Have you ever wondered is ukulele easier than guitar to play and learn as a beginner? It’s a common question for anyone who has been thinking about learning one of the many stringed instruments. In this article we are looking at the ukulele vs guitar and why the uke may be considered to be the easier option of the two.
Once you have read through our guide we hope that you will have more of an understanding of each of these instruments so you can decide which one will be better for you. First, we’ll look at the similarities, then the differences. Lastly, we’ll finish up with why the uke is usually classed as being easier than playing the acoustic guitar.
Table of Contents
- 1 The Similarities
- 2 The Differences
- 3 What Makes Ukulele Easier to Play?
- 4 Which Should You Choose, Ukulele or Guitar?
- 5 Conclusion
- 6 FAQs
Both the ukulele and guitar have a very similar design with the only real differences being between their size and the number of strings. They follow the same sort of shape and produce sounds in the same way – by amplifying the vibrations of the strings which are transferred through the bridge and soundboard. A ukulele and guitar also have frets on their neck which allow you to alter the pitch of the instrument.
Because both of these are stringed instruments they use the same system of fretting. The strings of a guitar are placed on the neck and are spaced out by the frets which is the same for the ukulele. Pressing down on these frets allows you to change the notes and play chords.
Chord shapes in both instruments are very similar but the ukulele is easier in terms of playability. The neck and fretboard are both smaller with a ukulele so that you won’t need to take as much time moving from chord to chord. Ukes usually have nylon strings as well as fewer strings so complicated fingerstyling isn’t really an option here.
When considering the ukulele vs guitar, you may notice similar strumming patterns. The main difference is that you will usually use a pick to play the guitar, whereas with a ukulele this isn’t as necessary. This is down to the nylon strings of a ukulele being much more kind to the fingers.
When you look at a guitar and then a ukulele it’s pretty obvious the biggest difference is the size. Because of the difference in sizes both the tone and volume of the instruments will be affected. This is another factor that goes towards making the ukulele a lot easier to play than the guitar. If you have smaller hands then it can be a challenge to play the guitar properly – a problem that is solved with a ukulele.
Your average guitar will normally always cost you more than a ukulele. There are ukulele models available at the higher end of the price scale, but even these will have a lower price tag than the best guitar brands.
When you listen to both of these instruments side by side you will notice there is a huge difference in their tone. The reason why this difference occurs is because of the type of wood both the ukulele and the guitar have been made from. The tone changes depending on the wood and the size of the instrument, as well as how it’s been made. The tone of a guitar compared to a ukulele can vary wildly so keep this in mind when trying to choose between the two.
If you’re not sure what we’re talking about here, the scale length refers to the length or distance from the nut to the saddle of the instrument. This is the area of your instrument where the strings will vibrate and then create the sound. The frets on a ukulele are much closer together than a guitar, sometimes up to 50%. Players with smaller hands won’t have to stretch as far to form the same chords that would take twice the amount of hand span on a full-sized guitar.
Your standard tuning for a regular, standard ukulele goes G, C, E, A. A baritone ukulele also has extra tuning of D, G, B, E. Guitar tuning is different because it goes from the lowest string up to the highest and follows an E, A, D, G, B, E pattern. It’s possible to tune a uke in fourths so that it sounds like the tuning of a guitar. However, it will never be able to achieve the full tuning of a guitar because a uke only has four strings.
The tension of the strings refers to how tight or loose they are when sitting on an instrument. A ukulele string takes between 7 to 13lbs of tension whereas a guitar string bears 24 to 35lbs of tension for every string. This means that a guitar has about three times more string tension than a ukulele does. The higher the tension of a string, the louder and brighter a note will ring out. An instrument with lower tension such as the ukulele tend to be better to play because it’s easier to press the strings down with less tension. They will also produce music at a much softer volume than a high tension instrument like the guitar.
What Makes Ukulele Easier to Play?
The ukulele has two fewer strings than you would find on an acoustic guitar. When you are first starting out with a stringed instrument this can be very handy because there are less strings to think about. It also means that there are plenty of easy two-finger chord progressions you can play on a ukulele that wouldn’t sound as good on a guitar.
Strings Are Softer
A guitar (unless it’s an acoustic guitar) will typically have thicker strings made from steel. The ukulele has very soft strings made from nylon so they are much gentler to your hands. You will also be able to push the strings down a lot easier with a ukulele. You don’t need to fig your fingertips into the strings like you would with an electric or acoustic guitar.
Strings Are Less Tense
Ukuleles have a shorter scale and are made from softer materials so that the strings have a much lower tension than a guitar would have. The tension we are referring to here when looking at ukulele or guitar is where the strings aren’t as tight so they are easier to push down as you play.
Scale is Shorter
The ukulele is easier thanks to its shortened scales. This makes the frets a lot closer together than they would be on your guitar. Having a shorter scale like this requires much less stretching to play some chords which are always better for a beginner. This can also be incredibly useful for players who have smaller hand spans, such as children.
Compact and Lightweight
You can find a wide range of ukuleles, from tenor ukulele options to a baritone ukulele. All of these instruments come in from 30% to 50% smaller than your standard guitar. Because they are so compact and light to carry, the ukulele is easier to play and hold for most people, including young children.
This doesn’t really make the ukulele easier but it’s a great thing to consider when choosing between ukulele or guitar. There are some great ukes that are ideal for beginners available for under $100 which is incredibly reasonable for a stringed instrument. A beginner guitar could end up setting you back $150 and even then you will need to complete the setup and adjustments before you can play them properly.
Which Should You Choose, Ukulele or Guitar?
In this section, we are going to go over a few things you should consider to help you choose between the ukulele or guitar.
Before you decide to buy any sort of instrument including the guitar and ukulele you need to think about the price. There are some guitars out there that you can buy on a tight budget but overall, a ukulele is going to be available at a lower price. Both instruments, of course, have their higher ends of the scale where they will cost more. However, it’s a lot easier to find a great quality uke that is affordable than it will be to find a guitar at the same price point.
Guitars have more strings and model options, therefore are more versatile than the ukulele. There’s a lot more you can do with a guitar, such as having a good range of chords and different pitch intervals. A ukulele is smaller than a guitar and while this smaller size makes it easier to play, you do give up some of the versatility. A guitar has a much steeper learning curve but the rewards are greater than if you chose to play the ukulele.
There are beginner-friendly options with both the guitar or ukulele but the uke is the friendlier of the two. As you continue to learn the instrument and build up a basic knowledge of it then the guitar will offer you more opportunities for growth in terms of musicality. The ukulele is a great starting point before you learn the guitar so that you can get to grips with the basics on an easier instrument. The transition from uke to guitar is easy as well because your hands will already be familiar with the fingerstyling.
Like we’ve mentioned a few times in this article, the ukulele is a lot easier to learn. The guitar has a steep learning curve which can be difficult for some novice musicians to tackle. This is absolutely something you need to take into consideration when choosing an instrument to play. While you may want to play and learn the guitar right off the bat, the ukulele can be a better place to start. However, if the guitar is really your passion then you can put in the practice and hard work to overcome the learning curve.
The largest ukes available are the baritone and tenor ukulele models. The baritone is the largest of the two and is the closest in size to the guitar. This is a perfect choice for anyone who is stuck between these two instruments. A baritone uke has the same exact tuning to match the top four strings on a guitar. This makes it a lot easier to transition from your uke to the strings of a guitar if you decide to move up a level. While you won’t sound exactly like a true guitarist because you only have the top four strings, it’s still a great jumping-off point for any stringed instrument newcomer.
The ukulele or guitar debate is something that has been going on for centuries. As a first-time musician, it can be complicated to choose between the two. We hope our guide here has help you choose between ukulele or guitar. Remember to take all of the points above into consideration before making that final purchase and that ukulele is going to be easier than a guitar to play.
How much easier is ukulele than guitar?
Ukulele tends to be a lot easier to play than the guitar because of the smaller size and less strings. It’s a great gateway instrument to get you playing the guitar in the future.
Which one is better – ukulele or guitar?
Each instrument has its own pros and cons so you can’t really say that one is better than the other. The sound you are looking for will determine the instrument that you want.
Is ukulele the easiest instrument?
Ukulele is probably the easiest instrument to learn out of all the stringed instruments available. It can help you learn the fundamentals of a stringed instrument. These basics are then easily applied to more advanced instruments such as the guitar or bass.
Is it hard to learn ukulele by yourself?
Ukulele is one of those instruments that isn’t hard to teach yourself. One you know how to strum ukulele strings properly and a few of the simpler chord patterns, the rest pretty much falls into place. However, to teach yourself you will need at least some basic music theory skills.