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View Full Version : How many members on this board prefer playing a soprano, and why?



Brian W
05-26-2013, 08:45 PM
I think they epitomize the classic Hawaiian sound, and I find the relaxed string tension works well for fast strumming and quick roles. I've played all sizes, and find tenors to be my least favorite, with concerts being a close second to sopranos ( I like the slightly warmer bass response) . I became a convert to the soprano after briefly owning a Martin SO. I had it a few days and noticed a bad buzz on the open E string, I took it back to Sam Ash and asked if they could fix it, and they told me yes, but I would have to pay their in-house guitar tech to fix it and set it up. I told salesperson that I shouldn't have to pay for that, and promptly got my money back (how is that for service on new instruments). Anyway, I found it quite comfortable to play and I actually could handle using the friction tuners quite well. The friction tuners made re-stringing much easier than geared tuners.

janeray1940
05-26-2013, 08:54 PM
I prefer playing a soprano, and I also prefer friction tuners - well, actually I prefer Pegheds but that's a whole other story - and I will be curious to see how many (or few) others respond the same way. In the uke groups that I play in, I'm often the only soprano.

From a practical perspective, I prefer it because I have really little hands with really short fingers, and on a soprano I can span five or six frets easily - on my concert uke, I'm lucky if I can get a 4-fret range. But I'll admit there's a part of me that just likes all things "cute and little" and there's a certain appeal in playing the smallest uke (I seriously even considered a sopranino at one point) :)

Brian W
05-26-2013, 09:00 PM
I prefer playing a soprano, and I also prefer friction tuners - well, actually I prefer Pegheds but that's a whole other story - and I will be curious to see how many (or few) others respond the same way. In the uke groups that I play in, I'm often the only soprano.

From a practical perspective, I prefer it because I have really little hands with really short fingers, and on a soprano I can span five or six frets easily - on my concert uke, I'm lucky if I can get a 4-fret range. But I'll admit there's a part of me that just likes all things "cute and little" and there's a certain appeal in playing the smallest uke (I seriously even considered a sopranino at one point) :)


It's funny, but I actually have big hands and still find it comfortable to play; though I have trouble playing most chords beyond the 7 fret. I prefer playing in the open position anyway, and I really like their jangly tone and vibe. Also, the treble notes, cut through better than on a concert. I find the treble is better on a tenor, but I hate the higher string tension. And this from a guitar player.

Manalishi
05-26-2013, 11:59 PM
Started on soprano:got a concert,then a tenor
then a baritone.Played them all.But stuck to
soprano.I too have big hands,and never find it
a problem to play!
Still own two concert scale and one tenor,but I
have three sopranos.

Rodney.
05-27-2013, 02:23 AM
Sopranos are much easier to fret and they are cute. BTW, I have huge hands with long fingers.

robbocx
05-27-2013, 02:29 AM
While I do like and play other size ukes I have six sopranos that I tend to use most...

NewKid
05-27-2013, 02:45 AM
I love playing my sopranos for jazz standards. That "jangly" Martin sound as Peter Forest describes it is so old-timey and classic.

strumsilly
05-27-2013, 02:51 AM
sorry to be contrary, but I prefer the tenor, then concert, then baritone, then soprano, in thet order. I like the room you get up the fretboard with the tenor scale,

greenie44
05-27-2013, 03:25 AM
I'm a tenor guy. In fact, I had a soprano for several years and basically never played it - it didn't click with me. Picked up a 6 string tenor and the rest is history. I now have a soprano travel uke, and I do like it for some reasons - certain things where I have to stretch my fretting hand are a bit easier to play - but my tenors are still my go to instruments.

ChrisRCovington
05-27-2013, 03:33 AM
Soprano is the original ukulele. To me it is the ideal ukulele sound (a Martin even more so). I have a couple concerts and a tenor just to say I have them and I took a gamble on a Lanikai baritone from Butler Music on ebay; $25 it might be perfect or it maight be junk, I rolled the dice. The other scales just don't do it for me. If I wanted to play a large instrument i'd just pick up a guitar.

fernandogardinali
05-27-2013, 04:48 AM
I really prefer sopranos. They are better for fast chording and the lower tension makes it easier to do fancy stuff with the right hand. I tried to like tenors, I had a very nice Kanile'a K1, but it made my fingers sore.

EDIT: I'm also a big guy (6ft 4) with big hands. The size of the instrument doesn't make any difference in that regard.

Toucan Mango
05-27-2013, 05:35 AM
I like sopranos, they are easy to play and they always make people smile :)

Skinny Money McGee
05-27-2013, 05:37 AM
Soprano and Concert for me. The scale length on a tenor is just a bit long for my fingers. The concert scale feels more natural. My soprano and concert are both Kamaka's, and I have to say the sound that comes out of the soprano is incredibly full. In fact, if you closed your eyes and heard them both side by side, you would think the Soprano is the concert. Both have Worth CM strings. That said, the Concert is louder and a little brighter, and can pierce through my Brother's guitar playing better. The Soprano gets drowned out.

TheOnlyUkeThatMatters
05-27-2013, 05:40 AM
Soprano is the right size uke for me, too.

bborzell
05-27-2013, 07:11 AM
I came here from guitars and mandolins. It's logical that tenors should feel better to me, but I also prefer the tone of a tenor. Just like I prefer the tone of an octave mandolin over the shorter scale standard mandolin.

But, it also counts that I have large hands and sopranos offer limited space between frets moving up the neck.

sarastro
05-27-2013, 08:13 AM
Soprano for me. I like the size, the tone, the look, and the feel. I also prefer and actually like friction tuners.
I started with a concert but would gladly trade it for another soprano.

Brian W
05-27-2013, 08:26 AM
Glad to see others feel the same as me. I know tenors are gaining popularity, but let's not forget the uke that started it all...the soprano.

Brian W
05-27-2013, 08:28 AM
Soprano is the original ukulele. To me it is the ideal ukulele sound (a Martin even more so). I have a couple concerts and a tenor just to say I have them and I took a gamble on a Lanikai baritone from Butler Music on ebay; $25 it might be perfect or it maight be junk, I rolled the dice. The other scales just don't do it for me. If I wanted to play a large instrument i'd just pick up a guitar.

I couldn't agree more with your statement. That's another reason why I don't like tenors; I am guitar player as well, and if I want an instrument that plays more like a guitar, then I will just play my guitar. If I want that quintessential uke sound, then I prefer the soprano. I do like concerts, however, but not as much as a quality soprano. I think some of the cheaper made sopranos just don't do that scale justice; my opinion radically changed after playing the Martin, I just wish it was properly setup. Now I am on a quest for a Hawaiian made instrument.

Hippie Dribble
05-27-2013, 11:01 AM
I play ukes of all scales, but if I could own only one ukulele it would be a soprano for most of the reasons already mentioned.

Freeda
05-27-2013, 11:01 AM
Me. I find larger instruments uncomfortable and slightly intimidating.

strumsilly
05-27-2013, 12:07 PM
I play ukes of all scales, but if I could own only one ukulele it would be a soprano for most of the reasons already mentioned.
my one and only wpuld be a concert. I had 2 Martin 0 soprano,s a Koaloha and a Kiwaya concert all side by side. the Koaloha won out , I liked the longer neck, and prefered the tone [blasphamy.]

chuck in ny
05-27-2013, 12:19 PM
i started with a concert and am taking the plunge to soprano for the zen of light string tension. whatever difficulty there is in dealing with the closer frets has to be more than balanced out with the low string tension.
it's going to leave me with a soprano and a tenor. basic stuff. high g, low g. if my thinking is off please respond, it will keep me from having to pop for a nicer tenor.
..chuck

haole
05-27-2013, 01:21 PM
If I had to explain the ukulele to someone from another planet, I'd have to show them the soprano first. It's the definitive size and sound. And sopranos are not nearly as hard to play as a lot of folks make them out to be. I've seen guys with gigantic, arthritic sausage fingers absolutely play the hell out of a soprano. Just have to spend some time at it!

Tootler
05-27-2013, 02:18 PM
I've decided I like sopranos and concerts equally. Sopranos definitely are the definitive sound and I really like my D-tuned Kala. OTOH, the concerts have a slightly richer sound which works well with some songs.

808boy
05-27-2013, 02:46 PM
I prefer Concerts and Tenors for their warmth and sweetness. However, some songs require that "changalang" sound so I grab my Makai "D" hole with a Spruce top and that solves that.
I have an Ohana Pineapple and a Mele Double Hole Mahog Soprano, gave the Mele to my G-Daughter and rarely play my Ohana.

slowpoke
05-27-2013, 02:56 PM
I started learning on a soprano 6 weeks ago and got curious about the concert so I purchased a beautiful Pono ACD from HMS (yep, UAS struck). I've found that I like the string tension on the soprano over the concert, possibly because I'm a beginner, but the concert tone is fantastic. Perhaps it is too early for me to have a preference.

Hikingstevo
05-27-2013, 03:58 PM
I started out with the soprano and have owned the rest of the sizes too. I pretty much play only my soprano ukes. They just feel and sound right.

Dan Uke
05-27-2013, 08:20 PM
If I had to explain the ukulele to someone from another planet,

I would love to see that!

gadha007
05-27-2013, 11:27 PM
I play a soprano. Started on a concert but migrated to a soprano because I thought it would be a real challenge. Also, I was highly ignorant about ukes when I was given the concert by a friend. My mind was completely blown when I learned that there's a uke smaller than the one I had in my hands. Just had to have one.

I found the transition to be really easy from concert to soprano after 4-5 weeks on a soprano. And now I find the concert unwieldy personally. I will however get myself an electric uke in the future. Hopefully there are soprano electric ukes out there but if not, the Godin Tenor looks like a possibility. :)

coolkayaker1
05-28-2013, 06:27 AM
http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?74568-Full-Circle-Back-To-The-Soprano!

Fine question. Here's a few more replies to add to the knowledge base about sopranos and why people choose them. Cheers!

Uncle Rod Higuchi
05-28-2013, 07:03 AM
As a singer/strummer, who rarely gets beyond the 5th or 7th fret, the Soprano does it all for me.

I like the concert scale... but perhaps on a soprano body ('super-soprano'). Although I like the
concert scale, the concert body and overall length (only a couple more inches longer than the soprano)
makes the usual concert size a bit awkward for me. I guess I've been spoining myself by only
playing my Kala Soprano Travel Uke :) By now, its size and tone qualities are just too familiar,
might I say 'perfect'?

I recently got the Outdoor Uke which is a soprano and I like it very much. I used it in a gig on
Friday (North West Folk Life Festival at the Seattle Center) and noticed that in the sun [that's
right 'Sun', that glowing orb in the sky - between 7am and 7pm], possibly by virtue of its color
and material, it seemed to soak up the heat quite a bit making it not only warm/hot, but slacking
the strings way out of tune. Bringing it back into the shade of the 'Green Room'/performers' tent,
stabilized the uke and its strings so it performed well during our 30 min set.

I like the soprano size for its portability... although comparing any and all ukes to the size of the
instruments I saw at Folk Life this weekend (guitars, harps, banjos, mandolins, cellos, upright basses,
keyboards, etc), well... it's good to be a uke player :)

keep uke'in',

dhoenisch
05-28-2013, 07:56 AM
I come from playing the 5-string banjo, guitar and mandolin, and though I thought I would like the tenor the best, all I mostly play is the soprano. I love the sound of it. No other size of uke sings like and tells you "I am a Hawaiian instrument" like the soprano. That, and I just find it more intimate of an instrument. Both the instrument and your arms are nice and close to you when you play it. I to play up to the 12-th fret, so a soprano is just enough for me.

The second runner-up is the concert, but it still just doesn't have that beautiful Hawaiian soprano sound, at least to my ears.

So, put my vote down for soprano.

Oh, and I am also a friction tuner guy. geared tuners just don't belong on a soprano. they are too heavy, bulky and protrude like Dumbo ears.

Dan

bennyhana22
05-28-2013, 08:50 AM
Like many posters, I quickly came to see the soprano as the 'real' ukulele and, being a bit of a traditionalist, became obsessed with having one.

This is after two concerts for my first two ukes - the first a decent laminate, the second a gorgeous AAA koa cutaway.

So then I got my soprano - a Pete Howlett custom in all indigenous British woods - cherry body, alder neck, 3000 year old bog oak finger board. And oh MY!

Instantly I knew that the soprano was the uke for me. Of course, that decision might in part be because the Pete Howlett is such a magnificent instrument. But size does matter!

I play invariably standing up, with my sop tucked under my arm. Again, I have snobbishly decided that the uke should be played whilst standing, and that straps are the Devil's work! Tuners should be friction, and side-protruding geared tuners on a sop are an abomination!

I almost never play my lovely koa concert now, becasue all I want to do is play the soprano. I'm not sure that will change...so it's soprano all the way for me. I can admire the amazingly impressive twiddy stuff that the pros play on their tenors, but is that really playing an ukulele? Not for me!

Ben

gitarzan
05-28-2013, 08:57 AM
Nothing sounds like a nice soprano. To me the brightness is joyful and inspiring.

ranilus
05-28-2013, 09:48 AM
I couldn't agree more with your statement. That's another reason why I don't like tenors; I am guitar player as well, and if I want an instrument that plays more like a guitar, then I will just play my guitar. If I want that quintessential uke sound, then I prefer the soprano. I do like concerts, however, but not as much as a quality soprano. I think some of the cheaper made sopranos just don't do that scale justice; my opinion radically changed after playing the Martin, I just wish it was properly setup. Now I am on a quest for a Hawaiian made instrument.

Absolutely. Tenor = plays like a guitar (harder to play) + limitation of a 4-string instrument (less things you can do) MINUS the ukulele sound.

I can't cradle it and play it standing up without strap, and when played sitting down it already feels like a parlor guitar. When I played a tenor I kept look for the other 2 strings that feels like they should be there but aren't. I have to stretch my fingers like I do on my guitar, but it lacks so much for giving so little.

angusdegraosta
05-28-2013, 10:10 AM
I see great benefits in playing a soprano. The smaller frets teach you a dexterity and finesse that is then easily achieved on a concert.

Check out this guy doing a whole 18 min Abbey Road medley on soprano –

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JaDADJ0O73U

That is inspirational on any sized uke, but soprano? Wow.

My most recent acquisition has been a Kiwaya KS-1. Learning to keep the friction tuners tight but not too tight has actually been fun for me. It is good practice too, because even though these are not the best and smoothest friction tuners, they work just fine and hold the instrument in tune (with itself at least) for several days.

I will say strings that are too loose and floppy on a soprano aren’t fun. Conversely, stiff strings on larger sizes can be painful. I put D’Addario Nyltech on the Kiwaya and love the mellow sound. I have Martin flourocarbon strings on the Mainland concert and dig the chime. The tension on each right now is very good. I like both sizes equally; some songs work better on one than the other for me. For example, I’d much rather play “I Got You Under My Skin” on the concert.

In theory, soprano is my favorite. Why? Check out that video!

drbekken
05-28-2013, 12:50 PM
I love the soprano. If I play tenor, I like to tune it re-entrant dgbe, which is so much better than the gcea tuning. The tenor is just a horrible, horrible instrument in gcea, if you ask me....Baritones are great, but if I must choose one size only, I'd go for the soprano because of the classic ukulele sound.

Tootler
05-28-2013, 02:25 PM
I will say strings that are too loose and floppy on a soprano aren’t fun.

If you like higher tension in a soprano uke, tune up to ADF#B. I have one uke tuned that way and I like the brighter tone. The string tension is slightly higher than I would really like but not too uncomfortable to play. I am using Living Water strings, btw.

I often choose to play the D-tuned uke in D using "C fingerings" rather than in regular D on a gCEA tuned uke as it gives a more open sound which suits some songs.

That Abbey road medley is certainly impressive and the uke has great tone.

angusdegraosta
05-28-2013, 05:29 PM
The original strings that came with the Kiwaya (whatever they were) were actually perfect for the A tuning. It's a good sound, the higher tuning. The Nyltech I'm using now aren't made for that kind of thing, but I might try it again down the road with some flourocarbons. So many people love Worth - want to try the browns, even if it's just to have brown strings.

I have played a reentrant Kala baritone in a Sam Ash music store, and it sounded excellent - still nice and mellow, but with colorful chord voicings.

Tsani
05-29-2013, 05:52 AM
I am predominately a soprano player, but I love my Epiphone concert Les Paul, and I also play a Favilla baritone and a "Maestro" F-hole tenor. I do think that the soprano is the true religion. It is the original instrument and the original sound. I really like the soprano as an instrument for playing classical, baroque, and renaissance music. I have somewhat small hands - too small for the classical guitar - but I can easily do 5 fret stretches on the soprano. I have been playing pieces by Fernando Sor, Gaspar Sanz, and recently J.S Bach. The pieces that I have been working on recently are duets that I am playing with my son. One of us is on soprano and the other on baritone. The two instruments complement each other nicely. I think the thing about the soprano is that its sound is distinctive to the uke. It would not be mistaken for another instrument. I like that distinctive flavor.

Instruments: Aloha soprano (vintage 40's), Epiphone Les Paul concert "tobacco burst", Favilla teardrop soprano, Favilla B-2 baritone, "Maestro" F-hole tenor, Baroquelele concert, Kohala soprano (beater) / My son's ukes: Koa Pili Koko soprano, Kala baritone (in the mail);)

Bill Mc
05-29-2013, 07:38 AM
Like many posters, I quickly came to see the soprano as the 'real' ukulele and, being a bit of a traditionalist, became obsessed with having one.

This is after two concerts for my first two ukes - the first a decent laminate, the second a gorgeous AAA koa cutaway.

So then I got my soprano - a Pete Howlett custom in all indigenous British woods - cherry body, alder neck, 3000 year old bog oak finger board. And oh MY!

Instantly I knew that the soprano was the uke for me. Of course, that decision might in part be because the Pete Howlett is such a magnificent instrument. But size does matter!

I play invariably standing up, with my sop tucked under my arm. Again, I have snobbishly decided that the uke should be played whilst standing, and that straps are the Devil's work! Tuners should be friction, and side-protruding geared tuners on a sop are an abomination!

I almost never play my lovely koa concert now, becasue all I want to do is play the soprano. I'm not sure that will change...so it's soprano all the way for me. I can admire the amazingly impressive twiddy stuff that the pros play on their tenors, but is that really playing an ukulele? Not for me!

Ben

Ben, you are not a real ukulele snob until you insist on playing your soprano only with gut strings ! Check out Gamut Music.

pdxuke
05-29-2013, 12:15 PM
As much as I've come to LOVE Mr. Barry Tone, if I had to give them all up but one the keeper would be my Martin 0. Can't imagine being without a soprano.

Pukulele Pete
05-29-2013, 12:29 PM
Sopranos only for me. Anything larger is cheating .

PeteyHoudini
05-29-2013, 02:20 PM
I love playing my sopranos for jazz standards. That "jangly" Martin sound as Peter Forest describes it is so old-timey and classic.

Thanks, man! hehe The soprano is still my favorite for most of the songs I do. I love that high intensity sound while strumming and the slow, resonant slides. Just beautiful. The Martin style 2 soprano is simply amazing without the flash, and the elegance of the 3 cherry keeps me coming back. They are my favs.

Petey

Ukejungle
05-29-2013, 05:42 PM
I order a couple of dolphins for my 2 daughters and I have been playing them like the end of the world was near. I only have a tenor but these are awesome.

itsme
05-29-2013, 06:10 PM
Actually, I'm more of a tenor kind of gal. :p

The fuller sound and the larger neck are more to my liking.

Brian W
05-31-2013, 09:34 AM
I see great benefits in playing a soprano. The smaller frets teach you a dexterity and finesse that is then easily achieved on a concert.

Check out this guy doing a whole 18 min Abbey Road medley on soprano –

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JaDADJ0O73U

That is inspirational on any sized uke, but soprano? Wow.

My most recent acquisition has been a Kiwaya KS-1. Learning to keep the friction tuners tight but not too tight has actually been fun for me. It is good practice too, because even though these are not the best and smoothest friction tuners, they work just fine and hold the instrument in tune (with itself at least) for several days.

I will say strings that are too loose and floppy on a soprano aren’t fun. Conversely, stiff strings on larger sizes can be painful. I put D’Addario Nyltech on the Kiwaya and love the mellow sound. I have Martin flourocarbon strings on the Mainland concert and dig the chime. The tension on each right now is very good. I like both sizes equally; some songs work better on one than the other for me. For example, I’d much rather play “I Got You Under My Skin” on the concert.

In theory, soprano is my favorite. Why? Check out that video!


Thank you for the youtube link; and I agree, what a great video!!

Brian W
05-31-2013, 09:47 AM
Thanks, man! hehe The soprano is still my favorite for most of the songs I do. I love that high intensity sound while strumming and the slow, resonant slides. Just beautiful. The Martin style 2 soprano is simply amazing without the flash, and the elegance of the 3 cherry keeps me coming back. They are my favs.

Petey


Petey,

I'm glad that you responded to my e-mail thread. I have been enjoying the uploads to your youtube channel for a little while now. I really like the extensive reviews of your Martin ukuleles, and I have to admit that I am a little jealous :-). I am originally from Pennsylvania, and grew up not too far from Nazareth, before moving to North Carolina. Martin has a very long history, and still builds some truly fantastic instruments.

Brian

Mivo
06-01-2013, 05:30 PM
I have a mid-range model of each size, but it is the soprano that "works" best for me. The sound, the feel, the tension, the unique character of the instrument -- it is the combination of all of these. When and if I get a custom one, it will almost certainly be a soprano, too.

uke552
06-01-2013, 05:53 PM
All soprano for me. I have owned concert/tenor/bari and only have soprano's left. It is the "sound" for me that keeps me hanging on...:D

BTW, I have large hands but the soprano size uke causes me no problems. I play daily (if only for 5 minutes) and that, I believe, helps me overcome the "big hands-small fretboard" thing.

JulianUker
06-01-2013, 08:40 PM
I'm a tenor guy...but still do love my concert and soprano. Although my concert hasn't gotten much love lately :(

-Emma-
06-01-2013, 10:57 PM
I've never played a soprano, so I ordered my first one a couple of days ago :) . I'm definitely looking forward to playing it, and if I enjoy it, then my UAS is bound to get worse!

devvyleys
06-01-2013, 11:16 PM
The only soprano I've owned is actually my 3-year-old's pink cheapie Mahalo we got her for her 2nd birthday. While I don't like the sound it makes, I really enjoy the feel of the scale length. (It's also a lot quieter than my concert KoAloha, making it better for playing at night when the kids are asleep!) So my next uke will be a much higher quality soprano. Looking at Brukos and Sailor Brands right now.

Mivo
06-02-2013, 03:55 AM
All soprano for me. I have owned concert/tenor/bari and only have soprano's left. It is the "sound" for me that keeps me hanging on...:D BTW, I have large hands but the soprano size uke causes me no problems. I play daily (if only for 5 minutes) and that, I believe, helps me overcome the "big hands-small fretboard" thing.

I'm contemplating to sell my tenor and concert too, partly because they are just more things that sit around and take up space, and partly to reduce the temptation to switch around between them. For a beginner, or a relative novice at least, I think it is better to stick to one size. Perhaps not "better", but more efficient and "easier". Fretting on the soprano always feels a little harder after I spent time with the tenor.

I originally thought that frequently switching between sizes leads to greater flexibility, but I'm not so sure of that anymore. It seems to be almost like a mini version of learning two instruments at the same time.