Common questions about ukulele sizes answered
Unlike many instruments, ukuleles come in several different sizes. For many people who decide to learn the ukulele this can be confusing. You might find yourself asking “What’s the ‘standard’ size of ukulele?” and “Why are there so many different sizes of ukuleles?”.
There are many differences between the four primary sizes, and we’re going to look at all of them and answer more questions about sizes.
How Do I Choose A Ukulele Size?
This is a question that gets brought up a lot. Since ukuleles are already small instruments (comparative to something like acoustic guitars), there’s a lot of apprehension. Not everyone lives close to a music shop that has quality ukes to try.
Here’s what I always tell people: Learning to play the ukulele is going to be awkward no matter what size you use. You see, when you’re learning chords and strumming, you’re recruiting muscles in ways you’ve never had to use before. It’s going to feel weird and awkward no matter what! It’s all about adapting, which happens over time.
So with that said, let’s take a look at the 4 main sizes:
Soprano ukuleles are the smallest of the bunch. Because of that, they naturally lend themselves to children and adults with smaller hands. That’s not to say that if you have large hands you can’t play one. It’ll just take a little more time to adapt.
Tonally, they’ll have a twangy and bright sound. The wood impacts this, but the size has a larger influence.
Concert ukuleles are 2” bigger than Soprano ukuleles. This is a great compromise between a Soprano and Tenor uke, which we’ll get to in a minute. Still easy for folks with smaller hands, but more accessible for people with larger hands.
The increase in size comes with added low end, but overall it’s still on the twangy side of things.
The Tenor ukulele is another 2” bigger than a Concert ukulele, and 4” bigger than a Soprano uke. If you’re still anxious about getting a ukulele that’s too small, go for a Tenor uke. Being the larger of the three, you’ll find your fingers fretting notes with more room. Tenor ukes are actually great for people switching from guitar too.
Tonally, they sound awesome. Bigger lows with more pronounced mids. Here is where you’ll start to see the wood material make an even bigger impact on the overall sound.
The Baritone ukulele probably shouldn’t be your first or second uke, but it should definitely be your third or fourth! Baritone instruments carry a different tuning (which is why it’s not a great option for your first ukulele).
This tuning compliments the already present low end in the largest of the four ukulele types. Woods are going to impact the tone for sure. But the size alone carries a deep low end. It’s really cool.
Now that you know a little more about the sizes, what stands out to you the most?
If you’re still on the fence, here’s my general recommendations:
- For adults, I usually recommend a Concert or Tenor ukulele. You'll find the size to be in the sweet spot.
- For children, Soprano or Concert ukuleles are better options for their first uke.
Should I Buy A Soprano Or Concert Ukulele?
Short answer: Both!
OK, not very helpful. You might be considering both options right now for a few reasons:
- You’re an adult and want to know which is the easiest to play
- You’re wondering which one is the beginner model
- You’re buying one for a child and want to know what the cheaper one is
- You already have one of each and need a deciding vote on your next uke!
Let’s take these one by one.
Should I Buy A Soprano Or Concert Ukulele?
This is typically asked by an adult concerned about getting a ukulele that’s too small to play. If you’re in this boat, go for the Concert. For reasons I’ll get into in a minute, you’re actually good with both. However, peace of mind is pricelist.
Learning any instrument is going to be awkward at first. Even for experienced players it’s an adjustment to go from one size to another. But as you continue to play you’ll adjust to it. Our bodies are exceptional at this. So unless you have larger than average hands, you’ll be good with either.
Which Ukulele Is For Beginners?
A common misconception is that Soprano ukuleles are beginner instruments. That’s simply not the case. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see $1-2k Soprano ukes. I do agree that since they’re smaller they tend to work well for kids. But so do Concert ukes.
Both Soprano and Concert ukuleles are comparable in price and quality (when grading similar models of course). They both can start around the $100-150 range for a quality model. They both can get astronomically expensive.
Where they differ is in tone and playability. Playability comes down to the size, which as I mentioned in the previous section isn’t that much of a deal. I would say the biggest reason to get one over the other is the tone.
The Soprano will have a lighter, twangier sound compared to the Concert ukulele. The Concert uke will definitely still be on the twangy side. But less so than a Soprano.
Are Soprano Ukuleles Cheaper Than Concert Ukuleles?
I touched on this in the last section, but the sizes don’t necessarily correlate with prices. You can find Concert ukes cheaper than Soprano ukes, and Soprano ukes way more expensive than Concert ukes. It all comes down to brand, build quality, and quality of components.
I Already Have One Of Each, But I Want Another. What Should I Get?
If you already have one of each, you should check out a Tenor or a Baritone ukulele. They’ll offer pretty big differences in tonal options (and options are always good).
If you’re set on buying a Soprano or Concert, get one made with a different wood type than what you have. Go for something more exotic like Koa or Ebony. Every wood type offers something different in tone and projection. It’s fun to experiment and witness the differences live.
What Ukulele Size Is Easiest?
If you read the last section, you have a good understanding of the different sizes. It’s important to note that the size has only a small impact on making learning the ukulele easier. When you’re just starting out, it’s going to feel awkward at times anyway. Just like learning to dance, or learning a new sport.
That said, it is worth reviewing that small impact.
For children or teenagers/adults with smaller hands, a Soprano or Concert ukulele might feel easier to play. These are the smaller of the four types of ukuleles. Adults might want to gravitate to the Concert or a Tenor for a first ukulele.
Concert and Tenor ukes are larger in size, specifically the Tenor. Large handed people will especially appreciate the extra room in a Tenor ukulele.
As tempting as it may be to look at Baritone ukuleles, save that for your third or fourth uke. They carry a different tuning which will make learning the ukulele (generally speaking) much harder.
What size ukulele are you thinking about buying and why? Let us know in the comments below!