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A Beginners Guide on How to Choose a Ukulele | Explained!

how to choose a ukulele

When choosing your first ukulele, consider the size that suits your needs and personal preference. For small hands, a soprano ukulele might be the best choice. If you have larger hands or you’re a guitar player, a concert, tenor, or baritone ukulele might be a better choice.

You should also consider your budget and the type of wood used in the ukulele, as solid wood ukuleles usually produce better sound quality but are more expensive.

In this article we’ll go over the standard ukulele sizes available on the market, we’ll cover some factors you should consider when picking out the best ukulele, as well as introduce a few ukulele types you might not have heard of.

Understanding Ukulele Sizes

In the family of ukuleles, the standard sizes are soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone. Each type of ukulele offers a unique sound and feel.

1. Soprano Ukulele: The Classic Ukulele Sound

The soprano ukulele, with its compact size and shortest scale, is the most common size and offers the traditional ukulele sound. Its smaller size makes it a good choice for younger players or those with smaller hands. On average, soprano ukes have 12-15 frets.

2. Concert Ukulele: The Sweet Spot

The concert ukulele, or concert size, is a little bit larger than the soprano. This ukulele type is a great choice for players seeking a fuller sound and extra length without a drastic increase in size. Concert ukes usually have a longer neck, making it easier for people with larger hands to navigate the fretboard.

3. Tenor Ukulele: For a Fuller Sound

The tenor ukulele, or tenor size, offers a deeper tone and longer body. With its longer scale length and wider fret spacing, it’s an ideal choice for professional ukulele players or those with bigger hands. The tenor models tend to produce a richer, fuller sound compared to their smaller counterparts.

4. Baritone Ukulele: Closest to a Guitar

The baritone ukulele, the largest in the ukulele family, emulates the deepest sound, resembling the most low end of an acoustic guitar. With its longer scale and larger body, it’s an excellent choice for guitar players transitioning to ukulele.

Here’s a table summarizing the different sizes of ukuleles:

Ukulele TypeSizeIdeal forSound
SopranoSmallSmaller hands, beginnersBright, light
ConcertMediumBigger hands, intermediatesFuller, warm
TenorLargeLarger hands, professional playersRich, deep
BaritoneExtra LargeGuitar players, experienced playersMost similar to a guitar, deep

Factors to Consider in Choosing Your Ukulele

After understanding ukulele sizes, the next step is to consider several other factors. Here are some points to ponder:

1. Type of Wood

The type of wood affects the sound quality of the ukulele. Solid wood ukuleles often produce a warmer tone, while laminate wood ukuleles are generally more affordable and durable.

2. Strings and Tuning

Ukuleles typically use nylon strings, providing a sweet, resonant sound. The standard ukulele tuning is G-C-E-A, with the G string being the highest. Baritone ukuleles, however, follow the tuning of the highest strings of a guitar (D-G-B-E).

3. Price Range

The price range of ukuleles can greatly vary. A good beginner ukulele can be found in the $50-$100 range, but professional players might opt for higher-end models costing several hundred dollars.

4. Extra Features

Some ukuleles come with additional features like a built-in tuner, which can be handy for beginners who are still learning to tune their instrument. Also, consider if the ukulele comes with a gig bag or case for protection and ease of transport.

Different Types of Ukuleles: Beyond Standard Sizes

In recent years, the ukulele has evolved, and different shapes and types have emerged. Here are a few:

Bass Ukuleles

Bass ukuleles are a recent addition to the ukulele family. They are similar in size to a baritone ukulele but are tuned like a standard bass guitar (E-A-D-G). They produce a deeper sound, making them an interesting choice for professional players looking for a different tone.

Acoustic-Electric Ukuleles

Acoustic-electric ukuleles have built-in pickups, allowing them to be plugged into an amplifier. This makes them a great choice for performances or recording.

The Best Ukulele for You

The best ukulele for you largely depends on your skill level, hand size, and personal preference. For beginners, soprano and concert size ukuleles are usually the best choice because of their manageable size and affordable price range.

For guitar players transitioning to ukulele, a baritone ukulele might be the most comfortable as its tuning and feel are most similar to a guitar. On the other hand, those with larger hands or seeking a fuller sound might prefer a tenor ukulele.

It’s important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all answer when choosing the right ukulele. You might need to try a few different sizes, shapes, and types to find your ideal instrument.

Final Thoughts

Choosing your first ukulele is an exciting step in your musical journey. It’s all about finding the right balance between size, sound, quality, and price that fits your needs and preferences. Whether you’re drawn to the characteristic sound of a soprano uke, the fuller sound of a tenor uke, or the guitar-like tones of a baritone, there’s a ukulele out there waiting for you to strum its strings.

Remember, the journey of playing a musical instrument is a long time commitment, but with the right ukulele, it will definitely be a rewarding one. So take your time, consider your options, and soon, you’ll find yourself making beautiful music with your new instrument.

The world of ukuleles is diverse and full of possibility. Happy strumming!


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best size of ukulele for beginners?

Beginners often find soprano or concert size ukuleles a good starting point due to their manageable size and characteristic ukulele sound. However, those with larger hands might find a tenor size more comfortable.

How much should I spend on my first ukulele?

A good beginner ukulele can be found in the $50-$100 range. It’s important to invest in a quality instrument to ensure good sound and playability, but you don’t need to break the bank for your first ukulele.

Is a baritone ukulele good for guitar players?

Yes, baritone ukuleles can be a great choice for guitar players because they are tuned similarly to a guitar, making the transition easier.

What are the benefits of solid wood ukuleles over laminate wood ukuleles?

Solid wood ukuleles often produce a warmer and richer tone compared to laminate wood ukuleles. However, they are generally more expensive and require more care.

What’s the difference between a standard ukulele and an acoustic-electric ukulele?

Acoustic-electric ukuleles have built-in pickups, allowing them to be plugged into an amplifier. This makes them suitable for performances or recording, while standard ukuleles are purely acoustic instruments.