Anyone unfamiliar with the ukulele may be surprised to hear that there are lots of decisions to be made when choosing which one to buy, as they come in different colors, many types of wood, and in several sizes!
The 5 sizes explained
From smallest to largest these are known as:
- Sopranissimo – the newest size, measuring jut 16 inches/40 cm.
- Soprano – the traditional instrument which produces the most recognizable ukulele sound, measuring 20 inches/51 cm.
- Concert – this has a larger body, measuring 23 inches/58 cm, and a longer neck and is a bit louder than the soprano.
- Tenor – most popular in recent years this model measures 26 inches/66 cm and produces sound closer to a classical guitar than a traditional ukulele. Professional players tend to go for this size.
- Baritone – as the name suggests this produces a deeper sound, and it measures 30 inches/76cm. It’s not as popular as the others because it is harder to hold than the smaller versions and the sound is more guitar than ukulele.
How to choose the right size ukulele
The key points to keep in mind here are:
a) The sound you want to produce
We already mentioned that the soprano sounds the most like a typical ukulele, while the tenor and baritone are much more guitar like. Try listening to different types online and decide which appeals the most.
Also bear in mind that the larger the ukulele’s body, the louder and warmer the sound it produces will be – making these a good choice if you plan to play alone for the most part, while something less attention grabbing is better if you are playing as part of a band.
b) The practical considerations
You can’t overlook the fact that the size of your hands and the width of your stretch will determine which size ukulele is comfortable to play. Basically, the more frets a ukulele has the easier it is to find space for bigger hands. A soprano has between 12-15 frets, making it the first choice for children and adults with smaller hands, the concert model sports 15-20, and the tenor ranges between 15-25.
With 18+ the baritone has the most, but these are tuned differently. Look at all aspects of holding and playing a ukulele before deciding on the right size model for you.
As the majority of music written especially for ukuleles targets soprano, concert and tenor sized instruments, so for mainstream music access one of those is the best choice.
The final practical consideration has to be budget. Although prices vary between brands and models in general soprano ukuleles are the cheapest, although the very low-cost models are best avoided as they won’t make a great sound.
You should always try to buy a ukulele in person so you can try it out and be sure it works for you. This is especially important when it is your first ever purchase or the first time you tried a new size of this instrument.
For help in actually playing the ukulele, check out SoundChime for advice.