Types Of Ukuleles: The Kinds Of Ukulele Explained

When you think of a musical string instrument that is tiny and guitar-like, then there could only be one; it’s the ukulele!

There are four main types of standard ukuleles – Soprano, Concert (or Alto), Tenor, and Baritone, all with different tones, sizes, and volumes. Aside from these common types, more modified and hybrid types of ukuleles produce cool and unique sounds and styles that can also come to your liking.

People call ukuleles “beginner instruments” since the learning curve for playing is narrow and pretty inexpensive. Ukuleles are simple stringed instruments with tiny bodies and don’t require much handling, like an acoustic guitar.

They become more and more popular because of the advances in their physical forms and sound styles that they can produce.

This comprehensive guide will walk you through the world of ukuleles and ensure that you’re getting the right type and size that suits you if you opt for one in the future.

types of ukulele

Types of Ukuleles

1. Soprano Ukulele

The soprano ukulele is the most budget-friendly and commonly used type of ukulele, making it the most popular one. If you are to picture out an image of a ukulele in your mind, then it’s probably a soprano ukulele.

Soprano Ukulele
A Soprano Ukulele.

It is the smallest among the family of ukuleles, with a standard length of 21 inches featuring 12-15 frets which is why it is perfect for bringing in gatherings and your travel escapades. This ukulele produces a tiny, high-pitched traditional sound that is ideal for jamming sessions with friends.

Although this type of ukulele won’t impose any problem on the strumming of chords, it’s not suitable for picking notes to achieve a technically styled sound. You may opt for a different and larger uke for that.   

2. Concert Ukulele

Concert Ukulele
A Concert Ukulele.

The concert ukulele, sometimes called the alto ukulele, is also for beginners since it’s inexpensive and versatile as the soprano ukulele.

It’s also perfect for people with more giant hands because of wider frets. Well, the sound of the concert ukulele is pretty similar to the soprano ukulele, except that it is rounder, deeper, and has a slightly fuller sound.

Most ukulele soloists prefer concert ukuleles over soprano ukuleles because of the extended playing range and the number of technical playing skills you can showcase using them. If you are an adult beginner who wants to play the ukulele to be a hobby, a concert ukulele is probably the perfect one for you. 

3. Tenor Ukulele

My tenor Kamaka that Lanna & I bought while in Hawaii in March
My tenor Kamaka that Lanna & I bought while in Hawaii in March. (Image credit: “Kamaka Tenor Ukulele” by aaronHwarren on Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0)

Have you ever wondered what type of ukulele professional musicians use?

Well, the tenor ukulele is the go-to ukulele for musicians and experienced performers since it has an even richer, fuller, and deeper tone. It is due to its larger volume and size compared to its smaller siblings.

Another good advantage of tenor ukuleles is that they have more frets, so you have a more extensive playground for higher notes on the fretboard. However, If you want to achieve the traditional ukulele sound, you might want to go for the soprano and concert ukulele, as they are a better fit.

The tenor ukulele is undeniably the kind of ukulele to use when you’re trying to play guitar-style music where you want to translate heavy tunes of a guitar to a ukulele. Most musicians, especially guitarists, utilize this ukulele to play riffs and complicated songs and covers.

4. Baritone Ukulele

Baritone Ukulele in a brick background
Baritone Ukulele in a brick background.

The baritone ukulele is identical to traditional guitars, producing the highest sound quality among the four standard ukuleles. They are likely similar to conventional guitars in size, sound, and tuning making the baritone ukulele perfect for performers transitioning from 6-string guitar to ukulele.

The sound produced by a baritone ukulele is unlikely to be what is expected of a ukulele since it has the most whole and most rich baritone sound, not much of a hint of the bright, high pitched sound from a soprano ukulele.

Another feature that sets the baritone ukulele from other ukulele types is the tuning. Instead of the standard tuning of GCEA like in the soprano ukulele, the baritone is tuned DGBE, which is precisely the same with the highest four strings on the tuning of a traditional guitar.

Special Types of Ukuleles

With the advancement of technology, musical instruments companies have developed more advanced synthetic materials for ukuleles. Aside from the common types of ukuleles mentioned above, more variations are available now in the market like “cross-breeds” of different musical instruments with a ukulele (Ex: “guitarlele” and “banjolele”), where they modify the sound, style, and tone of ukuleles.

In fact, most of these hybrids already gained popularity from musicians, performers, or just music enthusiasts, as manufacturers really step up the game for ukuleles.

5. Sopranino Ukulele

Yes, there is an even smaller type of soprano ukulele, and it’s called the sopranino ukulele. Compared to a soprano ukulele, it has less than 2-5 frets and almost half its length of about 12 inches.

6. Pineapple ukulele

You might think that a pineapple ukulele resembles the spines like that of a pineapple. Well, it’s not that extravagant. This ukulele is named after the fruit merely because of its round shape, different from the usual figure-eight body.

Despite its sweet-like form, the pineapple ukulele produces a louder, powerful, and more resonant sound than the standard soprano ukulele.

7. Electric Ukulele

Have you already heard the sound produced by an electrically amplified ukulele? It probably sounds fantastic, right?

Far from the traditional cutesy sound of a standard soprano ukulele, an electric ukulele uses a pick-up and sends vibration signals to an amplifier producing electric-style sounds. There are two kinds of electric ukulele: electro-acoustic ukulele and complete electric ukulele.

8. Guitar Ukulele (“Guitarlele”)

If you want a portable ukulele with guitar-like features, then a “guitarlele” is the one for you. The guitar ukulele sometimes called the “guitarlele,” is a hybrid ukulele combining a traditional guitar and a tenor ukulele.

In fact, ukulele brands consider this model a better travel guitar, standing around ¼ the size of a classical acoustic guitar, therefore convenient to bring anywhere.

9. Banjo Ukulele (“Banjolele”)

Playing a  banjo ukulele at the backyard
Playing a banjo ukulele in the backyard.

Can you imagine a banjo and ukulele combined? If you haven’t seen a banjo, these are stringed instruments with plastic-made circular membranes stretched to form a resonator.

A banjolele, a cross-breed of banjo and ukulele, has the banjo’s sound and body features and size of a ukulele. It is a small-scale quirky-looking musical instrument that produces a warm, sweet, mid-range sound like a banjo.

A banjolele has been in the music scene since 1917. Even with the same tuning and musical style with the banjo instrument, expect that there will still be a hint of the ukulele tone. The banjolele has a tune of GCEA (same with soprano ukulele) and has the same size as a concert ukulele with approximately 16 frets.

10. Bass Ukulele

Isn’t it amazing to see a ukulele with a touch of a bass guitar? They call it the bass ukulele. A bass ukulele is a unique and straightforward acoustic bass guitar that looks like a ukulele. It is adapted from the baritone ukulele, copying its body features.

The instrument features polyurethane strings that are thicker and denser than the standard ukulele strings to produce a sound similar to a bass guitar.

A bass ukulele has a tuning of EADG identical to that of a bass guitar. Some bassists opt for this type of ukulele as it increasingly becomes more popular and more convenient.

11. Harp Ukulele

A harp ukulele cover of Dust in the Wind.

What could have been any more impressive than seeing a harp and a ukulele combined? A harp ukulele is a musical instrument combining different elements from a ukulele and a harp.

It is a ukulele type with unfretted strings (four bass strings) and an attached bridge extension like a harp. Surprisingly, harp ukuleles are comfortable to play with. Musicians actually use harp ukulele to perform fingerstyle guitar solos.

The harp ukulele has been in the music scene since the early 20th century, where it has been on trend ever since. More companies have started researching and experimenting on improving harp ukuleles to further increase their popularity and sales among music enthusiasts in the future.

12. Cutaway Ukulele

You might be wondering why cutaway ukuleles are termed “cutaway.” The word “cutaway” pertains to the cutting-back design on the ukulele.

The cutaway ukulele is a type of ukulele cut on the instrument’s right-hand shoulder, giving a more modern sense.

Aside from the stylistic purpose, the cutaway design permits the ukulele to have easier access to the higher or top frets. Cutaway ukuleles are also present in music stores, just like the four standard types of ukuleles mentioned earlier.

Standard Ukulele Sizes

Various manufacturing brands of ukulele design their products a bit differently from the others. There may be tiny differences in the ukuleles’ sizes, actual measurements (usually a couple of inches), and materials specifications. However, the music industry has come up with four standard ukulele sizes to establish as a reference.

Take note that shown below are approximate sizes and may differ in actuality:

  • Soprano Ukulele: The soprano ukulele, the smallest among the standard types of ukuleles, has a standard size of 21 inches or approximately 53 centimeters, a scale length of 13 inches, and can contain 12-15 frets. It has a standard tuning of GCEA.
  • Concert Ukulele: Compared to soprano ukuleles, concert ukuleles have extra length and a broader neck, which allows for more frets because of the wider spacing. The concert ukulele is the second to the smallest among the types of ukulele, having a total length of 23 inches or approximately 58 centimeters, a scale length of 15 inches, and between 15-20 frets in the fretboard.
  • Tenor Ukulele: Compared to the previously mentioned ukulele size, the tenor ukulele has more extended and broader necks, perfect for musicians who prefer fingerpicking styles. With a slightly longer fret, this type of ukulele has a standard length of 26 inches or approximately 66 centimeters,17 inches scale length, and can contain 15-20 frets as well.
  • Baritone Ukulele: The baritone ukulele is the longest and most prominent among the family of standard ukulele sizes. It has the widest fret spacing compared to all other ukulele siblings. With its wider neck than others, it is usually the go-to ukulele type for musicians. Its usual length is 30 inches or approximately 19 inches with 19 frets.
Standard Ukulele Sizes Comparison
Standard Ukulele Sizes Comparison.

No doubt that ukuleles are for everyone because they are easy and addicting to play. Whether you are a beginner or an expert, there is a perfect type of uke for you.

For beginners, the best choice would be the soprano size because it is the most budget-friendly and easy to start learning, just with complete determination, I guess.

Of course, nothing can go wrong with playing the standard ukulele. By the time you grasp how a standard ukulele is handled and played, then it’s a good sign for you to jump from one type to another. On the other hand, you can go for the baritone or tenor ukulele if you are an advanced musician to produce a higher quality and more professional sound.

In general, there are multiple types of ukuleles to choose from, depending on what suits your needs and preferences. They come in different standard sizes, styles, and even sounds.

Remember that the fuller and deeper the tone is, the more expensive and more extensive the ukulele will be. Large ukuleles indicate more fret spacings, thus more tone options.

A demonstration of the different sizes, sounds, parts, and tunings of the different ukuleles.

Each type of ukulele gives a slightly different tone and mood that will surely provide the best experience for beginners and seasoned performers.

Even the hybrid ones offer a refreshing feeling and incredible expertise to performers. They are small, pleasant-looking, and sound great. What’s not there to like, right?

What is your favorite type of ukulele? And why do you think it is best suited for you? Let us know in the comment section down below.

Also, if you have questions about the types of ukuleles and their standard sizes, do not hesitate to drop them in the comment section. We’ll love to hear from you.

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About Jayden Buckley

Hi, my name is Jayden and I am author/editor for PlayTheTunes. I remember the first time I hopped on the drums, I was hooked. Music has played an enormous part of my life, and I'm honored I get to share my experiences with you!