The ukulele is a musical instrument that resembles a small guitar. Movies, television shows and even commercials that are intended to take place in Hawaii often show ukulele players, as they were invented and made popular in Hawaii. Ukulele players are typically shown with a soprano ukulele, but there are actually four types of ukuleles. The concert and tenor versions are both popular and have different useful qualities.
Ukuleles are stringed instruments that were invented in Hawaii. They are the modern version of small guitars that were made or imported by Portuguese workers who were recruited to work in Hawaiian sugar cane fields in the 1880s. Ukuleles typically have four strings and come in four different sizes: soprano, concert, tenor and baritone. The soprano is the smallest and the baritone is the largest. The baritone is more like a traditional guitar; its four strings are tuned the same way as the top four strings of a guitar: D, G, B and E. The soprano is the version that is most well-known.
A typical soprano ukulele is about 21 inches long. A concert ukulele is 3 inches longer, at about 24 inches, and has a slightly larger body. The four strings on a typical concert ukulele are tuned to G, C, E and A, just like the smaller soprano version. This ukulele projects much better than a soprano ukulele; that is, it is much easier to hear in a live setting than a soprano. Because this ukulele is larger, it is much easier to hold, and the strings are farther apart than on a soprano ukulele, which makes it easier to play complex chords.
A tenor ukulele is about 26 inches long, 2 inches longer than the concert. Like the soprano and concert ukuleles, it is tuned to G, C, E and A. It has some of the same advantages that a concert ukulele has in that it is larger than a soprano, making it both easier to hold and easier to play complex chords on. This is the type that a professional ukulele player is most likely to use.
Concert and tenor ukuleles have the same tuning and are played the same way. However, a tenor ukulele is larger than a concert ukulele. Tenor ukuleles have a warmer tone than concert ukuleles and are suitable for a wide range of music genres. They are also desirable for recording purposes. Tenors have a longer scale, or area where the strings can be played, and thus a larger range of notes than a concert, making them more versatile. This quality makes the tenor ukulele more desirable for professional musicians. However, the concert ukulele's smaller size makes it easier to handle than the tenor. It is used often for live performances, as the name "concert" suggests. Concerts are typically chosen by players who want a traditional light ukulele sound but with good volume.
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