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Graham Greenbag
10-07-2018, 05:31 AM
Sopranos, Strengths and Weaknesses

I have three inexpensive Sopranos and, after properly setting them up, they have given me a lot of pleasure. However, when I recently had the opportunity to buy a particular other - one thatís a little better than the other three and one that I have long wanted - the pause before buying lead me to stay as is. Whyís that? Itís simply due to the balance of the Sopranosí strengths and weaknesses. Sitting here in my armchair I reach out my arm and can touch a Soprano, pick it up and strum away in comfort. Itís compact so it fits comfortably within the armchair with me and is loud enough for normal home use, but for fancy chords and finger picking beyond the seventh fret mine arenít so good. Better Sopranos will have a fuller voice than mine, and maintain more of it up the fretboard, but do we ask too much from their short strings and small bodies?

What do members think are the strengths and weaknesses of Sopranos, and how do they work both with the strengths and around the weaknesses?

Wukulele
10-07-2018, 05:49 AM
Sopranos, Strengths and Weaknesses

What do members think are the strengths and weaknesses of Sopranos, and how do they work both with the strengths and around the weaknesses?

Fretboard is too short! Unlike Concerts/Tenors, they end where the neck joins the body... doesn't go all the way up to the sound hole, unlike concerts/tenors.
This was pointed out to me in another thread.

BlackBearUkes
10-07-2018, 07:29 AM
Not true. ,many finely made sopranos have as many as 18 frets. Do some research.



Fretboard is too short! Unlike Concerts/Tenors, they end where the neck joins the body... doesn't go all the way up to the sound hole, unlike concerts/tenors.
This was pointed out to me in another thread.

jimavery
10-07-2018, 08:03 AM
A soprano ukulele can easily be tuned to ADF#B or BbEbGC (or even GCEA if you must!) which makes almost anything easily strummable in almost any key.

Croaky Keith
10-07-2018, 08:34 AM
Problems with getting the higher frets can be solved by getting a long neck soprano, not a lot of difference in overall size, & not a big difference between fretboards, but usually has more sustain too, (& you can use a low G to extend your playing). :)

Rllink
10-07-2018, 08:34 AM
The soprano fits in my suitcase better and leaves more room for clothes when I'm traveling.

Wukulele
10-07-2018, 12:15 PM
Not true. ,many finely made sopranos have as many as 18 frets. Do some research.

Um, not in soprano research mode... so no thanks.
OP said

three inexpensive Sopranos

That generally excludes finely made. I'm sure there's are outliers of soprano here & there under a few hundredred $USD that have fretboards that extend up to the sound hole. Feel free to share.

ukulelekarcsi
10-07-2018, 11:23 PM
Lots of arguments pro, besides the ones you already mentioned (easy to keep within reach):
- good ones have plenty of volume and projection - the small soundbox helps in that respect
- chord melody and stretched chords are a breeze
- it's the scale length of violins and mandolins

Jerryc41
10-08-2018, 01:38 AM
Yes, the soprano is a nice size. Is Kamaka that calls the soprano "the standard"? When I go to a crowded event, I generally bring a soprano. In a poll about a year ago, the tenor was the favorite size, though.

Uncle Rod Higuchi
10-08-2018, 05:52 AM
I believe a lot has to do with playing style.

As a STRUMMER (singer) I prefer a soprano or concert or longneck soprano.
Aside from a few songs that require chording beyond the 7th fret, most song
chording on the soprano is very comfortable for me. (at one time I used to
play Baritone and Tenor exclusively... go figure)

I'm sure FINGERSTYLE players really appreciate the fretboard real estate beyond the
7th fret that the tenor scale provides.

keep uke'in',

Graham Greenbag
10-08-2018, 05:56 AM
That generally excludes finely made. I'm sure there's are outliers of soprano here & there under a few hundredred $USD that have fretboards that extend up to the sound hole. Feel free to share.

I don’t quite understand why you linked part of my post to your comment above in #7. Anyway here’s a couple of not particularly expensive laminate Ukes that have fretboards extending beyond the 12th fret (16 frets if I count correctly):
https://ohana-music.com/product/sk-15wg-willow-soprano/
https://www.gretschguitars.com/gear/build/folk-and-bluegrass/g9100-soprano-standard-ukulele-with-gig-bag/2730020321
It didn’t seem to take me more than a minute to find those two and Sopranos with more than twelve frets seem commonplace to me. I’m puzzled as to why anyone would think that Sopranos (as a collective group) only (ever) have twelve frets.

Perhaps they’re (the two above) particularly fine instruments but in my experience (of less expensive Ukes) that number of frets is normally pointless on a Soprano because the Uke’s voice is rather muted that far down the fret board. YMMV.

My thanks to the many people that have responded to the thread so far.

Here’s an extra comment or two:

Feature: Quite a cutting or treble voice compared to Concerts and Tenors.
Strength/Weakness: Weakness for me, but others might like it.
Comment: For a less cutting voice seek out mellower strings - Worth BM’s seem to be the string of choice to tame a Bruko.

Feature: Typically greater affordability than the Concerts and Tenors.
Strength/Weakness: Strength, I think.
Comment: What’s not to like about saving money or getting a better Soprano for the price of a Concert or Tenor?

Feature: Reatively closely spaced frets, compared to the Concert and Tenor
Strength/Weakness: Strength for me but maybe not you.
Comment: Less stretching of the fingers required at the nut end of the scale but it starts to get cramped a bit past half way down. If you finger pick toward the saddle end of the scale a bigger Uke might be better for you, but for strumming and picking up towards the nut end I (with short stubby fingers) like Sopranos. YMMV.

actadh
10-08-2018, 06:08 AM
I have a concert, and two tenors, but I always come back to the soprano.
I fingerpick more than I strum - Living Waters strings are especially nice for this, as are Martin M600, but YMMV.
My most played sopranos happen to be twelve frets - KoAloha Opio, Bruko #2, Martin S-O . But, after a song or two, I can make the shift to a fifteen fret or more quite easily - Martin OXK, Kala ASOV, and some vintage ukes I own.

Croaky Keith
10-08-2018, 08:06 AM
I tend to agree with some of what you are saying in your last post, Graham - the staccato sound, easier chording (up to a point), for strumming in the main.
(I know there are some great finger pickers on soprano).
But I think you missed out greater variety, as I think there are more sopranos than of any other size available. :)

Bill Sheehan
10-08-2018, 09:10 AM
I love the soprano because it's just the coolest, simplest, most down-to-earth music-making machine there is! A perceived disadvantage is that it doesn't give you the "lower part of the sound spectrum" (especially when tuned in "aDF#B"), but that can be a blessing in disguise if you use the soprano to accompany yourself singing; in my case, my voice lives "below" the range of the soprano, so when you put the two together, it balances nicely, and each stays out of the other's way, if you will. But I must confess, mainly I love the soprano because it's just so darn cute!

Graham Greenbag
10-08-2018, 10:18 AM
But I think you missed out greater variety, as I think there are more sopranos than of any other size available. :)

Ah, I think that you might have misunderstood the nature of my recent post. My idea wasn’t to post everything on my own list of strengths and weaknesses (that could bore readers and miss useful points too) but rather to offer some as additions to the comments already made. I think it much better to involve the brains on UU and to learn from each other.

When this thread has run its course I hope that the list will be comprehensive, but as it runs forward I’ve certainly been presented with a few angles and ideas that are new perspectives to me - Bill gives one above about pitch and tone (sound spectrum), and whilst absolutely valid it wasn’t ‘on my Radar’.

All posts are welcome but one thing I hope is that the thread does include the weaknesses and doesn’t become one of pure praise for the Soprano. The better we understand what Sopranos don’t do well, what their weaknesses are, the better we can manage those difficulties to get the best out of them. Sharing the way(s) you have found around weaknesses would be good.

70sSanO
10-08-2018, 02:15 PM
Others have mentioned scale length, number of frets and spacing. For me the main weakness I have found in a number of inexpensive sopranos is the lack of sustain and depth. Not all of them as I did get a chance to play a Martin 5k and a Palm Tree that had a nice full sound. But at around to $3k, the tone needs to be great.

John

Croaky Keith
10-08-2018, 11:00 PM
.....All posts are welcome but one thing I hope is that the thread does include the weaknesses and doesn’t become one of pure praise for the Soprano. The better we understand what Sopranos don’t do well, what their weaknesses are, the better we can manage those difficulties to get the best out of them. Sharing the way(s) you have found around weaknesses would be good.

I don't like sopranos, personally, as they don't have much sustain, in general, that is why I used to prefer my long neck soprano, the extra length of the strings gave it more sustain, an easier fret board for me, & it seemed to have a bit more volume too. :)

I also have a tenor scaled soprano bodied uke, (Ohana), solid mahogany, & that sounds so much better to me than your average soprano, but we are all different, no one is right or wrong. ;)

ukantor
10-09-2018, 12:54 AM
I usually just ignore references to "long necked sopranos", but in a thread devoted to soprano ukuleles, I can't resist pointing out that ukuleles are classified according to the scale length. If your uke has the scale length of a concert - it is a concert. It might have a body size and shape more commonly associated with a soprano, but if the scale length is that of a tenor - then it is a tenor.

John Colter.

Graham Greenbag
10-09-2018, 02:32 AM
I don't like sopranos, personally, as they don't have much sustain, in general, that is why I used to prefer my long neck soprano, the extra length of the strings gave it more sustain, an easier fret board for me, & it seemed to have a bit more volume too. :)

I also have a tenor scaled soprano bodied uke, (Ohana), solid mahogany, & that sounds so much better to me than your average soprano, but we are all different, no one is right or wrong. ;)

Thanks. Valid, I believe, as I have found similar. I rephrase and add an own observation or two below.

Feature: Rapid note decay compared to larger Ukes.
Strength/Weakness: Could be either (depends on your style of play and the music in question).
Comment: Different strings and changing the scale length can produce longer sustain from a Soprano body. Better quality Ukes and solid wood Ukes typically have more volume and more sustain than cheaper and laminate Ukes. I prefer longer sustain for finger picking, but for strumming less sustain doesn’t seem, to me, to mater much and might even be an asset - punchier sound?

Croaky Keith
10-09-2018, 03:23 AM
I usually just ignore references to "long necked sopranos", but in a thread devoted to soprano ukuleles, I can't resist pointing out that ukuleles are classified according to the scale length. If your uke has the scale length of a concert - it is a concert. It might have a body size and shape more commonly associated with a soprano, but if the scale length is that of a tenor - then it is a tenor.

John Colter.

Just following the convention of this forum in regards to the names - Long Neck Soprano a soprano with a concert scale - Giraffe Neck Soprano a soprano with a tenor neck. :cool:

I do like to think of them as small bodied whatever scale myself, but just using the generally accepted names on here. :)

ukantor
10-09-2018, 04:32 AM
Fair enough, Keith - when in Rome, and all that.

John Colter

actadh
10-09-2018, 06:39 AM
Sustain can be affected by tone wood. My maple Bruko and spruce Kala have amazing sustain.

jimavery
10-10-2018, 09:30 AM
Yes, my maple brŁko has good sustain too, especially with lightweight strings. Personally I think too much sustain just isn't 'ukulele', but each to her or his own. I'm a proud pedant.

Junie Moon
10-10-2018, 12:08 PM
Fretboard is too short! Unlike Concerts/Tenors, they end where the neck joins the body... doesn't go all the way up to the sound hole, unlike concerts/tenors.
This was pointed out to me in another thread.

Islander Acacia Soprano (laminate) has 20 -- count 'em -- 20 frets. And a 1.5" nut width. Mine was about $120 from Uke Republic. It's a terrific uke.