Ukuleles come in different sizes, and the concert ukulele is a few inches bigger than the popular soprano ukuleles. To the untrained eye, it would be difficult to pinpoint the difference as most of them share the same traditional classic design. However, the slight difference with the size would determine its ukulele type. Many people are shocked when they discovered that there are three other types of ukulele aside from the soprano ukulele.
Just like in most musical instruments, the classic soprano ukulele evolved into something different. Sometime in the 1920s, the concert ukuleles were developed. They tweaked with the size, and as a result, it affected the sound that it produces. Experienced ukulele players would often call the concert type as the Goldilocks ukulele – not too small and not too big.
Basic Features of a Concert Ukulele
A couple of inches may not be a huge thing for other instruments, but when it comes to playing the ukulele, the extra room on the fretboard gives the player a different level of comfort. Concert ukuleles are a bit longer, with the neck a little bit wider, and it weighs a little bit heavier than the traditional soprano ukuleles.
If unable to spot the difference by just looking at it, just remember that the total length of the concert ukulele is 23 inches, the soprano ukulele is 21 inches, and the tenor is 26 inches. It is somewhere in between the soprano and tenor, so if unsure of what to choose, this is the best compromise.
Sound and Tone
Concert ukuleles are also known as super soprano ukuleles as it produces a brighter sound than that of the traditional soprano ukulele. Whenever played, the tones are fuller and richer, which was why it was so aptly named. However, do not think that they are only used during concerts. It is the manufacturer’s way of distinguishing it from the soprano ukulele.
In ukuleles, the bigger the size the more volume it will produce. When compared to a tenor ukulele, it makes a less vibrant sound as the concert ukulele is inches smaller in length and frame. That being said, the concert ukuleles are still in high demand as more people prefer the sparkly tone that it creates. Although, it is wise to remember that the wood that was used to create the ukulele has an impact on how it will sound when played. For instance, a solid high-graded wood used in a concert ukulele will undoubtedly generate better sound than a tenor ukulele made of cheap wood laminate.
Scale Length Effect
The concert ukulele generally has a 15″ scale. This measurement would refer to the distance between the saddle part and the nut part of the ukulele. It can also refer to the whole section of the strings from the top of the neck up to the end of the bridge.
Just like in guitars, when the ukulele has a longer scale length, it would mean higher string tension is needed to create the same pitch. The fingers would feel that the strings are tighter than those in a shorter scale length. Also, if the scale length is longer then obviously, the gaps between the frets would be a little wider, which is perfect for those with bigger hands.
Length of the Concert Uke Fretboard
Longer scale lengths would also mean more frets or the metal bars on the fretboard. The concert ukulele is called super soprano because it can reach higher notes than the traditional soprano ukulele. The extra number of frets is responsible for this advantage. A regular soprano uke would have between 12 to 15 frets while a concert uke would have 15 to 20 frets. The more frets would mean more notes to be played. Even handling the ukulele is more comfortable with a longer neck.
Types of Wood Used
Generally, ukulele manufacturers would either use solid wood or laminated wood in producing the instrument. Entry-level ukuleles are often made of laminated wood as they are more affordable and can be replaced easily when damaged. Solid wood is sturdier and produces a richer sound because it can freely vibrate but is sensitive to temperature changes, and so it needs extra care.
It is quite easy to distinguished one from the other by just looking at the soundhole of the ukulele. If you see layered thin pieces of wood glued together, it is laminated.
Most ukuleles are made of five types of wood, including Rosewood, Ovangkol, Mahogany, Spruce, and Koa. From these five, Koa wood would give the most classic Hawaiian ukulele sweet, mellow sound. Some prefer Rosewood as it gives out a very bright sound and is one of the most recognized tonal woods globally. Ovangkol is quite similar to Rosewood.
Mahogany, on the other hand, produces medium to heavy sound but has a soft and warm balance to it. If you prefer warm and controlled volume with darker tones, Cedarwood is the best option, particularly for finger stylists. Spruce wood is closer to Cedar but crisper with a bass response and would be best for continuous strumming.
Special Concert Ukuleles
1) Resonator Uke
Just like in many other musical instruments, hybrids are developed from traditional instruments. One of them is the Resonator ukulele, which is sometimes called the Dobro ukulele, but the term “Dobro” has been trademarked by Gibson Guitar Corp. Instead of a wooden soundboard on the face of the ukulele, it has an aluminum cone.
This type of ukulele hybrid was developed to increase the sound that it produces by John Dopyera. Generally, it uses nylon, fluorocarbon, and nylgut strings just like with regular ukulele, but some manufacturers produced a resonator uke specifically to be used with steel strings.
One of the most popular hybrids is Luna Banjolele. It is half ukulele and half Banjo. The banjolele was first seen back in 1917 but became popular by the 1920s to ‘30s. Basically, the tuning, scale length, and playing style are adopted from ukulele, but the construction, as well as the unique sound, was taken from a banjo instrument. Just like with resonator, it has evolved into this hybrid due to the need of musicians back then to be able to play with ease similar to uke but with the loud sound of a banjo.
A typical Luna Banjolele 8” features a mahogany neck, a rosewood fretboard, 15.5” concert scale, 12-piece bracket, and 1-9/16” nut. It is tuned similarly to a concert ukulele.
FAQ on Concert Ukulele
Is Concert Ukulele good for beginners?
The longer scale length size of the concert ukulele is an advantage for people with bigger hands. Some beginners struggle with the soprano ukulele as the gaps between frets are quite tight. While it is not bad to have a shorter scale, it would always boil down to personal preference.
Basically, as a whole, the ukulele is one of the easiest instruments to play. It has soft nylon strings that are quite easy on the fingers unlike those used in guitars. The wrist would not feel the same tension as the strings are gentler making it is easier to reach certain notes without stretching your fingers. It helped that the ukulele has only four strings, to begin with, and that would mean easier chords and scales to play with.
The concert ukulele being a bit bigger would mean more room for your fingers, and that makes all the difference in playing the instrument comfortably. Beginners would be more comfortable using this instrument.
Is it Easy to Tune a Concert Uke?
Tuning the strings in ukulele may differ depending on the size of the instrument. Generally, concert ukulele along with soprano and tenor are tuned using the standard GCEA pitch tuning. The baritone ukulele uses DGBE pitch tuning.
Tuning a concert ukulele is relatively easy. Just remember to start by loosening the strings. Most experienced players would just do it by ear, but not everyone can do it accurately. Today, musicians use a chromatic tuner where they can clip it on the instrument, and when you press a certain string, it will show the current pitch on the LED screen, thereby guiding you on what to do. Others would rely on tuner apps, but one should be in a quiet room for it to work as the app can react to all types of sounds in the background.