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Uke Sizes: Which Size Is Best For You.

Two things I frequently see on social media is the question, "what size ‘ukulele should I buy?" and new learners who have purchased a soprano due to the perception of it being the starter size. But is the soprano the best size for a beginner? I would answer, “it could be.” Some say it is for kids or depends on the size of a person's hands. However, there are many people, including myself, who play a soprano-sized ‘ukulele. So, let us talk size.

The many shapes and sizes of the 'ukulele.

Photo by Jen Negrete

 

‘Ukuleles (or sometimes called ukes) come in different shapes and sizes; traditionally, there are four (soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone). The average ‘ukulele sizes are:

· Soprano: 21 inches

· Concert: 23 inches

· Tenor: 26 inches

· Baritone: 30 inches

For this blog, I will focus on ‘ukuleles that are traditionally tuned as g-C-E-A, which does not include the baritone that is tuned in D-G-B-E. You may discover the uke is not one-size-fits-all and each size has its individual sound (or as I like to call it, voice).

Small and convenient.

The soprano is the smallest in size, and some describe it as plinky or jangly. I have found this to be true with certain sopranos. However, others can be just as loud and full sounding as their counterparts; their voice is simply higher in pitch. Because of its size, the soprano is the most portable and convenient for travel. During a flight last year, I was able to fit my soprano perfectly under the seat in front of me along with my carry-on bag.


Size comparison between the soprano (left) and concert (right) 'ukuleles.

Photo by Jen Negrete

 

Not too big and not too small.

Concert-sized ‘ukuleles are the next size up from the soprano. This size uke gives extra room for fingers on its fretboard. It also produces more volume due to its larger resonating body, and tonally, it still gives the traditional ‘ukulele sound. Concert ukes sometimes have up to 20 frets, which is beneficial to play higher notes. This ‘ukulele is also portable and good for travel since it is only two inches longer than the soprano. If you decide to travel by air, you will more likely need to place the instrument in an overhead bin, so I highly recommend investing in a hard case.

Size comparison between the concert (left) and tenor (right) 'ukuleles.

Photo by Jen Negrete

 

The multifaceted tenor.

The tenor, which is only 3 inches longer than a concert, gives you a tone and sound that is much fuller than the soprano and concert 'ukuleles. This is due to its body size. Like the concert, it has more frets (15+) that allows you to play higher notes and gives you plenty of finger space with its wider fretboard. In my opinion, the tenor is the most versatile of the three. It can be tuned in the traditional high g, switched to a low G, or completely have its tuning changed by replacing the g-C-E-A strings with baby Baritone strings (D-G-B-E). Tenor ukes are portable for travel; however, like the concert, it would need to go in the overhead bin during air travel and need a protective case.


Size comparison between the soprano (left), concert (center), and tenor (right) 'ukuleles.

Photo by Jen Negrete

 

So, what's the answer???

My first ‘ukulele was a tenor. It was not because of the instrument size but the timbre. Six months later, I bought a soprano and found myself playing it more than the tenor. Afterward, I began switching between the two instruments, depending on the song I was playing. Each uke creates a unique experience, has its own voice, and feels different in your hands. So, what size ‘ukulele should you buy? To answer the question, I recommend trying out the different sizes and discovering which ‘ukulele feels best to you and fits your lifestyle.


Do you have a favorite uke size that you prefer over another? I would love to hear your thoughts. Please drop a comment down below.


Cover photo by kychan on Unsplash

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5 Comments


Tenor all the way.

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Joey Grieb
Joey Grieb
Feb 01, 2021

Great read👍 very insightful I can never choose a favorite between my tenors and concerts😊 I’m looking forward to the next post

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Jen Negrete
Jen Negrete
Feb 24, 2021
Replying to

Thanks, Joey! I try to give all my babies a little of attention but I hear ya. My concert has been my go-to lately.

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gcspanishms
gcspanishms
Jan 29, 2021

Thank you for sharing such great content. I resonate with trying before buying whenever possible. I know this post is regarding size and that your previous post was "why the 'ukulele" I'd like to share that I own 1 tenor 'ukulele that I too purchased from the same shop on Oahu. That being said I want to address buying online or in person and the benefits regarding same. Perhaps something to consider in future posts - the sound from different woods, to use a strap or not, 'ukulele maintenance, composite ukuleles like the Kala Waterman, Outdoor Ukulele, Enya, environmental affects on different 'ukuleles and perhaps beginner books/websites, etc you might recommend. I realize everyone's journey is different, given your…


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Jen Negrete
Jen Negrete
Feb 24, 2021
Replying to

Thanks, Tom. Always great feedback and jotting down these topic ideas. 😉

Gracias!

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