Trying to decide between the ukulele vs guitar? In this article, music teacher Anthony S. discusses the differences between the two instruments, as well as how to choose which one is right for you.
Ukulele vs Guitar: Key Differences
Transitioning From Ukulele to Guitar
As a music teacher, I have been asked by many parents over the years if learning to play the ukulele is a good starting point for children who want to learn the guitar. The ukulele is a very good first instrument, however it must be considered as a real instrument and not an introductory instrument that is generally easy to play.
Even though the ukulele is a fretted string instrument, it is a completely different instrument than the guitar. I have observed in the course of my career a great many students actually find it challenging to transition from the ukulele to guitar.
This is because the ukulele and guitar are tuned differently and the process of learning the ukulele does not translate directly to the guitar.
The Size of the Ukulele vs Guitar
There is also an obvious size difference between the ukulele vs the guitar. I often discourage students from jumping into the ukulele just because of its size. If you’d prefer learning on a smaller instrument to start, there are dozens of options available for smaller guitars.
So whichever instrument you decide on, it’s important to make sure you’re choosing the right ukulele or guitar for you. Choosing the right instrument and the right size for a beginning musician is the first piece of advice that I give all students.
I have been challenged many times whilst trying to teach students who are using an instrument that was purchased as a gift, for example. Oftentimes children receive a ukulele as a gift from a relative that is simply impractical and counterproductive to proper education.
Pro tip: It’s always a good idea to consult with an experienced teacher before investing in an instrument.
Many students are concerned about whether they’ll be more comfortable playing the ukulele vs the guitar. Besides the evident small size of the standard soprano ukulele, the soft nylon strings are also great draw for many students with delicate fingers.
But if you want to learn the guitar, you could always start with a classical guitar that has nylon strings, and be just fine. Even if you don’t want to play classical music, you should never purchase an electric guitar as your first instrument.
You’d be surprised at how many students quit their lessons because the correct instrument wasn’t selected!
Ultimately, when deciding between the ukulele vs guitar, either instrument is an excellent choice if the student is focused on learning it. Practice every day and you WILL succeed. Also, be sure to find a great music teacher to work with.
Finding an experienced ukulele instructor or guitar teacher will help you build a solid foundation for your musical journey. Best of luck, and let us know which instrument you chose in the comments below!
Anthony S. teaches music in Oakland, CA, including the guitar, flute, drums, and trumpet. He has an MM in Composition from CUNY Brooklyn College and has been teaching since 2005. Learn more about Anthony here!
Photo by Sarah Han