As you are probably aware, ukuleles come in different sizes (see the chart to the right). In this article, we will focus on the soprano ukulele. What are the main features, advantages and disadvantages? Who are these little babies suited for and much more. Read on, for more information on this type of uke.
General Features Of A Soprano Uke
This is a very small instrument, so it is very easy to hold and play. Ideal for kids in this regard. It has a sweet and mellow tone due to being the smallest uke of them all. If you think about the thin, classical sound of the ukulele, this is it. Most people associate the sound of a ukulele with a soprano, so it is definitely a classic and beautiful-sounding instrument.
To start playing one must know what notes he or she is fretting. So the first thing you should know is the tuning, which here is GCEA. 20 years ago people used to tune all this ukes differently but this is a standard tuning for ukulele these days.
Here’s a look at a popular soprano model, the LU-11:
Plus points of these little instruments
This size is the most traditional of the ukulele types. If you like the traditional sound of an uke, or you want to buy one but you know nothing about the subject, then this is pretty much the one people usually go for.
It is small, so it is very portable and it is also very fun and easy to play since it has very low action which feels great. Plus, since it is such a small instrument, the space between the frets isn’t very large which makes it easier for people with small hands.
As mentioned above, the soprano offers a superb entry for kids to stringed instruments. Kids love the sound and size of the uke. Parents love the price. It is catching on in schoolrooms worldwide. These are also usually the cheapest ukuleles, so they are definitely the most worthwhile for many beginners. Did I mention that they are super portable as well? Very fun instruments!
What is it’s main ‘draw’ for many, it’s size and weight, is also a major ‘draw-back’ for some players. Those with bigger hands may find the soprano much too ‘fiddly’ to play. The size can also make players feel cramped. More advanced players may tend to buy larger ukes.
Sound and tone is definitely a preference, but the biggest disadvantage is definitely is short variety of tones. It only has 12 frets which is the least wide range of tonality of all the types of ukulele. Not a great range, but the range it has sounds great. Some seasoned players might find it boring (vs concert size or bigger) as they are used to its sound.
What to look for when buying
There are lots of different ukuleles out there, so one might feel overwhelmed when looking for their first uke! First off, always try before you buy. You should try to get your hands on one just to check that it is not too awkward for you (due to its small size). It’s really important to find the size you like best and feel most comfortable playing.
Tone wise, the wood used to make each uke is definitely important and varies with price. Laminated models may come cheaper, but their sound is obviously not the richest (no pun intended). Solid wood is ideal but comes at a premium. The tuners are also very important, since a ukulele does require regular re-tuning. Look out for strings as well, since they have quite an impact in a small instrument like this. Some manufacturers provide premium “Aquila” brand of strings, which are a really nice touch to the general sound of the instrument.
What Models To Consider?
Here are some of the popular and well-reviewed models that you might consider if you want a soprano uke.
- If money is tight, go for the Mahalo U-30 (click on link for our review). I nice intro for absolute beginners and kids love it, due to the wide variety of colors available. Consider upgrading the strings however (to Aquila nylgut or D’Addario nylon strings), to get a much better result for your money. See latests deals on this Mahalo here.
- The Lanikai LU-21 (our review here) costs a bit more (around $60) but is a superb choice for beginners. It is one of the top-sellers and with good reason. Nicely made and great sounding for the price. Head to amazon for latest price.
- Kala KA-S (our review is here) is really similar to the Lanikai in terms of price and quality. There isn’t much to choose between these two, just pick one and you’ll be happy! Prices vary so click here for current deals.
- If you want something really special, one of the best soprano ukulele for sale is the 0XK from Martin.
These are only three of the huge range to select, but they are amongst the most popular. For example you can also consider a Makala, the budget models from Kala.