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When it comes to choosing between a soprano vs concert ukulele, there are some key differences between them that you should understand.
These two types of ukuleles have unique characteristics that will help you decide based on your preferences, playing style, and requirements.
The most obvious difference between the two is their size. Soprano ukuleles are smaller, typically 21 inches long, and feature a neck scale of 13 inches with 12-15 frets.
Concert ukuleles are slightly larger. This difference in size and weight impacts the playability, sound, and overall feel of the instrument.
From my personal experience, I can tell you that the soprano ukulele plays a vital role when working on client projects in my recording studio; I use it regularly, especially with TV ad scores.
While both soprano and concert ukuleles hold their own charm and appeal, the key to selecting the right one for you lies in understanding the nuances of each type.
Soprano vs Concert Ukulele
When comparing the soprano ukulele and the concert ukulele, there are some key differences to consider.
The concert ukulele has a larger body and a longer scale length, which results in a louder and slightly deeper sound. This can make the concert uke more suitable for playing in bigger venues or for those who want a fuller sound.
The soprano uke has a small size and shorter scale length, making it lighter and easy to carry around. It’s a great choice for beginners and those who appreciate the traditional ukulele sound.
Sizes and Scale Lengths
The size and scale lengths of these two types of ukuleles vary, affecting playability and tonal quality.
- Soprano Ukulele:
- Overall length: 21 inches
- Scale length: 13 inches
- Compact and easy to carry
- Concert Ukulele:
- Overall length: 23-24 inches
- Scale length: 15 inches
- Louder and more comfortable for playing advanced music
Other Ukulele Sizes Explained
Let’s look at the other main sizes of ukuleles; tenor, baritone, and bass.
The tenor ukulele is a popular choice among players of all skill levels. It features a longer scale length than the soprano and concert ukuleles, providing more frets with wider spacing between them.
This makes it suitable for those with larger hands and fingers. The tenor ukulele has a fuller sound with more volume and resonance, which can appeal to players looking for a more robust tone.
Moving up in size, the baritone ukulele is the largest of the four main ukulele sizes. It shares some similarities with the tenor size, such as a longer scale length and wider fret spacing. However, the baritone uke utilizes different tuning, typically DGBE, like the highest four strings on a guitar.
This can make it an easier transition for guitar players. The baritone ukulele has a deeper, warmer sound with more bass presence.
The bass ukulele is a unique member of the ukulele family. It’s crafted to resemble an upright bass in size and sound, often featuring a much larger body and thicker, often rubbery strings tuned to EADG, just like the bass guitar or the first four strings of a guitar. The bass ukulele produces a deep, resonant tone miming a double bass.
It’s used primarily for providing low-end support in ukulele ensembles or for bassists seeking a portable alternative to a traditional upright or electric bass.
Choosing the Right Ukulele
Hand Size and Fret Access
When selecting between a soprano and a concert ukulele, the size of your hands is essential. The concert ukulele may be more suitable for larger hands or fingers, offering extra space between the frets.
The concert ukulele has an overall length of 26 inches and a scale length of 15 inches, while the soprano ukulele has a length of 21 inches and a scale length of 13 inches. This difference in scale length affects the distance between the frets, making the concert ukulele more comfortable for those with larger hands.
If you have smaller hands, you might find the soprano ukulele the right choice, as its smaller size and more compact fret spacing can make it easier to navigate.
Younger Players and Beginners
The best beginner ukulele for younger players and beginners could be the soprano ukulele. Its smaller size and slightly looser strings make it more comfortable to play and easier to handle for those with smaller hands or limited experience.
However, if you want a more responsive instrument with a wider dynamic range, you may want to consider the concert ukulele. Its size and sound qualities lie between those of the soprano and tenor ukuleles, providing a balance between the two.
Sound and Tone Differences
Higher Pitch and Bright Tone
Soprano ukuleles, with their smaller body and shorter scale lengths (13 inches), produce a distinct, bright tone characteristic of the traditional ukulele sound. Their higher pitch is attributed to the soprano’s smaller size and shorter length of strings, which vibrate at a higher frequency.
As a player, you’ll notice that the sound of the soprano ukulele has a plinky, almost toy-like quality, which can be charming and enjoyable.
Fuller Sound and Deeper Tone
Concert ukuleles have a slightly longer scale length (typically around 15 inches) and a larger body, contributing to a fuller sound and deeper tone. The concert size produces more resonance and volume, creating a richer and more complex sound than the soprano.
Strumming the instrument, you’ll immediately notice the deeper sound and warmer tone that concert ukuleles offer.
In terms of playability, you’ll find that concert ukuleles have more space between the frets, making them potentially more comfortable for those with larger hands. And while the difference in sound between these two types of ukuleles may not seem drastic, it does come down to personal taste.
Tuning and String Options
Ukulele strings are assigned numbers from 1 to 4, with the highest string closest to the ground called number 1 and the lowest string closest to you number 4.
The most common tuning for both soprano and concert ukuleles is G-C-E-A, also called standard tuning. In this tuning, the strings are tuned in a higher pitch, which gives the ukulele its bright, lively sound.
This tuning is employed by both novice and experienced players since it’s easy to learn and provides a wide range of chords and melodies. Regardless of the type of ukulele you own, you will most likely be using this tuning.
Guitar and Classical Tuning
The tuning similarities between ukuleles and other stringed instruments, like the guitar and classical guitar, are worth mentioning.
A tenor uke, larger than the soprano and concert, is sometimes tuned to a low G string or a linear tuning. This resembles the four highest-pitched strings of a guitar, offering a broader range of notes and a more guitar-like sound.
A baritone ukulele, the biggest of all the types, is typically tuned to D-G-B-E, similar to the bottom four strings of a classical guitar. The tenor and baritone ukuleles are more suitable for experienced players or those transitioning from the guitar to the ukulele.
While standard tuning is the most popular option, there are a variety of alternative ukulele tunings to consider. You may explore different ones to achieve unique sounds or customize your playing experience. Some alternative options are:
- ADF#B: Also called the D tuning, shares the same intervals as GCEA but a slightly higher pitch.
- GCEG: Sometimes referred to as the ‘slack-key’ tuning, is utilized for Hawaiian-style fingerpicking.
- DGBE: A unique tuning in which the soprano or concert ukulele mimics the high E string of an acoustic or electric guitar.
Experimenting with these and other tunings can open up new creative possibilities and expand your understanding of the instrument. It is essential to remember that modifying your instrument’s tuning may require adjusting the string tension, which could cause damage.
Use caution, and consult with experts or professional luthiers when in doubt.
Top Ukulele Brands and Models
When choosing a ukulele, selecting a model from a reputable brand is essential.
Let’s review some of the best ukulele brands and models, divided by size. We’ll cover soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone models.
Best Soprano Models
Soprano ukuleles are the smallest and most classic, known for their bright and plinky sound. Some top soprano models include:
A staple model, simple in appearance but offering the traditional, characteristic ukulele sound. This ukulele has a solid mahogany body and neck.
Best Concert Models
Concert ukuleles are slightly larger than sopranos, offering a fuller sound and a more extensive range. Some noteworthy concert models are:
A well-regarded concert-sized ukulele featuring a mahogany body and an additional Graph Tech NuBone nut and saddle, known for its warm and rich sound quality.
A popular choice among professionals, boasting a solid Acacia body and a unique Fishman Kula preamp with a built-in tuner, offering crisp, clear sound quality and convenient tuning.
Best Tenor Models
Tenor ukuleles are gaining popularity with their fuller, deeper sound and larger fret spacing. Here are some top tenor models:
A highly sought-after tenor-size ukulele with a mahogany body, praised for its warm, resonant sound quality and high level of craftsmanship.
A renowned model offering a Hawaiian Koa body and a satin finish, delivering excellent projection and clear, bright sound quality, embodying the traditional Hawaiian tone.
Best Baritone Models
Baritone ukuleles are the largest of the four main types, with the deepest and warmest sound. Top baritone models include:
A well-respected model featuring a mahogany body and a Graph Tech NuBone nut and saddle, known for its rich tone and exceptional resonance.
A solid mahogany baritone ukulele with a reputation for exceptional sound quality and sustain, boasting a satin finish and high-quality geared tuners for accurate tuning stability.
Personal Preferences and Considerations
Size and playability are two major factors when choosing between a soprano and a concert ukulele.
The smaller ukulele, or soprano, has an average dimension of 21 inches with a scale length of 13 inches. Its shorter neck produces a classic ukulele sound, making it a great choice for those who prefer the traditional tone.
However, its compact size results in a limited number of frets, usually 12-15, and a narrower space between frets. If you have smaller hands, navigating the fretboard might be easier on a soprano ukulele.
The concert ukulele is slightly larger at 23 inches long, with a scale length of 15 inches. This design offers more frets, ranging from 15-20, and wider spacing between them.
With bigger hands, your fingers will likely feel more comfortable on a concert ukulele’s long neck. Additionally, the concert uke provides more versatility in sound and playing styles, making it a better choice for beginners or intermediate players with varying techniques.
Another consideration is the variety of shapes in the soprano and concert ukuleles. The pineapple ukulele, for example, is a popular option in both size ranges. It offers a slightly fuller sound than the standard figure-eight shape but maintains the classic ukulele tone.
Lastly, consider your budget and the price range of the instruments. Both soprano and concert ukuleles come in various price ranges.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the main differences between soprano and concert ukuleles?
The main differences between soprano and concert ukuleles are their size, scale length, and sound. Soprano ukuleles are typically around 21 inches long with a scale length (distance from the saddle to the nut) of 13 inches, while concert ukuleles are slightly larger.
Soprano ukuleles also have a shorter fingerboard with 12-15 frets spaced closely together.
Which size is more suitable for beginners: soprano or concert?
Both soprano and concert ukuleles can be suitable for beginners. People new to playing ukuleles often start with a soprano due to its affordability and smaller size, making it easier to handle.
However, concert ukuleles have a slightly larger size and frets, offering a more comfortable playing experience for those with larger hands.
How do soprano and concert ukuleles differ in sound?
Soprano ukuleles usually produce a brighter, more “plinky” sound, often associated with the traditional ukulele sound. Concert ukuleles, on the other hand, have a fuller and warmer tone due to their larger body size and longer scale length.
Are there any notable brands for each type?
Many popular ukulele brands produce both soprano and concert ukuleles. These brands include Kala, Lanikai, Cordoba, Mahalo, and Ibanez. Each brand offers various options for quality and price.
Which type is more popular among professional players?
There isn’t a single “correct” choice for professional players, as it depends on individual preference, playing style, and desired sound. Some professional players prefer the traditional sound of the soprano, while others opt for the fuller tone and larger size of a concert ukulele.
Does the price range vary significantly between the two?
The price range for both types of ukuleles can vary, with some entry-level models being quite affordable and others reaching higher price points. Generally, concert ukuleles are slightly more expensive than soprano ukuleles due to their larger size and additional features.
However, it’s essential to consider the quality, materials, and craftsmanship when comparing prices to find a ukulele that fits your needs and budget.
The decision between a soprano and a concert ukulele is ultimately a matter of personal preference, the size of your hands, and the desired sound you want to achieve.
You can’t really go wrong with either type. I recommend going down to a music store and trying out both. After playing different sizes of ukuleles you’ll know!