Breaking Down the Different and Most Common Ukulele Styles
I was pretty surprised to learn that there were actually a lot of different sizes when it comes to ukuleles. This can get a bit confusing once you start hearing all kinds of musical terms tossed around, too. If you’re trying to decipher the differences between all the types out there, read on and discover the details behind each of the most common types.
This is the original ukulele, making it the most common version of the instrument out there. If you ever hear someone call an instrument simply a ukulele, or referring to a standard ukulele, this is what they’re talking about. It’s got a scale length that is two times the distance from the nut to the twelfth fret – around 11 inches. In fact, most models only have a total of twelve frets to begin with. This model is perfect for beginners because it’s the most common, which means that most of the information about chord fingerings and tunings will apply to this type.
While you can absolutely use any type of ukulele to play in a performance, the concert ukulele gives you a few key advantages over other models, particularly the soprano ukulele. With a longer scale length and a generally larger size, it’s able to create a louder and deeper sound. Since it also has more frets, it’s able to achieve a broader range than a soprano on the high end. This model was created to achieve a bigger sound for playing in concerts before the advent of electric instruments, much like how steel guitars were invented to give a louder sound compared to traditional acoustic guitars.
Just like with vocal ranges in signing, a tenor ukulele has a slightly deeper tone than a soprano, which means that a tenor ukulele is going to give you a broader range on the low end. It’s also much bigger than both the soprano and concert ukulele, with a scale length of 17 inches. This type of ukulele is a common choice for performers because it has more frets than the other styles of ukuleles and has a much more full-bodied sound with a stronger presence on the bass notes. It’s possible to play in the traditional tunings used in other styles of ukuleles, though many players also choose to use re-entrant or linear tunings for different effects.
This type of ukulele has a significantly lower range of notes compared to the other models, and is also the biggest of the most common sizes. Clocking in with a scale length of 19 inches and with up to 21 frets, it sometimes resembles a miniature acoustic guitar more than a traditional ukulele. A baritone ukulele also features a lower standard tuning, with the notes mapping to the same as the bottom four strings on an acoustic guitar. Since this type of ukulele creates such deeper and lower notes, strumming it produces a very different sound compared to other models. Many musicians choose to use a fingerpicking method to play, either resembling methods used on an acoustic guitar or even that of a bass guitar.
Once you understand the differences in the common types of ukuleles, it becomes much easier to figure out which model best fits your needs, skill level and playing style. While many people choose to start out on a standard soprano, the beauty of music is that you can make it whatever you want it to be. So you can choose whatever type of ukulele feels right to you, and start making the music you want to make.