Guitar vs Ukulele: Which one? Why?

We compare the ukulele and guitar, discuss their differences and similarities! Some tips on how to choose, if you have to!


Jace Snel

3/16/20234 min read

white electric guitar
white electric guitar

Strings Showdown: Ukulele vs. Guitar

Right! So today we'll compare and contrast two popular stringed instruments: the ukulele and the guitar. Both instruments have their own unique characteristics and appeal to different types of musicians. Whether you're a beginner looking to start playing an instrument, or an experienced player wanting to try something new, this post will help you understand the key differences between these two instruments and make an informed decision about which one to choose.

Small But Mighty - The Ukulele's Compact Charm

The ukulele is a small, four-stringed instrument that originated in Hawaii. It has a distinctive sound that is often associated with tropical or island music. The ukulele is often seen as an easier instrument to learn than the guitar, due to its smaller size and fewer strings. However, the ukulele is still a challenging instrument to master and requires a lot of practice to play well.

Some key features of the ukulele include:

  • Four strings tuned to G-C-E-A

  • Small size, usually around 20 inches long

  • Different sizes available (soprano, concert, tenor, baritone)

  • Unique sound due to its nylon strings and smaller body

  • Often used in folk, country, and Hawaiian music

The Timeless Appeal of the Guitar - Diverse Sound and Style

The guitar is a larger, six-stringed instrument that originated in Europe. It has a wider range of notes than the ukulele and is often used in a variety of musical genres, including rock, blues, and jazz. While the guitar is a more challenging instrument to learn than the ukulele, it also offers more versatility and complexity in terms of playing styles and techniques.

Some key features of the guitar include:

  • Six strings tuned to E-A-D-G-B-E

  • Larger size, usually around 40-42 inches long

  • Different types available (acoustic, electric, classical)

  • Wide range of notes and playing styles available

  • Often used in rock, blues, jazz, and many other genres

brown acoustic guitar on brown wooden dock near lake and snow covered mountain during daytime
brown acoustic guitar on brown wooden dock near lake and snow covered mountain during daytime
several guitars beside of side table
several guitars beside of side table

Ukulele vs Guitar

When it comes to comparing the ukulele and the guitar, there are a few key differences to consider:

  1. Size and Portability: The ukulele is much smaller and more portable than the guitar, making it easier to travel with and play in smaller spaces.

  2. Number of Strings: The ukulele has four strings, while the guitar has six. This makes the ukulele easier to learn and play for beginners, but limits the range of notes and chords available.

  3. Sound: The ukulele has a distinct sound that is often associated with Hawaiian music, while the guitar has a wider range of sounds and can be used in many different genres.

  4. Playing Styles: While both instruments can be strummed or fingerpicked, the guitar offers more complexity in terms of playing styles and techniques, such as bending notes, vibrato, and palm muting.

Ultimately, the choice between the ukulele and the guitar comes down to personal preference and the type of music you want to play. If you're looking for a more portable, easy-to-learn instrument with a unique sound, the ukulele may be the right choice for you. If you're interested in a wider range of notes and playing styles, and want to explore different genres of music, the guitar may be a better fit.

Legendary musicians Who Shaped the Instruments

Here are some famous ukulele players and guitarists who have made a significant impact in the music world:

Okay, so lets do the Ukulele first:

  1. Israel Kamakawiwo'ole: A Hawaiian musician known for his rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World."

  2. Jake Shimabukuro: A Hawaiian ukulele virtuoso who has collaborated with artists such as Yo-Yo Ma and Bette Midler.

  3. Eddie Vedder: The lead singer of Pearl Jam who also plays ukulele and has released a solo album featuring the instrument.

  4. Zooey Deschanel: An actress and singer who has incorporated the ukulele into her music, both in her band She & Him and on her own.

  5. James Hill: A Canadian ukulele player and teacher who has won numerous awards for his playing and instructional materials.

Now some famous Guitarists:

  1. Jimi Hendrix: An iconic guitarist known for his innovative playing style and electrifying performances.

  2. Eric Clapton: A British guitarist known for his blues-influenced playing and collaborations with artists such as Cream and The Beatles.

  3. Eddie Van Halen: A Dutch-American guitarist known for his virtuosic playing and influential contributions to the rock genre.

  4. B.B. King: An American blues guitarist known for his soulful playing and signature vibrato technique.

  5. Carlos Santana: A Mexican-American guitarist known for his Latin-inspired playing and collaborations with artists such as Rob Thomas and Michelle Branch.

"Ukulele or Guitar: Which Should You Choose?"

In the end, the decision between the ukulele and guitar comes down to personal preference and the kind of music you want to play. The ukulele's compact size and ease of learning make it an excellent choice for beginners and those interested in playing lighter, more playful music. Meanwhile, the guitar's versatility and complex playing style appeal to those looking for a challenge and interested in playing a wider range of music genres, including rock, blues, country, and more.

If you're still unsure which instrument to choose, consider your goals and musical interests. Are you looking to play alone or with a band? Do you prefer acoustic or electric sound? What kind of music do you want to play? Answering these questions can help you make the right choice.

In my opinion however, unless you're younger or really love Ukulele music I would recommend starting with the Guitar. You'll find the Uke becomes pretty natural after learning the guitar for a while.

Ultimately, whether you choose to play the ukulele or guitar, both instruments offer the opportunity to express yourself and create beautiful music. So, embrace your instrument of choice, practice regularly, and enjoy the journey of musical discovery!