The guitar and ukulele are the most popular and widely recognized when it comes to the stringed instruments family; no other two instruments in that family look more alike than these two. Looking at them at first glance, the only noticeable difference is that the ukulele is much smaller than the guitar; even the small parlor sized guitar is bigger than the ukulele. The guitar is almost twice as big as the ukulele;
Body length of ukulele: 10-13 inches
Body length of guitar: 19-21 inches
Scale length of ukulele: 13-17 inches
Scale length of guitar: 23-26 inches
Nut width of ukulele: 11/2 inches
Nut width of guitar: 13/4 inches
Total length of ukulele: 21-26 inches
Total length of guitar: 38-41 inches
The size difference is basically the only notable difference at first glance, but there are also other distinctive features that differentiate the guitar from the ukulele.
The standard guitar has 6 strings (but you may see a 12 stringed guitar occasionally) while the ukulele usually comes with 4 strings, the ukulele is a lot easier to learn and play than the guitar because of its fewer strings. Sometimes, a ukulele may have 8 strings (this type of ukulele is called the taropatch ukulele). Guitars make use of steel strings or nylon strings (steel strings have a loud, bright tone with high tension) while ukuleles mostly make use of nylon strings (nylon strings have a soft, warmer tone with low tension), the nylon strings on the ukulele makes it more comfortable to play than the guitar’s hard metal strings. Guitar and ukulele are tuned differently, the guitar has more range than the ukulele and can go on about 2 octaves more from where the ukulele stops.
Fretboard and Tuning
The guitar is tuned to E-A-D-G-B-E while the ukulele is tuned to G-C-E-A. The fretboard of the ukulele is thinner and very much shorter than that of the guitar, this makes it very comfortable and appealing to play especially for beginners and people with particularly small hands, unlike the guitar whose fretboard is larger and longer and you’ll be required to stretch your fingers to be able to hit notes correctly. If you put a capo or your finger on the 5th fret of a guitar touching the 4 highest pitched strings, you’ll be playing the notes of a ukulele i.e. a ukulele is more like the E-A-D-G notes on the guitar but tuned up a 4th.
Even though the guitar and ukulele are stringed instruments that look alike, their pattern of playing are very different. Playing chords on the guitar and ukulele are two separate parallel journeys. Making the same chord shape with your fretting hand on the guitar and ukulele will result in 2 different chords. However, if you play the same chord on each of them, they would take different chord shapes, but harmonize together. If you use the same chord shape to play the D chord on the guitar, it would give you the G chord on the ukulele.
Playing the G chord on the guitar will involve:
1st finger on the 2nd fret of the 5th string
2nd finger on the 3rd fret of the 6th string
3rd finger on the 3rd fret of the 1st string
Strum all 6 strings
Whereas the G chord on ukulele will involve:
1st finger on the 2nd fret of the 3rd string
2nd finger on the 2nd fret of the 1st string
3rd finger on the 3rd fret of the 2nd string
Strum all 4 strings
The guitar sounds fuller and louder because of the additional 2 strings that the ukulele does not have and because of its size; it has a larger and wider body and a bigger and deeper sound hole, so whatever you play on the guitar will be fuller, louder and much more accentuated than it would be on the ukulele. The guitar also has metal strings and a string tension of about 24-35 lbs. per string which sound loud, bright and more crispy than the soft, warm tone of the ukulele which has nylon strings and a string tension of 7-13 lbs. per string.
The guitar has nearly three times more string tension than a ukulele; the more the string tension on the strings of an instrument, the louder and brighter it sounds as well as the tighter the strings are – which make it harder on the fingers and more painful to play.
If you’re on a budget or looking to buy a very cheap stringed instrument, then you should consider the ukulele. If you want to also buy a comfortable stringed instrument fit for a child, the ukulele should come to mind too. New ukuleles cost from $20 and above, but definitely not up to $100, whereas, a standard new guitar should cost nothing less than $120, except of course the guitar is fairly used. There are fairly used ukuleles too, but since they do not cost so much, why not just go for a new one, instead of buying something you’re not completely sure about? Fairly used guitars are safer and much easier to find than fairly used ukuleles.
* Guitars are bigger than ukuleles
* Ukuleles are more cheaper than guitars
* Guitar has 6 strings, ukuleles have 4
* Guitars are louder, brighter and sharper while ukuleles are softer, warmer and duller
* Guitars mostly use steel strings while ukuleles use nylon strings
* Ukuleles are easier and more convenient for smaller framed people to play
* Ukuleles are uncomfortable for people with very large hands and fingers
* Ukuleles have low tension strings which are easier on the fingers, guitars have high tension strings which are harder on the fingers
* Ukulele has limited sound range and tone, whereas the guitar is almost unlimited when it comes to tones
* Guitars have only 2 basic types: electric and acoustic while ukuleles have about 4 basic types: soprano, tenor, concert (alto) and baritone (the largest size of ukulele).