Soprano Vs. Tenor Ukuleles

by Cara Batema Google
Use a ukulele in your band for variety of sound.

Use a ukulele in your band for variety of sound.

Jupiterimages/ Images

Many people think that ukuleles are simply tiny guitars, but they are their own instrument. The ukulele was brought to Hawaii by Portuguese immigrants in 1879. It is now one of Hawaii's most popular instruments. The ukulele is used in modern rock and folk music, and many players appreciate its size, portability and light sound. The ukulele differs from the guitar in its size and number strings; the ukulele has four string to a guitar's six. There are many varieties of ukuleles, including the soprano and tenor ukuleles.


The soprano ukulele is the size most people think of when imagining a ukulele. Soprano ukuleles are typically around 21 inches long and have the highest sound. The concert ukulele is similar to the soprano ukulele and is tuned the same. The concert ukulele is about 23 inches long. Since it is bigger, it has a slightly louder tone, which is ideal for performances. It is easy to confuse the soprano and concert ukulele, and they are often thought of as the same instrument. The strings are tuned to the pitches G, C, E and A.


The tenor ukulele is less common than the soprano. They are about 26 inches long and are usually tuned differently because of their larger size. The strings are tuned to the pitches D, G, B and E. The tenor ukulele also tends to have more frets, so you have more notes to play and different chord voicings. The tenor ukulele has more sound because it is a bigger instrument than a soprano ukulele, and it is also ideal for performances because it is louder and has a nice tone.

Tone and Quality

The smaller the instrument, the higher it will sound. Soprano ukuleles have the highest sound of all the ukuleles because they are the smallest. While the soprano ukulele sounds bright and thin, the tenor ukulele has a warmer tone. The tenor ukulele sounds more like a nylon classical guitar, and the quality is more round or fat. Finger picking style sounds better on a tenor ukulele because of its rich sound quality.


If you are traveling with a ukulele, a soprano is an ideal choice because of its size. For performances, consider a concert or tenor ukulele, especially if the ukulele is going to be played with other instruments. Many people have difficulty with the soprano ukulele because its frets are so close together; there is more fret space with a tenor ukulele. Soprano ukuleles are easier to find and are usually less expensive.

About the Author

Cara Batema is a musician, teacher and writer who specializes in early childhood, special needs and psychology. Since 2010, Batema has been an active writer in the fields of education, parenting, science and health. She holds a bachelor's degree in music therapy and creative writing.

Photo Credits

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