Is the ukulele better than guitar for beginners? In this article, we are going to break down the differences between both instruments, the playability, the learning curve, and also the distinct sound they both have.
- Guitar vs Ukulele Differences.
- The Different Types Of Ukuleles.
- Why Is The Ukulele Easier To Play Compared To The Guitar?
- The Learning Curve.
- Final Thoughts
Guitar vs Ukulele Differences.
The guitar and Ukulele may look very similar, you could say that the ukulele is a miniature version of the guitar, but this is not the case. Firstly when we look at the string set up on a guitar, we find that there are six strings, but when we take a closer look at the Ukulele, there are only 4. You will also find that the Ukulele has very soft strings made from nylon, whereas the guitar, depending on what type of guitar you play, can range from nylon to steel strings which can be a lot harsher on the fingers.
The Neck & Fret Size.
The neck size of a Ukelele is quite thin compared to that of a guitar. Depending on your hand size, the ukulele can be a lot easier to play, especially for someone with smaller hands. The other thing to take note of is the size of the frets; compared to the guitar, the frets of a Ukulele are a lot thinner and smaller, making it easy to play chords and songs without having to stretch your hands or fingers too much.
The Overall Size.
The size difference is a big one when it comes down to the Guitar vs Ukulele. The guitar comes in many different shapes and sizes, some a lot heavier than others. Some of these guitars, especially acoustics, can be wide and hard to hold depending on the person and their size, whereas the ukulele is a small, lightweight instrument that is very easy to hold for long periods of time.
The Different Types Of Ukuleles.
The soprano Ukulele is the smallest one that you are most probably familiar with. This is the best type to start out on, especially for children, because of the small size that lends itself to their hands. This isn’t just for kids; this is also a very common size for adults and experienced players too. The soprano Ukulele has a light and high-end kind of sound and would be the sound that you would be most familiar with when thinking about the ukulele.
The concert ukulele is a larger instrument that has a longer scale (neck) length. The frets on this instrument are a little larger and would be better for someone with larger hands. This instrument has a louder, more well-rounded, fuller sound than the soprano.
The Tenor Ukulele is a step up from the concert ukulele, being around 2 inches longer and having a similar tuning to that of a guitar. This ukulele would be easier for a guitarist to pick up and play. The neck of the tenor is also a little wider, and the overall weight is heavier than that of a concert ukulele. With the tenor having wider frets and more room to move, finger-picking on this instrument becomes easier and more suited. The tenor also has more resonance and sound projection with lower voicings.
The baritone ukulele is the largest of the common ukulele sizes. This instrument is 3 inches longer than the tenor and has a lot more width on the frets/neck. The Baritone is tuned to the 4th to the 1st strings of the guitar (D, G, B, E). This instrument, like the tenor, is good for fingerpicking because of the extra room you have on the neck and between frets. The Baritone ukulele also has a very similar sound to that of a classical guitar.
Why Is The Ukulele Easier To Play Compared To The Guitar?
String Material & Tension.
Thinner, softer strings that require less tension when fretting or playing chords. This basically means that you won’t need to apply as much pressure to the strings when playing the Ukulele compared to the guitar. That’s because the guitar requires a considerable amount of pressure on strings that are under a lot more tension and made of materials such as steel which can cause painful fingertips and hand cramps.
Number Of Strings.
Fewer strings. With only four strings, the Ukulele is much more beginner friendly, as you can play chords using only one or two fingers. Compared to the guitar, which at the beginning requires you to stretch the fingers and hands into strange positions with just the right amount of tension in order to create a nice clean sound without fret buss or unwanted muted strings.
Scale Length & Fret Size.
The Ukulele has a much shorter fret scale length. This means that the frets on the ukulele are much close together and easier to access. This will again make it easier to play chords and songs with less finger stretching and is also great for children who may have very small hands.
Size & Weight.
As we touched on briefly above, the ukulele is a lot smaller than a guitar, at around 50% smaller. You can buy small guitars that are scaled down for travel or for children, but unless you buy something like a baby Taylor or a Mini Martin, then the quality does dip somewhat; there’s nothing wrong with this if you are looking to try out the guitar to see if you like it or maybe buy it for your children to start having lessons on, or just to test the water before making a more serious investment, but even then the scaled-down guitar size is still very large compared to that of the ukulele.
The Learning Curve.
The learning curve with any instrument is usually slow and repetitive. The more time you put into practice sessions, the more you will get out of them. The difference between the guitar and ukulele is that the guitar is a lot more complex, the neck is a lot longer, there are more strings to the mix, and with that comes a lot more chord shapes and scales to learn, understand and remember.
The Ukulele has only four strings and a short neck with fewer frets; this now takes away a lot of the things you need to know when learning how to play the guitar. You can practice a lot longer with the ukulele as it’s much lighter and more finger-friendly.
The guitar can be a labor of love at the very start, as you will face back aches when standing or hunched over with your shoulders rolled forward, looking down at the fretboard. Also, the strings of the guitar are not as beginner-friendly, along with the neck and fret sizes, which can lead to hand and finger cramps at the beginning.
As I mentioned above, with the ukulele, you can play chords using only 1 or 2 fingers, and there aren’t as many chords to learn compared to the guitar, so with this being said, the ukulele is a lot more beginner friendly in the sense that you could be up and running, playing songs in a very short time with a good practice routine in place.
The Ukulele is a more beginner-friendly instrument and much easier to learn compared to the guitar. They cost a lot less than a guitar, and because of the points, we touched on above with regards to softer strings, smaller necks, fewer strings, being lightweight, and much easier to play chords on with only a couple of fingers. The ukulele sits well with beginners wanting to learn a new instrument that they can play and sing along with in a short amount of time.