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Joyful Uke
12-31-2015, 06:52 AM
Are soprano ukuleles the hardest to play for those with "older" hands or past hand injuries?

This is in the newest issue of Ukulele magazine:
"One reason the concert, tenor, and baritone ukes are popular is that the string width is kinder to both smaller and older hands."

I had always thought that soprano might be easier for smaller hands, (children, at least.) I realize that they are specifically mentioning string width, which leaves out other considerations, but wonder if the general consensus is that the soprano is hardest for "older" hands or those with past hand injuries.

Lori
12-31-2015, 07:11 AM
There are various trade off advantages to each size. Sopranos, because of the short scale means the string tension is softer. That short scale can help for reaching frets that are far apart, like playing a barre chord with the pinky added 3 frets up. However, when playing above the 7th fret, that area can get pretty crowded, and a little more space between frets can be very helpful. Most ukes have the same width neck, so the spaces between the strings will not change much. The widest neck I have heard of is one of the Oscar Schmitt tenors at 1 3/4 inches wide. Kanile'a has 1 1/2" width, and most others tend to be 1 3/8" wide. I would add that I think you have to be more accurate when playing short scale ukes. The larger scale ukes are more forgiving of fretting errors. It is very easy to bend a note out of tune on a soprano.

I have some hand issues, and have settled on concert size. String choice is also helpful if you need less tension. The shape of the neck is also variable, but that is due to choices from the designer, and not connected to different size classifications. What will work best for you will be a journey of trial and error. Try out as many ukes as possible before buying. If you can join a uke group, you will get a good idea of some of the various choices that are out there. Go to a music store, if you have one with ukes, and take your time testing them out.

The perfect uke will be different for each player. Good luck. It is a fun journey, by the way.

–Lori

janeray1940
12-31-2015, 07:12 AM
I think the answer is "it depends." I'm 50, with small hands and short fingers, and I find soprano *easiest* to play. I play concert scale mainly because I prefer the sound, but for me, anything larger is out of the question. I actually injured my left hand trying to play tenor some years ago! :)

actadh
12-31-2015, 07:46 AM
I am 57 with arthritis issues and small hands.

I like my OU tenor, but can't play "stretchy" chords on it well such as 2225 (which shows up in Joseph Rowe's arrangement of Ashokan Farewell available here on UU.) I cheat and just do the top two notes if it is a "bad hand day".

I find my Opio soprano the easiest to play overall, but it came superbly set up thanks to HMS. I find my Bruko #2 soprano the most difficult to play of all my ukes, and I think it is the Worth Browns which result in high string tension that can makes my left hand tire easily. But, on a "good hand day", the Bruko just chimes and sounds wonderful which has made me resist the temptation to change strings.

Croaky Keith
12-31-2015, 08:32 AM
I'm new to ukes, if your read up on first ukes some say that someone who has played a guitar should start with a tenor, this I believe is a fallacy.

I first bought a tenor & found it was a stretch to get to the chords, (however, my hands have loosened up since first getting it).

Next, I bought a soprano scaled pineapple, my fingers were too chunky & kept muting other strings.

I also bought a concert scale uke, & developed more by using this size.

Now after my finger tips have hardened up, I can fret chords more cleanly.

So, from my experience, no one size is best, but you do need to take into account your hand size, especially when starting.

I have large hands with shortish fingers & found the concert scale best to get going with, but I'm not up to speed yet.

Watch out for U.A.S. - it tends to strike suddenly, & has no known cure.

:)

UkerDanno
12-31-2015, 09:56 AM
For me tenors are difficult, just don't like them, my preferred size is concert, but I can and do play sopranos just as easy...

Tootler
12-31-2015, 11:05 AM
I started with a soprano but I now play soprano, concert and tenor. I'm 71 and was in my mid 60s when I started playing the uke and I've not had any particular difficulties playing the three sizes. I've not tried a baritone but I've no particular desire to get a baritone. I like to keep the different sizes in different tunings so as to emphasise the difference between them. I do have the beginnings of what I assume is arthritis in the base of my thumbs but, so far it's not given me too much trouble.

I have been playing wind instruments on and off for over 50 years (mainly recorder but also flute, harmonica and whistle) so my fingers were probably already reasonably flexible when I started playing ukulele. I just had to train them to make different movements. OTOH, I have had to get a keyed tenor recorder recently as was starting to have problems covering the holes properly so my fingers are losing stretch but not enough to cause too many problems with the ukulele.

Doc_J
12-31-2015, 12:26 PM
This one is without a doubt the hardest uke to play. :D
86936

Brad Bordessa
12-31-2015, 12:32 PM
This one is without a doubt the hardest uke to play. :D
86936

Winner.

But really, IMO, the hardest uke to play is the one you're least used to. I play tenor. Give me a tenor I've never played before and it will take a few minutes for me to get comfy with it, even if it's the same size.

Ukulele Eddie
12-31-2015, 12:35 PM
For me, factors other than scale are important contributors: body shape, neck/body balance (I don't use a strap), neck shape, string spacing, etc.

Nickie
12-31-2015, 12:50 PM
The hardest size for me to play is baritone. 8 string tenor is also very difficult.

bnolsen
12-31-2015, 06:01 PM
I find tenors the most difficult.
Nothing to do with fret width or string spacing.
It's the string tension I don't like.
And, by extension, I don't care for the sound of tenors generally either.

I find sopranos, concerts and baritones easiest!

I am approaching Methuselah vintage...

i ws fortunate enough to find an unplayed craigslist islander tenor. no it wasn't a dirt cheap steal but i appreciated getting to play it and look it over. I usually despise high tension, but with this tenor the action is so low I don't need to fret with much pressure at all.

With the wide nut (1.5) i appreciate being able to cleanly fret adjacent strings without having to barre. Playing up past the 7th and even up to 12th fret is now easy. The first few frets do feel a bit far apart, I get burned moving around on the fretboard (need practice of course).

I've been playing sopranos until now. I will continue playing those sopranos, especially for strum duty which can use a lot of barre chords, and for some picking that isn't all over the fretboard.

weerpool
12-31-2015, 06:13 PM
my micro uke. 4" scale.
8693886939

hollisdwyer
12-31-2015, 08:26 PM
I find Sopranos the hardest to play because of pudgy fingers and a worn out left wrist. Tenors suit me fine. The wider the fretboard the better.

dirtiestkidever
12-31-2015, 09:58 PM
I think sopranos are easiest to play. The string tension and short scale are so forgiving (and fun) to play. But at the same time I feel like it takes more effort to make a soprano sound good (more notes per par, more complicated strum patterns, etc). The sustain and depth of tone on a tenor are often worth the higher string tension and wider fret spacing. Plus, you can always tune down a tenor to Bb to reduce string tension. I think all standard sizes of ukuleles are pretty easy on the hands as far as instruments go. I would start with a soprano but if something pushes you towards a larger size don't hesitate. They are all great fun. And none are terribly physically taxing.

hollisdwyer
01-01-2016, 02:07 AM
I think sopranos are easiest to play. The string tension and short scale are so forgiving (and fun) to play. But at the same time I feel like it takes more effort to make a soprano sound good (more notes per par, more complicated strum patterns, etc). The sustain and depth of tone on a tenor are often worth the higher string tension and wider fret spacing. Plus, you can always tune down a tenor to Bb to reduce string tension. I think all standard sizes of ukuleles are pretty easy on the hands as far as instruments go. I would start with a soprano but if something pushes you towards a larger size don't hesitate. They are all great fun. And none are terribly physically taxing.

All good points made here and it shows that every answer posted will be subjective. Most of us, after a time, seem to gravitate to one or two instrument sizes. Of course there are the exceptions to the rule as there are in any situation.

SoloRule
01-01-2016, 02:43 AM
I have small hand so I thought a concert is better.
My wrist hurt from playing the concert. Soprano neck is short and the frets are too close together.
Someone in UU suggested Pono Classic with radius neck. I bought two - both are tenor . It's the most comfortable uke despite many complaint the Pono neck is too thick. Surpringly, the Pono neck fits my small hand the best.
just remember when the neck is thin, it's may hurt the wrist.

CarolinaWren
01-01-2016, 02:51 AM
My mom has just started playing the uke, and she also has pretty bad arthritis. She finds it easier to play my longneck soprano than the standard soprano she has. The long neck will give you a bit of extra space between the frets making it easier to fit your fingers into small spaces, but still gives you that soprano sound... Doesn't seem to increase the tension that much either...

wayfarer75
01-01-2016, 03:14 AM
Soprano is easiest for me. I am faster with my short fingers and stretches are easier on the soprano scale. I can fit my fingers together on the smaller fretboard just fine.

Tootler
01-01-2016, 03:28 AM
I find tenors the most difficult.
Nothing to do with fret width or string spacing.
It's the string tension I don't like.
And, by extension, I don't care for the sound of tenors generally either...

I agree with you for tenors tuned standard GCEA both for string tension and tone. String them with low G and they sound a lot better but to bring out the best in tenors, I believe they really need to be tuned down. I have mine tuned re-entrant DGBE and, as a result, now play them as much as my concert and sopranos. Previously they were largely neglected. I even bought another one after tuning them down - a tenor Fluke.

ukuleleden
01-01-2016, 05:07 AM
While I own Ukes of all sizes, except baritone, I find I default to the Soprano size the most becuase to me it has that quintessential ukulele sound and feel. I used to think I was slightly more comfortable with a concert scale neck, but that isn't the case any longer. As others have said here and elsewhere it comes down to spending time with the instrument you're playing to make whatever needed adjustments are necessary and allow playing it to become natural. All the positioning adjustments I used to have to "think through" (such as changing wrist angles, etc..) now come quite naturally allowing the Soprano size to be my preferred size. And I have relatively large fingers and playing the Soprano is no issue which some people sometimes think is a barricade, but it shouldn't be.

Mivo
02-06-2016, 12:55 AM
My preferences are a little in flux, but for ease of play my favorite is probably the soprano scale, with concert being a close second (on some days an equal). I have adult male sized hands, with normal to slim fingers, which seem to be suitable for all sizes. Stretches are much easier on the shorter scales, though, and barring works better with the lower tension. This is mostly a matter of practice, though, which I need to do more of. :). Action matters, too. That really sunk in when I got the KoAloha with its super low action -- huge impact on ease of play, more so than scale length, in my case.

Nickie
02-06-2016, 02:24 AM
None of them are easy for me!