How Uke Can Learn the Differences In Common Ukulele Sizes
Maybe you thought that ukuleles only came in "Tiny Tim" size. Maybe you knew there are other sizes but don't know how to choose between them. Let's set you on the right path to choosing a uke that will be the right size and have the tone that you want...
Certainly the ukulele with the most familiar size and sound to the average person. In the common sizes, this is the smallest and lightest uke. Most people find that the shorter scale length (the vibrating string length that produces sound) lends itself well to smaller hands (most of our younger students will start with a soprano as their first ukulele). In addition to the shorter body length, the body width is likewise smaller. This means that the smaller body "chamber" (the hollow part of the instrument) makes for a focused tone that leans towards the bright, plinky sound that most people associate with ukulele. Note: The larger the uke's body size, the sound inside that chamber resonates more and will have a greater volume of sound.
Pineapple Soprano Ukulele:
With a similar scale length to a traditional soprano, the body doesn't have a "waist" or a figure 8 shape, it's much more oval-shaped. What that means is the body has a larger chamber than the regular soprano which means the instrument can resonate more and thereby give you a more full sound than a traditional soprano.
Long-neck Soprano Ukulele:
Imagine a soprano-sized body with a neck that's around one inch longer and slightly wider. This instrument retains the traditional soprano sound, but the fret spacing on the neck is enlarged. That means the physical distance between the frets is greater and your fingers have a little more space to maneuver.
The next full size up from a soprano ukulele. The concert ukulele has a neck similar (or the same) to the long-neck soprano ukulele; it's about one inch longer and just a little wider; you'll have more room to maneuver your fingers on the concert than the soprano. In addition to the neck differences, the body length and width is also greater on the concert size. Remember what we said about larger body chambers? This larger body chamber leans more towards a louder, warmer, fuller sound than any of the sopranos (though the pineapple comes the closest).
The next full size up from a concert ukulele. This has a neck that's about two inches longer than a concert ukulele, is about 1 and 3/4" longer in overall length, around 1" wider in body size, but has a similar neck width to the concert. With the increase in scale length, it really helps space out your fingers so if you have larger hands or longer fingers, you may want to consider trying a tenor. Again, with an even larger body chamber than the concert size the tenor's tone is considerably warmer, fuller and more powerful than any of the smaller sizes.
Super Tenor Ukulele:
The super tenor is even larger than a traditional tenor. Boasting nearly two extra inches of scale length, your fingers can roam the fretboard like a bison on the prairie. Basically, it takes everything a tenor ukulele does and does it more. The volume and projection are drastically increased, so if you need to be loud without electrifying your uke, this will gladly handle the task. This size is becoming more popular, but it is by far the least common of all the sizes mentioned here.
With an longer scale length and body size than even the super tenor, this uke is more like a classical guitar disguised as an ukulele; it's even tuned D-G-B-E just like the first (thinnest) four strings of a guitar. This uke size has the deepest, most resonant sound out of all the others and even sounds very much like a nylon string classical guitar. If you're a guitarist and don't want to relearn any chord shapes, this is the uke for you! Some people do change out the strings for a set that can be tuned like a traditional ukulele G-C-E-A to give them a very deep ukulele sound.
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