Deciding on which size of ukulele to buy can be daunting. Mostly because you are investing your hard earned money in there; somewhat because there are some worthy options available in the market. These ukuleles sound and tune differently based on their sizes, so you really should know your stuff before buying one for yourself.
In this guide, we will break down the main sizes of ukuleles and discuss a few pros and cons for each option to help you make a more informed decision.
What Are the Four Types of Ukulele?
There are mainly four types of ukulele in size. Organized in an ascending order (smallest to largest), the list would look like:
- Soprano ukulele
- Concert ukulele
- Tenor ukulele
- Baritone ukulele
There are quite some other sizes of ukuleles you can find, like the Pineapple ukulele which is the smallest, the Super Soprano which falls between a concert and soprano, as well as a Guitalele which is simply a small guitar. But, the four mentioned at the very first are the most common sizes available.
Let’s have a glance at the average sizes of these ukuleles:
Soprano : 53 cm / 20 inches long
Concert : 58 cm / 22 or 23 inches long
Tenor : 66 cm / 26 inches long
Baritone : 76 cm / 30 inches long
Ukulele Size Differences
1. Soprano Ukulele
The picture that pops in the average person’s head (someone who isn’t much accustomed to the vast world of ukuleles) when a ukulele is brought up is probably the Soprano ukulele. It’s the most common model. A soprano uke produces the classic “plinky sound” because of its shorter scale and shallower body, allowing less space for the sound to resonate. This ukulele size is the most ideal for beginners since it is the “normal” kind of uke that most players pick up when starting off their little stringed instrument journey. If you like a traditional ukulele sound, this one is definitely the best. With its signature bright yet soft tone, the soprano ukulele is a beginner-friendly buddy you want at the start of your learning.
- The average size is 53cm long.
- The Soprano features a standard tuning of G/C/E/A.
2. Concert Ukulele
The Concert ukulele takes a step up from a soprano when size and projection of sound is considered. This particular uke falls somewhere between a soprano tenor. Thanks to the bright yet soft tone, it feels close to its smaller cousin, the soprano, while the extra depth reminds more of the tenor. Since the scale is relatively longer, there is more spacing and frets between them – perfect for practitioners with large fingers and adults. Owing to the deeper body, the concert uke allows for better sound projection, giving the volume a boost.
- The average size is 58cm long.
- The Concert features a standard tuning of G/C/E/A.
3. Tenor Ukulele
Bigger than a concert ukulele, the tenor ukulele stands at about 26 inches and projects sound more, offering a more resonant, louder sound overall. Thanks to its size, the produced sound is much similar to that of a classic acoustic guitar’s. It still, however, maintains the original ukulele sound but with a more versatile sound and bigger scale, making it more appealing to practitioners who prefer finger-picking. Professional players do tend to use tenor ukulele, however they’re still great for beginners and players of every level as well as those who like more space around the neck.
- The average size is 66cm long.
- The Tenor features a standard tuning of G/C/E/A
4. Tenor XL Ukulele
Although not a part of the original lineup of standard ukulele sizes, the Tenor XL is a newer addition to the list thanks to its growing popularity over the last few years. From the name it’s easy to understand that it’s larger than a standard tenor ukulele. For the ones with larger hands, this ukulele offers more comfort. The Tenor XL features a warmer and deeper sound with increase resonance owing to its increased lower bout length. Some other benefits of this size increase is the stellar string spacing as well as the louder than traditional tenor ukulele projection. The standard tuning of a Tenor XL is the same as a tenor – G/C/E/A, but traditionally, they come with a Low G string.
5. Baritone Ukulele
Last but not the least, the Baritone ukulele is the largest in the family, coming in at about 10 cm, or 3’’ longer than a tenor and with wider frets alongside wider fret spacing. As the strings are tuned to D/G/B/E, the last four strings of a guitar, playing a baritone is almost akin to playing on a miniature, classical guitar. The size also adds to the feel. Thanks to the deeper body, the sound is increasingly resonant, fuller, richer, and with plentiful bass. If you’re accustomed to playing the guitar, you will find a baritone uke providing easier transition to the smaller stringed instrument world.
- The average size is 76cm.
- The baritone comes with a tuning of D/G/B/E.
What Is the Best Ukulele Size for Beginners?
To summarize everything, if you have a smaller body frame, looking for that traditional “plinky sound”, or want a beginner ukulele for yourself or a child, start with the soprano. An adult with larger hands would be much better off with a concert or tenor as they’re larger than a soprano but are still small in scale plus utilize the tuning of ukes. Hand sizes play a determining factor is ukulele shopping, but in general, we would recommend you start with a soprano uke at first and going forward, you can switch for a concert and tenor gradually.
There’s no such thing as a “best ukulele size” as they’re all relevant to different needs. Keep the factors mentioned above in your mind and you will definitely be closer to making a better decision about your ukulele choice.