Ukulele vs. Guitar: Similarities and Differences Between Them

person playing ukulele
Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on

When considering ukulele vs guitar, the first question to ask is whether you seriously want to learn to play the instrument. Do you intend to attend regular lessons and commit yourself wholeheartedly to the practice? Do you wish to reach a certain level where you are able to play in front of others without much effort? Or, perhaps, you may just simply want an instrument for some casual photoshoot and occasionally learn and play while you are on break. Regardless of your intentions, learning the guitar or any instrument is challenging, but choosing an instrument is even more tricky.

What is Ukulele?

A ukulele is a small stringed instrument that originated in Hawai’i based on instruments brought to the islands by Portuguese immigrants. A ukulele is typically made of tonewood with four nylon strings that musicians strum with their fingers or play with a pick. The name “ukulele” roughly translates to “jumping flea” in Hawaiian, which, according to one origin story, refers to the energetic appearance of players’ fingers while fingerpicking.

There are several types of ukuleles available to today’s players. The most common is the concert ukulele, which is voiced in the alto register. Other models include the soprano ukulele, tenor ukulele, baritone ukulele, and bass ukulele. More obscure models include a contrabass ukulele, a pocket ukulele, and a pineapple ukulele (with a pineapple-shaped body). An electric ukulele contains a magnetic pickup and can plug into an amplifier, much like an electric guitar or electric bass.

What Is a Guitar?

The guitar is a fretted musical instrument that typically has six strings. It is held flat against the player’s body and played by strumming or plucking the strings with the dominant hand, while simultaneously pressing selected strings against frets with the fingers of the opposite hand.


Ukuleles are strummed instruments that are quite similar in look to the guitar, though they have a flat sound as opposed to the deep tone that guitars provide. In terms of musical content, the two instruments produce similar types of tones, though the strings of the latter are usually more deep-toned than that of the former. Ukulele Vs guitar therefore really depends upon the preference of the guitarist. The two guitars are similar in the way they are played, but the main difference between the two is that, while guitars usually have only one strummed string, the strings of ukulele have four strings which are plucked in a back-and-forth motion. The difference in sound also lies in the tuning of the instrument.

Similarities Between Guitar and Ukulele

  1. Body shape: Most ukuleles and acoustic guitars share a common shape that amplifies sound in a lightweight body. Some ukulele sizes even approach those of an acoustic guitar, particularly the bass ukulele.
  2. Frets: Ukuleles and guitars are both fretted instruments. Each features a wooden neck with horizontal metal frets. Guitarists and ukulele players use these frets to sound different pitches.
  3. Playing styles: Both the guitar and the ukulele can be played as harmonic instruments (for playing chords) and melodic instruments (for playing melodies). In general, the guitar is a more resonant instrument and projects greater distances, so it is more likely to be used as a melodic instrument in a large ensemble.
  4. Musical styles: Ukuleles feature most prominently in traditional Hawaiian music, as well as some forms of folk, pop, and jazz. All of these genres also feature guitar. In general, the guitar covers a wider range of genres, appearing in nearly every style of music except EDM and other techno genres.

Differences Between Guitar and Ukulele

  1. Size: When comparing ukuleles and guitars, the most obvious difference is the instruments’ sizes: Ukuleles range from 11 to 21 inches, while a full-size guitar can be up to 40 inches. Due to its small size, the ukulele can be more manageable for new players. Ukulele players don’t have to stretch their fingers far on the fretboard to play ukulele chord shapes and scale patterns. By contrast, some guitar chord shapes can stretch a player’s hands, on account of the guitar’s longer scale length.
  2. Strings: Ukuleles and guitars have a different number of strings. Guitars have six strings tuned from the lowest to highest (most often E-A-D-G-B-E), while ukuleles only have four and don’t follow low-to-high order (standard ukulele tuning is G-C-E-A). With fewer strings, ukuleles can be easier to learn how to play—especially since ukulele strings are usually soft nylon, rather than the tougher-on-the-fingers nickel-coated strings found on most guitars.
  3. Range: Since guitars are larger instruments than ukuleles, they have a much more extensive range of notes—standard classical guitars can play from E2 on their lowest string to E4 on the twelfth fret of their top string. By contrast, a soprano ukulele can play only from C4 to A5. High-quality electric guitars routinely go all the way up to the note C♯5, and some can go even higher.
  4. Sound: Acoustic guitars produce a loud, full sound, due in part to their larger size and nickel-coated strings; ukulele music is lighter and brighter than the richness of guitar music. Meanwhile, an electric guitar player can produce an array of different sounds thanks to guitar amps and effects pedals.


Remember, the strings of the guitar are not easy to hold initially; therefore, you need to get started with this instrument by strumming the strings slowly. The strings of a ukulele are made of wood with a loose, pliable metal string attached to it. In order to properly play a ukulele, one needs to be acquainted with this instrument’s tuning. This is different from other instruments where you get started by strumming the strings slowly. The strings of the guitar need to be tuned slightly louder so that the singer (or the accompanist) can easily understand the song being sung.

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