Classic Ukulele Sizes
Ukulele come in many different shapes and sizes, each having its own strengths and drawbacks. Different sizes can, but do not always, inform playing style and could be selected by, but not always, based on comfort while playing. Here, we will go over the main sizes and shapes of the ukulele to help you make an informed decision about which is right for you.
Soprano, or standard, ukulele is the original size of the instrument with a full length of 21 inches (about 53 centimeters) with a scale length of 13 inches (30.5 centimeters). These ukulele usually have about 12-15 frets. These ukulele will generally have a bright, tinny sound.
Pros: Soprano ukulele are tiny so they are fantastic ukulele to travel with. They are the most common size for beginner ukulele which make them a very accessibly priced ukulele for starters. Also, if you are looking for something traditional, the soprano size is the most authentic to the original ukulele when the instrument was first invented. This size is perfect for people who want to strum chords and sing.
Cons: Due to their small size, soprano ukulele are, in general, comparatively the least resonant of the ukulele sizes. While their small size makes them easy to travel with, they can also feel small to hold which can lower how comfortable the ukulele feels to hold. The small size of the frets can also make it difficult for people to play solo pieces or technically difficult pieces. For people with larger hands or fingers, the fretboard may also feel cramped.
The concert, or alto, ukulele is the medium size with a full length of 23 inches (about 58 centimeters) and a scale length of 15 inches (38 centimeters). Concert ukulele generally have about 15-20 frets. These ukulele still have a bright sound, though with a bit more richness to provide a solid balance between the small and larger sizes.
Pros: If the soprano ukulele feels too small, the concert ukulele is a perfect compromise between the larger ukulele sizes and their rich tone, and the smaller size associated with the instrument. This size is perfect for both strumming and singing as well as solo pieces. This is the size I generally recommend to most adults starting out as this size feels the most comfortable and people who learn on the concert can easily transition to either a smaller or larger size depending on their preference.
Cons: the larger size makes the concert slightly more difficult to travel with than the soprano since the size is noticeably larger, though the concert is still a relatively small instrument. While there is increased room in the fretboard as well as extra frets, the small size can still make it difficult for people trying to play more complex solo pieces.
The tenor ukulele is the largest size of ukulele with the same tuning as the soprano and concert ukulele. The tenor has a full length of 26 inches (about 66 centimeters), a scale length of 17 inches (~43 cm), and about 15-20 frets. These ukulele generally produce the loudest and richest sound. This size is also the most likely to be seen with the low G tuning, with the G string being lowered by an octave.
Pros: This size is the best for most people wanting to learn solo pieces, though people with smaller hands may still prefer the concert. The rich sound that is produced by tenors make them ideal for concert settings due to their projection. The size of this ukulele is the most versatile for both solo pieces and strumming. For guitarists, this is also the most comfortable size while still providing the signature sound associated with the ukulele.
Cons: While some prefer this larger size, others feel the larger size of the tenor ukulele begins to deviate from the small size people expect from the ukulele. The larger size does allow for more room, but this can also come at the cost large leaps between frets (such as trying to hold the first fret and the seventh fret at the same time) becoming much more difficult, despite these leaps maybe being possible on the concert or soprano ukulele.
These three sizes, the soprano/standard, concert/alto, and the tenor ukulele are the main sizes that make up the majority of the ukulele out there. There are combinations between these sizes, often known as Super or longneck ukulele. A Super Soprano would be a soprano sized body with the scale length of a concert, a Super Concert would be a concert body with a tenor scale, and a Super Tenor being a tenor with a baritone scale (a size to be discussed next week). There are also more obscure versions of the super ukulele such as the soprano with a tenor neck, though these are more uncommon.
This blog post is already getting quite long, so there will be an additional post that will go over the sizes and types of ukulele that deviate from these three main sizes of ukulele. If you have any questions about these sizes (or anything ukulele related in general), let us know!