10 Types of Ukuleles: Your Guide to Different Sounds

The ukulele is a small stringed instrument. It has recently gained more popularity than ever before. Four types of ukuleles that are well known are the soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone. Each type has its unique sound and size.

But there are many more types of ukuleles that have yet to be discovered by most people. Which type of ukulele is best for you depends on your individual preferences. Some people prefer the smaller soprano ukuleles. While others find the more prominent tenor ukes more comfortable to play.

In this article, we are going to explore the many different types of ukuleles. We’ll also touch on their sizes and sounds. After reading this article, you should have a good idea of which ukulele is best for you and where you can buy one.

Types of Ukuleles

As the popularity of the ukulele grows, so does the number of manufacturers. This has led to a wide variety of ukuleles on the market, each with its own unique sound. In this section, we are going to explore the many types of ukuleles. I am sure that you will be surprised at just how many there are!

Standard Ukuleles

Standard Ukuleles

Soprano

The soprano ukulele is the smallest type. It usually has a total length of around 21 inches. It’s also tuned to the key of C. The small size of the soprano ukulele makes it very portable. This is one of the reasons why it’s so popular.

It also makes it very affordable. If you are looking for a ukulele on a budget, then the soprano uke is a great option. However, the small size of this ukulele type can make it difficult for some people to play.

If you have large hands, we recommend that you try out a concert ukulele. The increased size of the concert uke will make it much easier for you to use.

The soprano is the most traditional type of ukulele, and it’s often what people think of when they think of a uke. The small size and unique sound of the soprano make it a great choice for any ukulele player.

Concert

The concert ukulele is slightly larger than the soprano type and normally has a length of 23 inches. The concert uke is tuned to the key of C, just like the soprano. It has a richer, fuller sound and is better suited for more complex melodies and chords.

The concert ukulele is also louder than the soprano uke. If you are looking for a ukulele that has more volume, then the concert model is definitely the way to go.

And because it’s a bit bigger than the soprano, it can be easier to play if you have bigger hands. If you find that your fingers are just too long for a soprano, we recommend that you try out a concert ukulele. This is especially good for beginners and should be considered first.

Do you need a pick to play ukulele? Click here!

Tenor

The tenor ukulele is the second-largest type of uke. Its length is 26 inches and shares the same tuning as the concert type. The large size of the tenor ukulele makes it comfortable for some to play and more difficult for others.

If you have small hands or short fingers, then one of the smaller types will work better. The decreased size will make it much easier for you to reach all the notes. The larger size does project more volume. It should be considered when this is an issue with one of the other types. This is also a very popular size for beginners looking for their first ukulele.

Baritone

The baritone ukulele is the largest. It’s tuned to the key of D and has a length of about 30 inches. The large size and lower tuning of this type give it a very warm and loud tone, which puts it in a category of its own.

It’s a very fun instrument to play, but does present a tougher learning curve due to the size and tuning. This type is not suggested for beginners as a result. We suggest the tenor or concert ukuleles instead when getting started.

Who are the best Ukulele brands? Click here to find out!

Bass Ukulele

Bass Ukulele

The bass ukulele is the largest and lowest-pitched uke. It’s typically tuned to E-A-D-G, which is the same as a standard bass guitar. The bass ukulele has a rich, full sound that is perfect for playing deep chords and melodies.

This ukulele type was first introduced to the market by Kala in 2009. Essentially, this is a baritone body-shaped bass guitar with a smaller scale length. As a result of the smaller scale length, the thick strings feel floppy as the tension on them is low.

The most popular model of bass ukulele is the Kala U-Bass. It’s available in a variety of different wood types such as mahogany, maple, and spruce. There are also many different color options available for the U-Bass. So you can definitely find one that suits your style.

There are pickups and electronics normally built into them to amplify their signal. This is because there is very little volume due to the tuning and string tension. Once amplified, the sound can be compared to an upright bass guitar!

Read our article, Is ukulele easier than guitar?

Guitalele

Guitalele

Guitalele or ukulele guitar is similar to a classical acoustic. But it’s slightly smaller and has a higher pitch. It can be tuned like a guitar with six strings. But has an arrangement of A-D-G-C-E-A. This is the equivalent timbre of having a guitar with a capo on the fifth fret. The pitch, thus, is higher.

This makes the guitalele very versatile, as it can be used for both guitar and ukulele songs. The guitalele is a great choice for travel, as it’s small and lightweight but still has a full, rich sound. It’s also a great choice for children, as the smaller size and higher pitch make it easier to play.

The strings are made of nylon. This is much softer sounding and resembles a classical acoustic guitar. So if you can play the guitar, then this is a great hybrid to pick up if you are interested in the ukulele.

Take a look at all the different ukulele sizes here!

Solid Body Electric Ukulele

Solid Body Electric Ukulele

The electric ukulele is a fairly new invention, first appearing on the market in the early 2000s. These ukes are designed to be played through an amplifier. This gives them a much louder sound than acoustic ukuleles. Electric ukuleles are available in both soprano and concert sizes.

They have a solid wood body, which means they don’t make much sound unless plugged into an amplifier. They also come with either nylon or steel strings, so this will also determine their volume and sound.

The solid-body electric ukulele is a great choice for those who want to rock out. If you want a ukulele that can be played unplugged, you should choose an acoustic uke instead.

Acoustic-Electric Ukulele

Acoustic-Electric Ukulele

Acoustic-electric ukuleles have a built-in pickup. This allows them to be played through an amplifier. Acoustic-electric ukuleles are available in soprano, concert, and tenor sizes. Some come with controls that allow you to adjust sound and volume and even have a built-in tuner.

An acoustic-electric ukulele is a great choice if you’re looking for the best of both worlds. These ukes offer the traditional sound of an acoustic ukulele. All with the added convenience of being able to plug into an amplifier. Acoustic-electric ukuleles are available in all standard sizes. Thus, you can find one that’s just right for you.

Just be aware that they are normally more expensive. This is due to the electronics and options that come with the ukulele.

Banjolele

Banjolele

The banjolele, also known as the uke-banjo. It’s a four-stringed musical instrument with a banjo-like body and a ukulele-like neck. It was created in the early 1900s and was used by British comedian and musician George Formby. He used it as his signature instrument.

The banjolele is most commonly tuned in GCEA, like a ukulele. But it can also be tuned in other ways, such as DGBE like a guitar, or ADF#B like a mandolin. The instrument typically has an 8-10″ diameter head and 16-18″ scale length with 16 frets.

The banjolele is a brighter-sounding instrument than the ukulele. Primarily due to its metal strings. It has a more jangly, banjo-like sound. It’s a popular choice for ukulele players who want to add a different sound to their repertoire.

Resonator Ukulele

Resonator Ukulele

A resonator ukulele is exactly what you think it is. A ukulele that has a resonator attached to the body. This gives the ukulele a louder, fuller sound as the resonator almost acts like a speaker. These are usually played unplugged. But they can be used with an amplifier for a bigger sound if equipped with electronics. But this is rare and pretty much custom.

Resonator ukuleles are great for players who want something with a bigger sound. They are essentially scaled-down guitars with 4 strings. They are also well suited for genres of music that need a louder ukulele, such as country or bluegrass.

Do you plan on playing unplugged most of the time and need more volume? Then a resonator ukulele is a great option.

Archtop Ukulele

Archtop Ukulele

There are many different types of ukuleles, including the archtop uke. As its name suggests, the archtop ukulele has an arched top. This gives it a distinctive appearance. The arched top also helps to improve the ukulele’s sound quality. This is by providing greater resonance.

This is especially popular with jazz music as the tone is more mellow but very rich sounding. The arch top is inspired by the guitar and doesn’t really transfer over to the ukulele well. But it does make a small impact.

Archtop ukuleles are generally more expensive than other types. Yet, they are worth the investment if you are serious about playing this instrument. Especially if you include electronics in the build and design.

Harp Ukulele

Harp Ukulele

The Harp ukulele is a type that has a unique design. It’s somewhat triangular and has strings that run along an arm as well as a neck. This gives the harp ukulele a distinctive sound that is different from other ukes. The harp ukulele is also small, which makes it very portable.

This design is hard to miss! But is also not very common. You might see the harp ukulele in an ensemble or even as a solo instrument. Looking for something different in sound and design? The harp ukulele is definitely worth trying.

8-String Ukulele

8-String Ukulele

Another interesting and unique ukulele is the 8-string version. It’s like a 12-string acoustic guitar, where the extra strings enhance the tone. Each string set is tuned to be an octave apart, except for the E and A. 

But there are many ways to tune this ukulele. Experimentation could uncover some great sounds. This is primarily used for strumming, as picking single notes is a bit challenging.

An 8-string ukulele is a great option for players who want to add more depth to their sound. If you’re looking for a ukulele with a unique sound and are up to the challenge, then check it out!

Other Ukulele Types

There are a few other ukulele types that we didn’t mention above. They are worth considering should you be interested in finding something unique. They include:

  • Lap Steel Ukulele
  • Travel
  • 5-String
  • 6-String
  • Tahitian Ukulele
  • Long Neck Ukulele

Many builders are coming out with new designs due to their increasing popularity. I’m sure you will find some that even we were not aware of.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are many different ukulele types to choose from. And each ukulele has its own distinct sound, appearance, and purpose. As you shop for ukuleles, keep in mind what type of music you want to play and what sounds you want to produce. With so many options available, you’re sure to find the perfect ukulele for you!

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Don East

My name is Don East, I'm the editor for Killer Rig. I've been playing guitar for over 20 years and have designed and manufactured products like guitar amps, effects pedals, and more. Over the years I have played in many bands and have a deep love for quality gear. I am an electrical engineer and have a passion for music gear, and now want to share what I know with the community!