What is Ukulele?
The Ukulele is a musical instrument that traces its origins to Hawaii. The ukulele belongs to the lute family of instruments and has between four and eight strings. At the time of its invention, the people of Hawaii did not have any idea that this small instrument would become acclaimed beyond their small island.
Fast forward to the present day and the ukulele is arguably the most popular musical instrument in all of Hawaii. There are various types of ukuleles, all of which come in different ukulele sizes depending on the specifications of the user.
Most common ukuleles have a figure eight shape that makes it appear to be a miniature guitar of sorts. However, builders have begun making the instrument in custom shapes such as triangular and pineapple-shaped ukuleles.
Ukulele Sizes （Soprano, Concert, Tenor, Baritone）
In most cases, ukuleles come in four different sizes. These are soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone ukuleles. The different sizes of ukuleles result in the production of different and unique sounds from each instrument. The common rule of thumb for all ukulele sizes is that smaller body sizes produce higher sound timbre.
This is to say that the smallest size of ukuleles produces the highest sounds. In recent years, a new size called sopranino has been introduced to the list of sizes, and it is currently the smallest size available in the market. Below are more details concerning the four main sizes of ukuleles.
1. Soprano Ukulele
The soprano ukulele is the smallest standard sized ukulele available in the market. Soprano ukuleles measure approximately 21 inches from top to bottom and have between 12 and 14 frets. The soprano ukulele is the image that comes to mind when most people hear about these instruments or think of purchasing one. The classical sound of the ukulele is also affiliated to the soprano size.
2. Concert Ukulele
This is the second size of ukuleles that are slightly larger compared to the soprano. Usually, concert ukuleles measure 23 inches from top to bottom. The number of frets on a concert ukulele ranges between 14 and 17. The concert ukulele is more comfortable to handle than the soprano because of the additional space, which frees the user to move their fingers with ease. The sound from a concert ukulele is somewhat similar to that from a soprano ukulele but a bit louder.
3. Tenor Ukulele
The tenor ukulele is considered the largest among the sizes of ukuleles that are tuned traditionally. Tenor ukuleles are larger than soprano and concert ukuleles. They measure around 26 inches from top to bottom and come with between 19 and 21 frets. The popularity of tenor ukuleles has increased over recent years, especially due to their similarity in size to the
contemporary guitar. The sound produced by tenor ukuleles deviates from the natural ukulele sound and comes off as more of a classical guitar tone. Most professional ukulele players opt for tenor sizes as opposed to concert and soprano ukuleles.
4. Baritone Ukulele
The largest member of the ukulele family is the baritone ukulele. Being the largest among all the sizes, the baritone ukulele produces the deepest sound in comparison to the other types. The baritone ukulele measures about 30 inches from top to bottom. Apart from this, this ukulele has between 21 and 23 frets. The baritone ukulele is not a common choice among many players.
However, players looking for fuller and deeper sounds use the baritone ukulele.
Ukulele Construction and Woods
A wide variety of wood types and techniques are applied in the construction of ukuleles. For superior quality ukuleles, the makers use solid woods. However, ukulele manufacturers use laminates to construct cheaper models. The traditional wood of choice for the construction of
ukuleles is Koa, which is native to the island of Hawaii. Koa is related to the Acacia tree, which also exhibits similar characteristics and can be used in ukulele construction. Mahogany is another common type of wood used in the manufacture of ukuleles. Mahogany is applied in making the middle and necks of ukuleles. Apart from Koa and mahogany, spruce is another common type of wood with applications in ukulele manufacturing. Other woods used to make ukuleles are cedar, redwood, rosewood, and maple.
Naturally, the intention of every buyer is to acquire the best quality product for the cheapest price offering. The case is no different among ukulele manufacturers and buyers alike. The prices of ukuleles differ significantly depending on the brand as well as the size of the instrument. As a recommendation, buyers should choose ukulele prices depending on their level of playing expertise as well as their size preference.
For instance, beginners are advised to choose ukuleles that cost between $75 and $200 while advanced players may opt to go for the pricier alternatives that cost anywhere from $1000. A useful tip for beginners is to start small and cheap then advance to the more quality ukulele types as you gain more knowledge of the different brands available in the market.
Before Buying a Ukulele
Research is necessary before making any purchase. Even with a ukulele, it is imperative to carry out adequate research before visiting the ukulele shop. The good thing about musical instruments is that you can always try them out at the shop before buying. On top of this, internet reviews can also be a good source of insight into the best types and brands for beginners as well as intermediates.
With the right information, you will probably end up with a ukulele that you will enjoy playing for a long time.