The Three Standard Ukulele Sizes - dummies

The Three Standard Ukulele Sizes

By Alistair Wood

Unlike most instruments in the guitar family, ukuleles come in a number of different sizes. The three regular sizes of ukulele are soprano, concert, and tenor. All three sizes are tuned exactly the same way, however, and so when you’ve learned to play one, you can play them all!

In addition to these three types, you can also buy a baritone ukulele, which is a very different beast: it’s larger and tuned differently (the same as the top four strings of a guitar), lower than the other types. Therefore, you have to use a whole different set of chords and notes, and your skills are not transferable to the other three types. So don’t start your ukulele foray with a baritone ukulele.

Meet the ukulele family: soprano, concert, and tenor ukes

A ukulele’s size is determined by the scale length, which is the length of the part of the string you play (between the nut and the bridge). Here’s a rundown:

  • Soprano: The soprano is the smallest ukulele, sometimes referred to as standard size. Originally, all ukuleles were sopranos, and this size is what most people envision when they think about ukuleles. Soprano is a great size to choose for people who want to do a lot of chord strumming and are looking for the traditional ukulele sound.

  • Concert: The concert is the Goldilocks ukulele; not too big, not too small. You get the ukulele sound but with a little extra room on the fretboard.

  • Tenor: The tenor is the largest of the standard ukuleles, with a longer neck that allows for more intricate playing (or more wild showing off). The larger body can give you a fuller, more guitar-like sound.

Deciding which ukulele is best for you

Most people find that the soprano is the best place to start. You don’t have to stretch to make the chord shapes, sopranos are cheap and easy to find, and they sound great when you strum simple chords on them.

But whether you start on soprano, concert or tenor, you can easily transfer your skills between them with no problem.

Whatever your first instrument, you may well end up with a collection of ukuleles before long. The term for this fascinating ‘addiction’ is ukulele acquisition syndrome (UAS).