Whenever you’re thinking about learning a new musical instrument, there’s one that is bound to come to your mind more than once. We are of course talking about nothing other than the ukulele – a simple, suave, and compact musical instrument that soothes your soul every time you hear its sound.
Buying a ukulele always seemed like a pretty simple task. Until I actually went to buy one. I was dumbfounded when I had gotten to know that there are so many types of ukuleles out there and each of them has a unique feature of its own!
Did you know that there are so many variants such as electric ukuleles, banjo ukuleles, and even Resophonic ukuleles? These ukuleles are not just different in names but serve different purposes as well. I, myself, learned a ton of information regarding ukuleles such as these.
So, we decided to provide you with the necessary as well as interesting information about ukuleles, to give you an edge when you decide to buy one for yourself.
The Origin of Ukulele
Ukulele’s origin can be traced back to the beautiful Island of Hawaii – way back in the year 1878. At that time, Hawaii was one of the few places to produce sugar canes in bulk. Therefore, as it usually happens, a huge number of immigrant workers from Portugal came to the island.
As a part of their culture, they had brought along a simple four-stringed instrument called the Machete de Braga. This acoustic handy instrument gained a lot of popularity which only kept increasing over time. As time went by, little modifications were made to the ‘machete’ which eventually took its final form as the Ukulele.
The rising popularity of Ukuleles was due to the act of King Kalakaua, savior of Hawaiian national identity, who made a rule of the ukulele being played on royal occasions and events.
Ukulele Types or Sizes – Which One to Consider
This is one of the first things about ukuleles that confuses us, leading us into making a wrong decision. The thing is when people are mostly inquiring about ukulele sizes, they are asking about their types.
No need to worry, as this confusion will be cleared by the time you’ve gone through this article. Basically, there are 4 main standard ukulele types. Each of those types comes in different sizes. So, if you know which type you need, you won’t have to worry about the size at all.
Types of Ukuleles
As we’ve already mentioned, there are 4 major ukulele types that come in 4 different sizes. Apart from that, there are some mixed ukuleles which are kind of a fusion between other instruments and ukuleles. Lastly, there are some unique variants that consist of unique features.
Standard Ukulele Types
This is the most common and the most popular type in the market. The size of these ukuleles makes them travel-friendly and the soft high pitched sound makes them very popular to professionals as well as casual strummers.
The size of these types of ukuleles is approx. 51cm and consists of around 12-15 frets. If you’re a beginner musician thinking about learning the uke, then Soprano ukuleles are your best bet.
We’ve spent our fair share of time with a number of Sopranos and found two amazing choices for you.
Created by the world-renowned guitar company, the Fender Venice comes with a stylish Grace VanderWaal finish and a large variant of colors (our favorite being the surf green). The construction feels a bit fragile, but the soft harp-like tone and the cool color scheme make it worth purchasing.
Although this one doesn’t have a cool fender-styled head, the Kala Mahogany makes up with its outstanding build quality along with an affordable price tag. The rosewood fingerboard and the bridge make it even more enjoyable to play.
Let’s take a glance at the pros and cons of the Soprano Ukuleles
Easy to carry around
The most available type in market
Comes with a relatively reasonable price tag
Not suitable for people with large hands as the frets are in close proximity
The tension of strings can produce out of tune notes
Next, we have concert ukuleles aka altos which are a tad bit bigger in size than the previous one. At around 24 inches, concert ukuleles provide more finger space which makes it easier to bend the strings. Due to its size, the alto produces a deeper sound than the Soprano.
Our recommendation for this variant will definitely have to be the Kadence Concert Ukulele. The Kadence comes with a hand-rubbed finished mahogany body that not only gives it a sleek look but also produces a warmer and deeper sound.
However, the most attractive feature of this ukulele is the built-in tuner. The tuner facilitates in keeping the accuracy as well as helps the user to tune very easily. This can be a very useful feature for beginners.
Relatively easier to play
Rich and louder sound
More note range and space between frets
Comes with a slightly higher price tag than the Soprano
Still somewhat uncomfortable for users with large hands
The next batch of ukuleles possess all the same qualities of a concert but comes in a bigger size. The size of the Tenor makes it the perfect choice for guitarists who are willing to learn a new instrument.
Tenor ukuleles are around 26-30 inches long with around 15 frets or more. This makes it better for users willing to try out a wider range of notes or sounds. Moreover, tenor ukuleles produce much deeper and louder sounds than the previous ones.
If you think tenor is the best choice for you then you’ll definitely fall in love with the Musoo Tenor Ukulele. The sturdy base made with a solid mahogany top with Rosewood fingerboard and bridge gives it a very suave look. The Musoo Tenor Ukulele also comes with very handy accessories like Nylon Strings, Strap, Capo, Picks, etc.
Easier to play difficult chords
Suitable for people with large hands
Produces a louder and more rich sound
Similar price as the concerts
Not suitable for beginners
Not easy to carry around
Lastly, we have the biggest of them all – the Baritone Ukuleles. This uke is basically a smaller version of a guitar. It’s even tuned in the same way as the bottom four strings of a guitar.
The baritone won’t produce the high-pitched calming sound like a soprano, but it can be used to produce more deep and rich sounds. This variant is perfect for finger plucking and can be a good choice for users who are comfortable with bigger frets.
As for our recommendation, we would suggest the Kala MK-B Baritone Ukulele – a classic line by Kala. It has really vintage look with a perfectly finished mahogany base. The fingerboard is made out of walnut and the Aquila Super Nylgut strings create a deep balanced sound.
Easier for Guitar players
Provides a deeper sound
Doesn’t exactly feel like a ukulele
The price tag is a bit higher
Tuning scheme of ukuleles
Now that we’re done with four major variants of ukuleles, let’s learn about their tuning scales. The first three types that we mentioned above all come in standard tuning (GCEA). So, if you know how to play a concert, you should be able to work your way around a soprano or a tenor as well.
However, as we’ve already stated, the baritone ukuleles come in a different scale of tuning (DGBE). If the users want, they can change the tune back to the standard scale (GCEA) but should only do so with the help of experts.
Mixed Ukulele Types
We’ve covered all the standard types of ukuleles and the necessary information needed to know about them. And now we will move on to the kinds of ukes that are made out of a fusion of ukuleles and other instruments.
Guitarlele (Guitar Ukulele)
As you can already guess, a Guitarlele is a variant of baritone ukuleles with six strings. They are also referred to as guitar ukuleles. The tuning of a guitarlele is somewhat similar to an acoustic guitar, just at a higher pitch.
A guitarlele’s tuning is set at A-D-G-C-E-A, so we can say that it’s just a standard uke with extra bass strings. If you play guitar with a capo on the 5th fret, it will produce similar notes as a guitarlele.
In addition, the compact size of the Guitarlele makes it a perfect companion for little musicians. There are a lot of models out there, but our favorite is the Yamaha GL1.
Banjolele (Banjo Ukuleles)
If you’re wondering how a banjo and a ukulele got mixed up, it’s been popular since the 1920s. All you need to know about Banjoleles or Banjo Ukuleles is that they have a vintage look and it is awesome.
Banjoleles are basically ukuleles with the body of a banjo. These ukes are tied with nylon strings and create a much crispier, louder tone than regular ukuleles. As the body is of a banjo, there is no room for the sounds to resonate. So, the sounds will not last long.
Many people possess different opinions regarding these instruments. While some love the crispiness of the sound, others are not too fond of it. That’s why we would suggest you check them out properly before buying yourself one.
A bass ukulele is just a miniature version of a bass guitar with the body of a baritone ukulele. Due to their size, bass ukuleles have a relatively shorter scale than a regular bass guitar.
These ukuleles use polyurethane strings which create a very upright bass tone. Bass ukes come in both acoustic and electric versions. If you want the best experience, then we’d advise you to go for the electric ones.
Electric ukuleles perform the same as an electric guitar. However, they come in two versions. One is the acoustic-electric version and the other one is full electric.
An acoustic-electric ukulele is just your generic ukulele with an input jack that can be used to plug it into an amp. Sometimes, they come with tuning panels, volume controls, etc.
The electric ukulele is just a small version of an electric guitar. The non-resonant body of an electric ukulele is made of solid wood and can create amazing sounds when plugged into an amp. So, if you’re thinking about buying an electric uke, make sure to count the amp cost as well.
Unique Ukulele Types
Apart from all the variants mentioned above, there are some other ukeleles that possess a unique quality of their own. Let’s take a look at those, shall we?
A Resophonic Ukulele aka resonator ukes comes with a built-in metal resonator with the body. These ukes come in metal or wooden bodies and each version produces a different sound than the other. This can be a very good companion to record or play blues.
The archtop ukuleles were created taking inspiration from the archtop guitars. However, these ukuleles only look the guitars. The sounds they produce are very similar to regular ukuleles.
Instead of the classical, common ukulele shape – these types possess a somewhat pineapple-shaped body. Most of the models of this type have some sort of cool design or tattoo etched onto the body (around the sound hole) which gives a very sleek look. However, this unique shape of the ukulele helps produce a louder and stronger resonance than standard ones.
From the origin of ukuleles and all the way to the different types, the popularity of ukuleles has only grown over years. The world of ukuleles is vast. But now, you have stepped into it as well. When you finally decide to buy one, you will certainly be a step ahead of everyone!