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Thread: first uke: concert versus tenor versus soprano

  1. #1
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    Question first uke: concert versus tenor versus soprano

    Hello! I'm sorry if there is an existing thread about this, I was unable to find it if there is!

    I am looking to buy my first uke but am not sure what kind is best. I currently cover songs on the guitar, but I use my sister's concert uke whenever I get the chance. I'm hoping to get some help on deciding which type of uke (mainly deciding between concert versus tenor ---prolly not soprano since I have big hands and am used to gtr) would be best for my purposes. The musicians that I cover (like bright Eyes, Iron & Wine, Beirut and that kinda thing) tend to use tenor when they do use ukes, I think, but I'm not sure if I should go with that since I usually have to move out of the original key since I have a higher vocal range than these male singers? I understand that the tenor has the widest range so maybe that's my best option but I also feel like I've anecdotally seen more guys using tenors and females using concert ukes and I'm not sure if there's a good reason for that?
    I've only ever played a concert uke and unfortunately don't have the means to try anything else out so I am ordering my uke online based on research and blind faith.
    any tips (or a direction to a thread where this is addressed) would be much appreciated!!

  2. #2
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    It really is a matter of personal preference. It's been said that most guitar players tend to prefer tenor ukulele, but as a long-time guitar player, I play sopranos exclusively.

    Of course, it is certainly true that tenors generally have a greater range than the other sizes due to the extra frets, but it's also important to remember that not all sopranos are limited to 12 frets. Many sopranos are manufactured with as many as 17 frets on a standard neck. With concerts and tenors however, it's much easier to reach those notes that are farther down the neck since the fret-spacing is a lot wider. The trade-off with the larger sizes would be that it also means many chords become far more difficult to form.

    If you're looking for the traditional sound of the instrument, and a vastly different experience from playing guitar, then I would recommend a soprano. It's not really an issue of hand-size. As an adult male, I can assure you that I play difficult solo pieces on a soprano quite comfortably. Try searching Roy Smeck, Ohta-san, or Shigeto Takahashi on Youtube.. You'd be amazed at what can be done on a soprano.

    If you feel at ease with your sister's concert ukulele, why switch sizes? If there are any chords that feel difficult now, keep in mind that they will surely become more difficult on a tenor due to the longer scale length. If you appreciate the not-so-traditional, but fuller sound of the tenor, then you might also be happy with the extra space between strings which will make finger-picking and solo-playing easier. Also, tenors tend to lend themselves to Low-G better than the other sizes, and that's something you may want to do if you're concerned with increasing note range.

    P.S. I'm a big fan of Bright Eyes and I occasionally listen to Beirut.. That being said, any size will allow you to cover their music.. it's very simplistic.

    Good Luck! I hope I didn't confuse matters worse than when you came in. Let me know how it works out and what you decide!
    "The ukulele is a noble little instrument... anyone serious about music will eventually come to play one.

    Bob Brozman

  3. #3
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    Aloha alora,
    Welcome to UU and the forum. Since you say you have big hands and already play a guitar, I'd recommend a Tenor sized ukulele...............................BO.......... .................

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by alora View Post
    The musicians that I cover (like bright Eyes, Iron & Wine, Beirut and that kinda thing) tend to use tenor when they do use ukes, I think, but I'm not sure if I should go with that since I usually have to move out of the original key since I have a higher vocal range than these male singers? I understand that the tenor has the widest range so maybe that's my best option but I also feel like I've anecdotally seen more guys using tenors and females using concert ukes and I'm not sure if there's a good reason for that?
    Not sure I follow your logic here. Soprano, concert and tenor all use the same tuning. If you need a higher key for your vocal range, you would need it on all three sizes.

    As far as men vs. women, well, there are a lot of big guys here who favor sopranos, and quite a few of us females who are into tenors.

  5. #5
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    Concert is and will always be my favorite, but I was surprised with a long neck concert for my anniversary, and it's certainly growing on me. It might be worth considering as a compromise between the two. It's certainly got a roomier fret board, if that's your concern. I've only ever actually met one other female concert player (chiefly because she's currently borrowing one of mine to learn on), the others play tenor and baritone. I don't think it has anything to do with gender, just personal preference.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by 808boy View Post
    Aloha alora,
    Welcome to UU and the forum. Since you say you have big hands and already play a guitar, I'd recommend a Tenor sized ukulele...............................BO.......... .................
    I agree...the Tenor will probably fit your style the best....OR....get both!!!!! (Eventualy you will!!!!)
    Maui no ka oi !!!!!
    Kamaka HF-3, Vintage 1935 Kamaka Pineapple, Kanile'a Deluxe 6 string Tenor, Kamaka 1996 HF-38, Makala Concert

  7. #7
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    I like playing soprano, tenor, and concert ukes. They each have their own charms, and every uke has its own personality. But I don't play guitar. My friends that play both instruments seem to fall into one of two camps. Some prefer tenors because there is more room on the fretboard, while the others prefer sopranos because they are so different from guitars.
    Allan

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  8. #8
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    I'm not sure there is any pattern or best bet. I came to uke from guitar and have huge hands but started on soprano just fine!

    I own one of each and play what takes my fancy. Soprano is more traditional and brighter and my tenor seems more laid back and warmer.

    I'd actually say get the concert as it's the middle ground and not at one end of the extremes.
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  9. #9

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    Deciding between concert and tenor shouldn't be too difficult.
    Goto a store with both concerts and tenors.
    Play both sizes.

    Pick the one that feels more comfortable.

    Other than size, they're exactly the same. A concert is just a smaller tenor. A tenor is just a bigger concert.
    Tuning is all the same.

  10. #10
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    You just named three of my favorite bands/artists! I would recommend a tenor ukulele, as it will give you a lot more range and a more developed sound.

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