Is it a guitar?

Many people think that the ukulele is just a small guitar, but it is quite different! It is also a string instrument that is played by plucking or strumming, but instead of having six strings, it has four and they are made out of nylon! It is much easier to press down on these strings, and most often requires just a couple of fingers to play a chord. Because of this, the ukulele is extremely popular for young learners.

Recommended age?

The recommended age for ukulele is as young as six years old. Some five year olds are able to grasp the concept but it can be hard to have strength in their fingers at this age. My recommendation is to be six-eight years old when beginning.

What you learn/what to expect:

Ukuleles are celebrated for their "happy" sound. It is difficult to play a sad tune when you have the ukulele! In lessons, the instructor will encourage some reading of tab and possibly sight-reading, but the main focus is ukulele strumming patterns and chords. 

Different types of Ukuleles

Soprano, Concert, and Tenor Size Comparisons

Soprano Ukulele

The soprano ukulele is also known as the “standard” size, based on the traditional ukulele sizing. The design was established from similar instruments brought to Hawaii by Portuguese immigrants in the late 1870’s. Soprano is the most popular size because it is less expensive and highly portable. It has a great application as an accompaniment instrument because most of the open chords are played in the first position, within the first 5 frets. Most soprano models usually have 12 frets and are just under a 2-octave range.

Concert and Tenor Ukuleles

In the 1920s, Big Band was in full swing. To compete with the volume and sound of the Big Band instruments, the larger-bodied concert and tenor ukulele models were developed. Additionally, at this time Banjo ukuleles were introduced. These instruments are even louder than concert and tenor ukuleles. They have the same ukulele tuning, however, feature a banjo-style body with the bridge resonating on a taut head to produce a banjo-type tone.

The larger bodies of the concert and tenor size ukuleles produce more volume and a fuller sound in the middle and lower tonal ranges. The larger sizes usually have more frets, averaging 15-20, and more space on the fretboard. This allows more room for fingers when making advanced chords. As a result, the more common soprano may appear to sound higher pitched or “plinky” than the larger sizes. You may find the tenor sounds more like a guitar, even with the same tuning. The concert size produces a tone somewhere in-between!

The tenor size is preferred among many stage performers and instrumentalists as it typically has the most space between frets, the highest number of playable notes, and the fullest dynamic range.

The concert size is a good compromise between the two. It blends the physical and tonal characteristics of the soprano and tenor models together. It has more frets, like the tenor, but still retains the signature sound of the soprano – albeit with a touch more volume and tone. Some players will like this size for its good mix of the other two sizes’ traits and if their fingers may feel most comfortable on this in-between sized fretboard.