What Is The Difference Between A Guitar And A Ukulele?

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Is a ukulele just a small guitar?


Guitars and ukuleles, are the near-identical twins of stringed instruments. A lot of people seem to confuse these two instruments all the time! After all, they do look quite similar. To clear up this confusion, today we will set out to see, what is the difference between a guitar and a ukulele?

What is a Guitar?

A guitar is a fretted musical that usually has six strings and a wooden body. It’s typically played by picking at or strumming the strings using a pick (plectrum). Guitar varieties include acoustic guitars, electric guitars, headless guitars and classical guitars. It has a hollow wooden body with a long, narrow wooden neck.

What is a Ukulele?

A ukulele, or uke, is a fretted musical instrument that usually has four strings. The strings on a ukulele are usually played with fingers. Ukuleles come in four sizes, concert, soprano, tenor and baritone. Ukuleles are small in size, with a hollow wooden body and a long, narrow wooden neck.

What is the difference between a guitar and a ukulele?

So, what is the difference between a guitar and a ukulele? They sound pretty similar from their descriptions. Let’s take a closer look.

  • Starting off, we have a clear difference in strings. Guitars usually have six strings, while ukuleles usually have four. The standard tuning also differs on the two instruments, with guitar strings going from low to high order (EADGBE) and ukulele strings not following any such order (GCEA). Another string-related difference is that guitars (with the exception of classical guitars), typically use metal strings, while ukuleles are known for using soft nylon ones.
  • Addressing the elephant (and ant) in the room, we come to their sizes. Guitars are much larger when compared to ukuleles. Full size acoustic guitars are around 38 inches long, while ukuleles range from 16 inches (Pocket Ukes) all the way to 32 inches (Bass Ukulele)!
  • Next we come to the range of both instruments. Guitars, being larger, obviously have a wider range of notes in their repertoire. Ukuleles… not so much. Acoustic guitars can cover almost four octaves, while ukuleles can barely get up to 2 octaves.
  • Lastly, we come to the actual sound that they produce, ukuleles and guitars differ greatly in these departments. Ukuleles are known for their bright, happy tones that can make you smile on a bad day. Guitars on the other hand can cover a whole range of emotions from happy to sad to angry to ecstatic! Thanks to their metal strings and large hollow body, guitars produce a louder sound than small nylon-stringed ukuleles.

Is it easier to play the ukulele or a guitar?

It suffices to say that ukuleles are much easier to learn than guitars. The ukes owe their easy accessibility to a few key factors.

To begin with, the nylon strings on ukuleles are soft and less likely to cause cuts or pain when compared to the harsher metal strings on guitars. The number of strings on a ukulele is also lesser (four) than the number of strings on a guitar (six), meaning lesser notes and lesser complications. Lastly, the small neck and body size of the ukulele plays in its favor, allowing people (kids) with smaller hands to reach around the fretboard easily!

Which is better for me, ukulele or guitar?

This question should really come down to which instrument you feel most attracted to. Which instrument do you feel like you could practice every day and not get bored? Which one of these two speaks to you on an emotional level? While it may sound dramatic, close your eyes and you’ll find the answer.

However, if we were to look at things objectively, then for a child or beginner to string instruments, the ukulele seems like the better choice. However, don’t let the guitar’s size, strings, and difficulty overwhelm you. It is a beautiful instrument which is worth putting the time in to learn.

Final Thoughts

To sum up, despite their differences, ukuleles and guitars are sensational stringed instruments that can lighten up any party. Go ahead and start learning whichever one calls out to you, you won’t regret it! We hope this article has answered the question; what is the difference between a guitar and a ukulele?

Jim Henneberry

Jim Henneberry

I love playing my guitar, and my kids got hooked along with me.
This is a family thing now - why don't you join the family fun? :)