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View Full Version : Serious beginner: Soprano VS Concert???



Loreen76
10-05-2015, 07:45 AM
Hello!
Last summer I bought a cheap uke to see if I would like it and I LOVE it! But now I'm ready to move on from my twangy amazon purchase and get serious about finding a better sounding, higher quality instrument (that doesn't go out of tune everytime you breathe on it)!

2 questions:
1) what are the advantages and disadvantages between the soprano and concert ukes?

2) I'm going to Maui in a week. Is it worth trying to find a quality instrument there or is it just a tourist trap? I'm in the seattle area, should I just look around here instead?

Thanks Uke friends!

k0k0peli
10-05-2015, 08:13 AM
I can't help re: Maui but I find a concert easier to play, is louder and deeper, and has greater range (more frets!) than a soprano. Have fun in Hawai'i!

MARKbOC
10-05-2015, 08:20 AM
i bought my first uke, a kala tenor, from Lahaina Music while vacationing on maui and have been very pleased with it. (the guy from the store came to the property i was staying at and did lessons for groups of beginner tourists like myself) i got a good deal and definitely enjoyed the fact that it was "from hawaii" even if the uke wasn't actually made there. liked all the people that i came across there and still use the three page list of beginner songs that they gave out when i bought it.

with that said if you arent SURE which size you want by next week, its probably worth waiting unless the hassle and cost of reselling/rebuying isnt a bother to you. play them both in whatever music stores you can find, listen to examples on UU/youtube/etc. if the idea of having it come from HI is appealing, you can still order online from HMS or one of the many great hawaiian shops that do online sales.

I personally prefer the fuller sound of the concert and find a little more size on the fretboard helps my poor, untrained fingers find their spots a LITTLE easier but obviously your preference on those things is whats important

Pueo
10-05-2015, 08:37 AM
If you are going to Maui, I would check out Mele Ukulele in Wailuku near the Ka'ahumanu Center, or Bounty Music in Kahului.

http://www.meleukulele.com/

Bounty music has a specific site just for Ukuleles: http://www.ukes.com/

I would actually go to the store and play some ukuleles and get the one that speaks to you. I originally thought I was a tenor guy but it turns out I play concert more often now. I have a soprano, but most of the time I feel it is too cramped and I only play it occasionally. Again, just play as many as you can and get the one that feels best to YOU.

I bought my first ukulele at Bounty Music, a basic Lanikai. They have a wide selection there.

I really liked the ukuleles at Mele as well, I went there to look around, but a new ukulele was not in my budget on that particular trip to Maui. I really fell in love with the double-puka six string that I played at Mele though!

janeray1940
10-05-2015, 08:54 AM
If you're in Seattle, check out Dusty Strings (https://store.dustystrings.com/c-9-ukuleles.aspx) if you don't find anything during your Maui trip. As others have said, definitely try a bunch of sizes and styles out before buying. Unless there's a reason you're sold on sopranos, I'd recommend a concert size, and if there's any chance at all that you'll venture up the neck for fingerstyle playing or chord inversions, find one with as many frets as you can. Most sopranos have only 12 frets, some concerts do as well.

As for advantages/disadvantages - I played soprano only for years because I have really small hands with really short fingers, so to me the biggest advantage is smaller is easier to play. But eventually I got frustrated with the soprano sound; in general, sopranos have less volume and sustain than larger sizes and sound rather "plinky" the higher up the neck you go. So I forced myself to adapt to concert scale and have never looked back.

sukie
10-05-2015, 09:44 AM
I have the perfect size ukulele -- it's a super concert. It's a concert body with a tenor neck. I fingerpicking. And I do go up to the top frets. Fingerpicking a soprano would be too limiting to me.

Mivo
10-05-2015, 09:57 AM
It depends a bit in the wood and the individual instrument, too. My mahagony soprano is louder than my mahagony concert, and my koa longneck pineapple soprano is louder than my acacia tenor and cedar tenor (cuts through more). My guess is that a KoAloha standard soprano is louder and has more sustain than a lot of concerts.

If you have the chance to play quality instruments in a store in Hawaii, or have a good player demo instruments for you in person, I'd try out different brands, sizes, and woods. Strings make a difference, so perhaps look at different sizes and wood types within the same brand.

As for frets, it all depends on the instrument. There are plenty of sopranos with more frets than a lot of concerts. The difference in scale length is not that substantial. And there are hybrids, like sopranos with concert necks and concerts with tenor necks.

Janeray, I was surprised to read that your preferences shifted a bit. It's what I wonder about for myself, once I get higher up the neck. Would you play tenor if your hands were larger? Then again, I look at, and listen to, John King and how he made sopranos sing, and then I'm unsure about everything again. :)

Pueo
10-05-2015, 10:19 AM
Hey Mark, if you are in the OC check out Island Bazaar in Huntington Beach if you have not already...
http://ukuleleparadise.com/

janeray1940
10-05-2015, 10:23 AM
Janeray, I was surprised to read that your preferences shifted a bit. It's what I wonder about for myself, once I get higher up the neck. Would you play tenor if your hands were larger? Then again, I look at, and listen to, John King and how he made sopranos sing, and then I'm unsure about everything again. :)

I would *absolutely* play tenor if my hands were larger! I actually injured myself a few years ago attempting to do so, though, so I'm pretty sure it's not going to happen in this lifetime :)

Part of my former dedication to sopranos came from my admiration for John King. Eventually though I realized two things: as a music educator, he essentially played for a living. I have to do other things in order to make a living, for many many hours a day, and since I didn't get serious about ukulele until my 40s, well - time just isn't on my side to achieve that level of playing. So - I might as well do the best I can with what allows me to play most comfortably, and for now it's concert scale.

Mivo
10-05-2015, 10:41 AM
I would *absolutely* play tenor if my hands were larger! I actually injured myself a few years ago attempting to do so, though, so I'm pretty sure it's not going to happen in this lifetime :)

Would you stop there or end up with a classical or tenor guitar? That is actually one of my concerns with the tenor. I think once I got comfortable with it, especially with a low-G tuning, it would only be a matter of time until I got curious about a guitar. (One of the reasons I got into the ukulele was the small footprint of the instrument, something extremely portable and non-intimidating.)

Definitely true that John King was an exceptional player, and a professional. Using him as a yard stick for what it's achievable is probably bound to give a distorted impression. Still, it does show what the instrument is capable of, even if most of us stand no chance to become as good as he was. Would be nice to be 15 again! (Well, in some ways anyway, not in all.)

hendulele
10-05-2015, 10:54 AM
I would actually go to the store and play some ukuleles and get the one that speaks to you. I originally thought I was a tenor guy but it turns out I play concert more often now. I have a soprano, but most of the time I feel it is too cramped and I only play it occasionally. Again, just play as many as you can and get the one that feels best to YOU.[/COLOR]

Yes, yes, and yes. In fact, you might want to go to a music store in Seattle and do that before you head to Hawaii. Comfort (feel, sound, etc.,) is very important.

janeray1940
10-05-2015, 10:58 AM
Would you stop there or end up with a classical or tenor guitar? That is actually one of my concerns with the tenor. I think once I got comfortable with it, especially with a low-G tuning, it would only be a matter of time until I got curious about a guitar. (One of the reasons I got into the ukulele was the small footprint of the instrument, something extremely portable and non-intimidating.)

I'd stop there. There's something about the simplicity of 4 strings and the smaller footprint that I really like. I have a guitar and I play it maybe twice a year at most - it never hooked me the way ukulele did/does.


Definitely true that John King was an exceptional player, and a professional. Using him as a yard stick for what it's achievable is probably bound to give a distorted impression. Still, it does show what the instrument is capable of, even if most of us stand no chance to become as good as he was. Would be nice to be 15 again! (Well, in some ways anyway, not in all.)

Now that I think about it, in addition to sopranos John King also played a Stradelele (http://www.earnestinstruments.com/strad-uke/), which is concert scale.

Oh gosh, 15 - no thank you! First time was hard enough. But I'd gladly be 30 again if I could know then what I know now :)

Mivo
10-05-2015, 11:26 AM
Now that I think about it, in addition to sopranos John King also played a Stradelele (http://www.earnestinstruments.com/strad-uke/), which is concert scale.

Darn, now I can't un-see this! :)

Hmm, it describes it as a concert ukulele, but says the scale length is 13 5/8". That is closer to a soprano than a concert uke, I think? It looks very good, though. Kind of affordable, too. Hmm!

janeray1940
10-05-2015, 11:35 AM
Darn, now I can't un-see this! :)

Hmm, it describes it as a concert ukulele, but says the scale length is 13 5/8". That is closer to a soprano than a concert uke, I think? It looks very good, though. Kind of affordable, too. Hmm!

Oh interesting - I just looked up Kamaka scale lengths and their soprano is 13 9/16". I did test drive a Stradelele once and it was quite nice, I'd definitely consider it if I felt the need for a custom.

actadh
10-05-2015, 12:29 PM
I was going to suggest a Martin, but since you are going to HA, I would suggest something made there. I am partial to KoAlohas.

I think my sweet spot is sopranos, though I started on a concert. I feel extremely comfortable with that size.

MARKbOC
10-05-2015, 12:43 PM
Hey Mark, if you are in the OC check out Island Bazaar in Huntington Beach if you have not already...
http://ukuleleparadise.com/

Thanks Pueo! I've been there! Great people and awesome selection.

Mivo
10-05-2015, 12:51 PM
Oh interesting - I just looked up Kamaka scale lengths and their soprano is 13 9/16". I did test drive a Stradelele once and it was quite nice, I'd definitely consider it if I felt the need for a custom.

The price is $200 higher than listed, by the way. I checked his separate pricing list, and it seems they got more expensive. I put it on my mental list of sexy ukes to consider, for when I firmly make up my mind on the one size I intend to stick with. Same list that the Otha-San is on, too! Until then, I won't be buying anything new. My five playable ukuleles (two tenors, one soprano, one concert, and the LN pineapple) are sufficient, and I'm still really enjoying the pineapple. Lovely instrument. (I ALMOST bought a KoAloha tenor on the weekend, but I did some self-reflecting and sorted myself out.) I'll spend more time on improving and experimenting before engaging in more retail therapy.

PhilUSAFRet
10-05-2015, 03:17 PM
Play all sizes and let your hands and ears decide. I personally prefer a concert size because if feels good in my hands and a quality concert can sound as full as many tenors, but I also enjoy playing my sopranos and tenors from time to time.

katysax
10-05-2015, 03:19 PM
John King had his style of playing, the campanella style, which uses the high G of the reentrant tuning. It is also essentially a very fast single note style of playing. The soprano works for that. Concert works for that. Tenor less so. Most of us play other styles or only use campanella sometimes. For most types of playing other than simple chord strumming on the first five frets, tenor and concert are more versatile. I do like sopranos but the type of playing that I do, which involves fingering a lot of chords and fingerpicking multiple notes, works better on concert or tenor. And, on the whole I prefer the low G sound on a tenor and the reentrant turning on concert and soprano with some exceptions. A lot depends on the type and style of music that you play.

Cfiimei
10-07-2015, 02:14 AM
If you are going to Maui don't neglect the east side of the island. The sights on and beyond the road to Hana are wild, beautiful, and highly saturated with color. Totally different from the rather posh west side. We spend nearly all of our time on the east side and just lose ourselves in the narrow roads and trails lined with lush colors and sweet smells.

earljam
10-07-2015, 06:58 AM
I can't help re: Maui but I find a concert easier to play, is louder and deeper, and has greater range (more frets!) than a soprano. Have fun in Hawai'i!

I have a Gibson tenor, a Kala acacia tenor, a Vega baritone, and a Martin soprano which is louder than all of them. My hands prefer concerts and tenors but nobody should avoid sopranos thinking they won't be loud enough, they have plenty volume.

VegasGeorge
10-07-2015, 04:20 PM
If you're going to Maui, stop in at Bounty Music. They always have a great selection of Ukes. I first went there in about 1990, and have done business with them ever since. So, I know.

Ukulele Eddie
10-07-2015, 05:52 PM
You never mentioned your budget, but play many. It might be a soprano that grabs you, or a concert. It's hard to say. You might find yourself deciding between a particular soprano and a particular concert, or you might find you favor one size over the other.

I'd say, fly to Oahu for a day and go to HMS!!