Over the last few years, the ukulele has seen a dramatic rise in popularity. From viral videos of ukulele covers, to them appearing on-stage alongside your favourite artists, ukuleles are everywhere on the modern music scene.
Traditionally, ukuleles have been available in four different sizes: increasing in size from soprano, through concert and tenor, to baritone. The latest addition to the ukulele family is the bass ukulele, which has many of the attributes of the bass guitar but the size and portability offered by ukuleles.
Whether you’re thinking about buying your first ukulele, looking for an upgrade on your current one, or had no idea to start with that there were multiple sizes and styles available, this article has got you covered. Here we take a look a look at the most common sizes, their characteristics, and their unique sounds.
The soprano ukulele is probably what you’re thinking of when you try to picture a ukulele. It is the most commonly used of all the sizes – and it is also the smallest. For this reason, it has the tightest fret spacing and the shortest neck of all the ukulele sizes. It is the perfect starter instrument, with the classic ukulele sound and standard tuning (G/C/E/A).
The next size up is the concert ukulele. In many ways it is similar to the soprano, but has a slightly thicker and longer neck, making it better for people with larger hands. Concert models have more frets than the soprano, and the bigger size gives it more depth in sound. The same standard tuning as the soprano ukulele applies (G/C/E/A).
The tenor ukulele has a sound more akin to a classical guitar, and is deeper and richer than the soprano and concert ukuleles. It is bigger than the concert, and therefore has better sound projection. You can produce a wider range of notes on a tenor – making it a top choice for professional musicians. The tenor is also excellent for fingerpicking, as the frets are more widely spaced than the concert or soprano alternatives. G/C/E/A tuning is also applicable for tenors.
In terms of size, the baritone is the next step up from the tenor ukulele. It has a wider and longer neck, and produces a deeper sound. If you are already familiar with playing the acoustic guitar, the baritone is a great choice. It has a similar sound, and is bigger in size to aid fingerpicking. The tuning for a baritone ukulele is different to the smaller sizes, and requires the same as the tuning for the four highest guitar strings (D/G/B/E).
The bass ukulele is the new kid on the block when it come to the growing market for ukuleles, bringing the best aspects of the ukulele in line with the best aspects of the bass guitar. It is slightly bigger than that baritone in size, and the tuning differs in that it is exactly the same as the tuning for a bass guitar.
Another key difference is that the strings are completely different to this found on any other instrument, made of a synthetic rubber-like material. These strings are used to give it the deep, low sound characteristic of bass instruments. Most bass ukuleles come with a pre-installed pickup for sound amplification, as volume can be an issue without amplification.
As you can see, the are a number of options out there! Many beginners choose to start with the ever-popular soprano, while others are drawn in by the new and exciting world of bass ukulele options. Or, perhaps you are an experienced guitarist looking to broaden your instrument collection, making the tenor or baritone an excellent choice. In any case, have a look around and see what excites you – the size right for you completely depends on what you are looking for!