Ukulele vs. Guitar: What Are the Differences?

Approximately 70% of people on the planet would like to learn to play an instrument. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to do something new, but it’s always essential to understand what instrument you intend to learn. 

For example, let’s say you’re trying to decide between ukulele vs. guitar. The uninitiated may assume they’re very similar because they’re both string instruments.

However, the major similarities are that they have strings and are portable. Keep reading if you’re interested in playing the guitar (or ukulele). This ukulele guide will explain the differences between them and guitars. 

What is a Ukulele? 

The ukulele (or uku) is a stringed instrument and part of the lute family. The ukulele’s origins are both Portuguese and Hawaiian. Portuguese immigrants introduced the lute-like instrument to the Hawaiian islands in the 1880s.

Most ukes have a “figure eight” shaped body, much like small acoustic guitars. However, you can purchase abnormal shapes like cutaways and ovals (or pineapple).

You can play the ukulele with a pick or your fingers. Ukes have a versatile sound. It’s common to hear ukuleles in rock, jazz, pop, folk, and classical music.

What is a Guitar? 

But this blog post isn’t only a ukulele buying guide; you’re also here to learn more about the guitar. Guitars are stringed instruments split into two main categories: acoustic and electric. 

Pinpointing the origin of the guitar is complicated, but many historians believe the first guitars began in 15th Century Spain. Guitars are also part of the lute family.

Like ukuleles, you can play guitars with your hands and picks. You can hear guitar music in rock, rap, country, blues, and jazz. 

Ukulele Vs. Guitar: Size

We’ll start with the most apparent differences between these two string instruments in this guitar guide. Guitars have longer bodies and longer necks than ukuleles.

The average guitar is approximately 38 inches long, but some guitars are as long as 41 inches. Ukuleles range in four different sizes:

  • Soprano: 20 inches long
  • Concert: 23 inches long
  • Tenor: 26 inches long
  • Baritone: 30 inches long

Sizes may differ depending on the manufacturer, but you can expect ukuleles and guitars to match these sizes closely. 

Ukulele Vs. Guitar: Number and Type of Strings

The second most noticeable difference between ukuleles and guitars is the number and material of the strings. Most ukus have four strings, and most guitars have six. 

Guitar strings are often made of metal and high tension. High tension in a string instrument creates a louder sound with tighter vibrations. 

Manufacturers make uke strings out of nylon or similar flexible synthetic materials. Ukulele strings are low-tension, so they make more soothing warm tones. 

Ukulele Vs. Guitar: Sound Differences

When playing the guitar, you need to know the range of sound you can achieve. A key difference we’d like to demonstrate in this ukulele guide is that guitars have a much wider range and tone.

Guitars can create soft, warm, cheerful noises or loud and intense tones. What music you get depends on the guitar type (acoustic or electric) and your play style.

A guitar generally reaches lower tones thanks to its larger fretboard (or fingerboard). A fretboard is a long, thin material (often wood) laminated to the front of many string instruments. 

“Frets” are the thin (usually metal) rods running horizontally on the fingerboard. While the ukulele cannot reach the lower tones the guitar can, it does have a distinctive, mellow “Hawaiian” sound. 

Ukulele Vs. Guitar: Tuning Differences

No guitar guide would be complete without standard tuning instructions. The usual guitar way you’d tune a guitar is EADGBE. Standard ukulele tuning is GCEA. 

Although you tune both instruments differently, running your finger across the four highest stings at the fifth fret of a guitar, they’d sound like ukulele notes. 

Ukulele Vs. Guitar: Play Style

Most people play the uke and guitar with their right hands because most people are right-handed. However, if your left hand feels more comfortable, play that way. 

Usually, you’d play the struts with your left hand while playing the instruments with your right, but left-handed players would use the uku and guitar oppositely – play with the left and use the struts with the right. 

Ukulele Vs. Guitar: Material Type

More expensive acoustic and electric guitars are wooden. Acoustic ones use mahogany at the bottom and spruce at the top. Their electric counterparts use one kind of wood.

Cheaper material alternatives include laminate, graphite for acoustic guitars, and acrylic for electric ones. Pricier ukuleles use koa wood (which helps with the sound) or mahogany. Spruce is popular for cheaper ukulele bodies. 

Ukulele Vs. Guitar: Prices

This is a ukulele buying guide, so we’ll provide basic pricing points. A reasonable price for beginners should range in the double digits to no more than $100. 

Prices for beginner acoustic guitars range from the low hundreds. The most you can expect to pay for a beginner electric guitar is about $500. 

Playing the Guitar Vs. Ukulele: Which is Harder?

Which instrument you find easier to play depends on your personal skill and preference. Many people find the uke easier to play.

Ukuleles have softer, lower-tension strings, so they’re easier on the fingers. Their smaller sizes mean they’re easier to handle.

Ukes have less distance between their struts, but they are smaller, making it difficult for some people to play. It’s also easier to find guitar instructors because it’s the more popular instrument. 

Playing Tips for Ukuleles and Guitars

The key to learning many skills is practicing the basics. Learning the basic chords will help you immensely, regardless of which instrument you choose. After you know a few chords, try fingerpicking – it’ll help you learn melodies.

Regular practice is also helpful in learning to play the guitar and ukulele. Try setting aside half an hour each day. If you keep practicing, you’ll begin to notice a gradual improvement. 

Which Instrument Will You Choose? 

This ukulele guide is meant to help you choose which instrument best suits you. Hopefully, we’ve answered your question if you’ve ever wondered what’s the better instrument between the ukulele vs. guitar.

If you’ve ever asked, “what is a ukulele,” we hope we’ve helped with that also. Readers inspired by this blog post can check out our shop for a shiny new instrument.  

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