In this article, we are going to explore the sizes of ukuleles in all their glory. Put your ukulele pants on because we are going to take you for a wild and exciting ride!
We will do a deep dive into the different ukulele sizes, the dimensions of each, the tunings, the sound difference and more. We hope to help you find just the right ukulele for you so that all of your music hopes and dreams come true!
We are guessing that you have many questions just like the ones we listed below, and we aim to answer them!
How many ukulele sizes are there?
There are four main types of ukuleles and we have listed them from smallest to largest below:
- Soprano ukulele,
- Concert (or alto) ukulele,
- Tenor ukulele,
- Baritone ukulele.
In addition to the soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone ukuleles, there are a few other sizes as well. Not to confuse you or anything, we just want you to know that they are out there. These just aren’t as common as the four main types.
Sopranissimo (or pocket) ukulele is to the soprano ukulele what the piccolo is to the flute. It is the ultimate highest-pitched ukulele. It is often pineapple-shaped and because of this you may hear it referred to as the pineapple uke.
The sopranissimo ukulele is wonderful for travel as it is easy on the arms and shoulders for long trips and walks from one gate of the airport to another but not as easy on the ears. It is not the most rich in tone as it is super high-pitched and can easily go out of tune for this reason.
From the top of the headstock to the bottom of the body this ukulele measures 16 inches in size on average. The pocket ukulele is often called the mini ukulele or tiny ukulele due to its size.
The sopranino ukulele is a little bit bigger than the sopranissmo ukulele but smaller than the soprano ukulele. It is usually 18-19 inches in size.
The guitalele is larger than the baritone ukulele and has six strings. The guitarlele is essentially a teeny-tiny guitar.
The banjo ukulele is a four-stringed instrument with a banjo body and a fretted ukulele neck. The common tuning is G, C, E, A and sometimes A, D, F#, B.
The bass ukulele is a baby ukulele-shaped bass! The tuning is that of a bass guitar E, A, D, G. The majority of bass ukuleles will sound an octave higher than a bass guitar. This is still much lower than the standard tuned ukuleles.
Contrabass ukulele is the same as the bass ukulele but one octave lower. The contrabass ukulele is the same tuning as the standard bass.
What are the dimensions of the four main types of ukuleles?
Let’s get to know the sizes of the soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone ukuleles.
The wonderful soprano ukulele is the smallest of the four sizes and the average dimensions of the soprano ukulele are 21 inches (53 cm) long – from the top of the headstock to the base of the body of the ukulele.
The soprano ukulele is often referred to as the “standard ukulele size” because is it most similar to the cavaquinho, machete do braça, braguinha or rajāo – the instruments that the Portugese immigrants brought to Hawaii in the 1880s.
In time, these instruments evolved into the ukulele that we know today. The soprano ukulele is the most popular of the four ukuleles we will discuss in this article.
The marvelous concert ukulele averages to be 22 or 23 inches (58 cm) long.
The exquisite tenor ukulele is often found to be about 26 inches (66 cm) long.
The beautiful baritone ukulele is the longest measuring 30 inches (76 cm) in height.
What are the tunings of the soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone ukuleles?
Just in case you are thinking: “what the heck does the tuning mean?” – the tuning essentially means the names of the notes of each string when you play them “open.” Playing them open just means that you do not press down on the frets at all.
The soprano, concert, and tenor ukuleles all have the standard tunings of G, C, E, A.
The baritone ukulele has a tuning of D, G, B, E which are equivalent to the bottom four strings of the guitar.
Please note that there are G, C, E, A strings available for the baritone ukulele that have a deeper and fuller sound.
How many frets do the soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone ukuleles have?
The soprano ukulele has 12-15 frets and is generally just under two octaves in range.
The concert ukulele has an average of 15-20 frets. The neck is slightly longer than the soprano ukulele, therefore the width of each fret is slightly wider. This allows for extra spacing between each fret which is great for adults and for children with larger fingers.
The tenor ukulele usually has 15 frets or more. Just like its brother the concert ukulele the frets are bigger and easier to play than the soprano if you have bigger hands.
The baritone ukulele has 19 frets or more. The frets are wider and longer so this ukulele makes an easy transition for a guitar player.
What is the difference in sound between soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone ukuleles?
Did you know that “plinky” is an actual word? It means short, sharp, and metallic. This is often how you will hear the sound of the soprano ukulele described.
The soprano ukulele is shorter and has a shallow body so the sound that it creates gets less of a chance to resonate. The sound is bright.
The soprano ukulele is higher pitched and is the classic sound that is thought of when people hear the word ukulele. You may often hear the sound the soprano ukulele makes referred to as thin or jangly.
The concert ukulele has a fuller sound than its soprano sister. It is somewhere in between the soprano and tenor and it is bright like the soprano but has a little more depth like its brother the tenor.
The concert ukulele has the ability to project more due to its deeper body, enabling the overall volume to be louder. The concert ukulele has a more resonant and fuller sound and at times can sound like a classical acoustic guitar.
The tenor ukulele has a similar sound to the concert but even deeper, fuller, and louder still due to its larger body and the fact that its strings are longer.
Tenor ukuleles are larger than the concert ukuleles and therefore, they have a deeper sound. The tenor ukuleles sound lands somewhere between the classical guitar and the ukulele.
The soprano ukuleles were created first. When the 1920s Big Band sound was popular the tenor, concert, and even banjo ukuleles were created to compete with Big Band Instruments.
The baritone ukulele has the deepest sound of the ukuleles. It most resembles a nylon-string classical guitar. The sound has plenty of bass. The baritone ukulele has the most resonant sound of all four and a deep tone.
What is the best ukulele type/size for beginners?
We regret to inform you that there is no “one size fits all” ukulele as all of our body and hand sizes and shapes are unique and the sounds that are pleasing to one may not be as pleasant to another.
That being said, for children a soprano ukulele is most likely the best way to go for two reasons. The first reason being that the soprano ukulele is petite and the frets are small and so it is a good fit for those with wee fingers and hands.
The second reason is you can usually find soprano ukuleles somewhere between $50 – $100 so you don’t have to make a big investment upfront until you know the child is serious about playing.
We recommend a concert or tenor ukulele for adult beginners since the frets are bigger and there will be more room for you to move your fingers with ease.
For those guitar players learning to play the ukulele for the first time we recommend a baritone ukulele. It is an easy transition – you will feel like you are flying!
We hope reading this article helped you learn more about different ukulele sizes, the dimensions of each, the tunings, the sound difference, and more.
We want to be able to help you to find just the right ukulele for you to make all your music hopes and dreams come true! We hope this will inform your decision on what size/type ukulele will be a good fit for you to begin jamming to your heart’s content. We hope that we have also answered your many questions about the different sizes/types of ukuleles.
Now that you have this knowledge, we recommend that you go to your local ukulele shop and play, play, play. Try out all the ukuleles in the store and see what fits you best.
Have fun and happy ukulele playing!