Ukulele types – Embarking on a Ukulele Adventure: An In-Depth Guide

Originating from Hawaii, the ukulele has won hearts worldwide with its unique sound and versatility. Today, we’ll embark on an exciting journey, exploring the diverse types and sizes of ukuleles, understanding their unique traits, and discovering their differences.



The Diverse World of Ukuleles

Ukuleles come in a variety of sizes, shapes, types, materials, and colors, each boasting a unique sound and set of features. Let’s dive into it.

Sizes of Ukuleles

We start with the normal Ukuleles.

Ukuleles come in various sizes, each with its own unique sound and playability:

  • Sopranino Ukulele: The smallest ukulele, also called piccolo, bambino, or “pocket uke”. This ukulele might be a bit difficult to find as this is not a common size. In fact, there are also sizes even smaller than the sopranino: the sopranissimo, the iuke and the nano ukulele.
  • Soprano Ukulele, or the Standard. The second smallest, this is the original and the most traditional size of ukulele. It has a bright and happy sound that people often associate with ukuleles.
  • Concert Ukulele: Slightly larger than the soprano, the concert ukulele has a fuller sound and a bit more space between the frets. The Concert Ukulele was developed in the 1920’s.
  • Tenor Ukulele: Developed right after the Concert Ukulele. Larger still, the tenor ukulele has a deeper, warmer sound. It’s a favorite among professional ukulele players.
  • Baritone Ukulele: From the 1940’s. The largest ukulele and it is tuned differently from the rest. It has a deep, rich sound, more similar to a guitar. A Baritone is “always” tuned linear.
  • Bass Ukulele: From 2009, it is also not so common. Tuned like a traditional bass guitar, these ukuleles provide a low-end rhythm.
  • Contrabass Ukulele: Finally, the latest of the big ukuleles from 2012.

In addition to this, some of the producers have ukuleles with a longer neck than normal. For example, these are called Super Soprano, Super Concert, Super Tenor, and Super Baritone.

Ukulele Sizes Comparison Chart. Foto: Guitarlobby.com

And, if this wasn’t enough with different sizes, there are several variants with different numbers of strings. From 4 to 8, as well as some with a double neck. Read on and read also the post about Ukulele relatives and variations.

Ukuleles (www.basicukulele.com)

Ukulele types and sound range.

Ukulele types and sound

(From Wikipedia)

The sound range varies with the tuning and size of the Ukulele. (#Ad)

The Ukulele types and sizes, and Ukulele types and Tunings.

Ukulele types

You can also find variations in measurements. (Example: Baritone 30″)

Read about alternative tuning for Baritone at this post.

G4-C4-E4-A4: The numbers indicate in which scale you find the note at the keyboard on a piano. Normally we say GCEA for this C- tuning or C-6 after the cord C6.

All types of ukuleles, including soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone, can accommodate a low G string.

The scale length of a stringed instrument like a ukulele is the distance between the nut and the bridge. This is the part of the string that vibrates when you pluck or strum it, and it plays a crucial role in determining the instrument’s tone and pitch. The longer the scale length, the higher the tension needed to bring the string up to pitch, which can result in a brighter tone and increased volume. Conversely, a shorter scale length requires less tension to reach the same pitch, often resulting in a warmer tone. So, the scale length is a key factor in the overall sound and playability of the instrument.

Read about the Ukulele Strings at the link!

Bass Ukulele

Bass ukuleles are normaly tuned similarly to the bass guitar and double bass: E1–A1–D2–G2 for U-Bass style instruments (sometimes called contrabass), or an octave higher, E2–A2–D3–G3, for Ohana type metal-string basses (phosphor bronze round-wound strings/Custom stainless steel flat-wound strings).

They can be fretted like the one in the picure over, or not as in the picture below.



Shapes of Ukuleles

Beyond the traditional guitar-like form, ukuleles also adopt other shapes:

  • Traditional Ukulele: The most common shape, resembling a mini guitar.
  • Pineapple Ukulele: A round body shape that yields a warm, mellow tone.
  • Cutaway Ukulele: Features a cutaway in the upper body for easier access to the higher frets.
Pineapple Ukulele

Example Pineapple Ukulele

Her you have a link to Amazon.

Description of a Cutaway Ukulele:

A Cutaway Ukulele stands out with its unique design feature – a ‘cutaway’ or notch in the lower body under the neck. This design modification allows players to reach the higher frets with ease, making it a favorite among many musicians.
The cutaway design, popular in guitars, especially electric ones, has found its way into the ukulele world. While the soprano ukulele, being the smallest of the four standard sizes, offers easy access to all frets, the larger sizes – concert, tenor, and baritone – benefit significantly from the cutaway design.
However, whether a cutaway is beneficial or not often boils down to personal preference and playing style. If you’re a rhythm player who loves to strum and sing around the campfire, you might not find much use for the cutaway. But if you’re into lead playing or fingerpicking, the cutaway could be quite beneficial.
Scientifically speaking, changing the surface area of an instrument does impact its sound. Generally, a larger surface area results in a louder and fuller sound. However, the difference is often so subtle that it’s barely noticeable to the human ear.
When it comes to cost, a cutaway ukulele is usually on par with traditional body types. The price of a ukulele is more influenced by the quality of its components than by body variations.
Finally, you can find cutaway designs in all four common sizes of ukuleles: soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone. The soprano size has fewer models with cutaways, mainly due to its small body size.
In terms of tuning, a cutaway ukulele is tuned in the same way as any other ukulele. A soprano, concert, and tenor ukulele usually utilize gCEA reentrant tuning, while the baritone uses GCEA linear tuning.

Cutaway Ukulele

Example Cutaway Ukulele

This is a Kala Solid Spruce Top Striped Ebony – Baritone with Cutaway and EQ. Here you have a link to Amazon

For other sizes and brands, take a look at this link to Amazon.

Ukulele types

Beside the traditional Ukulele you have these:
1. Acoustic-Electric Ukulele: These standard ukuleles come equipped with built-in pickups, allowing them to amplify their sound. You can strum them acoustically or plug them in for stage performances.
2. Solid Body Electric Ukulele: Carved from a single wood plank, these ukuleles need to be plugged in. They emit minimal sound when played acoustically.
3. Archtop Ukulele: Taking inspiration from jazz guitars, these ukuleles feature an arched top that delivers a distinct, warm tone.

4. Banjolele (Banjo Ukulele): A fusion of a ukulele and a banjo, this hybrid instrument combines the small scale, tuning, and playing style of a ukulele with the construction and distinctive tone of a banjo. *
5. Guitalele (Guitar Ukulele): A blend of a classical guitar and a tenor or baritone ukulele. It carries the tuning of a guitar capoed at the 5th fret.*
6. Harp Ukulele: This unique instrument marries a ukulele with a small harp, offering additional range and versatility.*
7. Lap Steel Ukulele: Played horizontally with a steel slide, these ukuleles produce a sweet, singing tone.*
8. Travel Ukulele: Compact and lightweight, these ukuleles are perfect companions for traveling musicians.
9. Resonator Ukulele: These ukuleles use a metal cone to amplify the sound, resulting in a loud, bright tone.*

You can read more about some of these (*) in the post Ukulele relatives and variations.

An explanation of Archtop Ukulele:

An Archtop Ukulele, inspired by jazz guitars, boasts a top that curves outward, lending it a unique, warm tone. This design isn’t just for show; the arched structure of an Archtop amplifies its sound, making it louder and more resonant than a flat-top ukulele.

You can find Archtop Ukuleles in concert, tenor, and baritone sizes. They’re perfect for jazz and other complex music styles. What sets them apart is their longer sustain and clear distinction between notes.

Craftsmen carve the top and back of an Archtop Ukulele from two matched pieces of wood. The top, typically made of Spruce, is thicker than that of a traditional ukulele, contributing to its vibrant tone. While an Archtop may not be as loud as a classic ukulele, it still produces enough sound for a solo performance or accompaniment to singing.

A bit more about Travel Ukulele

In today’s world, the ukulele, with its portability, has the ability to journey across the globe. Recognizing the need for a more robust and compact version for the traveling musician, ukulele craftsmen have introduced the travel ukulele. Unlike their standard counterparts, which can be delicate and prone to damage during transit, travel ukuleles are designed with durability in mind.

The standout feature of a travel ukulele is its slim body. Compared to the 3.5-4 inch thickness of a standard ukulele, travel ukuleles typically measure between 1.5 and 2.5 inches. This reduction in size allows for easy storage in backpacks or carry-on luggage.

However, the slim body of the travel ukulele does have its trade-offs. The sound produced is less voluminous and lacks the depth of a standard ukulele. Furthermore, their compact build, which demands precision, often results in a higher price tag. Travel ukuleles can be crafted from various materials including wood, laminate, or plastic, and the category includes thin-bodied and backpacker ukuleles. While some travel ukuleles sport unique shapes, others retain the traditional ukulele form, but slimmer.

(You can find some reasonably priced Travel Ukuleles on this Amazon link.)

Ukulele materials.

Let’s delve deeper into the materials used in ukulele construction and how they influence the instrument’s sound:
1. Laminate Ukuleles: Crafted from thin sheets of wood glued together, laminate ukuleles are a popular choice due to their durability and affordability. The layered wood construction makes them resistant to changes in humidity and temperature, making them a great option for travel or for beginners who are just starting their musical journey. However, while they offer a decent sound, it’s important to note that it may not be as rich or resonant as ukuleles made from solid wood.

2. Solid Top Ukuleles: These ukuleles feature a top made from a single piece of wood, which allows the instrument to vibrate more freely, delivering a richer and more complex tone. They are a step up from laminate ukuleles in terms of sound quality. The back and sides of these ukuleles may still be laminate, balancing cost and sound quality.

3. Solid Wood Ukuleles: As the name suggests, these ukuleles are made entirely from solid wood. The uninterrupted grain of the wood allows for optimal resonance and sustain, providing the best sound quality. However, they come at a higher price and require more care to maintain as they are more sensitive to changes in humidity and temperature.

The new material.

In addition to these traditional materials, there are also Plastic Ukuleles. Initially introduced as a budget-friendly option, plastic ukuleles have seen a resurgence in popularity. They are incredibly durable and immune to changes in humidity, making them perfect for travel or outdoor use. Modern manufacturing techniques have also improved their sound quality, although it’s still not on par with wooden ukuleles. They come in a variety of vibrant colors and are a fun option.
In conclusion, the material of a ukulele plays a significant role in its sound, cost, and maintenance requirements. Whether you choose a laminate, solid top, solid wood, or plastic ukulele, each has its own unique characteristics and advantages.

Normally the Ukuleles are made of wood, but you can also get them made of carbon fiber. Follow the link to Amazon. They can be used in all kinds of weather 🙂

This one is a bit extraordinary! Follow the link to Amazon!




Colors

Ukuleles offer a broad spectrum of colors and decorations, catering to various tastes and preferences. A painted ukulele, for instance, could be a buget-friendly instrument crafted from less expensive materials, or it could be a high-quality ukulele adorned with artistic decorations. Therefore, it’s crucial to inspect a painted ukulele closely to discern its true quality.
But the allure of ukuleles extends beyond their initial appearance. As an owner, you possess the freedom to personalize your ukulele, transforming it into a unique reflection of your style. Embellishing your ukulele not only allows you to express your creativity but also results in an instrument with a distinctive appearance that sets it apart from the rest.
Whether you opt to add stickers, paint designs, or even carve into the wood, the possibilities are limitless. Remember, a ukulele is more than just a musical instrument; it’s a canvas for your creativity. So, don’t hesitate to make your mark and create a ukulele that’s truly one-of-a-kind!

Painted Ukulele can be a Ukulele of cheap materials, or just a decorated good Ukulele. So, you don’t rely know without looking closely.

Or this one from Amazon;

Courses

A ukulele has four courses, meaning that there are four strings or four notes on the instrument, for instance GCEA. However, some ukuleles have more than four strings, such as 6-strings, 8-strings, Taropatch, and Tahitian Ukulele. These instruments still have four courses because two of the strings on a 6-strings ukulele are close together and play as one. For the other mentioned instruments with eight strings, it is two and two strings put close together. For example, the 8-string Ukulele is often tuned like this: gG cC EE AA (High and low G and C).

Buying guide:

  • Size Matters: Ukuleles come in four primary sizes: soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone. The soprano, being the smallest, produces the classic ukulele sound, while the baritone, the largest, resonates more like a guitar. The concert and tenor sizes strike a balance between the two.
  • Wood Type: The type of wood used in the construction of a ukulele significantly influences its sound and cost. Koa, native to Hawaii, is often found in high-quality ukuleles. Other frequently used woods include mahogany, rosewood, and cedar.
  • Solid vs. Laminate: Solid wood ukuleles typically produce a superior sound compared to laminate ones, but they also come with a higher price tag. Laminate ukuleles, made from glued thin sheets of wood, offer durability and affordability.
  • String Quality: High-quality strings can greatly enhance the sound of a ukulele. Brands like Aquila and D’Addario are renowned for their quality ukulele strings. Read about strings at the link.
  • Brand Reputation: Some brands have earned a reputation for their quality and durability. Doing some research on brands before buying can help ensure you get a reliable instrument.
  • Price Range: Good quality ukuleles usually start around the $100 mark. Be wary of cheaper ukuleles as they may not be of good quality. Read about cheap ukuleles in this post and how to improve them.

And more:

  • Try Before You Buy: If possible, play the ukulele before buying to ensure it feels comfortable in your hands. If you’re buying online, check reviews and ask the shop for recommendations.
  • Included Accessories: Check if the ukulele comes with any accessories, such as a gig bag, tuner, extra strings, or instructional materials.

Ukulele Brands.

There are several reputable ukulele brands that are known for their quality and craftsmanship. Here are a few:

Leolani: A small, family-owned brand from Hawaii known for providing quality instruments at affordable prices.

Mahalo: Known for their beginner-friendly ukuleles, Mahalo offers a great balance between quality and affordability.

Martin: A well-established brand in the music industry, Martin is known for their high-quality ukuleles and guitars.

Cordoba: Cordoba is recognized for their traditional craftsmanship and innovative design, offering a wide range of ukuleles for all skill levels.

Fender: Known primarily for their guitars, Fender also produces a range of ukuleles, including the unique Fender Jazzmaster ukulele.

Kala: Kala is one of the most popular ukulele brands and offers a wide variety of ukuleles for beginners to professionals.

Kmise: Kmise is known for their affordable yet quality ukuleles, making them a popular choice for beginners.

Flight: Flight offers a range of ukuleles known for their innovative designs and high-quality sound.

Remember, the best ukulele for you depends on your personal preferences, playing style, and budget!

If you don´t have a music shop with ukuleles where you live, you can find some ukuleles here at AliExpress.

Here you have some more tips before buying:

Conclusion

From the traditional acoustic to the modern electric, the ukulele universe is vast and varied. Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned player, there’s a ukulele out there that’s just right for you.

Basic Ukulele hopes you have learned something about the different Ukulele types and sizes from this post, and would appreciate it if you could like us on Facebook.

Enjoy your strumming journey!

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Finally, Basic Ukulele was founded in 2015 with the aim of making it easier for anyone who wants to learn or find out more about this wonderful instrument.