Originating in Hawaii in 1878, the ukulele has become one of the most popular instruments out there.
Whether you are a beginner in music and are looking to find the easiest stringed instrument to learn music on, or you are a seasoned musician who wishes to expand their songwriting skills, the ukulele is sure to be a great companion.
Having said that, how many ukulele sizes are out there?
And more importantly, which size is right for you?
We are here to help you answer these questions.
4 Sizes Of Ukuleles
In popular culture, there are a total of 4 sizes of ukulele: the soprano ukulele, the concert ukulele, the tenor ukulele, and the baritone ukulele. The sopranissimo ukulele, which is the smallest size out there, has been gaining some popularity but it is still not considered popular enough to be mentioned in this article.
Let us discuss the specs on each one of them:
The soprano ukulele is by far the most popular out there. It was the first one to be created and is still a top choice, especially for beginners.
Size and playability
With an overall length of 21” and a scale length of 13”, the soprano ukulele is usually constructed to have 12 to 15 frets that are narrower than the other ukuleles, which is what makes it easier to be able to play without having to stretch your fingers too much. This can be an issue for people with big hands, so keep that in mind.
From all the ukuleles, this one has the brightest sound. It also has the thinnest sound (which is not necessarily bad) and its sound is the one that people most associate with the traditional sound of a ukulele.
The standard tuning for a soprano ukulele is GCEA.
A pretty well made ukulele from a respected company will be around $50. You can get cheaper ones, but at that point, you might start encountering tuning issues or the sound quality might not be as good. The Makala Soprano is a good solid soprano Ukulele.
The concert ukulele is the next size up from a soprano ukulele. They are slightly bigger, however, they are still a great choice for a beginner player, especially if you do have bigger hands/fingers. It also has more versatility than the soprano ukulele.
Size and playability
The concert ukulele has an overall length of 23” and scale length of 15”. As we mentioned, it is slightly bigger than the soprano ukulele, but still very manageable. Concert ukuleles typically have 15 to 20 frets, giving you a larger range of notes and possibilities.
As for sound, the concert ukulele still maintains its traditional-sounding quality, but it does have a noticeably deeper and fuller sound. It is also louder.
Its common tuning would also be GCEA, however, you can tune the G down an octave and create an even bigger sound (by this point, the ukulele wouldn’t sound as thin as the soprano ukulele). This tuning is called linear tuning.
A good quality concert ukulele is priced around $75 - $150. They usually come with a bundle that includes a tuner and a ukulele bag to protect it. Again, you can get them for a cheaper price, but the quality may decrease. If you are looking a good quality you won't go far wrong with the Kala KA-15C shown below.
The tenor ukulele is the second biggest ukulele. Due to the fullness and richness of its sound, the tenor ukulele has been rapidly becoming the most popular ukulele for professional musicians.
Size and playability
With an overall length of 30” and a scale length of 17”, the tenor ukulele is a great choice for someone who wishes to experiment with moving up the fretboard and finding alternate sounds. They also typically have 15 to 20 frets.
This is where our sound starts transitioning from a traditional-sounding ukulele to the sound of a small guitar. It’s at this point that we would say, if you are looking for the sound of a ukulele, we would recommend you not going any further in size. Nevertheless, the tenor ukulele is a great choice if you want a deeper tone. This is particularly desirable to singer-songwriters.
As for tuning, you have three options with this one. You can do standard tuning (GCEA), linear tuning (GCEA with G octave down), or you can go even deeper and tune it like a baritone ukulele would be tuned (DGBE).
By now, you can see the tendency. The bigger the size of the ukulele, it will be a bit pricier. In this case, the tenor ukulele can be found for between $90-$300.
The Kala KA-KTG below is a our top pick, but you can see all of our recommendations here for the Best Tenor Ukuleles.
The baritone ukulele is the biggest of the bunch. We definitely would not recommend this one to beginners. This one is more for fingerpicking blues players or people who want to experiment with different tunings and sounds.
Size and playability
With an overall size of 30” and a scale length of 19”, it is not that much bigger than the tenor ukulele. The main difference is that when you strum this ukulele, you will lose much of the qualities it was built for. This is why it is suited for fingerpicking players, rather than strummers.
It is also not built for smaller hands.
The baritone ukulele produces the warmest, fullest sound and it is very similar to the sound of a guitar. It does retain a bit of the ukulele feel and sound, but the soprano ukulele is the farthest ukulele from the traditional sound.
Tuning-wise, as we mentioned it is DGBE, which is actually the tuning of the top 4 guitar strings. So if you are a guitar player, it can be easier to learn chord shapes.
The baritone ukulele is the priciest at around $100-$150. We still believe it is a pretty fair price for what you get, especially if you go with Makala ukuleles.
Conclusion: Which Size Is Right For You?
We believe the two most important things to consider are the level of comfort you feel when playing each size. This is the most important thing to consider, especially if you are a beginner musician. The second parameter is what type of sound you are looking for, bright and twangy? Deep and warm? Ultimately, comfort and playability should still be the top priority, but if you are deeply drawn to a specific sound, go for it!