Ukulele vs Guitar: How to Choose?

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Last updatedLast updated: May 04, 2021
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The decision to choose a musical instrument might be a difficult one for novices, especially those interested in learning a stringed instrument. The Ukulele and Guitar are two common musical instruments to choose from. When it comes to making a decision, the question “Ukulele vs Guitar; which is easier to learn?” always comes to mind. In this article, we have outlined the unique properties of each instrument.

Stringed instruments are very popular in the music world, and they have been around for thousands of years. One of the best instruments for making Jazz or rock music is the Baritone guitar. While the guitar is considered a more serious instrument of the two, the ukulele has also been featured in much relevant music.

Ukulele

Ukulele vs Guitar: How to Choose?Ukulele is commonly referred to as a smaller version of the guitar. However, this instrument is unique and possesses distinct qualities. It was developed in the 80s, commonly linked to music from Hawaii and gaining popularity in the US in the 20th Century.

The ukulele is generally preferred for its small size and relatively fewer strings than the guitar. People with smaller hands can easily handle it. This is a great instrument for youngsters to learn as it is much easier to master.

Size

Ukulele vs Guitar: How to Choose?The size of the ukulele might as well be one of its most significant advantages. It is very portable and can be carried anywhere. Ukuleles come in various sizes, which include Soprano, tenor, concert, and baritone.

According to reviews, the most popular ukulele is the Soprano which comes in its original size. There is a ukulele much smaller than the Soprano called the sopranino or “pocket uke.” You can find some of the best options here.

The volume and tone of a ukulele are dependent on its size. Other Ukuleles like the tenor and baritone were later created, featuring more volume than the previous versions. Bass and Contrabass are the latest innovations of the ukulele.

Number of strings

Ukulele vs Guitar: How to Choose?The ukulele comes with four strings. Some ukuleles have some of their strings paired, resulting in them having up to six or eight strings. This is to give the instrument a better strumming volume. An example is Taropatches that comes with six or eight paired strings.

Types of strings

Catgut was originally used in making ukulele strings; however, recent, Ukuleles feature nylon polymer strings.

Tuning

The Standard Ukulele Tuning is done by tuning the open strings to the notes G, C, E, and A. Some Ukulele players prefer to tune their instrument to a high G, while some prefer tuning to the lower G.

This instrument can also be tuned by using the piano as a reference. To do this, you need to tune the strings on your ukulele according to their corresponding notes on the piano. This means you tune the C string according to the tone of the middle C on the piano. Similarly, the guitar can also be used to tune your ukulele.

An electronic tuner is a piece of equipment you can use to tune your ukulele. An achromatic tuner is a great option in this regard. All you need to do is play an open string on your ukulele, and the chromatic tuner will let you know when it is in perfect tune through its reading. You can keep adjusting the knobs until your ukulele is correctly tuned.

String tension

The tension of a Ukulele depends on the size. The soprano ukulele has lesser tension than the concert ukulele. Although high tension strings tend to give the instrument a much louder volume, it is not designed to hold too much tension. Using a steel string for a ukulele might damage the bridge. Nylon strings are the recommended type of strings to be used on a Ukulele. You can also use fluorocarbon strings as an alternative.

To get a brighter tone, you can consider using soprano strings for a concert ukulele or a concert string for a tenor ukulele.

Sound

The sound produced by ukuleles might differ based on the size. Soprano ukuleles often produced high-pitched sounds with little or no bass tone. When you go upwards as regards size, ukuleles start to produce much deeper sounds.

Scale length

Due to its varying sizes, the ukulele tends to have variable scale lengths (measured from the nut to the saddle). The Soprano has a scale length of 12 inches; the concert has a scale length of 15 inches, while the tenor and baritone have scale lengths of 17 to 19 inches, respectively.

Guitar

Ukulele vs Guitar: How to Choose?The guitar was probably your first love growing up. This six-stringed instrument is loved by many for its versatility. It can be found in almost any musical gathering and has been used to make musical masterpieces.

It comes with various accessories like pedals, extensions, and amplifiers. These can be used to enhance the guitar to produce melodious tunes. There are various types of guitars, but the common ones are the Hawaiian guitar, steel-string acoustic guitar, and the classical guitar. The common guitar you will find with most people is the acoustic guitar featured in various music genres.

Size

Ukulele vs Guitar: How to Choose?Guitars come in various sizes, such as smaller guitars commonly called guitar less, and much larger ones like the acoustic. Choosing a guitar according to size is based on your preferences. A guitar size can influence how well you play, especially if it is too big to handle. The guitar looks a lot like the ukulele. However, it is bigger and has the standard six strings. There is also the half-size guitar which is much suitable for children.

The other sizes of guitar available are the three-quarter-size guitar, the parlor guitar, the auditorium guitar, the dreadnoughts, and the jumbo guitar. There are also full-size electric guitars and much larger bass guitars.

Number of strings

Ukulele vs Guitar: How to Choose?The guitar comes with six strings, each coming with varying thicknesses. However, some guitars like the bass guitar come with four to five strings, while some can have as many as seven strings. From thickest to thinnest, we have the E, A, D, G, B, and E string. The lower E string is the thinnest of all the six strings. The pitch of the strings increases as you go from the thickest to the thinnest.

Types of strings

The type of string depends on the guitar type. Most acoustic guitars use steel string which might be brass or bronze plated. Electric guitars also use steel strings having the thickest three plated in nickel. Some guitars like classical guitars also use nylon strings; using stronger strings like steel on them might damage the guitar.

Tuning

Ukulele vs Guitar: How to Choose?Guitars, just like ukuleles, can be tuned using various methods. The electronic tuner can be used to get the best result. You can also tune the guitar using the piano by matching the tone of each corresponding key to that of the guitar.

String tension

The tension in a guitar string is based on the type of string, the scale length, and the pitch of that particular string. You should ensure you balance the tension in your guitar strings to avoid damaging the guitar. Too much tension can make the guitar harder to fret.

Sound

The regular guitar produces sound from the hollow part. However, many advanced guitars like the electric guitar use more complex means to produce sound. Due to this, the sound produced by various types of guitar sounds different to the ears.

No matter the type of guitar, you can count on it to make beautiful music. When it comes to making soul-touching music, the acoustic guitar is your go-to instrument.

Scale length

Here are the scale lengths of different types of guitar:

  • Standard Classical Guitars: 6 inches
  • Acoustic Guitars: 24-25.5 inches
  • Electric Guitars: 5 inches
  • Bass Guitars: 34-43 inches.

Which is easier to learn?

Ukulele vs Guitar: How to Choose?The ukulele is relatively easier to learn compared to the guitar. This is due to its small size and fewer strings. You would also enjoy strumming and fretting the soft nylon strings that come with the ukulele.

Classical guitars are somewhat easier to handle than other types of guitars. You can also try that out for your first instrument.

Regardless of choice, ensure you make a selection that suits you and your style of music. Choosing an instrument that is not right for you will frustrate your learning experience.

Final thoughts

Based on the features outlined above, we can identify the major differences between the two instruments. When it comes to the Ukulele vs Guitar, many beginners will probably choose a ukulele due to its shorter learning curve.

However, many professionals would pick a guitar over a ukulele due to the guitar’s wide range of functions. If you are looking to pick your first stringed instrument, you should go for a ukulele as a beginner. You should also know that learning a one-stringed instrument gives you a better advantage at mastering another one. So you can start with the much simpler ukulele and later switch to the guitar when you have gained much confidence.

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