There are at least more than 10 types of ukulele based on what I found in the guitar store. The price range of the ukulele is around $50 to $1,000 because it depends on the type and quality of its construction. Typically, the ukulele type is categorized by its sizes, origins, wood materials, and uses.
Let’s learn more about the parts, builts, and wood materials of the ukulele before we dive deeper into exploring all the various ukulele types across the world.
The top part of the ukulele is the headstock. Some people will refer to it as the head. The next part is the tuning heads or tuning pegs or tuners, these tighten up the strings or loosen it up, and this brings me to the next part; the strings most ukuleles have four strings, usually tuned G-C-E-A. And holding the strings together in the right place makes sure they don’t wiggle around the part called the nut.
For the neck section of the ukulele, which extends to the body from the headstock and supports the fretboard. The fretboard, also called fingerboard, it contains the frets and sometimes has a place maker dots or other images to direct the player. The first fret comes closest to the headstock.
The body of the ukulele, we have the soundhole, which helps project the ukulele’s output; some sound holes have a rosette, which also adds a decorative element to the ensemble. The bridge is mounted on the ukulele’s top and holds the saddle. These strings are secured by knotting them on the bridge’s tail end.
Ukulele Wood Materials
Ukuleles are made from a range of wood and building techniques. There are a few made of metal or synthetic materials. Here we will cover the most widely used wood types: Koa, mahogany, spruce, cedar, redwood, rosewood, and maple.
- Koa: this thick tropical wood, originally from Hawaii, was the traditional wood choice for ukulele and is still one of the most common for its beautiful grain patterns, a wide range of colors, and a balanced tone. Botanically related to koa, acacia has similar properties.
- Mahogany: Since it contains many varieties grown in different parts of the world, its tone is difficult to generalize, but mahogany typically imparts a darker, warmer tonality.
- Spruce: Many guitar builders have started producing them using the same woods used in guitar tops, with the increasing success of ukuleles.
- Cedar: Being softer than spruce, it provides much mellower and more circular tones. It’s a good choice for binging out the lower notes that tenor and baritone ukuleles emit.
- Rosewood: This thick wood is widely used on ukulele fretboards and can also be used for ukulele bodies. Aside from its hardness, the rich coloring and figuration of rosewood will add to the ukulele’s visual appeal.
- Maple: Another wood mostly used on instruments; it has a thick grain that is attractively figured at times. Its hardness lends itself to bridges and fretboards with ukuleles.
Types of Ukeleles Based On Sizes
Most types of ukulele are categorized by its size. The four main sizes of ukuleles are
- Baritone ukulele
- Tenor ukulele
- Concert ukulele
- Soprano ukulele
For high-quality ukuleles, they are made from acacia koa or mahogany, while cheaper ones are made from plywood, plastic, or laminate woods.
The most popular and trusted brands for the ukulele are Kala, Oscar Schmidt, Cordoba, Lanikai Ukuleles, Martin& Co., and last but not least, Mahalo.
Let’s explain each size of the ukulele.
1) Baritone Ukulele
Baritone: 30 inches (full length), 19 inches (scale length), and at least 19 frets.
For the baritone ukulele, which is the largest ukulele size, it measures an overall 30 inches in height. It has the most protracted scale, which is about three inches longer than the tenor with wide fret spacing. Its neck is also more comprehensive than the tenor. All of these features are the reason why baritone is great for finger-picking. Its size is excellent for those with large hands. Also, it has a deep full sound similar to an acoustic guitar with the linear tuning D/G/B/E, which makes it an easy transition for those already familiar with a guitar.
2) Tenor Ukulele
Tenor: 26 inches (full length), 17 inches (scale length), and between 15-20 frets.
The tenor ukulele, which is about two inches long with the neck a little wider, is slightly heavier than the concert ukulele. It also allows for wider spacing between the frets because of the extra length. Its overall sound and tone are fuller and deeper that resonates. For performers, it is perfect because you get a rich, full sound, and since it has 15 frets, it can reach higher notes on the fretboard. It is commonly tuned in re-entrant or linear. The Cordoba 20TM is the best option for those with large hands or fingers.
3) Concert /Alto Ukulele
Concert: full length of 23 inches, scale length of 15 inches, and between 15-20 frets.
For the next size, we have a concert or alto ukulele, which is the next step upsize from the soprano has a length of 23 inches. Some would consider that it has a fuller sound and warmer tone and commonly tuned in standard tuning like the soprano, making the volume a bit louder. Since it is longer than the soprano, it has more tension on the strings, which can be beneficial for you if you are bending strings out of tune as you press your fingers down on the strings against the 15 – 20 frets. Besides, the frets are slightly more spaced, which allows anyone who plays this instrument to navigate to higher notes on the fretboard.
4) Soprano Ukulele
Soprano: 21 inches (full length), 13 inches (scale length), and between 12-15 frets.
Finally, the most common and standard type of ukulele is the soprano, which is the smallest than 21 inches in length. Known for its bright, jangly, and thin sound that it produces. It typically has 12 – 15 frets and a standard tuning of GCEA. Because of its short scale and tightest fret spacing, it is ideal for beginners and especially younger players with smaller hands and fingers. In comparison to other types of ukuleles, it’s usually the cheapest, which is the best bang for the buck.
Other Types of Ukuleles
5) Pineapple Ukulele
We have the Pineapple Ukulele, which has a half pineapple-shaped body. Its waist of the body is eliminated to increase the surface area of the soundboard for it to have a fuller sound. It’s standard tuning A4-D4-F#4-B4.
Sam Kamaka Sr. invented this oval-shaped uke. However, there is another reason for its shape because it is easier to make, and manufacturers don’t have to bend the sides of the wood like the normal curvature of a ukelele. Sam Kaialiilii Kamaka was the founder of the Kamaka Ukelele brand. In the 1920s, during the peak of ukes, there were several manufacturers, including Nunes, Kumale, and Kamaka. Still, when it ended in the 1930s and 40s, they all went out of business except for Kamaka Hawaii. He was a former apprentice of Manuel Nunes. After that, he began making his ukelele and selling them for $5 a piece. Within a decade, the competition was stiff but outlasted his competitors because of his pineapple-shaped uke. Fun fact about the employees of Kamaka is that half of them have a hearing impairment, which is an advantage to the makers since their heightened sense of touch determines the thickness of the koa by thumping on the wood and feeling the vibrations with their fingers. Kamaka ukuleles are hard to find outside of Hawaii, but you can buy them over the Internet at Mandolin Brothers and Bounty Music website.
6) Bass Ukulele
For the Bass Ukulele, which is very controversial because of its remarkably small size that it can fit inside your backpack but somehow produces surprisingly lovely tones. It all began from a small company known as Road Toad, whose founder is Owen Holt. While it had great potential, it was expensive for most musicians, so they teamed up with Kala, which is a well-known brand of a ukulele. The typical size of bass ranges from 30″-32” in length. For its body type, it has a hollow body and a solid body. The difference between the two is that the hollow body ukes look like an upright bass while the latter sounds more like an electric bass guitar.
To lower the string note, you don’t add length, you don’t add thickness, and last, decreasing the tension won’t work because it will only make the strings unplayable. Now the solution to this is to add density for the string to produce a deep bass note.
7) Banjo Ukulele
With the Banjo Ukulele, you can call it “banjole, banjulele, banjo uke.” This hybrid instrument is a cross between a banjo and a ukelele. It sounds like a banjo, but it is tuned in a place like a uke. This is a miniature banjo with four strings that produce a combined warmth and charm of the uke with a sharp, defined voice of a banjo.
The banjulele was made famous in England rather than in the United States because of George Formby, a British comedian. It was only in the thirties that the banjo ukulele’s popularity boomed in the United States because Alvin D. Keech introduced it in 1917. This instrument is so loud that it is often desirable to quieten them down. For this, you can attach a metal mute where you can attach it to the bridge or tune it in a lower key that will make it less loud. It is most commonly tuned in G-C-E-A. Notable manufacturers of this instrument are George S. Sandstrom, Gibson Guitar Corporation, Ludwig, Slingerland Drum Company, Kay/Stromberg-Voisinet, and John Grey & Sons.
8) Guitar Ukulele
Now we have the Guitar Ukulele or also known with other nicknames like Guitarlele and Guilele; it’s a ukulele with six strings, but what the two strings add is actually the mystery to it, so essentially, the bottom four strings are the same strings that you would find on a soprano, concert or a tenor ukulele and the tuning for the four strings would be an open A-E-C-G—so that means the guitalele is going to add a base string to it which is the fifth string now which is going to be a D. It has also added an A string to it which is now the sixth string. And because of the two extra strings, the guitalele has a wider neck. The term guitalele appeared in 1995 when Yamaha used it to market the 1/4 size classical guitar that they were trying to sell.
9) Electric Ukulele
The Electric Ukulele, as you can see, be amplified electrically, but it still can be played acoustically if not plugged. This instrument was patented by Edmund A. Arafalko on the 27th of November in the year of 2012 with a patent term of 14 years. Unlike standard ukuleles, it won’t produce hardly any sound unless it’s plugged in, but it has its advantages since they’re perfect if you want to practice late at night. It has two types: the electric ukulele that was mentioned before and the Electro-acoustic, which is kind of like a normal ukulele but has a pick-up in it, an input jack at the bottom, a panel on its side where you can find the volume and tone controls. The purpose of pick-ups detects the sound and convert its electrical impulses, which can be amplified. Another way for amplifying an acoustic ukulele is by adding a transducer pick-up. It’s really easy to install; all you have to do is attach it using a suction cup.
Now for the top eight affordable electric ukes, we have (1) Vorson FSUK, (2) Fender Ukulele ’52, (3) Epiphone Les Paul, (4) Mahalo EUK-200, (5) Eleuke Peanut, (6) Traveler Guitar Ukulele. For the high-end brands, we have (1) Blue Star Guitar Company, (2) Les Paul, (3) Risa, (4) Mann, and (5) Ukelation.
10) Harp Ukulele
The Harp Ukulele is a very special type of ukulele that was produced by two unique individuals. It has unfretted strings that extend from the body that forms a miniature harp guitar. The first best harp that was created by Chris Knutsen from Norwegia, known as the pioneering inventor of the “One-Armed Guitar.” It was patented in Oregon, specifically Port Townsend, in 1896. Knutsen was known for his outlandish instruments, which were poorly understood up until he died in 1930.
And since he was residing in Seattle in 1906, he was at the right time and place since it was the peak of the ukulele business. It is still unsure of when Knutsen built his first harp uke, but the earliest confirmed date is 1913-1914. Now we have modern makers who are Anuenue (Taiwan), DL Noble (USA), Emerald Guitars (Ireland), GRENOSI (Austria), Jay Buckey (Ukraine), Makoto Trusuta (Japan), Michael Dunn (Canada), Thomas Emmett Owen (Hawaii) and Ziegenspeck (Wales).
11) Resonator Ukulele
The Resonator Ukulele, or in other terms, “resophonic ukulele,” a descendant of the resonator guitar, which is designed to be louder than standard acoustic guitars. But with the resonator uke, you’ll have a different tone quality and an unusual appearance. There are different varieties of resonator ukuleles like the “National style,” which has a distinctive metal cone and f-holes in the front of the instrument. They made it in the early 1930s. Famous players of this instrument include Bob Brownian and Del Rey. Other notable brands of the resonator uke are Kala, Gold Tone, Beltona, Mya-Moe Ukuleles, Del Vecchio, etc.
12) Archtop Ukulele
Lastly, Archtop Ukulele is a particular type of ukulele that is perfect for jazz players. It is ideal for expanding the variety of sounds in duos or musical chamber styles in Jazz. The tuning of this instrument is G-C-E-A, which allows you to play voicings that are big band-like. It has three different sizes, concert, tenor, and baritone.