The ukulele has found popularity in the last decade. That’s no surprise since the little fretted string instrument is easy to play and there are also many free resources online to learn popular songs. However, you may want to go deeper into mastering the ukulele or uke in short. You might have been inspired by the likes of Paul McCartney, Eddie Vedder to Jason Mraz who have used the uke with astounding mastery. If you have decided to take ukulele lessons, we share with you the types of uke available so as to help you choose your first ukulele.
The Types of Ukuleles
There are four standard sizes of ukulele and tonal ranges from soprano, concert, tenor to baritone.
The soprano ukulele is the smallest one in the family. It is also the original uke. With a scale length of 13” and 21” in overall length, it is ideal for beginners and also for kids. The soprano’s sound is one we associate with the ukulele and manufacturer’s also call it the standard uke.
The concert ukulele has a deeper and louder sound than the soprano, though it still sounds like the standard uke. While the tenor ukulele has an even deeper and more resonant sound. The tenor has more space on the fingerboard that can accommodate bigger fingers and hands.
The largest ukulele is like a guitar. It has deeper bass notes than the other ukes. It’s tuned like the four highest strings on a guitar and is an easy instrument to transition to for a guitarist.
Types of Wood
The sound of the ukulele is the result of its body shape, size, soundhole size, tuning, and type of strings. There is no perfect wood for making a ukulele. That being said, higher quality ukuleles are made with solid woods while the more affordable ones are made with laminates. Laminates are several thin layers of wood glued together and sometimes topped with attractively grained veneers.
Ukuleles made of laminates tend to be stronger and less prone to splitting and cracking while solid-wood made ukes mellows with age, producing richer tones. Laminate on the other hand sounds the same throughout its lifespan.
Commonly Used Tonewoods
Choosing the wood for your ukulele can be overwhelming with many different types of wood available. We break down the types of wood used to make the uke and hope it can help relieve some of your doubts when purchasing your first ukulele.
Spruce is a top choice of guitar makers and the dense grain of spruce produces loud and bright tones with lots of “zing” in the tone.
It is softer than spruce and so it produces more mellow and round tones. It is ideal in bringing out the lower notes produced by tenor and baritone ukuleles.
A tropical wood native to Hawaii, it is the traditional wood choice for ukuleles and is still among the most popular for its beautiful range of colors and balanced tone.
Often used on the uke’s fretboards, it can also be used on the ukulele’s body. Rosewood often adds to the ukulele’s visual appeal.
Redwood offers the clarity of spruce and the warmth of cedar. However, redwood is scarce and can be expensive Most redwood used in making musical instruments come from old furniture.
Mahogany is grown in many regions of the world and consists of many varieties, thus it does not have a distinct tone. However, it generally produces a darker and warmer tonality. Mahogany is often used to make the necks of ukuleles.
Finding the right ukulele for you depends on the size which you feel comfortable with, and the type of sound that appeals to you. Playing the uke is fun and now that you know the different types of ukuleles and the material used to make them, let your heart and ears guide you to your perfect first ukulele.