More Ukulele Guides
Unlike some other instruments, ukulele sizes aren’t named like separate instruments (violin vs. viola, and mandolin vs. mandola). This has led to confusion, and because the different body types sound and feel different to play many musicians aren’t sure which body style will be right for them - this guide will help you understand what each shape and size is.
A soprano ukulele is the smallest commonly found ukulele. The soprano size has that trademark plinky ukulele sound, though because it doesn’t have a very large resonating surface it doesn't have the volume or depth of tone you’d find in a larger instrument.
The traditional tuning of the soprano ukulele is A4, D4, F#4, and B4, though most musicians tune them down one whole step G4, C4, E4, A4.
Pineapple ukuleles (which as you might have guessed are shaped like a pineapple) have a similar response to that of a soprano ukulele but offer a more harmonically rich tone because of their larger resonating surface.
The concert ukulele is the middle ground between a tenor and soprano ukulele. It has the delicate and sweet tone of a soprano ukulele while having some of the depth of a tenor. Concert ukuleles are tuned the same as sopranos.
Tenor ukes are becoming more and more popular due to their versatility. They’re more appealing to finger-pickers due to their longer scale length (see the section below for a definition of scale length). Tenor ukuleles can be tuned to either high-G (the same as a soprano or concert) or low-G. Low-G tuning offers more possibilities, though it’s not as traditional sounding as high-G tuning.
Here’s an example of the difference between high and low-G:
The baritone ukulele is unique in that it doesn’t use a reentrant tuning. What this means is that the strings are ordered from those lowest in pitch to those highest, as opposed to other ukuleles which are not.
This body style, while retaining some of the sound the ukulele is known for, has a response similar to that of a classical guitar. This means that it wouldn’t be the best fit for someone looking for a traditional ukulele tone, but at the same time it does have a pretty unique sound.
The baritone ukulele is also tuned a fourth lower than other body styles, so playing music intended for tenor-style or smaller ukuleles will require some transposing.
Scale length is the distance between the nut and the neck. It impacts both the tone of the strings and the force required to play them. The longer the scale length the more the top resonates (which increases volume), though a longer scale length can somewhat reduce warmth.
The scale lengths for the four main body styles are as follows:
- Soprano/Pineapple: 13-14 inches
- Concert: 15-16 inches
- Tenor: 17-18 inches
- Baritone: 19-20.inches
If you have any questions about the different sizes of ukuleles then post them below and we'll make sure your question is answered.