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Thread: From concert to soprano

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2017
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    409

    Default From concert to soprano

    Hello everyone. I covered on this topic lightly before but would like to get more detailed now. Currently, I am a baritone only player.

    My style of play is flatpicking Irish, Celtic, early music, and fiddle tunes. I really love this music and find the playing both challenging and rewarding. This stems from my guitar playing and now to my baritone ukulele playing. There is a ton of great material out there for ukulele in this style of play.

    Very recently I tried my son's concert scale (linear tuning) for this style and immediately love it! The higher pitch sounded much more lively and energetic. I don't want to say it reminded me of a mandolin, but it kinda did. The timbre was right there and I really liked it.

    So, the hunt for another instrument begins. My question is regarding the transition from concert to soprano. As mentioned, I've been using baritone scale for this style of play, which is not too far off from guitar, however the feel of the concert scale was a bit more drastic. Though I did manage fine with it, but don't know how I would fare on a soprano scale. I mean, the soprano scale is similar to a mandolin so I know it can done. Players use mandolin for this style of play quite often.

    There seems to be more soprano scale instruments in my area over concert scale. Sure, I can test drive in the stores but I believe one doesn't get to know an instrument until they spend hours, even days with it. I would love to hear your experiences of moving from concert scale to soprano scale and how you think my style of playing might be affected before I begin my shopping journey. Thanks!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
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    957

    Default

    You might also consider trying to find a long necked soprano, basically a concert scale on a soprano body. That might give you a little more room.

  3. #3
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    Apr 2017
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    I have both sizes but play Soprano the most. I like the Soprano’s more compact nature but that extreme compactness - with rare exception I don’t think any smaller works well enough for normal use - does result in compromises. There’s about 10% plus difference in scale lengths and whilst that does not sound much I find that it does make a big difference in terms of finger space and sound. The Sopranos are more cramped and quieter, well I think so. I alleviate the cramped fret board by seeking out wider ones with wide spaced strings and I’m happy enough to sacrifice some volume for compactness. I do very little finger picking but have noticed that sustain on the Sopranos is relatively short, I suspect that they are more suited to strumming but having said that there many high profile players who expertly finger pick on the Soprano.

    It’s a long jump from Baritone to Soprano, maybe too long. If the Concert size works for you then it might be best to stick there for now rather than possibly try to change even further. If picking is your preferred style of play then do check out string spacing at the saddle, I suspect that it’s going to be tighter (for picking) than you are used to and the spread does vary between makes and their models - sorry if that’s stating the obvious.

    Good luck.
    Last edited by Graham Greenbag; 01-13-2018 at 03:09 AM.

  4. #4
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    Dec 2009
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    Massachusetts, USA
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    I just found out that our local public library lends out ukes, just like books. Maybe your does too, and you could spend time with a soprano without incurring the expense?

  5. #5
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    I've had both, & with low G, but returned to tenor scale, (with smaller than normal bodies), it's just a personal preference.

    If concert scale worked for you, I'd go with that, it's a big jump from bari to concert; soprano may be a bit too far.

    Concert scale is easier to pick than soprano, but both can work, though, in general, there is less sustain from a soprano, this may affect how you hear the tunes you want to play.
    Trying to do justice to various musical instruments.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2017
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    Morgantown, WV
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    My main instruments are concert Ukes, and I prefer to play finger picking and chord melody styles. However, I do find Sopranos being more inviting to just pick up and play a few relaxing tunes. I often switch between Soprano and Concert in one sitting, playing the same song to see how it feels to me, and to my own surprise, I often like the "feeling" of Soprano more. Not just the sound, but the whole package of the ease of play, the lightness of the instrument, the closeness of the Soprano to my body, just like holding a baby... It just gives me more pleasure.
    As for the scale length, I do find limits with songs that require fretting higher than an octave down the board.

    I don't have big hands, I wear medium men gloves and find both Concert and Soprano scale very comfortable. Some say their fingers have to cramp into tight space, I say my fingers are intimate with each other.
    Tenor: Mya Moe 2052, Mya Moe Resonator 1581
    Concert: Hoffmann ML, Oceana Slothead Cutaway, LoPrinzi Nova MS-C, Kanile'a KPA C, Kiwaya KMC-K, Pono RC-C-PC, KoAloha Mango, Waterman KA CWB
    Soprano: Lanikai LU-21(Starter uke!), Kamaka Pineapple 100th Anniversary, Maui Music SK-41 "Pre-Fire", Romero Creations XS, Ohana SK 50G, Zimnicki #20, Makayla Dolphin Light Blue Burst, Fred Shields Oval, KoAloha KSM-02 (Long Neck), Barron River
    Mini: iUke Piccolo, Fred Shields Pocket

  7. #7
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    Stratford, Connecticut
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    When you own all three sizes of Risa stick ukuleles with the bodies being the same size you can physically see the difference between fret spacing vs scale length. Most sopranos stop at the 12th fret, if you play much past this fret normally the lack of scale length (missing notes) will bother you more than learning the minute difference in fret spacing on any size uke.

    I hear mandolin necks are very thin from side to side.
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  8. #8
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    Nov 2017
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    Thanks for the wonderful replies, and sharing your experiences everyone!! Very good points to consider. I will have to measure the nut width and string spacing on my son's concert scale. It's not a high end ukulele (flamed maple Ibanez laminate), but it is setup very nice and plays well. Being a flatpicker for some time now, I appreciate a nice generous string spacing.

    Having read the replies, I think I am favoring the concert scale. Is it generally a narrower nut width for soprano compared to concert? Are there some makes of a wider nut soprano? I do like the idea of a long neck, or super soprano - thanks for that suggestion. I agree the soprano can be more of an intimate instrument, perhaps a long neck might be the best of both worlds.

    We live in a very rural part of central Ohio, and my wife being an avid reader we know our local libraries don't have any musical instruments of any sorts - though that is a great idea! Heck, I'm still amazed that one of our small town local music shops has a Bruko soprano in stock!

    Yes, mandolin neck are quite thin! While I'm not a mandolin player, I have picked them up from time to time and always wondered how them players do it. I guess it's with anything - the more time you put in, the more it becomes second nature. Perhaps this might be the same with getting along with the soprano ukulele. My hands are not small, but they are not too larger neither. I would say longer, medium sized fingers. I do admit to liking the smaller size, and the intimacy of the soprano, but the concert is still not far from that. Again.... maybe the long neck soprano may be the answer. However, I know there are none of those to be found locally....

  9. #9
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    The only answer is to buy a few of each size.

    It gives you a choice of sounds and every instrument has a different song inside it.
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  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by bsfloyd View Post
    Is it generally a narrower nut width for soprano compared to concert? Are there some makes of a wider nut soprano?
    Have you looked at the reviews on Got A Ukulele? Barry favours wider nuts on sopranos and usually makes a point of mentioning nut width when testing an instrument. Speaking very generally, there seems to be a tendency for Chinese manufacturers to go for narrower nuts, but there are quite a few exceptions.
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