An overview of the scale lengths of the Ukulele
This is a brief explanation for those people who wonder what the different sizes of a Ukulele currently* are
Mini (my Ohana)
Soprano (My Harmony)
Concert (My Goya)
Tenor (My Fender)
Baritone (My Koloa)
I have tried to get all of the pictures to the same scale, (1mm=1px), so there is a visible representation
There are 5 Main** Scales:-
This is a scale length of less than 305mm (12in) though anything less that 20cm, (8in) is pretty much unplayable
Called Mini by Jonah Kumalae when he first started producing them in the early 'teens, but now usually called Sopranino to sound more "official" - Also known as Baby, Ukette, Piccolo, Sopranisimo, Micro, Bambino, Pocket and some other names implying its small size too
Usually tuned a~D~F#~B or higher
This is a scale length of 305mm (12in) to 355mm (14in) and these days usually about 340mm (13½in)
Originally called Standard - This is the original Ukulele Scale
Usually tuned g~C~E~A or a~D~F#~B
This is a scale length of 356mm (14in) to 405mm (16in) and these days usually about 380mm (15in)
Could be called Alto - For some reason it never is though?
Usually tuned g~C~E~A
This is a scale length of 406mm (16in) to 460mm (18in) and these days usually about 430mm (17in)
Usually tuned g~C~E~A or G~C~E~A (low G tuning)
This is a scale length of more than 460mm (18in) and these days usually about 510mm (20in)
Usually tuned D~G~B~E
Anything larger than a Baritone is not usually considered a Ukulele. There are a couple of luthiers over the years who have had a stab at making "Bass" scale Ukuleles but the idea has never really caught on, (it was also tried in the late 1920's as a term for some of the Ukuleles that were larger than the scale lengths defined in the standard approved* edict as the size above that definition of Tenor; Tonk Bros definitely included it in their catalogues of the time), and increasing the size does move the instrument very firmly into the realms of the "Chicago tuned" Tenor Guitar; true a Tenor Guitar would usually have a thinner neck that a Ukulele but this is not always the case. The most likely claim today for this as a separate scale definition is with the advent of the Ukulele Bass, (which is generally the same scale length as a Baritone), there has been some interest rekindled in larger Ukuleles but these currently are generally being referred to as "Long Scale Baritones" or just "Long Scale" rather than anything else.
One thing I should say here is today there is no "official" definition of string/scale lengths. The figures I use here are my best guesses having looked at the output of a lot of manufacturers post millennium, their sizes and what they choose to call their instruments.
* - I say "currently" here as there have in the past been different definitions, most famously the Standard Approved definition. In 1926 there was a special session by the National Association of Musical Instrument and Accessories Manufacturers at their annual convention and this is how it was reported
Important move at Buffalo Convention
BUFFALO, N. Y., October 4.—
At their meeting held here last week, the members of the National Association of Musical Instrument and Accessories Manufacturers, after due deliberation, adopted a standard string length for ukuleles, that is, the distance from nut to bolt in accordance with the recommendation of the special committee on ukulele standardization, of which W. I. Kirk is chairman and Messrs. Kordick and Walter Schmidt are the other members. These standards are: String length from thirteen inches to thirteen and three-quarter inches to be known as standard size ukuleles; string length from thirteen and three-quarter inches to fourteen and one-half inches to be known as concert size ukuleles, and string, length from fourteen and one-half inches to fifteen and three-quarter inches to be known as tenor size ukuleles. All ukuleles which fall in the above classes must have at least twelve frets. The use of the curved or flat back and the naming of the kind of wood used are left to the discretion of the manufacturers.
However this standard was not followed by all of the US at the time, with Martin and Gibson being two notable manufacturers that ignored it, (there were plenty of other less prestigious ones too), and it held no sway whatsoever with makers outside of North America, not even Hawaii! In Europe there were generally "Standard" and "Long Scale" Ukuleles, (though there was no clear definition of what size constituted "Standard" so this could vary significantly)
** - I say "main" here as there are a number of subset titles of scales using terms like "Long Neck" or "Super" in conjunction with Soprano or Concert. This usually denotes a hybrid where the body size is commensurate with the scale but the neck has been lengthened into a longer scale length to give access to more frets. They are not actually different scales, a Concert scale Supersoprano would be Concert scale, they just, with their smaller bodies look disproportionate. I have also seen a few people making Super Sopraninos, that is Ukuleles with a Sopranino size body and an extended neck bringing it back to the Soprano scale. Given the tonal deficiencies of a Sopranino body and the small size of these extra frets for realistic usability I can't see a musical reason for them so I assume it is just a novelty exercise but I'm open to be convinced otherwise
Another set of terms that imply a different scale are Jumbo and Mini, (always in conjunction with another descriptive term for the scale length and nothing to do with the original use of mini as the smallest scale for Ukuleles). In this case however it refers to the tuning rather than any peculiarity of manufacture. What it usually means is a Tenor scale Ukulele tuned D~G~B~E or a Baritone scale tuned g~C~E~A. These can be referred to as Jumbo Tenors or Mini Baritones and confusingly the same two terms can be applied to either configuration?! (I have seen the term Mini-Tenor used as an alternative for Long Neck Superconcerts and has nothing to do with tuning)
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