Are there any differences between a Guitar and Ukulele? It’s true, ukuleles and guitars have many similarities. Both are stringed instruments that you can strum or fingerpick, and both have the same basic body shape. But there are several distinct differences, including the number of strings they have, their tuning, their chord structures, and their overall tones.
But there are similarities which cannot be ignored. So in this article I’ll go over both the differences between a ukulele and a guitar, as well as some of their main similarities. I’ll also introduce you to the baritone ukulele and the guitarlele, which are great transitional instruments between ukes and guitars.
It’s pretty obvious: there is a huge difference between ukuleles and guitars when it comes to their respective sizes. As for ukes, whether it’s a soprano, concert, tenor, baritone or guitarlele, its overall size is significantly smaller than any standard acoustic guitar. Not only is the size of a ukulele’s body much smaller and thinner than a guitar, but the length of its neck is also shorter too.
And, depending upon the style and make of the ukulele, it can have anywhere from 12 to 25 frets, whereas guitars will typically have 20 to 25 frets depending on the model. Also, there is less space between the frets on a ukulele’s neck due to its shorter neck, which gives you less space for finger placement on the fretboard while playing.
It is immediately noticeable that a ukulele has four strings, and a guitar has six. So that’s a big difference right there. But also, the type of strings used for both instruments can sometimes be the same, but are typically very different. While nylon strings are the most common type of strings for ukes, there are also ukulele strings that are wound with various metals to give it more projection.
As for guitars, most acoustic guitars use wound, metallic strings made from steel, which are great for strumming, picking, and overall projection. But, there are also nylon strings for acoustic guitars, which are most commonly used for classical and flamenco guitars and are usually played with a finger picking technique rather than strumming with a pick.
The type of strings that you use for either instrument really depends on what type of music you want to play, along with your overall playing style.
Tuning is another big difference between ukuleles and guitars. Most ukuleles, except for baritones and guitarleles, are tuned (from top string to bottom string) at G, C, E and A. Guitars, on the other hand, are tuned (from top string to bottom string) at E, A, D, G, B and E.
Now, if you are playing a baritone ukulele, the tuning for its four strings is the same for the bottom four strings on a guitar, which are D, G, B and E. And, for a guitarlele, the tuning (from top string to bottom string) is A, D, G, C, E and A. So if you are a guitar player who wants to learn how to play the ukulele, or vice versa, the baritone ukulele and the guitarlele are great transitional ukes to consider.
With the difference in tuning and number of strings with both instruments comes another significant variation between the two instruments: their general chord structures. However, I must mention that there are some similarities to go along with their differences.
Regardless of which instrument you are playing, you’ll find that the basic chords all have very similar shapes that either require you to press your fingertips onto the strings against the fretboard or flattening your fingers across multiple strings in barre chords.
Another difference between ukuleles and guitars is their overall tone and loudness. Due to a ukulele’s smaller body size and fewer strings to work with, a uke’s tone and projection won’t be as loud, deep or as full as an acoustic guitar. Also, if an acoustic guitar is strung with steel strings, it will sound much louder than a ukulele that uses nylon strings.
However, any ukulele with nylon strings will give it a more distinct sound than any guitar, which is what sets ukes apart from guitars. And, the variation of ukulele models and sizes gives you a richer landscape of higher tones depending on which you choose to play.
It’s the question everyone wants to know: is the ukulele or the guitar easier to play? One of the advantages of playing the ukulele rather than guitar is that the uke is generally considered much easier to learn how to play. Since ukuleles have fewer strings, smaller bodies, and shorter necks, ukes are usually quicker to learn how to play, especially for beginners.
Also, the nylon strings on ukuleles are definitely more comfortable on your fingertips compared to the steel strings on acoustic guitars. And finally, if you have a smaller frame or smaller hands and fingers, then you might find that a ukulele will be a better fit for you compared to a guitar.
As already mentioned, the baritone is a great instrument for transitioning between the uke and the guitar. The baritone has a larger body size than other types of ukes, giving it a deep, rich sound, and its longer neck makes it very easy to play if you have larger hands and fingers.
Also, the tuning of a baritone ukulele is (from top string to bottom string) D, G, B and E, which is identical to the tuning of the last four strings of a guitar. Therefore the chord structures are very similar to a guitar, making the transition between it and a guitar easier.
Make sure to take a look at all of our baritone ukuleles available at our online store here.
Another excellent bridge between the ukulele and the guitar is the guitarlele. A guitarlele has all of the tonal elements, body size, and neck length of a tenor uke, but it also has six strings like a guitar. The neck of a guitarlele will also be thicker (to accommodate its two extra strings.)
As mentioned before, the tuning for guitar strings is (from top string to bottom string) E, A, D, G, B and E. The tuning for the strings on a guitarlele (from top string to bottom string) is A, D, G, C, E and A. See a pattern? Yes! The structure of how the strings are tuned on both instruments is the same, they’re just tuned to different notes. So, if you put a capo on the fifth fret of a guitar, you will match the exact tuning of a guitarlele.
And you can play exactly the same chord structures for both a guitarlele and a guitar, and with the use of a capo, you and a bandmate can play both instruments together and match their tuning, which makes the guitarlele even more advantageous. Other benefits include the facts that the smaller body often makes it easier to play, especially for beginners, its nylon strings are definitely more comfortable on your fingertips, and you will get a much more authentic ukulele sound compared to playing the guitar on the fifth fret.
Our online store has a great selection of guitarleles and we also offer custom setup options.
So there are both many differences, as well as many similarities between ukuleles and guitars. Which type of uke you choose to play depends on what flavor of style and playing experience you are looking for. Whether you’re a beginner, or an advanced player, it’s easy to find the perfect ukulele meant for you.
And, the Uke Like The Pros Online Store has several styles of ukuleles that we can customize for you, which can help take the strain off of your shopping.
Enjoy your playing!