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‘Ukulele Sizes – Soprano, Concert, Tenor, Baritone

Many people seem to think that the size of your ‘ukulele determines how you play. While you do alter your stance and approach to accommodate different sizes, you don’t have to change your knowledge or learn anything new. There is no “how do I play a tenor vs. how do I play a soprano?” The only size that might take some different thinking would be the baritone, because it is tuned differently.

Here is a rundown of the main ‘ukulele sizes from smallest to biggest.

The legendary Maholo soprano

The scale length is the distance of the ringing string – from the nut to the saddle. The scale, length, and fret specs are just averages. Every luthier uses different dimensions.

Soprano (or Standard) ‘Ukulele

Scale length: 13-14 in.
Usually tuned: GCEA
Frets: 12-14
About 21 in. long from head to toe

The smallest size in the ‘ukulele family, the soprano has the recognizable plinky sound that everyone associates with the instrument. If you tell someone that you play the ‘ukulele, odds are that they think of you holding this size (after all, it is what size Tiny Tim used). Many sopranos have friction tuning pegs. These types of tuners point straight back from the headstock and with no gears, the strings come up to tune very quickly. Sometimes (especially on cheaper ukes) the “friction” aspect goes away and the string will not stay in tune. This can be fixed by tightening the screw found on the back of the peg with a screwdriver.

Concert 'ukulele

Concert ‘Ukulele

Scale length: 15-16 in.
Usually tuned: GCEA
Frets: 14-17
About 23 in. long from head to toe

The concert sized ‘ukulele spans the gap between the “plinky” soprano sound and the fuller tenor sound. Friction tuning pegs are common on concerts.

Tenor ‘Ukulele

Scale length: 17-18 in.
Usually tuned: GCEA
Frets: 17-19+
About 26 in. long from head to toe

Tenor 'Ukulele

The tenor ‘ukulele is becoming more and more popular as people get used to it’s less-traditional sound. Some great tenor players are: Jake Shimabukuro, Herb Ohta Jr., James Hill, David Kamakahi, and Brittni Paiva. The longer scale gives fingers more room to hold challenging chords and the strings on a tenor pull tighter because there is more space to stretch them across. I play a tenor ‘ukulele. I prefer it over the other sizes because it is bigger – there is more ‘ukulele to hang onto – and it has a fuller sound.

Baritone ‘Ukulele

Scale length: 19-20 in.
Usually tuned: DGBE (sometimes GCEA)
Frets: 19-21+
About 30 in. from head to toe

The baritone ‘ukulele is the biggest of the lot and the different tuning requires some knowledge or quick transposing to figure out the chords. A baritone is like a small guitar missing the two top strings. Unlike the other ‘ukulele sizes, the baritone is almost exclusively strung with a low top string. Some of the great jazz players favor the baritone size because or the big frets – they can squeeze chords way up the neck (Byron Yasui, Benny Chong). A baritone might be a good option for a converting guitarist.

Baritone ukulele

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