Well you have reached that point in life where it is time to make THAT decision, you know, the big one. That life altering choice of whether you want a soprano or concert ukulele. Ok, so it’s not that big of deal, but clearly you have been pondering and here you are. There is good news and bad news in this decision, the bad being you have to make a choice now. The good news is that within a few years you will be so addicted to ukuleles that you will have a soprano, concert, tenor, baritone, and maybe even a bass ukulele (for the truly diehard ukulele fanatics!). In the meantime we will go over some of the differences that might help you in your decision.
What is the main difference between soprano and concert ukulele?1 The size is really the noticeable factor, one which effects the sound and playability. A soprano is 53 cm (21in) and a concert is 58 cm (23in). The original ukulele is the soprano, that is the standard for uke’s. In the 1920’s players wanted a louder and deeper sound, so they created the concert. That slightly larger size really has a decent sound difference. It’s not an incredible change but one enough that some people have a preference when it comes to soprano vs concert ukulele. 💡 See also our Tenor Vs Soprano and Concert vs Tenor articles. 2 Both sizes have the same re-entrant tuning of GCEA. This tuning is not like a guitar or piano low to high. The ukulele goes high, low, high, higher, which can be a real hassle for beginners. The ukulele is so easy to play but for a beginner just tuning it can be daunting. So whether you pick a concert or soprano ukulele you will dealing with the same stringing and tuning issues for both. 3 The concert is often given credit for being easier to play because it has larger fret spaces and is more forgiving for a new student. While the psychology of that makes sense, the reality doesn’t. Small frets or even “fat fingers” really don’t matter as much as people think. The mandolin is a far more compact instrument than a soprano ukulele and players manage it fine. Tiny Tim was actually a tall fella and he and no problem playing a soprano. So yes in the concert vs soprano ukulele battle there is more room on the larger concert, but it is not as big a deal as you might think. Practice and dedication will get you playing the smallest of instruments, even the sopranino! 4 At the end of the day the main deciding factor in concert vs soprano ukulele is the sound. If you are a purist and want that original Hawaiian oo-koo-leh-leh sound and vibe? Then your decision is made, it’s going to be a soprano! As mentioned, it is the original, the icon, “Ray’s Pizza the one on 11th”. A concert on the other hand adds to that sound, making it louder and fuller. If you do decide to choose the concert you can give it more of a soprano sound by tuning it up one step from GCEA to ADF#B. This higher tuning was popular on ukuleles in the 30’s and gives it that original sound and feel. If you are going to be playing your ukulele for an audience or recording than the concert is a wise decision. However if you get a soprano you can always put a pickup in giving it incredible sound potential.
There isn’t much for pros and cons in this choice. They are highly interchangeable and if you can play one, you can play the other. Yeah usually in soprano ukulele vs concert, the latter is the louder and fuller sound. However go pick up an expensive and vintage Martin soprano from years ago and it might likely blow away any concert you could afford. If one of the minor reasons mentioned above tickle your fancy, then by all means you have your choice made. Now if we were making the decision of soprano or concert ukulele for beginners, then we would likely go with concert. The extra space lets them feel they have room to spare and it is a little louder for hearing chords better.
If you are still not sure of who wins in the soprano vs concert ukulele battle, well we have one last piece of advice. Flip a coin! In all absolute seriousness, let fate decide. 🎲 Even if you have never played or held a soprano or concert ukulele you will be completely happy with the purchase of either of them. In fact, you will eventually own both. And develop preferences for each length and pitch, depending on the song being played. George Harrison was said to carry two ukuleles wherever he went, just in case he found someone else who could play. That sounds like a great idea and goal. In the meantime take your pick and start playing! 🎼