- Find out how many frets a standard ukulele has
- Learn about alternative ukuleles with different fret numbers
- The importance of frets in selecting an instrument
- Also, check out our post on how many strings a Ukulele has
Beginners and students often ask “How many frets does a ukulele have?” The answer to that would be wonderfully vague “between 12 and 21.”
Clearly, it’s not a one-word answer. That’s because there are four types of ukuleles, each with a differing number of frets.
A soprano ukulele has 12 to 15 frets, a concert ukulele has 15 to 20 frets, a tenor ukulele has 15 to 20 frets, and a baritone ukulele has 19 or more frets (up to 21).
How many frets does a ukulele have?
The exact number for each ukulele size further varies based on the make/model of the instrument.
- Soprano ukulele: 12-15 frets
- Concert ukulele: 15-20 frets
- Tenor ukulele: 15-22 frets
- Baritone ukulele: 19-22 frets
Generally speaking, most kids start with a soprano ukulele and young adults use a concert ukulele. Of all types, a concert uke strikes the best balance between body size and the number of frets.
With 15 to 20 frets, the instrument has a large enough range of notes with the larger body size creating a fuller and thicker tone.
In this post, we will get into the nitty-gritty of the four types of ukulele, the number of frets each type has, and why it matters.
The four types of ukulele
Ukuleles are distinguished by size, giving us four main types of ukuleles: soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone.
You can also find bass ukuleles and other non-standard ukulele sizes, but we will stick to the most common sizes for the sake of simplicity.
The soprano is the most common type of uke and is also the smallest in both body size and scale length. These instruments have between 12 to 15 frets depending on the make/model.
The thin sound and lesser number of frets make it a good choice for strumming but not for fingerstyle playing due to the lack of projection making single-note passages a little weak sounding.
The fuller-sounding concert ukulele is a few inches bigger than the soprano. It can have anything between 15 to 20 frets. Concert ukes with 20 frets give you access to higher notes and a wider range of sounds.
They are perfect for fingerstyle playing and strumming.
The tenor ukulele is bigger than the soprano and concert size. It can have between 15 to 21 frets, varying across manufacturers.
You can use re-entrant, linear, or baritone-like tuning on a tenor uke. The tuning options and access to higher notes make it a highly versatile musical instrument.
The baritone size is the largest of the ukulele sizes. It has a 30-inch scale length and features 19 or more frets.
However, the baritone has a deeper sound and is tuned to D, G, B, E. Baritone ukes are ideal for blues or fingerstyle playing. They sound very similar to the nylon string classical guitar.
What are frets on a ukulele and why do they matter?
The neck of a ukulele is often made from koa, although it can be made from other types of wood. While the fretboard/fingerboard is generally made of rosewood.
It’s a solid strip of wood glued on top of the neck which has thin metal strips called frets inlaid into it. Frets are spaces that signify pitches on the neck of a ukulele.
You can press a string against a fret on the ukulele fretboard and pluck it to sound a specific note!
When you press a string onto a fret it is essentially shortening the length of the string that is able to vibrate. And a shorter string = higher pitch. This is how we control pitch on fretted instruments.
They also have little white dots inlaid into the odd-numbered frets like the 3rd, 5th, and so on. Then the 12th fret generally has two dots signifying the octave.
Now, the dot inlays or fret markers may vary slightly based on the uke manufacturer. But their role/function remains the same.
Inlays help you visually identify specific frets while you perform. In other words, they help you with hand positions and navigating the fretboard.
Lastly, you sound an octave when you fret a string on the 12th fret. It’s important to have access to a full octave of notes if you want to play lead, melodies, chords, and inversions.
Luckily, you have easy access to the 12th fret in every ukulele model, even the soprano.
This ultra-vibey instrument features a classic Jazzmaster body and all the appointments and design that make it a great uke for live performance be it on stage or your living room.
- Sounds Great
Ukulele frets and playability
Ukuleles are tiny instruments compared to guitars. The soprano uke falls in the alto range and is the smallest ukulele size.
It’s most commonly used by kids and people with small hands. Uke players with larger hands or thick fingers may struggle to fingerpick and play complex melodies.
Concert and tenor ukuleles have more room along the fretboard which may be easier for beginners.
Generally speaking, people with bigger hands prefer tenor ukuleles. They are also favored by advanced players who need extra frets to play chord inversions or complex melodies.
Baritone ukuleles are the largest size and have the most frets. But they are tuned differently (D, G, B, E from low to high).
You still play the same scales and chord shapes, but the notes are in a different key. You have to adapt to the instrument due to this reason.
What are the 4 types of ukulele?
The four main types of ukuleles are soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone.
The instrument is categorized based on body size and scale length, with the soprano ukelele being the smallest in size and the baritone ukulele being the biggest type.
What size ukulele has 18 frets?
Of the four sizes of ukuleles, a concert or tenor ukulele is most likely to have 18 frets. A soprano size ukulele has 12 to 15 frets.
Concert and tenor ukes have between 15 and 20 frets. Thereby, look at tenor and concert size ukuleles if you want an instrument with 18 frets.
What is the difference between soprano and concert ukulele?
The size, extra frets, and wider spacing are the key differences between a soprano and a concert ukulele.
The soprano is the smallest mainstream ukulele size. Soprano ukuleles have a 13” scale length with 12 to 15 frets.
The concert is a step above the soprano in the ukulele size chart. Concert ukuleles have a 15” scale length with 15 to 20 frets.
Are baritone ukuleles good for beginners?
Yes. Beginners and students should select a ukulele with the size that is the most comfortable for them.
If that’s the baritone uke, then by all means start learning with that. It has a different tuning but is essentially the same instrument.
You still learn the same chord shapes (under a different name) that are transferrable to other sizes.