playing with limited distances in between frets.
Other aspects of your ukulele such as the wood and strings may affect the sound quality of your instrument. It’s important to consider these aspects when making your final choice. For example, a concert ukulele made of quality wood or with nicer strings may appear to sound better than a soprano.
However, the only way to choose the right strings for you is to test them out in person.
There is also a large variety of woods available including acacia, cedar, rosewood, koa, mango, mahogany, and monkeypod, to name a few.
The type of wood used to build your ukulele will affect the quality of sound. It can also determine how expensive it will cost. For example, koa tends to be more expensive but also has better sound quality. The right choice for you may come down to a balance of both.
Additional Sizes to Choose From
More recently gaining popularity is the sopranissimo ukulele which is even smaller than the soprano. It is only 16 inches in length. Some enjoy the higher notes that the sopranissimo ukulele provides.
Another popular size has been the tenor ukulele which is 26 inches long. Unlike the soprano or concert, the tenor’s size is where it starts to sound more like a classical guitar. There are many professional ukulele players who choose the tenor as their go-to ukulele size.
As mentioned earlier, the largest sized ukulele is the baritone which is 30 inches. This tends to be the least popular size since it is the largest and sounds more like a nylon-stringed classical guitar.
Since most ukulele players like the instrument for its portability and lighter sound, the size of the baritone is less convenient for this purpose. You’ll also find that the baritone requires a different kind of tuning than the others. Which is also similar to a guitar. If you are already a guitar player you may prefer this option.
There’s more to a ukulele than just the size. The design and look of the ukulele should also fit your style. Some ukuleles are even waterproof if you enjoy playing beach or poolside!
Which is Better?
There’s no right or wrong choice when it comes to picking between a soprano and a concert ukulele. As mentioned above, there are differences between each when it comes to size and sound.
However, both ukuleles are a great option. You may find differences in quality when it comes to either the soprano or concert ukulele. The brand of the ukulele, as well as the strings and wood, can also change the sound and feel of your instrument.
For example, a high-quality soprano ukulele is ultimately a better choice than a low-quality concert and vice versa. All of these aspects can change your final decision.
The only way you will be able to make your final choice is to play both the soprano and concerto to see which one appeals to you more. Most music stores will let you test them out before buying.
Some players prefer the additional notes of the concert ukulele while others feel that the soprano is better for a beginner. They also like the lighter, more traditional sound.
Don’t worry about getting used to the different sizes. Many players need practice in order to get their fingers used to the varying distance of each size ukulele. Over time it will get easier and you won’t struggle as much.
Luckily the soprano and concert are tuned the exact same way. So they’re the easiest sizes to switch between.
The Right Ukulele For You!
For such a small instrument, there sure are a lot of options when it comes to choosing the perfect ukulele for you. There is a soprano vs. concert ukulele along with the quality of sound. We hope this guide has helped you narrow down your choices a bit more.
ADM Mahogany Concert Ukulele
Kala KA-15S Soprano Ukulele
Lanikai LU22CGC Concert Ukulele
Luna UKE MALU Concert Ukulele
If you are serious about playing the ukulele we’d recommend opting for a slightly more expensive instrument This is going to be a better quality instrument that is easier to tune and more fun to play.
We don’t recommend purchasing a ukulele entirely based on price. Not only will a low-quality instrument not sound as appealing but it won’t stay in tune either. That means you’ll probably have to continuously tune your ukulele, which is just plain frustrating.
When you find the right ukulele, you’ll want to pick it up more often and practice in your free time. Even if there are cheaper options, you may find them to be more of a hassle in the long run.
If you share our passion for ukuleles then you may enjoy our other articles geared towards players of all skill levels and experience. Check out our blog for more interesting tips on ukuleles!