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Ukulele Sizes: What is the difference

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The Four Common Sizes

To keep the beginning simple, there are four common Ukulele sizes that you will find at Heid Music in-store and online. These basic sizes are: Soprano (21”), Concert (23”), Tenor (26”) and Baritone (30”). While there isn’t a “standard” for Ukulele sizes, you’ll find that most Ukuleles with these classifications will be close to the sizes listed.

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The first Ukulele was the Soprano size and after the popularization of the instrument in the Roaring 20’s, other sizes were introduced to add variety and volume. While there are four common sizes that have developed over the years, there are also many unique Ukulele shapes as well. Since the Soprano wasn’t quite small enough for Ukulele aficionados, we now have Pineapple, Sopranino and Sopranissimo Ukuleles. These Ukuleles run from the standard 21” size to around 17” long.  That is not much bigger than an actual Pineapple!

Standard Tuning

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Most Ukuleles adhere to “Standard Tuning”, which is (starting at top string closest to you) G-C-E-A. The only Ukulele size that will have different tuning will be the Baritone size. The tuning for this Ukulele is D-G-B-E, which is similar to the highest four strings on a guitar. Most music specifically made for Ukuleles will use standard tuning, so it is best to start with a Soprano, Concert or Tenor.

All about the Tone

As the body of your Ukulele gets larger, the deeper the tone will be and the more it will resonate. Per a Yamaha Acoustic resource, “When a string is plucked its vibration is transmitted from the bridge, resonating throughout the top of the guitar. It is also transmitted to the side and back of the instrument, resonating through the air in the body, finally producing sound from the sound hole.” Therefore, if there is more space or air inside of your Ukulele, the more it has a chance to resonate and the louder that sound can get.

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Smaller body = Smaller frets

With a smaller Ukulele body, less room is needed on the fretboard to go from one note to another. This can mean awkward chord playing if you have larger hands and a Soprano Ukulele. While there are modifications that can be used, it’s best to start on a Ukulele that is more comfortable for your hands. Once you get used to the playing methods and chord structures, then you can branch out to any style for different tones and feel.

Where to Start?

There are many factors in picking out the best Ukulele for you. As budget plays a big role in many purchases, the Ukulele is a fantastic starter instrument as there are varied price ranges. The best way to determine what you need is to try out different body styles and tones in-store or at a local Uke Jam. It’s important to be sure that it will work best for what you need. If you are unable to audition an instrument in person, then a Concert or Tenor Ukulele is the best bet for the beginning stages of learning.

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Another important tool to use are print books/lesson books. These will teach you basic chords, strumming techniques and more! For our recommended Beginner Ukulele books, click Here.  

The Perfect Kit

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When purchasing a Ukulele, there are accessories that are important to extending the life of your instrument and supporting quality playing techniques. To keep it easy, we’ve created a list of the accessories you will need to start with:

These items are essential to a positive learning experience, for proper care and peace of mind when investing in your musical journey. As always, Heid Music is here for you every step of the way. If you have questions, we’re only a quick e-mail, phone call, or web chat away.

 

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