Top 4 Types Of Ukuleles | Choosing The Best One For You

by | Feb, 2021 | Ukulele

4 types of ukuleles; which one is best for you?

Ukulele fever is on. Everywhere you go, every time you turn on your favorite music source, you´ll find ukuleles sounding loud and proud. Are you getting a little fever yourself? That´s cool because these little strummers can add some joy and fun to anyone´s life.

Now, the moment you make the decision and try to go shopping for your four-string companion things get messy. There are a zillion different ukes to buy in the market. I know this because that was me, three o´clock in the morning, browsing and browsing to find my perfect match too.

All the time I was looking for my ukulele, I was thinking that I needed a good, informative piece, written by someone who had been in my shoes before. Because I want to be the change I would like to see in the world, here is all you need to know to make an informed decision about the best ukulele to buy and the different types of ukuleles available.

Are you ready to jump into ukulele-land? It´s going to be a lot of information, but I promise we´ll have some fun along the way. Buckle up because here we go!

 

The 4 Types Of Ukuleles

Top 4 Types Of Ukuleles | Choosing The Best One For You 1

Soprano Ukuleles

Let’s start with the smallest of the 4 types of ukuleles; the Soprano ukulele.

The quintessential, most common ukulele shape and size you´ll find will be the soprano. The soprano ukulele is what, as the legend says, the royal Hawaiian family nicknamed “Jumping Flea”. This instrument came down from Portuguese ships in Honolulu in 1879 and revolutionized the island.

Later on, in the 20th century, and thanks to royal support and tourism, it made it into the USA where it was picked up by stars like Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley. Later came The Beatles, Tom Petty, and almost every musical (and non-musical) icon you can think of including former president Barack Obama.

 

Main characteristics

The main characteristic of a soprano ukulele is that it is very small. I don´t mean just the size, it is small in every possible way. It sounds rather small and thin with that characteristic ukulele “plinky” sound. Also, it is the smallest scale available with only 14” (35cm) of room for your fingers.

The entire instrument measures around 20” (53cm) and it is as carrying-friendly as a musical instrument can be. Moreover, this is the basis for most tabs and song transcriptions you´ll find online.

What does it sound like?

The sound for the soprano ukulele is very thin and not so loud. The shallow resonation box and the small scale make it more treble-oriented than any other size. On one hand, it is the quintessential ukulele sound we are used to hearing since they exploded into the mainstream.

On the other hand, if you come from any other string instrument, you´ll feel that you are lacking some bass. That being said, it was that lack of bass and sweet-sounding tuning (g-C-E-A) that made it stand out from the rest; the sound is unique.

You can check out this YouTube link to hear an example of the Soprano ukulele.

Options available

You can get soprano ukuleles virtually anywhere in the world, made with all kinds of materials. Indeed, you can get fiberglass, wood, and carbon fiber soprano ukuleles and they will all sound amazing.

A good, traditional option is buying pineapple soprano ukuleles and enjoying that extra low frequency coming from the slightly larger resonation box.

 

Who should get a soprano ukulele?

A soprano ukulele is great for those looking for a fun strummer to carry around. Also, children with small hands will find the nylon strings and the size a blessing for playing and learning.

Those with bigger hands might want to refrain from getting a soprano and go for a concert ukulele.

Soprano Ukulele Summary

  • “Standard” ukulele size
  • Small and light-weight
  • The soft, gentle tone
  • Ideal for children and beginners
  • TUNING: g-C-E-A

 

Our Top 3 Choices For Soprano Ukuleles

 

 

Concert Ukulele

Speaking of which, here we are, in the second size of a ukulele to buy: concert ukuleles. These are slightly larger than sopranos but very close. Indeed, they represent the largest of the “plinky” sounding ukuleles and have been getting more and more attention in the past decade.

The idea behind concert ukuleles is to give the player a tad more space. This means that the fretboard will allow someone with bigger hands more space to move. Still, it is very small and friendly for kids to play with it.

Main characteristics

Out of the four types of ukuleles, the Concert ukuleles tend to be the choice of professional musicians as well as casual strummers with larger hands. Also, the slightly larger body allows companies to employ different wood types for the construction. While sopranos are mainly mahogany to give more depth to the sound, you can find concert ukes made from koa, acacia, and more.

The size of the instrument is typically 23” (58cm) featuring a scale of 15” (38.5cm).

 

What does it sound like?

The sound of a concert ukulele sits comfortably between a soprano and a tenor. By this, I mean that it retains the high-highs and adds a little warmth to the resulting sound. Indeed, if you can get your hands on an all-mahogany concert ukulele, you will surely notice the difference.

That being said, the tuning is still the same as with the soprano and you can still get that quintessential ukulele tone out of it.

You can check out this YouTube link to hear an example of the Concert ukulele.

 

What are the options available?

In this category, it is very common to find acoustic-electric concert ukuleles as well as some very high-end instruments. Since the shape and size are so friendly, most companies choose concert ukuleles to make their acoustic-electric flagship product.

 

Who should get a concert ukulele?

Grown-ups starting their journey in music, teenagers, people with slightly bigger hands who aren´t comfortable with a soprano ukulele will find the concert size to be much friendlier.

Also, those looking for a high-end ukulele have better chances of finding a concert one than a soprano one to fit their needs.

Concert Ukulele Summary

  • Bigger body and longer neck
  • Larger spacing between frets
  • Traditional tone but with added depth
  • More suitable for larger hands
  • TUNING: g-C-E-A

 

Our Top 3 Choices For Concert Ukuleles

 

 

Tenor Ukulele

We can safely say that tenor ukuleles are the turning point when it comes to ukulele sizes. For starters, out of the four types of ukuleles, they are the largest ukulele you can buy that retains the same tuning and sound from the classic sopranos.

This is great news for some of us with larger hands and several frustrating attempts with soprano ukuleles.

Let me tell you that before I finally bought myself a good tenor ukulele I had to give my son a soprano and concert ukuleles. I am six feet tall and to put my hands in those tiny spots was mission impossible. He was glad and now plays better than I do; so it wasn´t that bad either.

Main characteristics

The main characteristic that makes the tenor ukulele stand from the rest is the size. It is big enough for people with regular to large hands. Adding to that, it still sports the same tuning as the rest of the smaller versions, which make it compatible with all the tunes you´ll find online for the ukulele.

The entire size of the instrument is 26” (66cm) and sports a scale of 17” (43cm).

 

What does it sound like?

Depending largely on the material it´s made of, tenor ukuleles sound like a crossover between a ukulele and a small guitar. To begin with, the bigger body allows for deeper resonance and the slightly larger length of the strings also means there´s room for the lower notes to appear.

For example, buying an all-mahogany model will give you a fuller, richer sound that works great for playing single notes and chords. Indeed, due to the longer scale, you can practice your riffs and scales without problems.

On the other hand, buying one with a spruce top will bring you closer to the classic-guitar territory.

You can check out this YouTube link to hear an example of the Tenor ukulele.

 

Let´s talk about the low G

For those of us who come from playing guitar, having a high g as the fourth string is kind of odd. I mean, we are used to having the lower, heavier strings always on top and the thinner on the bottom. On a regular ukulele, the higher string in pitch is also the one on the top.

If you want to, you can change that by replacing the high-g string with a low-G string on the top.

 

Who should get a tenor ukulele?

Musicians looking for a slightly different taste to add to their collection, people with larger hands, players who want to practice scales and riffs, and anyone wanting the classic ukulele feel and sound in a bigger package will love a good tenor ukulele.

I wouldn´t recommend it for kids starting out unless they have large hands too.

Tenor Ukulele Summary

  • Large, deep body
  • Even longer scale length
  • Louder, bolder tone
  • More suitable for larger hands
  • TUNING: g-C-E-A

 

Our Top 3 Choices For Tenor Ukuleles

 

 

Baritone Ukulele

We´ve made it to the largest category we´ll speak about today. Indeed, baritone ukuleles are the closest you can get to a crossover with a classic guitar. They are even tuned differently. According to the legend, these were invented for those trying to do the transition from guitar playing.

 

Main characteristics

The main characteristic of a baritone ukulele is the size: 30” (76cm) and a scale of 20” (51.5cm). Other than that, the tuning is different from all the ones we´ve seen so far since it is tuned like the bottom four strings on a classical guitar: D-G-B-E.

This is very important because the feel of the instrument becomes completely different. Furthermore, the space between the frets and the scale length is very comfortable for those of us who play the guitar. Plus, you can play the chords you already know because of the tuning.

 

What does it sound like?

The sound is not like that of the classic ukuleles. For example, you can strum an Am chord and it will sound close to a guitar with no bottom end. Also, construction-wise, the materials are chosen often resemble those of a guitar adding a spruce top to act as a soundboard.

Baritone ukuleles sound and play like a small guitar with four strings. They are ideal to make the lower strummed base of a song featuring a soprano, concert, or even tenor ukulele playing a melody on top.

 

Who should get a baritone ukulele?

There´s nothing as smooth as a baritone ukulele for those trying to make the transition between guitar and ukulele. Also, for those in the search of a new flavor to add to the arsenal, these instruments sound like nothing else.

Finally, if you have seriously large hands, you´ll find yourself at home with the neck of a baritone ukulele.

Baritone Ukulele Summary

  • Largest of the Ukulele family
  • Classic guitar-like tone
  • Very easy transition for guitarists
  • TUNING: D-G-B-E

 

Our Top 3 Choices For Baritone Ukuleles

 

 

Ukulele FAQs

We know that after you finish reading a comprehensive post like this you find out you have more doubts to solve still. Worry not, because we´re here to save the day and thus, we added these FAQs that will quench your thirst for ukulele knowledge.

 

Is the ukulele hard to play?

The ukulele is easy to play. This is because it only has four strings, a very comfortable scale length, and also because the nylon strings are very easy on the fingers. You´ll find that learning how to play the ukulele is way easier than learning how to play the guitar or any other stringed instrument.

 

What is the best ukulele type for beginners?

I would say that the soprano ukulele is the best for beginners. First, because it is the “normal” ukulele size and shape. All information you´ll find online is probably made for those. Second, because it is the quintessential ukulele tone that´s bright yet soft on the ears.

Finally, the scale length and size make it a joy to play and to take with you everywhere. The best ukulele for beginners is the soprano.

 

Is a ukulele worth buying?

If you want the best inexpensive instrument to try out your playing skills or see if your kids are interested in music, there are no beating ukuleles. They are less pricey, less bulky, and don´t sound as loud as a guitar but will provide just the same hours of strumming fun.

 

What ukulele does Billie Eilish use?

Billie Eilish went from strumming her uke in her bedroom to literally doing it for arenas. She is the proud owner of a Fender signature ukulele that is shaped as a concert-size uke.

She has said to the media that she expects her signature instrument will make people want to start playing and writing songs.

 

Conclusion

The journey is over for me as I´ve poured all my knowledge into the shape of a blog post. On the other hand, I hope it has become the beginning of your journey to this amazing world of small bodies, nylon strings, good vibes, and infinite fun that we call ukuleles.

Make a wise choice, get started today and, who knows, maybe you´ll fill arenas with screaming fans like Billie Eilish soon.

Happy playing!

PS – Now that you understand the types of ukuleles available, check out our helpful review on the best ukuleles to buy in 2021 at this link.

 

image showing types of ukuleles for sale

Types of ukuleles for sale at a flea market

 

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