The differences between a ukulele vs guitar are obvious at first glance.
They are different sizes and have a different number if strings.
They also sound different.
And there are more differences that are less obvious.
But in essence, they are almost the same instrument.
Despite that, those differences are key.
They will determine which of these two string instruments is the right one for you.
Keep reading for a complete comparison of the guitar and the ukulele. By the end, you will have a better idea which one to get.
Table of Contents
Ukulele Vs Guitar
We will begin our comparison of the guitar vs ukulele by looking at each instrument individually, before comparing them directly. We’ll discuss the advantages of each and help you figure out which one is right for you.
The guitar is a fretted stringed instrument, most commonly with six strings. However, it comes in many forms.
The main classification is acoustic and electric guitars. Since we are comparing the guitar to the ukulele, it is best to focus on acoustic guitars, at least for the most part.
If you want to get technical, according to the Hornbostel–Sachs classification, all guitars are classified as “composite chordophones,” with the designated number 321.322. How it works, essentially, is that you have strings anchored at two opposing points.
However, the strings also have their usable part, essentially the part that vibrates or that you can press down upon on the fretboard.
On the one end, they rest upon the nut, a piece of hard material, usually synthetic, with slots for individual strings. On the other end, they rest on the saddles on the bridge.
The bridge is on the body, while the nut is on the neck, right where the headstock starts. With this formation, the strings are under tension, which gives them a specific pitch.
The sound is amplified through the hollow body of the instrument, with a soundhole in its center (in most cases).
The neck features a fingerboard with frets. This is where you press the strings, shortening their length, and thus changing the pitch.
For the most part, full-size acoustic guitars are about 39 inches long. Acoustic guitars usually have steel strings, but there are nylon-stringed ones as well. These are usually intended for classical music.
Both are pretty common and widespread on today’s market. The standard tuning is E-A-D-G-B-E, although you’re free to tune them as you wish.
According to the Hornbostel–Sachs classification, the ukulele is the same thing as your conventional guitar — a composite chordophone. It’s also a member of the lute family of instruments. However, it has a 4-string formation and a significantly smaller size.
When we talk about ukuleles, we mostly think of the soprano ukulele. These are usually about 21 inches in length, from the far end of the body to the end of the headstock.
A bass ukulele, which is the largest of them all, goes up to about 32 inches. But these aren’t that common.
There is also the baritone ukulele, but we already discuss that one in our comparison of the guitar and the baritone ukulele. For the purpose of this guide, we’ll focus on the soprano ukulele, which is the standard one.
Ukuleles have nylon strings in almost all cases. The tuning is usually G-C-E-A, but the bottom string isn’t the lowest in pitch but rather just one step below the top A string.
For the most part, ukuleles are designed to be played as accompanying instruments with tunings, making it easy to play basic chords.
Differences Between Ukulele And Guitar
The most noticeable difference between guitars and ukuleles is the size, as well as the number of strings. However, it goes way beyond that.
Although they work on the same principles, and ukuleles are essentially small-sized nylon-stringed guitars with only four strings, there’s one major difference — their role.
Guitars are versatile instruments that you can use for backing, lead, or solo roles. Ukuleles are almost exclusively used as backing instruments, preferably for singers who need something playing the chord progressions in the background.
They can also work in bands, but their sound, size, and tunings make them best for backing purposes. In some very rare cases, they can also work as lead instruments, although that’s not the conventional use for them.
While we’re at it, the sound is another one of the biggest differences. Guitars are versatile and they are louder, more resonant, and can cut through the mix more easily in band settings. In contrast, ukuleles sound soft and “thin.”
The common scale length of both instruments, or the distance between the nut and the bridge, is significantly different as well.
While it’s usually 13 inches with ukuleles, guitars have a scale length of around 25 inches. The number of frets is also very different, with acoustic guitars having from 19 to 22 frets, while ukuleles have anywhere between 12 and 15.
Ukulele tunings are usually open tunings. This makes it easier to finger basic chords. As far as the range goes, ukuleles go from C4 to A5, while guitars usually go from E2 to D6.
Similarities Between Guitars And Ukuleles
In essence, these are the same instruments. Sure, there’s the number of strings and different sounds, but they’re incredibly similar, overall. If you know how to play the guitar, you’ll also be able to play the ukulele.
And although it’s slightly tougher, if you learn to play the ukulele, you’ll understand the guitar as well. You have the same essential parts, and you press down upon the strings on the fingerboard on both.
Advantages Of The Guitar
The main advantage of guitars is that they’re versatile. They cover a much wider range and have more practical use. The average acoustic guitar can be used as a backing, lead, or solo instrument, depending on what you want.
Advantages Of The Ukulele
Ukuleles are much simpler to play and can be a great choice for vocalists who need simple instrumental backing. On top of that, they’re so compact that you can take them anywhere with you. Although the simplicity is the main advantage, some people also prefer their softer kind of sound.
Reasons To Get A Guitar
Guitars are incredibly versatile instruments, present in a variety of musical styles. Those who get guitars usually lean to lead playing, but they’re good for any purpose. With that said, we’d recommend guitars to anyone who is willing to go all the way and have more patience to learn how to play them.
Reasons To Get A Ukulele
As mentioned, ukuleles are much simpler instruments. And they have a narrower use. So, there are two main potential groups of people for ukuleles.
One are beginners who just want to learn to play a few songs and have fun, while the others are vocal performers who need simple instrumental accompaniment without having to hire other musicians or spend too much time learning how to play an instrument.
Guitar Versus Ukulele: Final Thoughts
Both guitars and ukuleles have their place in the musical world. While the guitar reigns supreme as a more versatile powerhouse, don’t underestimate the ukulele for its portability and simplicity. Both instruments have diehard fans and generations of history behind them.
So instead of declaring an ultimate victor in this strings showdown, perhaps the wisest stance is that guitars and ukuleles can peacefully coexist. Music brings people together, after all.
Whichever you choose as your weapon of sound, know that both instruments have the potential to spread joy.
Now that the dust has settled on this epic debate, why not broaden your musical horizons? If you already have one of these instruments, consider adding the other to your arsenal. You may find the grass is greener – or in this case, the strings are sweeter – on the other side.
The world of music has room enough for the thunderous roar of guitars and the lighter charm of ukuleles. So pick your favorite, but keep an open mind and ear for what else is out there. The real winner is anyone who finds their path to making melodies. Let the music play on!