So, you want to play a ukulele but are confused over the ukulele sizes? Don’t worry, you’re not the first. And really, even though it may seem a bit confusing at first, it really is simpler than you think to sort the sizes out, so hang on and let’s see what we can do.
Ukulele Sizes Unmasked
No matter what manufactures may say in their descriptions in ukulele reviews, there are only four basic sizes of ukuleles. While some manufacturers may base a new ukulele off of an existing size, but at heart, there are still just the four sizes. These sizes are known as soprano, concert (also referred to in some circles as alto) tenor and baritone. But what is the difference between these, and what does that difference mean for you?
The sizes are soprano, concert, tenor and baritone ukulele (left to right).
The following table shows the measurements of each size ukulele. The scale length is the distance from the nut to the saddle.
Soprano Ukulele Sizes
A soprano ukulele is not named after the old TV series by the same name, it is instead the most common and standard type of ukulele. It has a reputation for having a high-pitched and rather reedy, jangly sort of sound and is so tiny that it is perfect for taking anywhere. In all seriousness, it can fit inside of a standard sized backpack with absolutely no problem and still leave you plenty of space for a book and a sack lunch.
In fact, the soprano ukulele is so small (only 21” long and with 12-15 frets) that there are plenty of people who have problems being able to get their fingers to fit because the frets are so close together. But if you can manage it, it is probably the best solution to having something to play anytime and anywhere you go.
Concert Ukulele Sizes
Only two inches longer than a soprano ukulele, the concert ukulele – which is also referred to as an alto ukulele by some people – the concert ukulele has a fuller, richer sound than the soprano. Even though it is tuned like a soprano, just the slight difference in size can make an eye-popping difference in tone. Thanks to the slightly longer shape, the concert ukulele has more tension in the strings. And with 15-20 frets in its 23 inch length, those with larger fingers will find it easier to handle
A full three inches longer than the concert size uke, a tenor ukulele has a deeper tone that is decidedly more resonant than either the concert or the soprano. The tenor ukulele is a favorite with professional musicians who need that extra resonance and fuller tone on stage. It usually has the same number of frets as a concert sized ukulele, but the extra inches means that you’ll have even more space for your fingers to maneuver.
A Baritone ukulele is the largest of the ukulele family. At 30+ inches in length it usually has 19+ frets and has an almost chocolaty rich deepness that seems very far removed from the bright jangle of its soprano brothers. The baritone uke is a favorite with blues and jazz style players who want that fuller, richer tone to complement their fingerpicking style. Another benefit of the baritone ukulele is that its strings are usually tuned the same as the top four strings of the guitar (D, G, B, E) allowing a young, beginner ukulele player to very easily transition to guitar in later years.
Which Ukulele is the Right One for You?
Taking into account your own style of playing as well as the size of your hands and your own personal preference for tone and sound will all help to determine which size ukulele you choose to play. There really are no right or wrong ukulele sizes, and with the difference in tones you may end up wanting one of each!
Which Size Ukulele for Beginners?
Still confused? Below is a great video comparing the soprano, concert and tenor uke sizes.