To complicate things even further, the sizes aren’t set in stone when it comes to buying ukuleles. Instrument manufacturers have some leeway when designing their ukulele, so ukuleles by different brands can vary by a couple of inches. However, there are some standard sizes the music industry has come to expect:
The soprano ukulele size is probably what most people picture when they think of the ukulele. It is the most common size and makes the classic, traditional ukulele sound. The soprano is the smallest and lightest uke size we offer, with the shortest scale and the tightest fret spacing. The soprano ukulele is ideal for younger players and those with smaller hands and fingers, making this size often the best beginner ukulele for kids. Still, the soprano is still suitable for players of any skill level and size. Due to its body size, it will have a brighter, softer tone with less projection and resonance than the larger sizes. We also offer a soprano ukulele size with a longer neck for those that desire the traditional ukulele sound and also want more frets and fret spacing. The Pineapple shape is a variation of the soprano size designed by Samuel Kamaka in the 1920s. The waist of the body on a Pineapple uke is eliminated to increase the surface area of the soundboard for a fuller sound. The standard ukulele tuning of G/C/E/A applies to the soprano size.
Concert is the next step up from the soprano in size. The concert ukulele scale is about an inch longer, the neck is a bit wider, and overall it’s a little heavier than the soprano. The extra length allows for more frets with wider spacing between them. The concert size is great for players of any skill or experience level, but may be more comfortable for those with a bit larger hands and fingers. Being a bit larger in size, the concert ukulele has a fuller sound and warmer tone with more mid-range than the soprano. Concerts also project better than the sopranos, making the overall volume a bit louder. The standard ukulele tuning of G/C/E/A applies to the concert size.
Tenor is the next step up from the concert in size. The scale for the tenor ukulele is about two inches longer, the neck is just a little wider, and overall it’s a little heavier than the concert. The extra length allows for wider spacing between the frets. This makes tenor ukuleles suited for fingerpicking. The tenor size is the most popular among professional players but is great for any skill or experience level. A tenor ukulele maybe even more comfortable for those with larger hands and fingers than the concert size. The larger size gives the tenor a deeper, fuller sound with a resonant, almost bass-y tone. The tenor ukulele also projects better than the concert, making the volume a bit louder. The standard ukulele tuning of G/C/E/A applies to the tenor size.
Baritone is the next step up from the tenor in size. The baritone ukulele has the longest scale – about three inches longer than the tenor – with the widest fret spacing of all the sizes we offer. The neck on a baritone is also wider than the tenor. All of these characteristics make the baritone great type of ukulele for fingerpicking. The baritone size is great for all skill and experience levels, but especially for those with large hands and fingers. The baritone ukulele has the deepest, fullest sound with the most low end, sounding similar to an acoustic guitar. The baritone’s similarities to guitar continue with the tuning – D/G/B/E – like the four highest strings on a guitar, making it the easiest ukulele type to transition to for those already familiar with guitar.
Most of us have some idea of what a soprano ukulele sounds like even if we’ve never played one ourselves. They come out high pitched and jangly, with next to no bass tone and very little sustain. Perfect for creating those tropical melodies.
If you imagine the sound of the soprano ukulele on one end of a scale, and that of a classical acoustic guitar on the other, then the concert, tenor and baritone ukuleles occupy the space in between. Each step up from the soprano has a larger body which produces a deeper and more resonant tone.
While standard tuning on soprano, concert and tenor ukuleles is GCEA – or C tuning – the baritone is tuned to DGBE – known as G tuning – to mimic the top four strings of a guitar. Since the baritone is equally large as a quarter size acoustic guitar, its sound is very similar. Many ukulele players find it strays too far from the original qualities of the soprano.
Concert and tenor ukuleles produce comparable sounds that are much closer to the soprano. Tenor models are somewhat deeper and fuller, while the concert ukulele succeeds in projecting the essential soprano tone by adding volume and warmth. This makes the concert model great for recordings, playing with other instruments, and miked-up performances.
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