View Full Version : Soprano or Concert? (newbie question)

12-19-2008, 06:31 PM
I am sure this question must come up all the time but I wasn't able to find such a conversation in the search function...

I am just starting out. I have only tried a soprano and I am able to squeeze my fingers into the right spots, but it is an effort.

How much larger is the fret board on a concert? Is it only slightly easier, or far easier to play fret board wise?

I am tempted to just buy a concert, but I feel this is just walking away from the challenge of the soprano. I suspect that if I stick it out with the soprano playing the other sizes down the road will be far easier. And if I jump right to concert I may never end up playing soprano ever...

Any advice / guidance to offer? Thanks in advance!

(Only after I posted did I realize this should be in the beginner's section. Sorry!)

12-19-2008, 06:54 PM
The difference is about two inches in scale length. If playing a soprano is a tight squeeze, the concert will be easier. But it's actually pretty rare that someone is physically unable to play a soprano because their fingers are too big. Still, try out a concert and compare for yourself. It doesn't hurt to have one of each size!

12-19-2008, 07:11 PM
Everyone will have differing opinions, but I personally prefer the concert size.

12-19-2008, 07:13 PM
hey welcome to uu, well when i started out playing the ukulele i started out with a baritone, then tenor, then soprano i tend to play the soprano more though because its so portable n i like the sound of it. But in my opinion the soprano and concert are almost same since the concert is only a lil bit bigger. Experience only will tell what kind of uke you want so i guess play some more ukulele to find out the right size for you.

Howlin Hobbit
12-19-2008, 08:33 PM
...it's actually pretty rare that someone is physically unable to play a soprano because their fingers are too big.
Yep. What haole said.

I went from guitar to an odd-ball concert ukulele. It has a very thin neck* and I thought I wasn't going to be able to get it going on. It has other troubles too so I moved on to a series of cheap sopranos and a couple concert models thrown in.

By the time I got around to getting a decent ukulele soprano was my choice and I play them almost exclusively. I have a lovely sopranino (yep, smaller yet) and I think my banjo ukulele might be closer to concert scale.

So if you're trying to decide between concert and soprano, try soprano first. Just don't make the mistake I did of going the cheapest route possible. If I added up all the money I wasted on cheapos (and the shipping for them) I would have had a nice ukulele a lot sooner.

* This specific concert uke, not concert ukes in general.

12-19-2008, 11:48 PM
I can dig it, man. My first, and favorite guitar was HUGE! I forget the name for it, but I loved it. Then I moved and left my guitar behind.

So I end up with a soprano uke! At first I was like, "YOU MUST BE JOKING!" But I saw some videos of IZ on his Uke, so I figured it IS possible. If you haven't seen any videos of IZ playing live, go watch some. Right now, its actually comfortable for me to make the chord shapes, I've gone from )squeezing( to simple finger placement. Its not an effort like it used to be. But I really prefer a wider neck, more frets, and a lower sound. I've been hunting in the dredges of cyberspace for a good concert-size and found one that should be arriving any day now!

Anyhoot, I don't consider myself "running away from my soprano". I bought a soprano because it was cheaper than the other sizes... and because I thought soprano was what an uke ought to be. Now I realize that ther is an entire SPECTRUM of ukulele-joy to be had! Some songs I will play on my soprano, and some I will play on my concert (assuming it arrives in on piece)... and there are yet OTHER songs that I shall play on the tenor uke-to-be-named-later!

Oh, BTW, my understanding is that concerts are technically sopranos... so even if you have a concert sized uke, its still a soprano!

12-20-2008, 02:10 AM
Although some older and newer ukes vary, the "accepted" scale lengths appear to be:

soprano 13.5"
concert 15"
tenor 17"
baritone 19" - 20"

I play concert. Just for reference the first joint of my index finger on my fretting hand is 7/8" wide. I can play soprano, especially if the neck is on the wide side, but still have problems of chords played lower on the neck where the frets are spaced closer (frets 5 and up). My fingers are a bit too wide for the fret spacing down there. Find a store and try them if possible.

12-20-2008, 04:01 AM
I play concert and soprano. Played many years of guitar.

It's another case where it's all about practice and becoming acclimated to the fretboard. When I first picked up a uke I couldn't comprehend how anybody could play on that tiny neck. Several months and many hours later, it's not an issue. Practice practice practice

A concert is going to be a little bit roomier compared and should have a host of other qualities that recommend having one (or more), but it's not that much larger.

Mr. Hobbit brings up an important point too. The quality of the instrument is going to have a lot to do with the playability. A cheapo uke will just be much harder to play. There's usually intonation issues and the action is usually really high and nothing's going to work or sound quite right. So it may not be entirely you if you're starting on a cheapo. On the plus side, after wrestling with a chunk of plywood to strangle the slightest bit of musicality out of it, you can really appreciate and get so much more out of a decent instrument when you get one.

But once again, at this stage like so many of the early frustrations that come up regularly, it will only be gotten past with practice. And if you want to play a soprano, you gotta play a soprano.

12-20-2008, 04:26 AM
And with all that has been said NOT all Soprano's are the same size (fret spacing wise) the frets on my Pono are closer together than on my Kala's.

Get a Soprano!!!

12-20-2008, 05:32 AM
Get a concert, for the following reasons:

1. I say so.
2. See point 1 above.

Seriously though the best plan is to try and get down to a uke shop and just try them out. You don't have to play one, just hold it. You may find the soprano is too small for you or is perfect, it's all a subjective business. I have a concert and love the size. I can play various songs on it and it sounds good (relatively speaking, for my own ability). However I now want a tenor because they are generally louder with better projection and are larger, giving you a better range of notes etc. I find the soprano not only too small for me to play but it's a bit more of a comical instrument and is taken even less seriously by musicians and others.

It's really very personal and your question has and will produce people's own opinions. It's not an exact science. Try and check a few sizes out if you can. The only sensible thing I can say is no matter which you get you'll enjoy the instrument, it's a lot of fun and puts a smile on your face when you play it - that's the most important thing.


12-20-2008, 05:53 AM
It really doesn't matter which one you get. You'll end up with both -- it's just a matter of time. It's called UAS.

Actually, listen to HHobbit. He is a wise man.

It really all boils down to personal preference. All ukuleles sound different and sometimes you'll want to play a soprano and sometimes a concert will give you the sound you are looking for. Sometimes a spruce top will sound best for the song you are playing and sometimes a flea gives you the tone you are looking for. Just don't get a crappy ukulele. You'll be unhappy and that leads to UAS much more quickly than is necessary.

12-20-2008, 07:07 AM
Excellent responses! I am actually quite surprised how much information you all presented so quickly. Thank you very much.

A couple of points in response:

1- Yes, I know. I need to just try them out and it is all relative. And, of course, ultimately I will play what is good for me. But the reason I posted this question was that I wanted to hear the opinions of others more educated than myself. (Which I did.) Btw, where is the best place to test drive ukuleles in NYC?

2- Concerning UAS. I have a very obsessive personality. And I am very curious. And I love beautiful wood objects. And I have a pretty reasonable income. And the other instrument I play (long story) only come in 4 digit prices (if not 5) so, yes, I am what someone would consider to be a high-risk candidate for a serious case of UAS. But I really, really hope to avoid this syndrome as I see that people very often sublimate their hard to satisfy desire to play better - which would be treated by practicing more - into an easy to satisfy desire of acquiring more instruments instead. Ugly ugly path. But, yeah, in my head I am already planning my 5th ukulele.

3- Thanks for the advice on stressing quality over size. Point taken.

4- I heard enough: I am going soprano. Mostly because you let me know it is not too challenging for a new guy. I could easily see myself this time next year saying "Only baritone man!" And I do appreciate that the concert is somewhat easier but I find myself attracted to the soprano specifically because it looks hysterical. Every time I pick one up it makes me laugh. The punch line of the joke, of course, is when someone actually produces beautiful music out of it!

Again, thank you for the insightful perspectives!


12-20-2008, 07:14 AM
You can never have too many ukuleles.Try a concert

12-20-2008, 10:31 AM
You can never have too many ukuleles.Try a concert

You devil...:biglaugh:

Howlin Hobbit
12-20-2008, 12:49 PM
...I find myself attracted to the soprano specifically because it looks hysterical. Every time I pick one up it makes me laugh. The punch line of the joke, of course, is when someone actually produces beautiful music out of it!

That's a big reason for me too, but there is a significant sub-set of folk who worry about being "taken seriously" so I only bring the subject up every now and then. :rolleyes:

Now go get yourself a uke and start strummin' happy!

12-20-2008, 01:10 PM
Folks who worry about being taken seriously need to be made fun of then poked with a stick!!!

To me a Soprano is no more comical than say a Violin or a Volia or a Mandolin, its the people that play the thing Comicaly....

But seeing a fat man (me) play a Soprano does make people smile!!!!

12-20-2008, 07:53 PM
I like the small bodied sound of a Soprano and the fingerboard spacing of a concert.. so a Soprano with a concert neck fit me pretty well. If you plan to play in say the 7th and higher frets, it gets tricky with a Soprano. sometimes it seems like just run out of frets.

12-20-2008, 09:47 PM
My first was a soprano, then of course I tried concert and then tenor. I prefer the feel of the concert, but I have to have a soprano in the bunch. Not only is their peer pressure because IMO, it's the preferred size of the local uke crew, but because... it's a freakin' soprano, and that's the freakin' traditional size.

It's not harder to play. Tenor is hard (for me) to play. It's just different, and even preferring concert, I still reach for the soprano at least half the time.