Guitar Vs Ukulele: All Differences Explained

Which one suits you the most?

Primarily, guitars appear way bigger than ukuleles. Guitar has six strings whilst the ukulele has only 4. They may appear pretty much the same and may sound different, each of them can produce the best sound if played properly that can make your music harmonized.

ukulele vs guitar

Introduction

The two most known and used stringed instruments in most songs are Ukulele and Guitar. These two are both strung, they share similarities on that part and it principally means that the sound you hear whenever the strings are plucked is the sound generated by those two instruments.

They also both have the same shape and a woody-like structure on their body, although guitars just appear larger than ukuleles. Other than their appearance, ukuleles and guitars possess the same style in terms of their playability by knowing their respective chords and strums.

UKULELE

A brown ukulele near a window
A brown ukulele near a window.

Ukulele is a 4-string instrument that belongs to the family of lute instruments. Some say that this is a small version of Guitars. This instrument is well-known to the island of Hawaii but its roots came from the Portuguese Braguinha or Machete de Braga.

The story goes by when the Hawaiians were moved to the one passenger who played music using his Ukulele, they were all amazed by how his fingers plucked on the fretboard. That’s the beginning of the booming popularity of the Ukulele in Hawaii.

Size

Ukuleles tend to have smaller characteristics than guitars. Its size usually ranges from 30% to 50% tinier than some guitars. Because of its smaller size, it affects how the instrument sounds e.g. its volume and tune.

  • The Soprano ukulele is commonly ranging size of 21 inches or 53 in centimeter
  • The concert ukulele is around 23 inches or 58 in centimeter
  • The tenor ukulele is about 26 inches or 66 in centimeter
  • The baritone ukulele is approximately 29 inches or 74 in centimeter
Ukulele Standard Sizes
Standard Ukulele Sizes Comparison.

The Soprano ukulele is the best for practicing. For the younger musicians and beginners since you’ll be playing the smallest ones. Despite this, Soprano is also played by professionals and skilled musicians.

The total length of a common ukulele:

  • Total Length    21″ – 26″
  • Body Length    10″ – 13″
  • Scale Length   13″ – 17″

However, the sizes are also based on how the manufacturer makes their ukuleles but the ones written above are the most common. Despite the sizes of different manufacturers’ ukuleles, it won’t change the fact that the ukulele is a small instrument.

Number of Strings

Ideally, ukuleles only have four strings and are numbered as 4-3-2-1 and tuned G-C-E-A, also known as a standard tuning for Soprano, Concert, and Tenor ukuleles. The G-string is placed on the topmost part while A is on the bottom facing the floor.

The G-string is the thickest string, unless you’re using the reentrant tuning which will be discussed in the latter part of the article, as you move your fingers down to the A-string, you will notice that the strings get thinner. The third-string is tuned on the C, the second is the E-string, and the first on the bottom part is the A-string.

Type of Strings

There are a lot of strings in the market for ukuleles out there that would be perfect. The length of the size of the ukulele is based on the length of its scale which is the distance from the bridge onto the nut.

As mentioned earlier of the different varieties of ukulele, here are their designated strings:

  • Baritone ukulele strings are around 30 inches long, and a 19-inch scale length.
  • Concert ukulele strings are around 23 inches long, and a 15-inch scale length.
  • Soprano ukulele strings are around the size of 21 inches, and a 13-inch scale length.
  • Tenor ukulele strings are around 26 inches long, and a 17-inch scale length.
A close up picture of nylon strings of Ukulele
A close up picture of nylon strings of Ukulele.

Moreover, choosing a perfect type of ukulele string can make a whole lot of difference in its playability. Here are five (5) types of Ukulele String Materials that you should think of when buying:

Nylon Ukulele Strings

If you are planning to pay a visit to Hawaii together with your ukulele, or even just wanting your instrument to sound like you’re in Hawaii, Nylon strings are the best one for you. This type of string produces a gentle, warm tone. However, Nylon strings are difficult to grasp the consistency of their tuning but despite that, these strings are durable and humidity high-resistant.

Fluorocarbon Ukulele Strings

This string is comparable to nylon ones but if you’re wanting to play ukulele on a high-quality outcome, Fluorocarbon String is your best choice. It lasts longer than nylon strings and somehow has a consistency of keeping the standard tune of the ukes.

Steel Ukulele Strings

Although steel strings are one of the variants of the ukulele strings, it is not advisable to use this kind of string. Plucking steel string will most likely add pressure to the top, bridge, and neck of the ukulele resulting in damaging the instrument. Generally, this certain string is much suitable for bass guitars and the guitar itself. Nevertheless, if you want to rely on strings that can hold different tunes, steel strings are the way to steal them.

Wound Nylon Ukulele Strings

Traditional nylon and bright steel strings have a split difference on the Wound Nylon strings. This variety of strings has a nylon core wrapped within a thin polymer-made winding material. They produce a richer sound than any other standard strings and are commonly used for baritone or tenor ukuleles.

Wound Metal Ukulele Strings

Plainly, because of its name, it is somewhat similar to the wound nylon string but instead of bearing nylon core, it has metal. Therefore, it is like a guitar string; you can feel a little bit of the guitar’s presence on it.

Tuning Difference of a Ukulele

Guitars and ukuleles are both tuned differently, it’s a mere factor of their characteristics. For instance, the standard tuning for ukuleles are G-C-E-A, guitars, on the other hand, are E-A-G-D-B-E.

  • The fourth string, which is the G-string is typically tuned into G4 and was called the “low G” even though it’s actually the second to the highest pitch among the strings of ukes.
  • The C-string or the third-string are tuned to C4. This string has the lowest pitch among the strings.
  • The second string, E, also known as the E-string is tuned to E4. This string, unlike the other two mentioned above, is the second-lowest pitch.
  • The A-string or the first string is a top string tuned to A4. It possesses the highest pitch among the other three strings of ukuleles.
How to tune a Ukulele

By tuning the ukulele, you can use different types of tools. Most musicians and/or ukulele players use electronic devices to help their selves on ukulele tuning. These are:

Pedal Tuners – This kind of tuner delivers a signal of the ukulele via audio cable with a quarter-inch size. However, you can only use this type of tuner on the ukuleles that have an electric pickup. Additionally, most of the pedal tuners are made for guitars but this tuner also obtains the sound that is being produced by a ukulele instrument.

Clip-on Tuners –  These are electric tuners, using this, you must attach it to the headstock of a ukulele. It will measure the sound vibrations of the wood of the ukulele. This is also a universal ukulele tuner, meaning, you can use it for any variations of a ukulele.

Smartphone Tuning Applications – Believe it or not, by choosing the right application, you can tune your ukulele by the use of smartphones and their mouthpiece to pick up the sound that interferes with the reading of your instrument. Although it is not usually advisable for professional use, smartphones are a great backup for convenience and handiness.

Scale Length

Scale length is defined as the distance of the nut of a ukulele string down to the saddle. This affects the tuning of your ukuleles. Having a long scale may give you different harmonies and more room to strum, it also can offer you a bright sound. A shorter scale gives you less space for the overtones and usually releases fuzzy sounds

Price

Generally, if you’re planning to buy a brand-new ukulele, you must take your time to deeply look for brands that are trusted and have great reviews. The price is ranging between $50 to $150.


GUITAR

A brown guitar sitting on a chair in a living room
A brown guitar sitting on a chair in a living room.

Guitar, derived from the word Guitarra Latina is a medieval six-stringed musical instrument that originated from Spain in the early 16th century. However, the exact history of the guitar yet remains a history for most. One story tells that Hermes, from Greek Mythology, constructed the first kithara (an ancient Greek word for guitar) from a shell of a tortoise.

Size

Just like the ukulele, the guitar also has different varieties. Its variations are based on their sizes. Despite their variation’s sizes, choosing a guitar size must suit the owner’s body size such as their height and weight. It’s also a prerequisite to picking something that will be an inspiration for you to play.

The basic standard size of a guitar is about 25 inches (63cm) or higher in its scale length, and 38 inches (96.5cm) long. Even though a guitar you bought has a scale length of 38 inches, if it’s higher than 24 inches, then it is most likely a full-sized guitar. Even so, if your guitar is 24 inches below, it’s called a 3/4 guitar or also known as a scaled-down guitar. These types of guitars are mostly used by younger ones or small people.

  • Total Length              38″– 41″
  • Body Length              19″– 21″
  • Scale Length              23″– 26″
Guitar Standard Sizes
Guitar Standard Sizes.

Measuring a guitar’s scale length is critical because a tiny contrast into a guitar’s scale length has an impact on how you play it.

Electric, Nylon String Classical, and Steel-string guitars are some of the most used ones although you might consider their weight because they tend to be heavier, also, Electric guitars appear slightly smaller than those two mentioned.

Acoustic guitars are the most popular ones and are being used by famous musicians like the extraordinary singer-songwriter, Taylor Swift. It is larger and much hollow but not heavier than an electric guitar.

Number of Strings

Guitars have typically six strings, each one represents a different tune and as you pluck them one by one, they also have different thicknesses. The thickest topmost string is counted as the 6th string, whilst the thinnest bottom one is the 1st string. Mainly, it is a 6-5-4-3-2-1 string with 6 being the thickest down to the 1 being the thinnest. Additionally, its tune was E-A-D-B-G-E.

E – 1st string
B – 2nd string
G – 3rd string
D – 4th string
A – 5th string
E – 6th string

Strings 1 and 2 are labeled as “plain string” and the strings 3 to 6 are wound with metal.

In guitar, the thickest one sounds the lowest. Strings E and B or 1-2 hold the most high-pitched of the six, and of course, the strings GDAE or 3-4-5-6 are the lower ones.

Type of Strings

A close up picture of a 6-string acoustic guitar
A close up picture of a 6-string acoustic guitar.

The sound response and feels of your guitar are relying on the strings that it has. Having the right type of string for this instrument is a huge asset to its playability.

Deciding the right kind of strings that is perfect for your taste on the sound of your guitar is highly critical. These are the five (5) main strings of a guitar:

Steel Guitar Strings

It is a modern form of guitar strings that came from the nylon string of a classical guitar. Moreover, steel wires are mostly for the use of an electric guitar nowadays, but it also sounds great on acoustic guitars. It can make your guitar sound lively and bright, but for its use, steel strings are a great use for songs that has an aggressive tone on them.

Nickel Guitar Strings

If you make strum a guitar that is thicker than most strings, you may be touching a nickel string that is made of nickel-plated steel. Nickel plate helps the guitar to sound brighter, and louder. Nickel strings have a richer tone and are a great fit for sounds with warm and mellow tones.

Bass Guitar Strings

From the word itself, bass, is commonly used by bass guitars, the lowest pitch among different types of guitar strings. This string must be tuned regularly because it is most likely to change the standard tuning every other use. Bass guitar strings are mostly used by alternative rocks or genres that are mellow and deep.

Bronze Guitar Strings

This type of string can be recognizable based on its golden color. It is made of 90% copper and 10% of tin but most bronze strings are 80% copper and 20% tin. 80/20 bronze strings produce a brighter tone rather than the 90/10. Bronze strings are much suitable for smaller guitars played with slower and more relaxed genres.

Nylon Guitar Strings

This string is great to use for folk music but in traditional ways, some use it for any classical genre. Just like on the ukulele, the downside of this string is that it tends to change out of tune frequently, due to its tenderness, it reacts quickly to the changes in temperature and humidity

Tuning Difference of a Guitar

Normally, unlike the sound of a ukulele, guitars resonate louder tones caused by their long-scaled body and the strings.

You must check the tune of your guitar regularly because it goes out of tune by using the instrument too much, it may be caused by the strums and bending of the strings.

Guitar’s standard tuning is actually the open strings of the instrument (without capo), E-A-D-G-B-E, with low on E down to high E. From the lowest pitch, E², down to the highest pitch which is the E⁴. If you’re having a hard time memorizing each string, the internet has a lot of ways for you to keep the string names in your mind:

Eddie
Ate
Dynamite
Good
Bye
Eddie

The tuning follows the standard tuning for 6 string guitar and can be used for either acoustic or electric guitar.

Scale Length

In a simpler manner, scale length cites the active part of a no-cap string, connecting to the nut and saddle. Guitars have longer scales than ukuleles, that is why the tension of sound this instrument prompts more power, and louder. The most common scale length is assembled around 24.75 to 25.5 inches.

Price

If you’re desiring to own a guitar, you must prepare an amount of $100 to $500 or 5,000php to 25,000php varying from the name of the brand, quality of woods and other materials, and the different accessories involved.

Even so, if you don’t care about numbers, guitars with a great quality of wood are priced much higher than the regular ones. You may also consider the decorations, multilevel gears, and high-quality tuning. It is a good price of $300 to $500.

Do note that whatever type or brand your guitar maybe, if you are well-practice and know every sound of the strings too well, the name of the brand won’t really matter.

Which is easier to Learn?

If by easier, means which instrument will make you familiarized easier, then ukulele is the best one for beginners. It only has four strings and few chords that only use one to three fingers (guitars may use all of your five fingers) resulting in a low tension so basically, you can be at ease by its proficiency.

Is Ukulele Better than Guitar?

Friends on a camping trip singing songs and playing guitar and ukulele
Friends on a camping trip singing songs and playing guitar and ukulele.

No, no one is better than any of them. Both ukulele and guitar offer their own style of melody. Each instrument has its own characteristics and quality sound that is suitable for the genres that are perfect for them.

They have their own differences and if you prefer which is which, that is your own preference, while some other people might like the opposite of what you chose. It’s just a matter of perspective and tastes.

Conclusion

In summation, ukuleles are the smaller ones and only have four strings, that is why they sound mellow and lower than guitars that are actually bigger and carry six strings that sounded louder and have more bass.

Ukulele sounds more of the island of Hawaii, for the reason that it is also the origin of this instrument Guitar, however, is more of a universal tone with different varieties, you can play acoustic low music on it as well rock genres.

About Maggie Holding

Hello! My name is Maggie and I am a proud Editor/Author for PlayTheTunes. Coming From South Carolina, USA, my whole life I've sang and played the guitar and flute! I love music with a passion, and am ecstatic to help others in their own music journey!