The ukulele comes in many shapes in sizes, but what is most important is finding the instrument that works best for you.
Below we’ll discuss the most popular sizes of ukuleles and explain the differences between them to help you make a more informed decision when purchasing your instrument.
In the end, there is nothing like getting your hands on as many ukuleles as possible to choose what is best for you, but not all of us have that opportunity.
Understanding the differences and similarities between the various sizes of ukulele can help you make a more informed decision.
Ukulele Sizes & Measurements
- Full Length: 21 inches
- Scale length: 13 inches
- Frets: 12-15
The soprano size ukulele is the traditional size that most of us are accustomed to seeing and is closest in size to the instrument that the ukulele is derived from: The Portuguese Machete. This size originated in the late 1800s and was by far the most popular for the majority of the instrument’s history.
The soprano ukulele size is the smallest of the most common instruments (in recent years smaller variations such as the sopranino, and sopranissimo have gained some traction). While the soprano ukulele commonly tuned gCEA, much like the concert and tenor ukulele, many soprano players still use the traditional aDF#B tuning that was standard for quite some time.
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Also Read: 5 Best Soprano Ukuleles
Sometimes the soprano can be looked over as merely a toy due to it’s small size but a quality soprano ukulele can project quite a bit of sound and you will still find many professional players utilizing them.
As with all of the types of ukulele, the individual voice of the instrument itself matters more than generalizations based on size but a soprano when pitted head to head with a quality uke of differing size will generally have a less bass due to the smaller body size and present a brighter tone that many of us associate with the instrument. Due to it’s smaller size the soprano can also be a great choice for younger players.
- Full Length: 23 inches
- Scale length: 15 inches
- Frets: 15-20
The concert size ukulele was developed in the 1920s as a larger version of the soprano ukulele. The body is a bit bigger and it also utilizes a longer scale length. The slightly longer scale length means that the frets are spaced a bit further apart and generally allows more frets than the typical 12 on a soprano.
This lends itself to people who prefer to have the ability to play a bit more notes up the neck. While the tuning of the concert ukulele is identical to the soprano it’s larger body will give it a deeper timbre than a comparable soprano instrument.
Also Read: 5 Best Concert Ukuleles
Concerts can still be great for younger players due to the size but the longer scale length allows, in general, for more frets on the instrument which can be wonderful for players looking for a few extra notes in the higher register.
- Full Length: 26 inches
- Scale length: 17 inches
- Frets: 15-20
While being the most recent size development of the C tuned ukuleles, the tenor has solidified it’s spot as the top pick for most professional performers.
The tenor boasts the longest scale and largest body of the traditional ukulele and thus the deepest and fullest sound amongst them.
This longer scale length enables the more frets, wider fret spacing, as well as, in most cases, a wider spacing at the bridge and nut which lends its self well of finger-style playing. Although being tuned the traditional gCEA the tenor’s longer mensure also enables it to accommodate a Low G string extending the range of the instrument. While this is also possible on smaller size ukuleles, it is not nearly as common.
Also Read: 5 Best Tenor Ukuleles
Players that use the tenor ukulele include Jake Shimabakuro, Taimane Gardner, and James Hill, some of the top players in the world.
A tenor ukulele’s longer scale length and body generally afford it a deeper tone, and more range than the other sizes of ukulele which is likely why it has become the standard among many players.
- Full Length: 30 inches
- Scale length: 19 inches
- Frets: 19
The baritone ukulele is an instrument developed by Arthur Godfrey, or Herk Favilla depending on who you ask, in the 1940s. This size is unique in that it does not use the standard open 6th tuning, but is instead tuned the same as the top four strings of a guitar: DGBE.
The scale length is a full two inches longer than that of ever a tenor and it has the largest body size of all the instruments.
Also Read: The Best Baritone Ukuleles
This is a great instrument for people coming to ukulele from the guitar as the fingerings will be the same, but it does not give the same sparkling tone that many people associate with the name ukulele.
Recently some companies have begun to sell baritone ukulele string says that are tuned an octave down from a standard ukulele allowing a new option for people that already play standard tuned uke to step up to a larger size.
This can be a great addition to anyone’s collection of ukuleles but unless you specifically want a baritone it is best to start with one of the other sizes to truly learn the instrument.
- Full Length: 30-32 inches
- Scale length: 20.5 inches
- Frets: 19
Bass ukuleles are a very recent edition to the ukulele world ,only being developed in the early 2000s. The bass ukulele size scale length is only slightly longer than that of a baritone but uses strings that allow the tuning to be the same as that of a bass guitar: EADG.
This is an easy transition for a bass player wanting to dabble in the ukulele world or for a ukulele ensemble that wishes to further support the low end.
This uke is played different than all the others in that it is generally not strummed but plucked like an electric bass making it a very different instrument than the rest of the sizes.
The bass ukulele is a truly unique instrument and separates itself from the rest of the ukulele world in both playability as well as size.
Ukulele Size Chart
What size ukulele should I get?
There are no rules in the ukulele world. The best option is to try the different sizes if you have a local shop to do so, and see what feels best in you hands. Remember that any type of music can be played on any size ukulele, but generally finger style players will choose a tenor ukulele for the spacing while if you’re more into 1920s swing a soprano may be the best choice.
How many different sizes of ukuleles are there?
While we have discussed the most popular ukulele sizes here there are many other options on the market, some are variations on these sizes while some are even more unique. Here is a ukulele size chart to help you get your head around most of the options available today:
# of Frets
Credit: Photo from guitartuitioncoventry.com
What is the size difference between a baritone ukulele and a guitar?
While tuned similarly, a baritone ukulele is still substantially smaller than a guitar. The scale length is about 5” less meaning the frets are closer together and thus larger chord voicing are possible. Baritone uke can also serve as a great transition for ukulele players wanting to get into guitar or vice versa.
Best size ukulele for adults?
While many adults find tenor to be the most comfortable there is truly no best size. People such as Tiny Tim had great careers playing almost only soprano ukuleles.
It is a common misconception that smaller instruments are not good for people with larger hands, but this is false. Any size person can play any size ukulele that they find comfortable. At 6’1” with large hands I happily only play soprano size ukuleles.
Which ukulele size is best for beginners?
This depends on many different factors. For child beginners I find it best to start on a soprano instruments as the smaller scale length lends itself to smaller hands and will make the reach between frets smaller. For adult students any size ukulele can serve as a great start.
While there are many different sizes of ukulele, finding the correct size for you comes down more to personal preference than anything else. What matters even more than the size is the quality, construction, and set up of each individual instrument. No matter what size you chose any ukulele will bring joy to your life for years to come!