Ukuleles are more popular than ever, and we’re so excited! However, a lot of you still have questions about them. Here are some of the questions we get asked most often.
What are the difference between ukulele sizes? Is there a correct size for me?
There are 3 main sizes of Ukulele: Soprano, Concert, and Tenor. There is another 4th size called baritone, but it’s a little different so we’ll come to that later.
These three sizes of ukulele are all played exactly the same way and actually produce the same pitches. The real difference is only in their tone and loudness. If you’ve ever adjusted your bass and treble settings on your car stereo, you may know what I mean. The larger the ukulele, The more bass tone you’ll hear and the louder the uke will be.
Soprano is the smallest, Tenor is the largest and Concert is the Goldilocks size: right in the middle. Most pop artists nowadays use concert size ukuleles, but soprano is the most traditional sounding. For the loudest and strongest sound, choose a tenor. No matter how big or small you are, you can pretty much play any size ukulele you want! Choose one that will fit your musical style and personality!
For more on Baritones see the Baritone FAQ below.
What are the string names (notes)?
When looking directly at the front of the ukelele, from left to right the strings are G-C-E-A.
How hard is it to tune a ukelele? How do I tune? How often do I need to tune?
Tuning a ukulele is something you can learn to do fairly easily even with no musical experience in a matter of minutes. But, you’ll most likely want the assistance of a tuner until you learn how to do it by ear (which can take a long time!).
You can use a tuning app on your smartphone (there are several free ones on the market!), but for the most accurate tuning, you may consider using a clip-on tuner that reads vibrations instead of relying on a cheap smartphone microphone.
You tune by tightening and loosening the tuning pegs on the headstock of your ukulele. Tighten or loosen the string until the pitch matches the correct note for the string and then fine tune it until your tuner tells you it is exactly centered on that pitch. (See video below for detailed instructions on tuning.)
Tuning is constant part of playing ukulele and how often you must tune depends on a lot of factors, but I tune my ukulele every single time I play it, which means sometimes I tune multiple times a day! No matter how nice your ukulele is, you will ALWAYS have to tune it regularly.
Is ukulele similar to guitar?
Yes- Ukulele is fairly similar to guitar. For all you guitarists out there, playing a ukulele is kind of like playing a guitar that is missing the low E and A strings with a Capo on the 5th fret, so you may recognize some shapes and patterns from guitar. However, they will sound a lot higher.
A Baritone Ukulele is exactly like the highest 4 strings of a guitar (DGBE) so it’s very very similar to guitar.
Overall, the techniques used in ukulele and guitar have a lot of overlap, the main difference being that picking is not as common with the ukulele. It usually played fingerstyle or with a bare hand or thumb.
Is ukulele easy/hard to play?
The ukelele is easy to pick up but hard to master.
Ukulele is widely considered among musicians to be a fantastic beginner string instrument because you can be off and playing almost immediately. Because there’s only 4 strings and they are a lot easier to hold down than most string instruments, you’ll have a lot less frustration starting ukulele than guitar or violin.
That being said, ukulele music can get just as difficult as any other instrument’s music as you progress in your skills and continue to seek out more complex techniques and music.
Do I need a teacher?
If you already have experience in music (e.g. you play another instrument) then no. You will most likely not need a ukulele teacher.
If ukulele is your first instrument and you are under 12 you may consider finding someone to at least show you the basics. If you are above age 12, you can probably teach yourself with a ukulele method book or by watching some online ukulele teachers.
Baritone ukuleles are the “odd man out” in the ukulele world but are so fun and unique sounding. The strings from left to right are D-G-B-E, which are the same as the highest four strings on a guitar.
If you’re a guitarist, you will pick up baritone ukulele very easily. If you already play another size ukulele, you will also pick up baritone very easily. The chord shapes that you already know will still sound good– they just have different names on baritone. Baritone ukuleles are essentially like mini guitars. They possess a wider tonal range than other ukuleles while still maintaining the portability of a ukulele.
Bass ukuleles are somewhat similar to mini electric bass guitars. They use a particularly special type of string that is very thick in order to produce their low tones. Usually they are tuned like a bass guitar (E-A-D-G), but sometimes they are tuned like a standard ukulele (G-C-E-A).
Bass ukuleles are perfect for a bassist looking for a more portable option than a big bass guitar.
I'm a beginner. Which ukulele should I buy?
Here is a flowchart that may help you to decide which one of our ukuleles to buy if you are lost. Every case is unique and this chart will not provide a definite answer, but it can be a great starting point!