In this guide, I’ll explain the different types of ukuleles, including hybrid models that seem to be getting more and more popular, which will open your eyes to the world of ukulele and hopefully help you decide which ukulele to buy.
Are you having trouble figuring out what size of the ukulele to buy? Maybe you’re trying to figure out what size of uke you have? Whatever your questions, we will discuss the different sizes of ukuleles and the advantages and disadvantages of each.
There are 4 main types (or sizes) of ukuleles:
As you can see, the soprano is the smallest and the baritone is the largest.
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Different Types of Ukuleles
These are the 4 most popular models, with the soprano generally associated with the ukulele.
There are a handful of different sizes of ukulele, and each offers its own benefits, drawbacks, and tonality.
As you will discover, there is no “one size fits all” when playing the ukulele, but there are unique benefits and drawbacks for everyone. In fact, after reading this, you will probably want a ukulele of all sizes!
Let’s take a look!
Number of frets: 12-15
This is the most common and standard size of ukulele. It is the smallest in the family and is the one commonly associated with ukuleles as it is small, slim, and perfect for traveling.
The Fender Grace Soprano Ukelele – a great soprano ukulele
Sometimes people with larger fingers or hands have trouble playing the soprano ukulele because the frets are closer together. Because the strings have less tension on the uke soprano, it may be easy for you to accidentally bend a string out of tune.
Despite these relatively minor disadvantages, the soprano ukulele is probably the best investment. Compared to other types of ukuleles, you can generally get it for the cheapest price.
Soprano ukes are the smallest size, as well as being the most popular among ukulele players.
The fine, high sound of the soprano ukulele is the sound that most people will associate with the ukulele.
For more info, see our reviews of the best soprano ukuleles. Take a listen to the following performance on a soprano ukulele.
Number of frets: 15-20
The concert ukulele, sometimes known as the alto, is slightly larger than the soprano, and some would consider it to have a fuller sound. Only a couple of inches larger than the soprano, the concert ukulele produces a rounder sound due to the slightly larger frame.
The Luna Tattoo Concert Ukulele – a great concert ukulele
It generally conforms to the same tuning as the soprano (GCEA) and is a popular choice for people with bigger fingers because there is more space between the frets.
Guitarists like the size of the concert not only because of the sound but because there is more tension on the strings, which makes it beneficial for players looking to bend strings since you won’t be bending them without tuning as often. Having up to 20 frets means players can head to higher notes on the fretboard.
Also, the frets are slightly more spaced on a concert ukulele compared to a soprano, making it easier for people with larger fingers to play.
There can be up to 20 frets on a concert ukulele, allowing players to navigate to higher notes on the fretboard, which is beneficial for playing in styles such as fingerstyle.
At just a few centimeters larger than the soprano, the concert gives you a slightly more complete sound.
Plus, since more frets are available, you’ll have a wider range of notes to play at the concert.
For more info, see our reviews of the best concert ukuleles. Listen to the following performance on a concert ukulele.
Number of frets: 15+
The tenor ukulele is slightly larger than the uke concerto. The overall sound and tone are even more complete than their younger siblings.
For artists, the tenor ukulele is ideal because you get a rich and full sound, and since you have more frets, you can reach higher notes on the fingerboard.
The Cordoba 20TM Tenor Ukulele – a great tenor ukulele
The tenor uke is quite a bit bigger than the soprano uke and due to this, you will get a much richer and fuller sound along with a heavier and heavier instrument.
This ukulele is a popular choice for artists due to the tonal qualities and abilities to achieve higher notes on the fingerboard. It is usually tuned to standard tuning (GCEA), but sometimes it can be tuned lower as a baritone uke (DGBE).
Tenors are very similar to concerts, only slightly larger. Former guitarists looking for a ukulele might be interested in the tenor.
This is also recommended for intermediate to advanced level players looking to expand their range and try more difficult chords.
For more info, see our reviews of the best tenor ukuleles. Listen to the following performance of “Sweet Caroline” on a tenor ukulele.
Tuning: DGBE, GCEA
Number of frets: 19+
The baritone is the daddy of the ukulele family. The baritone uke is closest to the standard guitar in size. In fact, baritone ukuleles are tuned in the same way as the four highest strings on a guitar.
This will produce a significantly deeper sound.
The Kala KA-BG Baritone Ukulele – a great baritone ukulele
While you can still strum a baritone like any other ukulele, you will really miss out on that crisp, bright sound you would get with a soprano.
Also, those with small hands and fingers may have difficulty reaching certain chords in the baritone. Bari ukes are great for blues players and finger pickers or those who prefer that deeper, fuller sound.
That said, some baritone players will tune their instrument to standard tuning (G-C-E-A) and play it like a “normal” ukulele.
This is the largest in the ukulele family, and as such, it begins to drift away from the true feel of the ukulele.
It is ten inches larger than the soprano and is therefore ideal for someone who is more comfortable with a larger instrument.
The tuning of the baritone ukulele is also different from the others. While sopranos, concerts, and tenors are all tuned to GCEA, the baritone is tuned lower in DGBE, like the last four strings of the guitar.
For more info, see our reviews of the best baritone ukuleles.
In the following video, mugambismonkey offers us an interpretation of an original song he wrote on the ukulele called “Kiss Me”. You can really hear how much lower the uke baritone sounds in this video.
Why wood type matters
You’ve probably seen online that it is possible to buy a ukulele for less than $40.
Let me tell you right now: that is not recommended.
Why? Because the quality of the materials used will greatly affect the sound coming out of that ukulele.
Therefore, it is good to check what type of wood your ukulele is using. You can check out our reviews of the Best cheap ukuleles under $100.
Koa wood is what was used to make the original ukuleles as it is a common wood in Hawaii.
It is the most common wood used for ukuleles and produces a beautiful and warm sound. While Koa wood ukuleles are slightly more expensive, they do sound wonderful.
Mahogany is the next most common wood used to make ukuleles. Although wood has a density similar to koa, it produces a sound that is slightly softer.
Since this is less expensive wood, ukuleles made from mahogany will be slightly cheaper, but of good quality.
Softer woods, such as spruce, are also used to make the lower end ukuleles.
Make sure your ukulele is made of quality wood, and you are sure it will last. Tonewoods like the ones we listed above are the best choice for ukulele players.
Which One Should You Buy?
Generally speaking, beginners will start with a uke soprano because you can generally find a decent one to play at a low price.
The best type of ukulele for you depends on your playback level, the sound you want, and the type of music you want to play.
If you have small hands and fingers but want a slightly fuller sound, you can’t go wrong with a concert-sized ukulele.
For those who really want to play solo in the fingering style on their ukulele, they’ll definitely want a tenor-sized ukulele to more easily reach the notes higher up on the fretboard.
And for those with really big hands and fingers, the baritone ukulele might be best for you, and remember, you can always tune it in like a standard tuned ukulele to easily follow my lessons.
Size is also something to think about. If you have smaller hands, a soprano or concert ukulele will be the most comfortable for you. If you have bigger hands, a soprano ukulele may end up being too small. But no matter what size you choose, you are guaranteed to have a background with your new ukulele!
Check out this helpful video to see a demo of the sound differences:
So what ukulele is for you?
Fortunately, you have gained quite a bit of information through this article.
We have seen how different sizes affect the sound, as well as making them more or less difficult to play for certain people.
We also looked at the best types of wood and the most popular ukulele brands, as well as how each type of ukulele is ideal for certain people or targets.
Whatever your goal in learning ukulele is, and whatever skills you have personally, there is a ukulele that meets your needs.
By choosing from the options mentioned above, you will find a beautiful ukulele that perfectly suits you and your sound!