Finding the Best Ukulele for You
Ukuleles have really been gaining in popularity recently, and for good reason, they’re awesome! If you’ve been thinking about buying a ukulele for the first time or upgrading from your old uke, you may be surprised to find there are so many variations and sizes available.
We’ll highlight and compare the variety of ukuleles available today to help ease your buying decision.
So Many Sizes
The most common ukulele size is the soprano or standard ukulele. The concert, tenor and baritone sizes are later variations and are also all very popular. The larger sizes have a deeper tone or range and typically a louder sound.
Below is a list of available ukulele sizes (thanks Wikipedia).
- Pocket – 16” typical length, 11” scale length, 10-12 frets
- Soprano – 21” typical length, 13” scale length, 12-15 frets
- Concert – 23” typical length, 15” scale length, 15-18 frets
- Tenor – 26” typical length, 17” scale length, 17-19 frets
- Baritone – 29” typical length, 19” scale length, 18-21 frets
- Bass – 30” typical length, 20” scale length, 16-18 frets
- Contrabass – 32” typical length, 21” scale length, 16 frets
Here’s a really great video comparing the four most common ukulele sizes:
Most ukuleles today are the figure-8 shape of a classical guitar, like the ukes pictured at the top of the article. There is however a variety of other uke shapes also available. Many offer a unique tone, in addition to their unique appearance.
Diamond Head offers pineapple shaped ukes in a variety of sizes, such as the soprano model pictured below.
Cigar box ukuleles are also very cool and have become very popular. Below is a cigar box uke made by Eddy Finn.
Strings & Things
Firstly, when buying new ukulele strings, make sure you’re buying the correct size for your uke. Since ukulele scale lengths vary widely, so can the string lengths required.
Originally, ukuleles used gut strings made most often from sheep or goat intestines.
Nowadays, the varieties below are more common.
- Nylon – Most typical, warm sound, but can fall out of tune quite easily
- Fluorocarbon – Bright sound, less stretch, usually smaller diameter than nylon
- Metal Wound – Often used for lower strings, some use titanium for all strings, distinct sound
There are also ukuleles available which are similar to 12-string guitars in that they may have 8 strings in 4 courses. This means 4 pairs of strings, each pair tuned in unison and played as a single string.
Eddy Finn even offers a fretless bass ukulele, as seen below.
Which Wood is Good?
As with acoustic guitars and other stringed instruments, ukuleles are made from a variety of woods. Though different types of wood can make different tones, keep in mind that the ukulele may be made from many different types of wood. The soundboard may be different from the sideboards and the fretboard a third variety.
Here are the most common woods used:
Koa – Native to Hawaii, warm & mellow tone, beautiful grain patterns, usually expensive
Cedar – Often used for soundboards, warm & even sound, common in acoustic guitars
Spruce – Loud & bright tone, good bass response, sturdy
Mahogany – Warm & balanced sound, good volume, great value
Plastic – Durable & great for travel, not classic wood tone, but many have surprising sound
Science Experiment Gone Right?
In a dark laboratory somewhere, scientists have merged a ukulele with a guitar…and it’s great! Some even call it the guitarlele. Another common hybrid is the banjo / ukulele blend or the banjulele. As you can imagine, they combine the basic features of both instruments into a new and unique sound experience.
Here’s the Eddy Finn banjo uke.
Electric ukuleles are also available, similar to acoustic/electric guitar combos. Below is an electric concert uke from Eddy Finn.
Whatever your preference may be, the world of ukuleles offers a wide and exciting variety of options. Variations in size, shape and wood used can greatly affect the ukulele’s sound and tone, so choose carefully. If you can’t try a ukulele yourself first, before making your purchase, consider searching YouTube as there are many great review videos for particular ukulele models. Many videos even compare different ukes and you can hear for yourself exactly how they sound and play.
As always, if you have any questions, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org .