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Ukulele vs Guitar: Detailed Comparison

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Are ukulele and guitar the same? Which instrument is easier to play? Undoubtedly, these two are amazing instruments that look similar. However, there are obvious differences between the duo.

From size and construction to tuning and how to play, ukulele and guitar are entirely different. If you are a beginner stuck between what instrument to learn, then this article is for you.

We will have an in-depth analysis of the ukulele vs. guitars. This write-up will narrow down your research on which one you should purchase. We will discuss about the differences, the pros and cons of each instrument to help you gain a better understanding.

Continue reading to know which one suits you the best.

What Are the Similarities Between Ukulele and Guitar?

There are certain things you need to consider before starting on your musical journey. Let us have a look at the basic similarities between the ukulele and guitar. Gradually, we will proceed with their differences and ultimately, which one to choose over the other.

SimilaritiesUkuleleGuitar
Stringed InstrumentUkulele is a stringed instrument.Even guitar is a stringed instrument.
FretboardA ukulele uses a fretboard system of playing.Even guitar uses frets to produce sounds of different pitches.
Body ShapeA ukulele has a hollow body and uses a natural amplification process to produce sounds.Even the guitar has a similar shape that amplifies sound in a lightweight body.
Easy to carryA ukulele is easy to carry around.Even a guitar is easy to carry around.
Playing StyleYou can use a ukulele to play chords and melodies.You can use a guitar to play chords, as well as, melodies.
MaterialThey use Koa wood, mahogany, and spruce tonewoods to ukuleles.They use similar tonewoods and even other woods to make a guitar.

Let us now understand the differences between them.

What Are the Differences Between Ukulele and Guitar?

Here is a competitive analysis of both ukuleles and guitars. This table will give a gist of the significant differences between the instruments.

Ukulele Vs. Guitar:

Distinguishing FeaturesUkuleleGuitar
SizeA ukulele is smaller in size than guitarA guitar is large when compared to a ukulele.
Number of StringsA ukulele uses four strings.A guitar uses six strings.
Types of StringThe material used for strings is nylon.Guitar has metal strings.
String TensionA ukulele has lower string tension.Guitar has high string tension.
SoundA ukulele produces a softer and warmer tone.Guitar strings produce a loud and bright tone.
TuningA ukulele does not follow the low to high order for tuning of strings.Guitar has strings tuned from lowest to highest.
Tone RangeUke has a smaller tone range.Guitar has a wider tone range than a ukulele.
Scale LengthThe ukuleles have about 25% to 50% shorter scale length than guitars.Guitar has a comparatively larger scale length and the frets are not so close together
Learning CurveA ukulele has an easier and faster learning curve for beginners.Guitar has a steeper learning curve than a uke.
StrummingYou can easily play the ukulele with your fingertips.You can play the guitar with your fingertips only if you are proficient with the skills.
PriceUkuleles are comparatively inexpensive than guitars.Guitars are significantly more expensive than ukes.
VersatilityA ukulele is less versatile when compared to a guitar.The guitar is a most versatile instrument than a ukulele.

To have a better understanding, let us discuss about each feature in detail.

1. Size Differences

Let us start with the size. It is a known fact that ukuleles are smaller than guitars. If we talk in figures, the former is around 35% to 50% smaller than the latter.

Ukuleles are available in different sizes, and they are soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone ukuleles. The baritone is the largest of all the four types and measures about 26 inches in length. In other words, it is almost like a guitar but with four strings. This instrument has many similarities to the guitar.

The size of the instrument is the ultimate factor that affects the sound, tone, volume, and playability. Let us take a close look at the sizes of each instrument below.

Sizes Ukulele Guitar
Total Length Between 21 and 26 inches Between 38 and 41 inches
Body Length Between 10 and 13 inches Between 19 and 21 inches
Scale Length Between 13 and 17 inches Between 23 and 26 inches

Remember that the size differences will vary for the instruments depending on the manufacturer. However, they will be almost close to the ones mentioned in the above table.

2. Number of Strings

Although both ukulele and guitar are stringed instruments, the number of strings may vary for each.

While most guitars have six strings, ukuleles have only four.

Because of the fewer strings, a uke is easier to learn. Hence, it is ideal for beginners.

3. Type of Strings

The strings in the ukulele are made of nylon material. Because of this, the uke strings feel softer and less tight to the fingers than the guitar strings. As a result, the ukes are more comfortable playing than their counterparts.

The guitar strings are usually made of metal.

4. Sound

Let us move to the sound produced from the strings of the uke and guitar.

A ukulele produces a softer and warmer tone.

5. String Tension

The next distinguishing factor is the string tension. But what exactly is a string tension? It is nothing but the measure of the strings’ tightness or looseness on the instrument.

If we consider uke, the string tension is very less and comes to around 7 lbs to 13 lbs per string.

For guitar, the string tension is a little high and maybe from 24 lbs to 35 lbs per string.

That said, a guitar has almost three times string tension than a uke.

It is because of this string tension the instruments sound brighter and louder. But the only thing is that this tightness of strings makes it a little difficult to play.

Whereas, the low-tension instruments are easier to play. However, they produce less volume when compared to the high-tension models.

Several factors play a crucial role in the string tension of instruments like the string material, string thickness, and even scale length. Depending on these parameters, the string tension varies for every instrument.

6. Tuning

Let us come to the tuning of the ukulele and guitar. There is a vast difference in tuning for both instruments.

A ukulele does not follow the low to high order for tuning of strings. For standard ukes, the tuning is G-C-E-A.

On the other hand, the guitar has strings tuned from lowest to highest. It is tuned E-A-G-D-B-E.

7. Chord Formation

We all know that a ukulele has a smaller body, smaller neck, and a smaller fretboard. It has just four strings on the fretboard with low string tension. Hence, it becomes easier for a beginner to form a chord on the uke.

Moreover, the nylon strings on the uke make it much easier for the starter to hold the instrument. They can play the tune without finger stretch.

When it comes to guitar, chord making is a little difficult, especially for beginners.

8. Tone Range

Let us move on to the tone range.

A ukulele has a smaller tone range when compared to a guitar.

On the other hand, a guitar has a wider tone range than a uke.

9. Scale Length

Scale length is nothing but the distance between the nut and the saddle. There is a huge difference in the scale length for both instruments.

The ukuleles have about 25% to 50% shorter scale length than guitars. It means closer frets on the fretboard. As a result, you do not have to stretch to play the chords on the instruments.

Guitar has a comparatively larger scale length, and the frets are not so close together. Because of this, the player will have to stretch his fingers to play the chord. It may be a little uncomfortable to the starters.

Besides, instruments with shorter scale lengths typically have lower string tension than the ones with longer scale lengths.

10. Learning Curve

Let us talk about the learning curve or the ease of learning on both instruments.

A ukulele has an easier and faster learning curve for beginners. As discussed earlier, it has a smaller fretboard, small and closer frets, and lower string tension. A beginner can comfortably learn playing on a uke without much effort.

Comparatively, a guitar has a steeper learning curve than a uke. Unlike its counterpart, it has a larger fretboard, not so close frets, high string tension, and longer scale length.

11. Strumming

Both uke and guitar are best for strumming practices. You can use both the instruments as rhythmic (for playing chords) and melodic instruments (for playing melodies). However, when you talk about which instrument is easier to play, the answer would be a ukulele.

You can easily play the ukulele with your fingertips. Some people will use a hard pick, though.

You can even play the guitar with your fingertips. However, you need to develop the skills to get the right tone and volume on the instrument. It may take some time for the player to become proficient with the skills.

12. Versatility

Versatility is another considerable factor you need to look for when purchasing any of these instruments.

A ukulele is less versatile when compared to a guitar.

The guitar is a most versatile instrument than a ukulele.

13. Easy to carry        

A ukulele is a very portable instrument. Because of its smaller and manageable size, a uke is easy to carry around. This is one of the prime reasons why young children and beginners find this instrument welcoming.

Even a guitar is easy to carry around, and you can play them anywhere without any amplification. However, it can be a nightmare, especially when travelling in subways or during rush hour. They are not as portable as a uke.

14. Material

The material used for making a ukulele and guitar is almost the same.

The tonewoods used for ukes include Koa wood, mahogany, and spruce.

When it comes to guitars, they use the same tonewoods and even other woods for both top, and back and sides.

15. Price

Price is the deciding factor for any purchase.

Ukuleles are comparatively inexpensive than guitars. If price is the concern for you as a beginner, uke is the best bet.

On the other hand, guitars are significantly more expensive than ukuleles.

Which Instrument Is Easier to Learn? Uke or Guitar?

I think we already discussed about this in the earlier paragraphs. If you are a beginner or planning to teach your child, the easiest way to learn a stringed instrument would be on a ukulele.

Since it has just four strings that are softer, close to each other, the child or the starter may find it comfortable and easy to play. Moreover, the chord formation is easier on the uke than on a guitar. That said, you can learn and practice dozens of chords on this smaller instrument before you actually shift to a guitar.

If we consider a guitar, it is bulkier in size, has a large fretboard and metal strings. These strings can feel harder on your fingertips and may take time for the starters to get used to it.

Note: Just because uke is easier to start with, it does not mean it is an easy instrument. It has an easier and faster learning curve when compared to its counterpart. There is a lot more you need to work on to achieve mastery in a uke.

Which Instrument to Choose? Uke or Guitar?

We will answer this question by giving a comparison. We will provide five reasons why you should choose a uke over a guitar and vice versa. Ultimately, the decision is up to the readers on which instrument to choose.

5 Reasons to Choose Ukulele Over Guitar 

If you are a beginner, then here are five reasons why you need to get started on the ukulele:

  • Chord formation for beginners is simpler on a ukulele. That means you can easily, quickly, and comfortably learn to play the chords on the uke.
  • Ukuleles are cheaper and inexpensive. For a beginner, spending on uke is a much cheaper option than guitar.
  • Ukes have much smaller necks and smaller fretboards. That said, beginners will find it more comfortable playing without stretching.
  • Ukuleles are comparatively a smaller instrument than a guitar. A beginner, or child, or one with shorter fingers can conveniently play on ukes.
  • While playing on guitar is fun, the ukulele is a lot more fun. You can carry it around and play it whenever you want in getting together, bands, etc. You can play them with the music of any kind.

If you feel the above reasons describe and match your zeal, you should definitely choose a uke over a guitar.

5 Reasons to Choose the Guitar Over the Ukulele 

If you have an inclination towards guitar or if you have a desire to learn this instrument, here are a few reasons why guitar can be a better choice for you:

  • Guitars are those instruments with a wide range of sounds and musical textures. You have a broader scope to learn more on guitars than on ukuleles.
  • The guitar helps you play a variety of music genres on them. Starting with blues, and country music to rock and metal genres, a guitar (electric) offers a huge variety. Although a uke does all these, they have limited range and sounds.
  • Guitar players or guitarists have a greater number of opportunities than ukuleles. Every band like rock, country, blues, etc., requires at least one guitarist. You can always find a gig with like-minded musicians.
  • When you learn guitar, you can easily play other instruments, as well. Switching from guitar to uke is much easier. Once you get the basics on guitar like the chords, scales, etc., you can comfortably play the bass guitar. However, switching from uke to guitar can be a little harder.
  • A guitar is the most favoured instrument across the world. Although in places like Hawaii, ukes are the only sought-after instruments, in other areas, people love mastering the art of playing guitar. That said, it is the most considered instrument.

If these are the reasons that you can relate to, then undoubtedly, the guitar is the right instrument for you.

Conclusion

I hope this article explained everything about ukulele vs. guitar in a nutshell. You know what is the significance of the uke and what you can expect when learning a guitar. If you want to choose a uke over the guitar or vice versa, you have the analysis and explanation. This should give you a fair idea of what to choose and why. In the end, it is left to the discretion of the players to invest in a wise option. Let us know what would be your choice and why by posting your answers in the comments.

Write to us in the comments section below if you find this article informative and insightful. Let us know if you have any questions or need more information on this topic. We would try our best to clarify all your doubts at the earliest.

Do not hesitate to add your inputs to this article. Your feedback is most important to us, and we would love to hear and learn from you.

Stay healthy and stay safe!!!

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