Think you know all the different ukulele shapes and sizes? Think again! You may know the sizes – soprano, concert, tenor, etc. You might even be familiar with some specialty ukes, like the pineapple uke or the banjolele. But I’m willing to bet you haven’t heard of them all…
Which is why we put together this article! In today’s post, we are going to go over all the different types of ukulele that can commonly be found on the market, covering all the shapes and sizes, while explaining a little about what makes them unique!
All Shapes and Sizes
If you asked most people to describe the ukulele, they would probably refer to it as a small, guitar-like instrument that brings happy images of the Hawaii islands to mind. This may be accurate, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.
Let’s take a look at some of the different shapes and sizes of the ukulele, starting with the easiest category – size!
Read more: Ukulele Minor Chords
Depending on where you look, there are as many as eight different sizes of ukulele body out there. These eight, from smallest to largest, are as follows:
Sopranissimo – Sopranino – Soprano – Concert – Tenor – Baritone – Bass – Contrabass
Most commonly though, ukuleles are divided into four main sizes – the middle four on the list above – soprano, concert, tenor and baritone.
Sopranissimo and Sopranino
The sopranino ukulele has a scale length of around 12 inches and features 10 frets. On the other hand, the sopranissimo is even smaller, with a scale length of approximately 11 inches and 10 frets. In fact, the body of a sopranissimo can be as short as 16 inches, making it shorter than the scale length of a tenor ukulele.
Due to their extremely small size, these two instruments often require tuning up a whole step from the standard G-C-E-A tuning to A-D-F#-B. This is necessary to avoid producing loose and unsatisfactory sounds due to the slackness of the strings.
The soprano ukulele, which is the smallest of the four main sizes, has a body length of 21 inches and a scale length of 13 inches. It is what most people typically envision when they think of an ukulele. Due to its short scale length, sopranos usually have only 12 frets, allowing each string to play only one full octave up from its open string note.
With a body length of 23 inches and a scale length of 15 inches, the concert is probably the most popular size of ukulele. It typically has 15-20 frets, providing an additional 3-5 frets compared to the soprano. Moreover, a longer scale length means larger frets at the top of the neck.
Tenor ukuleles have a body length of 26 inches and a scale length of 17 inches, making them significantly larger than sopranos and concerts. One other notable difference is that tenor ukuleles sometimes come with a low G string, which is less common in sopranos and concerts.
The baritone ukulele is the largest of the four main sizes, with a body length of 30 inches and a scale length of 19 inches. Notice that as we go up in size, the fretboard becomes about 2 inches longer, while the overall body length increases by an additional inch each time. The baritone’s size is comparable to that of a small guitar. Furthermore, the baritone is tuned differently than the standard ukulele tuning of G-C-E-A, with a tuning of D-G-B-E, which is similar to guitar tuning. Due to their size and tuning, baritone ukuleles tend to sound more like classical guitars than traditional ukuleles.
Bass and Contrabass Ukuleles
In this case, bass ukulele differs from an ukulele bass (or a U Bass – which is a Kala brand specific name), which is really just a small bass guitar. I’ve only ever seen bass and contrabass listed as an ukulele size when Googling ukulele sizes. If you’ve ever come across one of these, let us know in the comments so we can include more information about them in a future post!
While most ukulele bodies do look a lot like a standard guitar body, there are several more body varieties out there.
The most common alternate body shape for the ukulele is the aptly named pineapple uke. This one is pretty straight forward, just look at it!
While it looks just like the fruit for which it’s named, you’ll find these ukes play just like any other standard uke. And while they are most often found in soprano and concert size, you can also find tenor or even sopranissimo sized pineapple ukuleles. They even have their own special cases!
A uke that has a cutaway in the body looks like a standard guitar-shaped ukulele, only there is a small section right below the fretboard that is, well… cutaway!
The purpose of this cutaway is to make it easier to play high notes way up at the top of the fretboard by allowing your hand more room to move.
There are two different types of electric ukulele on the market, solid body electric ukes and electric acoustic ukes. Let’s take a look at what makes these two different.
Read more: Electric Ukulele, Acoustic vs Electric
Electric Acoustic Ukuleles
On the outside, an electric acoustic ukulele will appear to be just like any other ukulele we’ve mentioned already. This is because these ukuleles are simply regular ukuleles fitted with some sort of pickup system that allows them to also be plugged into an amp.
Notice how this ukulele (with a cutaway!) mostly appears just like any other uke.
Solid Body Electric Ukuleles
On the other hand, a solid bodied electric ukulele looks just like a standard electric guitar. In fact, these ukes are often intentionally made to mimic the appearance of famous guitar brands like Fender or Les Paul.
Solid body electric ukes almost always come in tenor size, and have low-G strings.
And finally, we come to my favorite category – specialty ukes! These are ukes that are made to mimic other instruments through the use of body construction or additional strings.
Let’s start with the banjolele, one of the ukes I mentioned at the start of this post. The banjolele looks and sounds more like a banjo than a ukulele, but maintains the ukulele’s size and tuning.
If you can play the ukulele, you can play the banjo…lele too! This instrument is one of my favorites, as it allows you to get the banjo look and sound while playing an instrument you are comfortable and familiar with!
The resonator uke is again an imitation of another instrument. This time, the resonator guitar.
The resonator ukulele features a built in brass resonator that helps mimic the sound of the guitars typically used in bluegrass and country music.
This video here
Alright, I bet you can guess what this one is… That’s right, it’s a guitar combined with an ukulele. But what exactly does that mean?
While, the guitarlele, sometimes called the guitalele (minus the r), is a six string ukulele, which is tuned A-D-G-C-E-A. This makes the guitarlele the perfect cross between a guitar (tuned E-A-D-G-B-E) and an ukulele (tuned G-C-E-A). A guitarlele is basically the same thing as a guitar with a capo on the fifth fret!
So there you have it! Let us know in the comments if you learned about a new type of uke from this post, or if you already knew them all!
For more lessons on chords, techniques, and songs to help you along on your own uke journey, make sure to check out our site www.ukelikethepros.com. We offer you a bunch of great ukulele content that comes hand-in-hand with an awesome ukulele community that will support you in this journey.