How To Pick The Right Ukulele For You
Let’s start being honest, there’s not such a thing as a perfect ukulele for each person.
Like any other instrument, you have some variants in sizes, models and sounds. But at the end, it’s all about taste.
Here we will check about the most common ukuleles, their sizes, sounds, differences and which one could fit to you. Saying that, there are four type of common ukuleles. These are: soprano, concert, tenor and baritone.
We will check them later with more details about each one. Now, if you are trying to find a more “exotic” type of ukulele, there is also the banjo ukulele and some others, but I wouldn’t recommend it as your first ukulele.
What you need to remember before buying. These are more recommendations as any other thing. So, if you really like the sound, form and size of a specific ukulele, follow what you like and go for it. With that said, let’s get started!
Types of ukulele:
As mentioned before, there are four common types. The basic difference between them is their size and frets rank (number of frets) that these ukuleles have. Beyond that, the differences will come also in the tune and sound deepness of the instruments.
- a) Soprano Ukulele:
– Is the smaller one of common ukuleles.
– Normal size: 21 inches (53 cm)
– Frets rank: 12 to 15 frets.
– Standard tuning: GCEA
This ukulele is the most popular one of all of them. I
t’s the tinier one, that normally people have fall in love with, and decided to start playing an ukulele. Even though it’s not that big and the frets are quite limited. This beauty will surprise you with his smooth and relaxed sound.
The resonance, of course can’t be so strong, because of the size that it has, but frankly, I haven’t heard anything so nice like the sound of a soprano ukulele.
A good tip that I can give if your decision is to buy one, go for a soprano with a warm sound, that you will accomplish with woods like Koa, Rosewood or Mahogany. In my opinion is even better if they are mixed woods soprano, like a Mahogany body with Rosewood fingerboard.
If you are a little bit confused about this tone things of woods and everything, just remember the classic sound of an ukulele is with Koa wood, nowadays they use a lot of Mahogany and both of them will give you an exquisite sound for a soprano Ukulele.
- b) Concert Ukulele:
– A little bit deeper sound than soprano Ukulele
– Normal Size: 23 inches (58 cm)
– Frets rank: 15 to 20 frets.
– Standard tuning: GCEA
If you are looking to move around the frets with some fast fingerpicking and keeping more less the traditional sound of an ukulele, this is the one for you.
Is a little bit bigger than a soprano ukulele, and believe it or not, it makes a big difference already in the size of the frets and how comfortable it is to move around the entire body. After that, the sound it is also wonderful and, in my case, is my favorite style of ukulele.
c) Tenor Ukulele:
– Very good if you have a guitar background
– Normal size: 26 inches (66 cm)
– Frets rank: 15 to 25 frets.
– Standard tuning: GCEA
Are you or were you a guitar player looking to start with an ukulele? If so, this one might be the right for you.
The size of the frets would be more comfortable for you, because it’s a larger ukulele, and also the sound will be a little deeper (but it also depends which tenor ukulele you buy) and louder than a concert one.
This beauty is a big softy, why? because the sound will still be like a soprano ukulele, but in big.
I highly recommend it if you are looking to move a lot with your ukulele and even make some crazy solos. Personally, I use it when I’m trying to imitate as much as possible the tone of a guitar, but of course you can also do that with other ukuleles.
- d) Baritone Ukulele:
– Completely different sound than the rest of ukuleles
– Normal size: 30 inches or bigger (76 cm+)
– Frets rank: 19 or more frets.
– Standard tuning: DGBE
At last, meet the big brother of this amazing family. A baritone ukulele, even though it’s an ukulele, goes to other way.
The tune is similar to the first four strings of a guitar, the sound is really crisp, big and deep. So, maybe you already realize it, this would become your best friend if you love blues, but instead of a guitar, you want to use an ukulele.
Really comfortable, because of its size and perfect also for some acoustic blues. Another big difference you can find, is in the strings, you can choose between a complete nylon set or half metal wound strings and half nylon.
Maybe it’s not so popular as the other ones, but if you go for this one, believe me it is also an incredible instrument and very versatile to play.
The importance of the wood:
If you are already a musician, is very likely you know this already. But, if you are not, don’t sweat it.
The basic thing you need to know about wood, it’s that it will change the sound of your ukulele. So, which type of wood give the most typical ukulele sound? That would be Koa and Mahogany wood. Both of them are warm sound type, meaning that it will have bigger presence in deep and middle sounds.
If you decide to go for an ukulele with bright wood, keep in mind that it would make the high pitches or sounds louder.
Also, there are many combinations of wood, so going for a mix wood ukulele isn’t a bad idea. You will find out that, rosewood gives an interesting tone when used for the fingerboard and mixed with a Koa body, or Mahogany will give a tone that for many people is the desirable one.
Size of your hands and ukulele size:
This is not a rule, but if you have big hands.
With a soprano ukulele, you will find that it is not so comfortable to play.
So, if this is your case, I would recommend that you go for a bigger ukulele, like a concert or tenor one.
There is only one problem with this, if you are a fan of the typical ukulele sound. I would buy a soprano anyway.
At the end you will get use to the size with time. The same goes for people with long fingers, because the frets are so close to one another, you will maybe find some troubles with some chords.
Beyond that, having long fingers can make things a lot easier when you try to connect different notes in different string that are kind of far away from each other.
At last, let’s talk about the exotic or not standard ukuleles, and what can you expect from them. Say hi to the cousins of these amazing instruments family!
- a) Banjo ukulele or banjolele: Is it more a banjo or an ukulele? Well, the answer is: Is more an ukulele. Why? The tune is as an ukulele, not like a banjo. Also, you will find it difficult to play a banjo song in it. But an ukulele song will be as magic. This awesome instrument will give you a brighter sound than a normal ukulele, and will keep the essentials of a normal one too.
- b) Electric ukulele: Let’s make some ukurock! Just kidding. I mean, you could, but I think that then you should change your primary instrument. It’s more a new modification of a normal ukulele. I wouldn’t recommend it, because if you are looking to make some solos and to have a cool electric instrument sound. Then you should go for an electric guitar. But it would make a nice addition to a collection of ukuleles.
- c) Bass ukulele or U-Bass: One of a kind in the ukulele world. But it’s just a normal acoustic bass with the fancy form and size of a baritone ukulele.
- d) Guitar ukulele: .. that means that is just like a guitar, but in little? Actually, no. It’s more like adding two bass strings to your ukulele. The tune of this interesting instrument is, A-D-G-C-E-A. So, as you can see, the first four strings are the same, but the new ones are in lower notes. If you already have an acoustic guitar or a classic one, maybe you shouldn’t buy a guitar ukulele. Because you can sound exactly like a guitar ukulele, just adding a capo at the fifth fret of your guitar.
Hope this article helps you as a guide and knowledge before buying an ukulele. Personally, as I said before, my favorite ukulele is the concert one. It’s really a piece of work and I have it in electro acoustic for my gigs. But in general, doesn’t matter which ukulele you choose for the first time. I’m pretty sure you will love this instrument and the way it can change your way of seeing music.