Oh, the soprano...

Ukuleles are supposed to be percussive, it's what makes them sound like a ukulele.
What is interesting to me is that when ukuleles first became popular on the mainland, people used them to play incredibly rhythmic and strum heavy stuff, like early jazz and vaudeville/tin pan alley accompaniment. In Europe, I think George Formby popularized ukuleles in the same way.

If you look at the soprano, it has some features that lend itself to this repertoire:

Short sustain - which lends itself to a quick succession of notes, as when you are strumming fast.

Re-entrant tuning - which gives the ukulele a characteristic sweet sound—if you play all four strings together, as when you strum.

Soft strings (not metal) - which lets you use your bare hand on the strings. This opens up all sorts of new ways to strum compared to using a plectrum. Many of these strums involve adding one or more extra fingers to create a different rhythm.

Four strings for four fingers - you can really wail at strumming when you don't need to avoid a fifth or sixth string that's not in the chord. I'm looking at you, guitar.

Small size - which lends itself to gimmicks. I had to add it. Have you ever seen someone blow into the sound hole of a dreadnaught like Roy Smeck mid-performance? :)

I'm not saying you have to play rhythmic music on the soprano, but if you play rhythmic music, the soprano just might be THE instrument for it.
Last edited:
Anything larger than a soprano is cheating
I'll bet some people turn away from the soprano because
many sopranos have a narrow nut and are hard to play.
Last edited:
Can you recommend a low g soprano?
@captain-janeway I like my Kamaka HF-1 strung low G.

You could also experiment with different low G strings.

I've found that string choice matters more than usual for the soprano low G. i'm using Fremont Black Line Medium fluorocarbons, but found the Fremont unwound fluorocarbon low G string not resonant enough, and the Fremont Soloist wound string too resonant. I'm using an Aquila Red unwound low G string at the moment, and the balance / tone across the strings is quite good.
Yes, that's another thing about the Soprano. A good one can handle a Low G very well. So, the finger picking and melody playing transfers right over from the larger sizes. I like a solid string, like the Aquila Red, for the Low G on the Soprano. I think it matches the sound of the other short strings better than wound.
Anything larger than a soprano is cheating
I'll bet some people turn away from the soprano because
many sopranos have a narrow nut and are hard to play.
I agree: “Anything larger than a Soprano is cheating”. From time to time I cheat by using a Concert, but nobody is perfect.

When first playing I found the Soprano impractically small, the root of the problem was too narrowly spaced strings (well that and the thick fingers that some grown men have). Of course some folk can manage narrow spaced strings on a Soprano, but then there’s always someone who’ll make a burdensome situation look like it’s easy enough.

Ukes - or rather their necks - and gloves have something in common: they need to fit your particular hand. It seems to me that a lot of Sopranos, almost all even, are made with smaller people and smaller hands in mind rather than the fat fingers of adult men who’ve known manual labour.
Last edited:
For reference, here's a short sound sample of the Kamaka HF-1 with Fremont Medium Black Line fluorocarbons and Aquila Red unwound for the low G:

Sounds lovely. I had Oasis strings with a wound low g on my inexpensive Kala soprano and it just didn't sound right. The g completely overwhelmed the other strings. The same strings sound fine on my Mainland concert. Thanks for posting the sample. I don't really need another uke ( I adore my Kala cedar top con ert) but think I should have a halfway decent soprano
I love sopranos. It's the only type of uke I own anymore.
How would a spruce soprano sound with low g? Would the tone from the spruce sound off because it's brighter? It would be an Ohana solid spruce top. The other one I'm looking at is an aNuNue solid top cedar top.

I already have a Kala solid top cedar concert and was wondering if the cedar soprano and concert cedars would sound too much alike.

I'd want low g on either of the sopranos
Low G on Soprano Scale Length

GDAE is same as violin/mandolin. The low G is the same as soprano low G.

Here's what resulted in the best string balance for me:

Caramel CS419 GDAE
Solid Mahogany Top
Laminate sides and back
D'Addario J6801 .028w (It needed the brightness and attack of the wound)

Ohana VK-70R GDAE
Solid Spruce Top
Rosewood laminate sides/back
Fremont Low G White* .034" (required to tame its inherent "raucous" tone)
You may need to widen the nut slot. (*actually, semi-clear)

Luna VM Pineapple GDAE
Laminate top/sides/back
Aquila Red 70U .036" (for tonal volume balance)
You will need to widen the nut slot. It must be able to freely "slide."

Mango laminate
Poly body
Fremont Low G White .034" White (for tonal volume balance)
Did not need to widen the nut slot.

Caramel CS419 dGBE (as a re-entrant baritone)
Solid Mahogany Top
Laminate sides and back
Aquila Red 70U .036" (needed to make it "fuller" sounding)
You will need to widen the nut slot. It must be able to freely "slide."

<edit> Added "why's and for's "

Note: I did not like Fremont Low G Black Line. Too floppy on a soprano scale. OK for tenor, though.
Last edited:
Feel like I could do with a tenor neck soprano
Hey Don, Ohana makes a nice tenor-neck soprano (SK-30L), reasonably priced, too! I had one for awhile, a few years back, and it was very comfortable and fun to play and really had a great "jangle" to it! I eventually passed it on, but only because I was gravitating more and more toward the soprano scale (where I remain today).
Top Bottom