Are you in the market for your first ukulele? As you search for the perfect one, you may have noticed that ukuleles typically come in several different sizes, such as soprano, concert, and tenor. But what do these sizes actually mean? And more importantly, how do you know which ukulele size is right for you as a beginner?
Well, there are several key factors to consider when selecting the best ukulele for yourself, size being one of them. To help clear up any confusion, we’ve created this comprehensive guide. Here, you’ll learn about the different ukulele sizes and gain insights into what to look for when making your purchase.
The Four Main Sizes
Depending on where you look, you might find there are as many as eight different sizes of ukulele. These eight sizes, from smallest to largest, look something like this:
Sopranissimo – Sopranino – Soprano – Concert – Tenor – Baritone – Bass – Contrabass
However, before you get overwhelmed by the sheer number of sizes available, let me point out that I have never actually seen a bass (different from the ukulele bass or U Bass, which is really just a miniature bass guitar) or contrabass ukulele, and you won’t certainly won’t find them at your local music shop. Furthermore, the sopranissimo and sopranino ukes, while you can find them, aren’t great beginner instruments as they are incredibly small.
So if we take away those four, the two largest and two smallest, that leaves us with the main four, soprano, concert, tenor and baritone!
I’ll break down each of these four sizes, and what makes each of them a good fit, but to be honest, this has nothing to do with being a beginner. What I mean to say is, none of these sizes by themselves are truly easier to learn as a beginner, it’s really just about which size is the best fit for you personally, no matter what skill level you are.
Read more: Can the Ukulele Go Out of Tune?
So with that being said, let’s try to figure out which uke suits you best!
The soprano ukulele, as the smallest of the four main sizes, has a body length of 21 inches and a scale length of 13 inches. Soprano ukuleles typically have only 12 frets, which means that each string can only play one full octave up (12 notes) from its open string note.
Due to their overall size and limited fretboard, sopranos are particularly well-suited for children and individuals with small fingers. The limited fretboard means less notes to worry about, which can be a bonus for some, although as a beginner you will mostly only be playing near the end of the fretboard nearest to the instrument head anyways.
The concert ukulele is a very popular size that suits most players. With a body length of 23 inches and a scale length of 15 inches, it is only slightly bigger than the soprano, but typically has 15-20 frets, providing some additional playing range. If you are unsure which size to choose, the concert is a safe option as it strikes a great balance between size and range.
Furthermore, a longer scale length means that the frets at the top of the neck are usually slightly wider, making it a bit easier to play for those with larger fingers!
The tenor ukulele is a bit more than a step up in size from the concert, measuring 26 inches in body length and 17 inches in scale length. One significant distinction between tenor ukuleles and their smaller counterparts is that they frequently feature a low G string, which is less common in sopranos and concerts. To learn more about the differences between high and low G strings, check out the video below!
Tenor ukuleles are an excellent choice for players with larger hands or those who are hoping to learn more classical, fingerstyle pieces on their new instrument!
The baritone is the largest ukulele, with a body length of 30 inches and a scale length of 19 inches. It is so big that it’s almost more comparable to a small guitar than a ukulele. Notice how as we move up in size from soprano to baritone, the body length increases by a larger number each time, while the fretboard length increases by only about 2 inches each time. This means that by the time we get to baritone, the instrument bodies have gotten significantly longer in comparison to the fretboards.
The baritone also has a unique tuning (for the ukulele world). Unlike the standard G-C-E-A tuning of other ukuleles, the baritone is tuned to D-G-B-E, which shares similarities with guitar tuning (E-A-D-G-B-E). Due to its size and tuning, the baritone ukulele produces a sound closer to a classical guitar than a traditional ukulele.
As far as a beginner instrument goes, of the four main sizes, the baritone is probably the least fitting. The difference in tuning and the fact that the D is almost exclusively a low-D string on the baritone make it sound more like a classical guitar than an ukulele, and the size will make it harder for younger players or those with smaller fingers to play. Of course, there’s always an exception, and players with larger and/or longer fingers could find the baritone to be the best fit.
The baritone can also be a great beginner instrument for players looking to transition to guitar eventually for all the reasons mentioned above.
So there you have it, the four main ukulele sizes. I hope this article helped you along in your decision!
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.