Ukulele vs Guitar: Detailed Comparison

Musical instruments come in a lot of forms with each instrument offering a distinct sound output. Although, there are many instruments that look and feel a lot similar and confusing for a first-time buyer. One such pair of instruments is the ukulele and guitar.

The ukulele and guitar come in a very similar form as both are operated by high tension strings that produce sounds when vibrated. These two instruments are the most popular instruments all around the globe. Hence, there is a lot of variety available for both variants whether we are considering the instrument quality or price range.

Here, we are going to understand the major differences between a ukulele and a guitar and help you decide which option you should prefer for your personal as well as professional use.

What is a Ukulele?

A ukulele is a comparatively smaller musical instrument that first originated in Hawaii before it became popular in the whole world. You will notice the ukuleles generally made out of tonewood with a limited number of strings that are designed with lower tension. Here are some important properties that you can find on a ukulele:

1. Size

The most noticeable difference between a guitar and a ukulele is the size and form factor. In most cases, you will find ukuleles to be around half the size as compared to a guitar. And even lesser if you take a look at compact ukuleles.

As the size generally represents the length of the instrument, it should be known that the total length of a ukulele is around 21 inches to 26 inches with the body length and scale length varying from 10 inches to 17 inches.

2. Number of Strings

As each instrument is designed for a specific range of sound production, the number of strings on a string-based instrument matters a lot. This decides the number of notes you can play on the instrument.

Ukuleles only have 4 strings as you will mostly use a ukulele for casual music. Although, it still offers a lot of variation that is required for the majority of songs.

3. Type of Strings

The sound created by string-based instruments depends heavily upon the type of string used for them. Apart from the tension in the strings, different material reacts differently to vibration and produces a varying sound.

Ukulele strings are made out of nylon or similarly flexible synthetic material to produce a warmer tone as compared to guitars.

4. Tuning of the instrument

This part of the difference will only be understandable for professional or at least novice instrument players that have played or studied the instruments before. Both guitars and ukuleles have a certain tuning method that creates differences in their output.

Ukuleles are tuned in a G_C_E_A manner that resembles the first four strings of a guitar. But, due to the limitation of the number of strings, it does not provide as many variations in the application.

What is a Guitar?

Coming to the most popular musical instrument in India, a guitar is one of the first string based instruments ever. You can trace the origin of guitar over centuries where you will find the guitars to have evolved into a lot of different shapes and forms. You will find the most diverse output within guitars as there are two major types of guitars that are acoustic and electric guitars.

As we are putting the comparison between ukuleles and guitars, let’s take a look at the most similar option which is an acoustic guitar.

1. Size

Guitars are generally much louder and versatile in comparison with a ukulele. Naturally, this makes the guitars larger in size. Due to the larger body, it creates a more intense and loud sound.

While guitars are generally 35 to 50% larger than a standard ukulele, they offer generally 38 inches to 41 inches total length. This includes the body length and scale length within the 19 to 26 inches range.

2. Number of Strings

As guitars are preferred for more professional use or for dedicated enthusiasts, the number of strings on a guitar is comparatively more. Standard guitars feature at least 6 strings that allow you to play a maximum of 6 notes at once and get a lot more variation while using it.

Some special types of guitars also offer up to 12 strings that are used mainly for professional use to play and create difficult songs.

3. Type of Strings

Guitars are designed for more heavy duty usage as it is not more than a mere hobbyist instrument. Therefore, the strings used for guitars are made of metals. While these strings are sharper and comparatively difficult to move, they produce a much brighter tone.

Also, the strings of a guitar last quite long as compared to a ukulele. But it can turn out to be uncomfortable in the beginning if this is your first time using the instrument.

4. Tuning of the instrument

As there are more strings available in a guitar, most guitars are tuned in an E_A_G_D_B_E manner. If you have studied musical notes before, you can surely understand this tuning and guess the output accordingly.

This tuning terminology changes for various types of guitars as different manufacturers use different tuning methods.

Similarities Between Ukulele and Guitar

1. Shape

The body shape of a guitar and ukulele is quite similar. This is because of the same working principle being used for both instruments. In both cases, the sound is created by vibrating the strings and then amplified via the body.

2. Fret Structure

To keep the strings tensed at all times, frets are used. These frets can be seen on both instruments with manual control over the top portion of the body. For both instruments, the frets are made out of wood.

3. Playing Style

Even if the sound produced from both guitars and ukuleles is quite different, one can use a similar play style for both instruments without any problem. In general, both instruments can be used for creating harmonic as well as melodic sounds.

Differences Between Ukulele and Guitar

1. Range

The range of a musical instrument refers to its sound stage. Guitars offer a much more extended range due to the high number of strings and tuning as seen in a ukulele. But, this also increases the size of a guitar.

2. Sound Level

The sound levels obtained on an acoustic guitar are quite loud. This is possible because of the larger body of the guitar that allows better amplification of sound.

3. Application

The body shape of a guitar and ukulele is quite similar. This is because of the same working principle being used for both instruments. In both cases, the sound is created by vibrating the strings and then amplified via the body.

Ukulele or Guitar – Which is Easier to Play?

After reading about the major differences in both guitars and ukulele, you must have released the obvious answer to this question, which is a ukulele. Due to reduced size, a ukulele is easier to carry around and does not cause any kind of strain on you when you are playing it. It also offers less weight, which makes it the perfect option for travelling.

Apart from the physical parameters, ukuleles have less number of strings. Thus, learning a ukulele from scratch is much easier as compared to a guitar. You can get used to the tuning quite fast and start playing your favorite songs on a ukulele with a little effort. Thus, a ukulele is certainly an easier instrument in comparison.

Ukulele Vs Guitar – Which one is Right for You?

While the ukulele might be a simpler instrument, it is not suitable for everyone. Every individual has a different taste in music. So, everyone prefers to play different kinds of music on a musical instrument whether it is a guitar or a ukulele. An interesting fact about guitars is that it has the basic setup that can be seen on a ukulele.

Therefore, you can always learn a guitar as a ukulele in the beginning and use it to play simple songs. The same cannot be said for a ukulele as it does not offer a similarly high range of notes or the sound level. Therefore, a guitar is a better choice for a professional musician whereas a ukulele is suitable for hobbyists and beginners.

Conclusion

While buying either a guitar or a ukulele, most buyers seem to be confused between the two options as they seem a lot familiar. Even though these instruments are similar in terms of design and structure, you can find a lot of differences within these options.

In this article, you can find all basic knowledge about guitars and ukuleles along with the similarities and differences between both options. In case you are also confused about whether you want to buy a guitar or a ukulele, we will recommend you to go with a guitar as a future proof purchase.

Though a guitar is much harder to learn from scratch, it will provide you with everything that a ukulele can and much more. Also, guitars last way longer than a ukulele due to better build quality. Therefore, investing a few extra bucks in a guitar is definitely a smart choice here.

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