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View Full Version : What size Ukulele to learn on?



morgothaod
06-16-2014, 11:46 PM
Hi. I was given a Concert Uke and even though I find it easier to hit notes on than a Soprano, I think I would prefer the Soprano if I wanted to take it around with me outside of the house. So as a beginner, should I learn on a soprano or does the size of the uke not matter when I get good? (Ie if I get good with the concert, switching to a soprano will be easy) Thanks.

DownUpDave
06-17-2014, 12:47 AM
You said the concert is easier to hit notes on than the soprano. The longer fretboard gives more room on each fret and can make chords where your fingers are jammed together easier to make. Some people like the smaller body size and lesser string tension of the soprano and that makes it easier for them. I started with a tenor that has a strap, for myself that was the easiest set up there was. I now own and concert and am thinking of getting a soprano, we all can evolve and change over time so go with what you like the best.

billten
06-17-2014, 01:11 AM
I think it depends on what the style of play you are going to learn. If you are all about the strumming and sing-along i think the soprano is pretty forgiving, if you want to start with finger-picking then the tenor or concert models will probably be easier for you due to having more room to work with and a deeper tone that is more satisfying for that style. Either way you will most likely end up with one of each once the UAS kicks in :)

DaveY
06-17-2014, 03:12 AM
I was given a Concert Uke and even though I find it easier to hit notes on than a Soprano, I think I would prefer the Soprano if I wanted to take it around with me outside of the house.
Why do you prefer a soprano outside of the house? Is it the slightly smaller size? The ukulele already is really small, and the differences from one size to the next are not great in terms of portability -- if that is what you mean. We all like what we like, for whatever reasons, but to me the concert is more versatile – but then I play only tenor now, so a soprano makes me feel like Gulliver in Liliput.

I don't know if switching sizes will be easy once you get good, because I've stopped switching sizes (I think) and I haven't yet gotten that good (I know).

Hammond
06-17-2014, 03:20 AM
Is that because a Soprano uke is smaller in size so more convenience to carry?

If you are more comfortable with the concert scale fretboard, then you may continue with it. In the early stage of learning, more easy to play, less intention to give up.

RichM
06-17-2014, 03:32 AM
I think instrument size is a personal taste, developed over time. If you enjoy playing a soprano, by all means play one, but I would do so because you enjoy the sound or feel, not because of the fairly negligible size difference for carrying around.

I often recommend the concert size to people who are just starting out. As sort of a midpoint between soprano and tenor, the concert gives beginners a good feel for the instrument, without feeling that the fingerboard is too tight (soprano) or too large (tenor). I originally tried learning on a soprano, but coming from guitar, I found the fretboard too small for comfort. I thought I didn't like sopranos, and moved to a concert. I learned on a concert, and once I got my uke chops down, that soprano suddenly felt a lot better.

actadh
06-17-2014, 03:40 AM
I started last December on an inexpensive soprano - mine was a $15 all plastic First Act Discovery. I had trouble with some chords, especially the common "D" chord 2220. When I knew I wanted to persevere (within a few weeks of playing,) I chose my Luna concert over another soprano. That was the best decision for me. I think I progressed much faster based on the larger fretboard, ease of fingering the notes, and ability to both strum and pick.

Now I have several soprano ukuleles, including a pretty decent Silvertone. But I still think a concert is the better size for me and it is the one I use when I go through new instructional books - I just started Ukulele Aerobics. I feel I learn best on the concert and then can transfer that knowledge to the soprano much easier than the other way around.

So, I suggest a good concert, and keep an eye here on the marketplace for a good used soprano to take around with you.

Rllink
06-17-2014, 03:49 AM
Is the fret board of a concert uke actually bigger, or does it just have more frets? I've not physically compared them before, but I was dinking around at the music store and I was playing both concert ukes and soprano ukes, and it seemed to me that they were pretty much the same. Not enough difference that it was noticeable. But then, I'm not the kind that has to analyze everything, so maybe there is a big difference. For what it is worth, I like the concert size better, but I don't have a justifiable reason. I just like it and that is all I need.

CeeJay
06-17-2014, 03:52 AM
I think that the instrument size will very much depend on what you want to play .

I am biased toward the Soprano...because I like the choppy snappy and syncopated style of old 30s and 40s standards (Shepherd Of The Hills ,old Pianner Rag sort of stuff) ,blues, country and rock (and roll) and find that the little box suits these quite well, both for strumming and occasional bursts of fingerpicking.

Concert size (I also like and play) extends the range of those bursts of finger picking and possibly the type of music can include some of the more "up to date" styles of players like James Hill, Jake Shimanobukuro (sorry if I have that wrong) Corey and the others of that genre and generation .very skilled and talented just not my whole cuppa.

A Tenor (no experience of playing one)would clinch the deal for their styles as well.

At the end of the day you can play whatever you like on whatever you like ......

RichM
06-17-2014, 03:54 AM
Is the fret board of a concert uke actually bigger, or does it just have more frets?

Good question! Yes, the fretboard on the concert is bigger. Typical scale length on a soprano is 13 inches; typical scale length on a soprano is 15 inches. Scale length is the distance between the nut and the bridge. So on a concert, that length is typically 2 inches more, and so the frets are spaced slightly farther apart.

mm stan
06-17-2014, 05:00 AM
so many variables and personal preferences...a good quality uke with low action and what type of neck you like really helps...slim and fast

molokinirum
06-17-2014, 05:01 AM
so many variables and personal preferences...a good quality uke with low action and what type of neck you like really helps...slim and fast

I agree 100% :agree:

Down Up Dick
06-17-2014, 06:34 AM
I started on Sopranos, but now I'm a concert man. I find they fit my fingers just right. Chords on my baritone mostly give me the yips, but I can finger pick okay. The A strings on the 6 string are my go-to strings for thunks and buzzes.

Rllink
06-17-2014, 07:18 AM
Well, that is interesting, because the soprano version of my uke has twelve frets, but the concert has eighteen of them stuffed in there so to my eye the sopranos that I was playing seemed to have more room. But that could just be an illusion, or maybe I don't know how it is measured. I've been at this all of two months, so I'm hardly a authority. I'm sure that if that it the way it is, that is the way it is.

UkeKnowDamnRight
06-17-2014, 07:49 AM
I like the concert size best right now. Context--I've been playing for only a few months. I know people of all sizes play all sizes of ukulele, but even as a smallish person (5'2" and average-size hands for my body size) I found the soprano tough at first and much preferred the concert. Now that I've been playing a few months, I can more easily do a lot with the soprano. I still like the concert size best, though. Tenor, though I have not experimented with the size as much, is do-able but not as comfortable for me as concert.

As far as taking the uke around, I take my concert with me everywhere I go. I've taken it on planes many times (traveling for work lots since I started) and take it to work every day. It's quite easy. The size difference in a gig bag between soprano, concert, and tenor is, in my experience, negligible when it comes to how convenient it is to carry it around.

No experience with bari! Hope this helps you.

Erin

haertig
06-17-2014, 09:03 AM
I've only had my uke for one week now. So all my comments here are coming from a rank beginner. I chose a tenor size to learn on becase "I read it on the Internet" that this was a very popular size for males. Also, I don't really care for high screechy sounds and I thought (rightly or wrongly) that the larger instrument would be more mellow sounding.

I tried my son-in-laws soprano the other day. The first thing I noticed was that the strings are much easier to press. Less tension I guess. Next was that it had all nylon strings as opposed to my C string being wire wound. Third, I found it easier on the soprano to move from the C chord to the G7 chord. For moving that third finger up from the third fret to the second fret on the A string, I liked the smaller frets on the soprano. With my tenor, I have to remember to move that third finger far enough so that I do not end up directly on the fret wire rather than in the fret itself. Fourth, the strings on the soprano were slightly farther apart than the strings on my tenor. This is probably more due to the specific brand/model instruments involved than to a generic tenor vs. soprano size difference. Lastly, the soprano was easier to hold than my tenor.

None of the above were a big enough deal to make me reconsider getting a soprano vs. a tenor though. There were differences, but I consider them minor.

The biggest thing I noticed was that it was difficult to play in tune on the soprano. On my tenor, if I use the second fret of the G string to play an A, it sounds identical in pitch to my open A string. Not so on the soprano. Those two notes played the same way on the soprano sounding like they were a quarter step off (this is after tuning both instruments appropriately). Again, this is probably a specific brand/model issue rather than a soprano issue. This difference in pitch would drive me crazy, and would be a show-stopper for me buying (this particular) soprano ukulele. My son-in-law mentioned that the farther he goes up the neck of his soprano, the worse it gets pitch-wise. Again, that may just be his specific instrument. I do not remember his brand/model, only that he said he paid $50 for about 10 years ago, in case that gives you any idea of it's possible quality. I also noted his bridge was slightly crooked and that his soprano was a laminated model (due to a chip in the wood revealing what was underneath). So it sounds like his soprano is on the low end for sure. But so is my Tenor (a laminated Kala KA-T which cost me only $118).

My son-in-laws comments on my tenor vs. his soprano were that my tenor sounded nicer, was easier to play, and definitely had higher string tension. Also, I noted my tenor sounded very good in his much more experienced hands than in mine.

Just my initial observations. Neither here nor there. Coming from a rank beginner.

RichM
06-17-2014, 09:48 AM
The biggest thing I noticed was that it was difficult to play in tune on the soprano. On my tenor, if I use the second fret of the G string to play an A, it sounds identical in pitch to my open A string. Not so on the soprano. Those two notes played the same way on the soprano sounding like they were a quarter step off (this is after tuning both instruments appropriately). Again, this is probably a specific brand/model issue rather than a soprano issue. This difference in pitch would drive me crazy, and would be a show-stopper for me buying (this particular) soprano ukulele. My son-in-law mentioned that the farther he goes up the neck of his soprano, the worse it gets pitch-wise. Again, that may just be his specific instrument. I do not remember his brand/model, only that he said he paid $50 for about 10 years ago, in case that gives you any idea of it's possible quality. I also noted his bridge was slightly crooked and that his soprano was a laminated model (due to a chip in the wood revealing what was underneath). So it sounds like his soprano is on the low end for sure. But so is my Tenor (a laminated Kala KA-T which cost me only $118).

This is definitely not a soprano versus tenor issue! The soprano in question is showing poor intonation-- the ability of an instrument to play in tune with itself. It is likely in need of repair, or tweaking. It is very possible for an inexpensive soprano to have good intonation, but with cheaper mass-produced instruments, the manufacturer often doesn't take the time to make sure the intonation is set properly.

RichM
06-17-2014, 09:57 AM
Well, that is interesting, because the soprano version of my uke has twelve frets, but the concert has eighteen of them stuffed in there so to my eye the sopranos that I was playing seemed to have more room. But that could just be an illusion, or maybe I don't know how it is measured. I've been at this all of two months, so I'm hardly a authority. I'm sure that if that it the way it is, that is the way it is.

My guess is that your 12 fret soprano doesn't have many frets past where the neck joins the body, while your 17 fret concert goes right up to the soundhole. Simplest thing to do is measure; measure the distance from the nut to the twelfth fret on your soprano and then measure from the nut to the twelfth fret on your concert.

peaceweaver3
06-17-2014, 10:06 AM
Is that because a Soprano uke is smaller in size so more convenience to carry?

If you are more comfortable with the concert scale fretboard, then you may continue with it. In the early stage of learning, more easy to play, less intention to give up.

This. And, nothing wrong with having both! And probably more, sooner than you imagine.

As for getting good, you'll still have preferences that may or may not change. I started on a concert. Have played some sopranos, and yes they're cute and easy to sling around. Have also played some tenors, I liked some things about them and not others, overall not my preference either. concert is still easiest to play for me.

For something fun you could try a long neck soprano - concert scale on a soprano body. I've had some and liked them.

Rllink
06-17-2014, 10:06 AM
My guess is that your 12 fret soprano doesn't have many frets past where the neck joins the body, while your 17 fret concert goes right up to the soundhole. Simplest thing to do is measure; measure the distance from the nut to the twelfth fret on your soprano and then measure from the nut to the twelfth fret on your concert.Thanks for responding Rich. You are probably right and I am going to just take your word for it. I'm just new to ukuleles and I need to practice, not get hung up on how far apart the frets are on different ukes.

peaceweaver3
06-17-2014, 10:13 AM
Also, I don't really care for high screechy sounds and I thought (rightly or wrongly) that the larger instrument would be more mellow sounding.

Funny, I play uke instead of violin because I don't like screechy sounds. I've never known a uke that screeched. Would be worth it just for the laugh though!

Generally, tenors are more mellow than sopranos. But then, I've heard some pretty bright tenors too. Also, you can find as many high quality sopranos as tenors or any others. And just as many crappy tenors. You never know until you try them...all.

haertig
06-17-2014, 10:20 AM
Funny, I play uke instead of violin because I don't like screechy sounds.
It's amazing how a violin can go from "Wonderful and beautiful" in the hands of an expert, to "Gack! Oh the pain, the pain. Run away! Run away!" in the hands of a beginner. It is a very versitile instrument!

YogenFruz
06-17-2014, 10:40 AM
I'm not sure if anybody mentioned it yet, but there are sopranos with long necks attached to them, if you're looking for the soprano sound and body size but still want enough space to put your fingers. That being said, like many on this forum probably have done, once you get started with whatever uke you choose, you'll be picking up another one within a few months... :smileybounce: