Most of us have dreamt about learning how to play an instrument at some point in our lives. It is a lifetime adventure that opens doors for you socially and musically, and the feeling you get once you master it is unmatched.
However, the journey can be frustrating, beginning with choosing the type of instrument to learn but it will pay off in the end. String instruments are popular choices for many people, with the ukulele and guitar some of the popular options.
Many beginner players often choose either a ukulele or a guitar but arriving at that decision is not easy. Therefore, if you are wondering how to two choose between the two, you are in the right place.
This article will help you make that difficult choice by learning more about these instruments, including examining the similarities and differences, but remember that the ultimate decision is yours.
The most significant similarity between the guitar and ukulele is the fact that they are string instruments. This means that the sound is generated from strumming or plucking the strings over a hollow, solid, or semi-solid body.
However, while electric guitars require amplifiers to project the sound, acoustic guitars are more similar to ukuleles compared to electric guitars. Guitars and ukuleles use similar fretboard system; both have strings suspended over the neck, separated by frets (metal bars).
A combination of open strings and frets produces different scales and chords depending on whether you play the notes individually or together.
When deciding between buying a guitar or ukulele, it is essential to examine the differences, and this section will be quite helpful.
Style and Appearance
Before we dig deeper, guitars are larger than ukuleles, but you probably know that already. A full-size classical guitar is typically between 38 and 39 inches with a scale length of about 24 to 26 inches, while a ukulele is 21 inches with a scale length of about 13 inches.
Additionally, the ukulele has 4 strings and a significantly shorter and thinner fretboard while a standard guitar has 6 and a larger and longer fretboard.
The differences in size dictate the number of frets that can be placed in the neck. Ukuleles have between 12 and 15 frets while a guitar typically has between 19 and 24 frets, but some have up to 27 frets.
Although the smaller size makes the ukulele easier to manage for individuals with smaller hands, many guitars have a cutaway, allowing players to reach the upper frets; this feature is not found in ukuleles.
Beginner players can handle a ukulele better than a guitar. Electric and acoustic guitars provide varying unique styles, serving players with different skills, needs, and techniques.
If you wish to jam to hard rock, classic, or melodic acoustic music, there is plenty of guitars to suit your personality. On the other hand, the ukulele offers the Hawaiian style, owing to its origin, but you can also find them in various styles and colors.
The ukulele is one of the tiniest string instruments, it is lighter and smaller than most string instruments, and even the largest ukulele is smaller than a standard guitar.
Ukulele’s portability is one of the attractive features for many individuals, especially those that travel a lot because it can fit into a backpack. Therefore, you can take it anywhere, including a vacation. Furthermore, it will not cost you anything since you will likely not need extra luggage space when flying.
Although a guitar is also portable, it is more of a hassle to carry it around since it is bigger, heavier, and might cost you more because you will require a studier case. However, you do not have to deal with these challenges if you do not travel a lot for gigs.
Ukuleles are easy to carry, making them more convenient, but there is something cool about having a guitar on your shoulder.
Since the ukulele has only four strings and slightly low tension than the guitar, it is easier for a beginner player to form a chord. Compared to steel and hard nylon string instruments, soft nylon string instruments such as the ukulele make it easier for players to hold their fingers down.
Forming a chord on a guitar can hurt your fingers, but since you only require one or two fingers to create a chord with a ukulele. Ukulele has a more effortless strumming technique because of its four strings, but you will need more skill to control the sound with the guitar’s 6 strings.
You may even need to spend more time training your fingers on the guitar compared to the ukulele. There are many songs one can easily play with a ukulele even if you only know a few chords. Simple songs with 3-4 easy chords are incredibly motivational for beginners when learning how to play an instrument.
Riffs and scales are more difficult to play on the ukulele than the guitar because the ukulele has only four strings with one tuned unexpectedly; hence it may take a while to get the hang of it. The guitar has the upper hand over the ukulele in this aspect since it has more range and strings.
You can easily translate a guitar song’s single-note riffs to a ukulele. However, riffs that require simultaneously playing multiple notes are more difficult to play on a ukulele because of restricted access to note and string combinations.
The strings in a ukulele are named G-C-E-A, while those in a guitar are E-A-D-G-B-E. The highest string in the ukulele is placed at the bottom, the same place the lowest string is positioned in the guitar.
Placing a capo or finger across a guitar’s four highest strings at the fifth frets gives ukulele’s notes, meaning the ukulele is like a guitar’s top four strings, tuned up at the fourth.
A single string on a ukulele has string tension of between 7 lbs and 13 lbs, while the guitar has about 24lbs to 35 lbs in every string, so a guitar has nearly three times the string tension of a ukulele.
Instruments with a high string tension sound brighter and louder, but the string tightness makes instruments like guitars harder to play. Due to their lower string tension, ukuleles are more comfortable to play but generate lower volumes.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Between a Guitar and Ukulele
The guitar and ukulele are great instruments; hence you can get the best from both, but if you have to pick from the other, there are some things you should consider.
Before picking a specific guitar or ukulele, make sure you can afford it. Luckily, there are many affordable guitars and ukuleles in the market; you can find an excellent ukulele between $50- $100 and a great guitar at least 150 to 200 dollars.
You will not lose a lot of money by getting a ukulele even if you realize later that it is not the right instrument for you.
A ukulele is an ideal option for you if the price is the deciding factor because a new one is cheaper to purchase than a new guitar. Although it is easier to buy a second-hand guitar, it will likely cost you more than a new ukulele.
A guitar is more versatile than a ukulele as it gives you broader access to chords, intervals, and riffs than what you can get from a ukulele. Through effects pedals, you get more sonic capabilities in a guitar, which allows you to generate sounds that most string instruments do not create.
If you already have experience playing instruments, you should consider getting a guitar because it will give you room to develop various sounds and tones.
Suitability for Users
Ukulele is undoubtedly more suitable for beginners because it is easier to play, lighter, and smaller, so even little kids can handle it effortlessly. New students usually struggle with painful calluses as they learn to play the guitar, but that is not something you will deal with playing the ukulele.
Ukes are fun and easy to play, but if you are willing to learn the guitar, you will be able to create more innovative tones. More straightforward beginner chords, lower cost, smaller comfortable necks, and portability make ukulele ideal for new musicians.
However, a guitar has depth, more variety, and offers more opportunities because metal, rock, blues, and country bands require a minimum of one guitarist. It is also deemed a more serious instrument and opens doors to playing other instruments.
- Versatile music styles
- Broad tone range
- Suitable for individuals with larger hands
- More online resources and lessons and in-person training
- More costly
- Less portable
- Steeper learning curve
- More portable
- Easy learning curve
- Cheerful tones
- Suitable for people with smaller hands
- Fewer resources for learning
- Smaller range tone
- Difficult for people with larger hands
We hope that with this piece, you now have an idea which instrument will serve you best. The ukulele is undoubtedly more manageable for a beginner compared to a guitar.
However, the choice is yours and will depend on the type of music you play, where you want to use it, and your style. If you’re going to choose the ukulele because of easy playability, go for it, but make sure you love whatever you end up picking and that it inspires you to play more.