If unfamiliar with ukuleles, one might wonder if there really is that much of a difference between a soprano and concert ukulele because size-wise, one is only a bit bigger than the other when put side by side. You will discover a whole lot of difference between the two. It might not mean much to some, but if you want to learn more about the ukulele and you are interested in playing one, knowing what they are can help you determine which one is best for you.
Ukulele is a four-string instrument from Hawaii with its roots that can be traced back to the machete instrument that was brought by the Portuguese immigrants to the archipelago back in the 19th century. Its unique sound made it popular among the locals that they adopted it to their culture, and variations were made over time, resulting in four major types or sizes, such as the soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone, with the first two being the most widely used. The concert uke is said to have been developed in the 1920s after the soprano as people wanted to have a deeper tone in their ukulele.
Major Differences Between Soprano and Concert Ukulele
Each one has its own charm, so it would not be right to generalize that one is better than the other for everyone or every player. It would be a matter of preference on what you think will be the right size for you as you discover the major difference between them in terms of price, size, sound, tuning, and playability.
As ukuleles come in a variety of designs, shapes, features, and materials used, it means that their prices would differ as well. There would naturally be soprano and concert ukuleles that are expensive and those that are easy on the budget. However, you would find that soprano is more popular and widely available, making it cheaper than the concert. People who are interested in learning to play this instrument but not sure of their level of commitment to it or if they are going to like it, would not invest so much on their first uke; they would usually get the soprano, which is considered the standard ukulele.
A soprano has an average size of 21 inches or 53 cm, with the scale length or the distance between the saddle and nut being 13 inches or 33 cm. Because of its short fingerboard, it only has 12-15 frets with a narrow space in between frets. A concert, on the other hand, has an average size of 23 inches or 58 cm and a scale length of 15 inches or 38 cm with 15-18 frets that has a bit more space between frets.
The soprano has a smaller body and shorter neck when compared to the concert, which is wider and thicker all around. They are both light in weight although the concert is slightly heavier than the other. Although the difference is only a couple or a few inches, the effect on the sound and playability is quite noticeable.
The cheerful and bright sound of the ukulele is what makes it different from other string instruments. With the soprano and concert not having the same size, there would be a difference in the sounds they produce. Having a smaller body means that the soprano has a smaller resonating surface resulting in a higher pitch or a plinky sound. It would sound best when strumming chords. Sometimes, as you move up the neck, the sound would get out of tune.
The concert, which is a bit bigger, wider, and has more depth, would have more resonance so that the sound would be mid-range and a bit more bass. It would sound great not just with playing chords but also with some single notes. The sound stays in tune even as you move up the neck because of having a longer and wider neck.
The ease with which you can play the soprano vs. concert for some might depend on whether or not they have small or big hands. Having a shorter and narrow neck means less spacing in between frets and in between strings. This would make it a tad difficult for people with big hands or fingers to play comfortably, especially if they are just starting to get a feel of playing this instrument. Others find the concert uke more ideal for playing simply because it has a slightly bigger body and a longer neck. However, people who are serious about learning to play uke would not mind playing with either one because it becomes easier the longer you practice as you get used to it.
This is where the soprano and ukulele are the same in the sense that both of them have a reentrant tuning of GCEA, which is known as the standard tuning. On ukuleles, the four strings are not ordered from the lowest pitch to the highest pitch or vice versa. The last string or the bottom-most string is usually tuned to a higher note than the one above it; it would be like high-low-high-higher. Also, given that they have different sizes and the number of frets, the range of notes would vary in that soprano would be C4-A5 while the concert would be C4-C6.
Which Ukulele Is Best For Beginner?
In general, the soprano ukulele can be for anyone who wants to enjoy that traditional classic tune of the uke that one is most familiar with. Because of its smaller size, some said it is easier to play the concert ukulele, which is slightly bigger and longer. However, this is a matter of personal preference. It might not work for others, but it might work for you and vice versa.
As a beginner, it is advisable that you try each one to see how it feels in your hands when you strum the strings and do chords. Just make sure that the quality of your uke is good so that you would not have to deal with it getting out of tune often. It does not have to be expensive. When you search online, you would have plenty of options.
It is quite easy to learn how to play one whether you are using a soprano or concert, especially if you start with simple chords or tunes. However, it would take months to be able to play comfortably; it would also depend on how much you practice.