Ukuleles come in five sizes. Here’s a quick round-up of the features of each and some of the reasons you might choose them…
Soprano Ukulele: The smallest ukulele is often mistaken for a child’s guitar or toy. In fact, it’s a versatile instrument which is easy to master and ideal for adults and children. For anyone who is starting to play for the first time, the soprano uke is the perfect choice because they’re cheap and often come in a variety of bright colours. The easy chord shapes are a great lead in to starting to play the guitar. Start playing uke with your child at around 3-4 years old and get one for granny too!
Concert Ukulele: The concert ukulele is the next size up from the soprano. It has a longer fretboard so it lends itself better to more advanced playing. Because the tuning is the same as the soprano uke, many people, particularly men, who start with a soprano uke graduate quite quickly onto the concert size because it gives them more room to manoeuvre. The concert ukulele will normally ‘sound better’ than a soprano ie: it offers more resonance, and is great for both chord and melody playing. The perfect choice for someone who already plays other instruments or who has been playing a cheap soprano ukulele for a while.
Tenor Ukulele: The tenor ukulele is also tuned in the same way as the soprano and concert models, meaning that players can switch between the three with relative ease. The tenor uke is bigger than the concert ukulele. In some ways, it is the most versatile of the uke family as there are various string sets readily available with different combinations of wound and nylon strings and high or low G string. This makes it easy to find the sound you like best and also means it can be adapted easily to be a melody or a chord instrument. Great for guys who still feel cramped on the concert size and anyone who likes a slightly more guitar style sound.
Baritone Ukulele: The baritone ukulele is tuned like the top four strings of a guitar (although you can buy strings for it which are tuned like a standard uke). The baritone uke is very popular with guitarists who find it easy to pick up and play and because it tends to have two wound strings, it sounds very like a guitar. The compact size makes it a perfect travelling companion. It’s also a good harmony instrument, often used to play the harmony line, or chords, in a ukulele group.
Bass Ukulele: The largest of the ukulele family is the most expensive and least mass produced. Normally only used to give extra depth to the harmonies in group playing.
Visit Part Two for our top tips on the best brands of ukulele to buy and how to get the best uke for your budget.