A guitalele is a unique and fascinating instrument. As the name suggests, it fuses elements of the ukulele and elements of the guitar. This means it has benefits of both. We’ve reviewed the best guitalele options in this article.
You might want one of these instruments for its portability, or to transition from playing ukulele to playing the guitar. Whatever your preference it is important to get your purchase right when buying any instrument, especially one so unusual as a guitalele.
In a Hurry? Here Are the Best Guitaleles
What is a Guitalele?
Of course, a guitalele is an instrument in its own right, but some people find it easiest to think of this instrument as a fusion between baritone tenor ukulele and a classical guitar. It is the size of a baritone or tenor ukulele (roughly) but it has guitar characteristics including the fact that it has 6 strings.
Though the guitalele name is new, and obviously derived from both the guitar and the ukulele, there are instruments similar in size in the Spanish, Portuguese and Latinoamerican music history, including folk instruments.
In the modern age, many people buy these as an alternative to a travel guitar due to the simple portability. Think of it as a uke sized guitar if you like.
These instruments aren’t obscure or hard to find. Some of the top ukulele and guitar brands make guitaleles. You can find these options at most price points, with all the features you’d expect from a baritone ukulele, for instance.
How is a Guitalele Tuned?
Guitaleles are not tuned in exactly the same way as a guitar. The ADGCEA tuning is different to both guitar and ukulele. It isn’t as complicated as it sounds, though. It’s not like learning a whole new instrument.
This basically means the tuning is like a transposed guitar. You may hear this referred to as “up a 4th”. It is basically like playing a guitar with a capo on the 5th fret. The intervals between the strings is the same as that of a traditional guitar.
Are Guitalele Chords the Same as Guitar?
The answer is both “yes” and “no”. A guitalele doesn’t quite have the same tuning as a guitar, but it is very easily transposed. The chord shapes are all the same. When you are playing an “A” chord shape on a guitalele, you are actually playing a “D” chord.
There are some very simple chord charts out there to help you to work out the changes needed to play a song. Also, chord progressions you have learned on a traditional guitar will still sound good on a guitalele, they’re just playing in a different place.
Can I Alter the Guitalele Tuning?
People don’t tend to mess with the tuning of a guitalele too much. This is partially because the instruments are quite fragile, and it is easy to mess up the action or even warp the wood if you aren’t careful.
Some people try to tune to a guitar tuning, but this can be a mistake, the strings will be too loose, the tension not right, and it can ultimately lead to some serious issues with the guitalele itself. Some people have successfully done so, but experienced guitar techs who can change the strings to a different type and alter the action if needed.
If you’re a newbie, and not confident you know exactly what you are doing, we don’t recommend changing the tuning. Remember that the guitalele is tuned to identical intervals to a guitar, so it won’t prohibit what you can play.
We’ve mentioned that a guitalele is usually about the same size as a tenor or baritone ukulele, but this doesn’t help much if you’ve never played one of these instruments.
The scale of the guitalele from one end to the other will probably be around 27-30 inches, depending on which model you purchase. Different models do have slightly different sizes.
This is much smaller than a guitar, but there is still space on the fretboard to play chords and move up and down the fretboard playing melodies, too.
The Guitalele Sound
The guitalele sound is an unusual one, but just like the hybrid instrument this is, it has elements of both. It is a very bright sound, like the ukulele, but a fuller sound, with thicker chords, due to the fact that it is a six-stringed instrument rather than a four-stringed instrument.
Naturally, there is an element of nuance to the way any instrument sounds, and each guitalele has its own unique character. A good video to watch to check out what these small instruments sound like can be found below.
Guitaleles tend to have Aquila strings, just like ukuleles do. They have nylon strings and this brings the classical guitar tone rather than a steel string tone.
There are a variety of different strings available for ukuleles, but this is not as easy to find with guitaleles. You may also see them advertised as “guilele strings”. The guilele vs guitalele debate rages on, different people call them different names, but both mean the same thing.
The Aquila gauges for the strings are .26 .32 .40 .28w .35w .43w.
Best Guitalele Reviews
1. Caramel 6 Strings CB204GA All Solid Acacia – Best Overall
This is a great option from the Caramel brand, who usually make ukuleles. It is a great looking guitalele but also has a wonderful sound and some top features, as we’ve explored below.
The body of this guitalele is Acacia, and as well as looking great, this proves to be a really good tonewood for the guitalele. The instrument has good projection and a bright tone, as you’d expect from an instrument made by a ukulele brand.
- Adjustable truss rod with the wrench included. Adjust the tension if you are confident doing so, this can also help with other tunings.
- Comes with loads of accessories including a padded gig bag, cleaning cloth, strap, spare strings and even a wall hanger for your instrument.
- Exceptional bright tone.
- The tuning pegs and nut of this instrument could be a little higher quality, in an ideal world.
This guitalele really does a great job of outperforming the price it is available at. It represents great value for money. The adjustable truss rod and the tools included make this one of the best ukuleles for people who like to tinker with the settings, and make little tuning changes, too.
2. Yamaha GL1 Guitalele – Best Yamaha Guitalele
This is arguably the most famous guitalele there is, the Yamaha GL1 is very popular. It’s pretty much inevitable that if there is some sort of instrument on offer, Yamaha have created their own version to bring to market. Guitalele is no different.
This instrument definitely has the look and feel of a Yamaha classical guitar, and it feels perhaps the most like a guitar out of any of the products on this list. It’s smaller, of course, but has the look and sound of a bigger Yamaha, and is available in multiple designs and color schemes.
- Feels really nice to play, with a string tension similar to a quality classical guitar.
- Excellent Yamaha craftsmanship; this is a well-made product that should last years.
- Comes with a soft gig bag.
- The gig bag could do with some more padding to protect the guitalele.
- There are no other accessories included with the instrument.
If you don’t mind not having lots of accessories, this could be a good option for you. The Yamaha GL1 has a lovely feel to it and provides a great alternative for guitarists.
3. Kmise 31 inch Guitalele – Best for Beginners
People who are buying a guitalele for the first time might find it very helpful to buy a model built for beginners, that comes with a lot of accessories. Also, if you’re getting your first guitalele, you probably don’t want something that costs too much, and the Kmise also represents value, and doesn’t cost as much as some of the other options.
- Geared tuning machine makes it easier and more accurate to tune, with less falling out of tune.
- Adjustable action. You can alter the tension and action of the instrument to your preference.
- A comfy and high-quality walnut fretboard is better than you might expect for the price.
- Lots of accessories included, with a padded gig bag and a tuner being great for beginners.
- Strings take time to “settle” and stay in tune. The first few weeks might require a lot of tuning.
Generally, for beginners, there aren’t many better options for the money. This is a well-made instrument with all the accessories needed to get started.
4. Donner Guitalele DGL-1 – Best Cheap Option
For people looking to spend the minimum they can but still get a quality instrument, then the Donner brand might be the best choice. This guitalele comes in under $100 but still offers plenty of quality and ships with accessories, too. It’s not an elite model, and it’s better for beginners than pros, but for a cheap option, you can’t go too wrong with the DGL-1.
- Spruce top and mahogany back give a nice tone and even projection.
- Comes with accessories including a tuner, strap and a very good padded gig bag.
- 30-day money-back guarantee from the manufacturer. If you’re not happy, you can return.
- Frets aren’t the best quality and fret edges tend to be sharp. These can be filed down.
- A little small for some players at 28 inches, very portable but not so good for big hands.
Though this isn’t an absolute top-of-the-line instrument, it’s a good option for beginners, and you get a nice little guitalele for the price.
5. Caramel 6 String CB500G – Best Electric Guitalele
Another option from Caramel, who make some very good guitaleles. This is the best electric guitalele, so it is very easy to plug this into an amplifier or PA system and play live. It also makes recording a little bit more straightforward.
This is very similar to the model we named our “best guitalele” overall, with some minor adjustments and the addition of being an electric model. It does still have a soundhole and can be played as an acoustic model if preferred.
- Adjustable truss rod and an included wrench to do so.
- 3 band EQ so you can alter the sound of the electronic signal of your guitalele.
- Comes with lots of accessories including a gig bag, wall hanger, picks and a strap.
- The included strings are not the highest quality. Replacing these will improve the sound.
For all the electric functionality you may need if you play live, this guitalele could be a good choice. It’s easy to amplify and a good option for beginners and intermediate players. The electrics also make it easy to EQ and tune, and alter the sound to your preference.
The Caramel range really excels when it comes to guitaleles, as well as their electric option, we’ve named the Caramel 6 Strings CB204GA All Solid Acacia guitalele the best overall on the list. It combines excellent build quality with additional accessories, so it is good for all kinds of guitalele players.
A notable mention must go to the Kmise 31 inch Guitalele, which is a very good option for the money, and is great for beginners to get started playing this small and unique instrument. The brand isn’t as well-known, but they’ve made a great guitalele under the $100 mark.