I know that there are lots of people who think that the only difference between a guitar and a ukulele is the size.
But, you might be surprised to learn that this is not where the differences end.
It might be the case that you have already learned how to play guitar and are wondering if your skills are going to be transferable. Or, you might be thinking of taking up a new instrument but aren’t quite sure which of these two you want to learn.
For whatever reason, you have stumbled upon this article, and we are going to look at the differences between the guitar and the ukulele. So, strap in your seatbelts ladies and gentlemen and let’s dive right in.
Ukulele vs Guitar: Differences
So, the most obvious difference that I have already stated is that the guitar is much larger than a ukulele. If you are wanting to learn to play the guitar then having big hands is going to be a bonus, and if you have small hands, then you are going to need to learn to stretch your fingers for this large instrument. As well as the ukulele being smaller, it is also a lot thinner. Therefore, if you are someone who has small hands that doesn’t want to be straining to get the strings, the ukulele is going to be a better option for you.
Another difference in the appearance is that while the guitar has six strings, the ukulele has four. If you already know how to play the guitar, learning to play the ukulele in this sense isn’t going to be extremely difficult, but it might take a while to get used to. Because of the different number of strings, learning the chords on the ukulele will be simpler as they will not be as complex as the six string instruments. There will also be fewer chords to learn, and this just might be enough to push someone into learning ukulele instead of guitar.
It might be important to you that your instrument fits in with your personality. There are many different designs for guitars that I personally have seen, and I would imagine that you won’t have much trouble finding a guitar that will do this for you. There is not as much choice when it comes to the ukulele. The ukulele will typically look very Hawaiian, obviously because this is where they originate from. Having said that, there are some beautiful designs that I’ve seen around so you might be lucky enough to find one of these somewhere.
For some people, the price is going to be a deal breaker. If the price doesn’t matter to you, then this point is going to be moot, but it is always useful to know about the differences in price anyway.
The ukulele is going to be the cheaper option here coming in at around 20 for one of the cheapest on sale. If you want to get a higher quality of ukulele, even this will only cost you around 80 at most. Due to this, the ukulele is going to be the obvious choice if the price is going to be deciding factor here.
This is because to get a good quality guitar, you are going to be looking at paying something like 150-300, and this is going to be towards the lower end. You can always opt to get a second-hand guitar which will be cheaper. You will find it much easier to get a second-hand guitar as opposed to the ukulele but due to the cheap nature of the Hawaiian instrument, a second-hand one isn’t usually going to be necessary. Even then though, the ukulele is still likely to be cheaper than even a second-hand guitar.
Difference In Sound
It all depends on what kind of sound you are looking for as to whether you should purchase and learn to play the guitar or the ukulele. Having said this, the guitar will offer you a variety of different sounds, whether you want a gentle song or an earth-shattering noise. This comes from the fact that you have the option to buy an acoustic or an electric guitar, depending on what would suit your musical ambitions best. They both make beautiful yet different sounds, so you need to look into this before you buy a guitar.
On the other hand, the ukulele does not offer much variation in its sounds but is still beautiful. It is also very unique, so if you know what it sounds like, you’ll be able to tell from a mile away what instrument it is. It offers a very chilled out tone which is perfect for relaxing days and chilling on the beach. If this is the kind of sound that you are looking for, learning to play the ukulele is going to be the right option for you.
Having said that, there are different sizes of ukulele that you can play, and these will make different sounds depending on the size. Even though the range is smaller than it is on a guitar, the different size options will mean that you can get the right sound for you even despite this.
Take a look at this great video showing the difference in sound:
It is only possible to purchase two types of guitar: the electric or the acoustic. But what most people don’t know is that there is actually four classical types of ukuleles. These four types are the soprano, the alto, the tenor and the baritone. It is common for people to believe that there is just one ukulele because they are not seen very often. The biggest of the ukuleles is the baritone, and like I mentioned before, each different kind will have a different sound. The baritone is going to be the most expensive, and it is like a mini guitar.
As well as sizes, there are some ukuleles that have been put into categories based on their shapes. A couple of examples would be the fluke ukulele and the pineapple ukulele which is one of the more common ones that you are likely to see.
Easier To Learn
You might be wondering which of these instruments is going to be easier to learn. This is something that is highly debated and seems to be a matter of personal opinion. While there are points of each instrument which would, in theory, would make it easier to learn, it might not be the same when putting into practice. Many people believe that the ukulele will be the easiest option to learn, but many people will find that this is not the case.
It is true to say that the learning curve for the ukulele is going to be much easier. You don’t need to be playing for more than a couple of days to begin being able to play songs and make your own music. The reason that this is easier is that there are fewer strings, meaning there are fewer chords and combinations to learn and memorize. Due to the four strings, it becomes easier to manage, and this is why beginners will usually prefer this option.
However, even though this is a majority opinion, you might find yourself in the minority. There are some things that will make learning the guitar easier for you as opposed to the ukulele. Like I mentioned before, if you have big hands, the guitar is going to be easier for you to play. Not just because you don’t have to overextend your fingers to reach all of the strings, but because of the ukuleles small nature, you might struggle to bend your hand in the way that will be necessary.
Ease of Learning
Another thing you need to consider when asking which is easier to play is who is going to teach you? Are you going to use online resources and tutor yourself on how to play? If so, then the ukulele is likely going to be the best option here. Due to its simple nature, this option is going to be easier to self-teach. That’s not to say though that you can’t teach yourself to play the guitar, I know this is possible and so does Jimi Hendrix, one of the most famous guitar players of all time. Many people have found success after teaching themselves to play the guitar, but if you think that you would benefit more from an experienced playing teaching you, look around to find the best teacher, and you will be playing like a pro in no time.
As we can see then, there are numerous differences between the ukulele and the guitar. Aside from what I would term the ‘obvious’ differences, there are also more subtle differences. As we’ve seen, there are even differences between each of the instruments like the sizes of the ukulele and the type of guitar. After reading this, I hope you are closer to making your choice about whether you should opt for the ukulele or the guitar. It all depends on personal preference, and I hope that this article has been able to give you some insight on what that will be for you.
Eduardo Perez is a multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience playing instruments such as piano, guitar, ukulele, and bass. Having arranged songs and produced music in a recording studio, he has a wealth of knowledge to share about analyzing songs, composing, and producing. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Musical Studies at Berklee College School of Music. Featured on Entrepreneur.com. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, or follow him on Instagram.