Guitar Versus Ukulele - What are the Differences?


Close up shot of someone playing a wooden ukulele

Should you sign up for guitar lessons or ukulele lessons? What are the differences between these two instruments? Before we go into the differences, let’s identify the similarities between the ukulele and the guitar.


The guitar and the ukulele are both attractive instruments because of their portability. You can pack them in a car for a trip to the beach or for camping, take them on a bus, or walk around town with the instrument in hand. Both instruments can be played in a seated position or while standing up. You can play rhythm, harmony, and melody on these instruments. Finally, there is a coolness factor associated with both instruments.


Now for the differences.


Ukulele


When I picture the ukulele, Israel Kamakawiwoʻole’s version of Somewhere Over The Rainbow comes to mind. The ukulele is associated with a laidback, relaxed, Hawaiian vibe that is very easy on the ears. However, due to this strong association with Hawaii (even though it was actually introduced to Hawaii by Portuguese immigrants) ukuleles are less represented across music genres. One notable exception is Jake Shimabukuro who does an amazing job at playing George Harrison’s While My Guitar Gently Weeps and Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Doesn’t that make you want to pick up a ukulele and adapt other music styles such as a suite by Bach?


In terms of physical features, the ukulele is made up of 4 nylon strings with less string tension, has a significantly smaller body and length,and the distance between the frets is shorter. Some people say it is easier for children to learn the ukulele because there isn’t as much hand and finger stretching required to play the chords and the nylon strings are more comfortable to play.


Guitar


The almighty guitar is one of the most popular instruments in the modern era. You can hear it in pop, rock, country, oldies and classical music. The versatility of sound can be heard from the squeal of an electric guitar to the full and rounded deeper sound of a classical guitar.


Unlike the ukulele, guitars have 6 strings and the strings tend to be made of steel or nylon. Electric guitars usually have steel or nickel strings. Nylon strings are generally found on classical guitars. The larger distance between the frets forces the guitar player’s hand to stretch out and will take time getting used to for those with smaller hands but it becomes easier with regular practice.


The price of a new guitar will generally be more expensive than a new ukulele but it is easier to find a good secondhand guitar than a proper secondhand ukulele.


If you are trying to decide between signing up for ukulele lessons or guitar lessons, it comes down to your own personal preference for comfort, music style, and sound. Both are great instruments to learn and will sound great with regular practice.




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