Ukulele or Guitar: Which Should You Learn?

String instruments

So, are you or your child looking to get your child started with ukulele or guitar? Great idea! Both instruments are fun to play and are very versatile. However, there are some main differences that you should understand as you start out and are looking to choose between the ukulele and the guitar. We’ll get into it in this post!

Ukulele and guitar – an introduction

The ukulele is a cute, mini guitar-like instrument with four strings. It comes from Hawaii and makes a sweet and catchy sound. It’s super easy for beginners to pick up, thanks to its small size and simple design. Plus, its unique tone gives a special touch to all kinds of music styles.

On the other hand, the widely-known guitar is a highly adaptable musical instrument that consists of a wooden body, a neck, and usually six strings. These strings can be plucked or strummed to create diverse sounds. It plays a crucial role in numerous music genres, providing rhythmic support and emotive melodies. As a result, the guitar has become an essential component of contemporary music.

Benefits of learning an instrument

Whether you’re a music novice or an instrument enthusiast, you’re probably curious about the benefits of learning to play an instrument.

Learning to play an instrument improves your cognitive skills, instills discipline, and of course, builds creativity. It can also help you enhance your concentration, coordination, and memory.

Overall, learning to play an instrument enriches your life and proves a wonderful hobby and an excellent career path.

All about the ukulele

The ukulele’s history

The ukulele has a rich history that dates back to the 19th century. It all began when Portuguese immigrants introduced the small braguinha and machete instruments to Hawaii. The locals loved these instruments and transformed them into what we now call the ukulele. The name “ukulele” is Hawaiian for “jumping flea,” perhaps referring to the fast finger movements required to play it.

By the early 20th century, the ukulele became popular in the United States and symbolized the Jazz Age. Its small size and delightful sound made it accessible to a wide range of people. It found its way into various musical genres, from traditional Hawaiian music to pop, rock, and folk. The ukulele experienced renewed popularity, with artists like Israel Kamakawiwo’ole and Jason Mraz contributing to its modern appeal. Today, the ukulele continues to be beloved worldwide, thanks to its ability to create joyful and diverse musical expressions.

Types of ukuleles

There are several types of ukuleles, each with unique characteristics.

  • The Soprano ukulele is the smallest and most traditional size, known for its bright and classic sound.
  • The Concert ukulele is slightly larger than the soprano, offering more volume and deeper tones.
  • The Tenor ukulele is larger and has a richer sound, often preferred by professionals for its versatility.
  • The Baritone ukulele is similar in size to a small guitar, producing deeper tones and allowing for more finger space.

What Are The Different Types Of Ukulele - Soprano Vs Concert
Here’s a few more!

  • The Pineapple ukulele features a rounded body shape and produces a unique, slightly mellower tone.
  • The Bass Ukulele is a larger ukulele with a rubber-like strain that promotes profound per bass notes.
  • The Banjolele combines a ukulele body with a banjo-like sound, resulting in a distinctive twangy tone.
  • The Resonator Ukulehasith has a metal resonator cone, which amplifies sound for a louder and more projecting tone.

Each type of ukulele produces a slightly different sound and offers various playing styles and musical preferences.

Benefits of learning how to play the ukulele

There are plenty of advantages to learning music on the ukulele.

  1. It helps people improve cognitive skills such as memory, coordination, and multitasking.
  2. Practicing consistently or learning from an instructor also instills discipline and patience, which are valuable for personal growth.
  3. The ukulele has a simple design, which makes it easy for beginners to learn quickly, boosting confidence and minimizing learning obstacles.
  4. Additionally, the instrument is super portable, so you can take it with you and practice from anywhere. You can even travel easily with one!
  5. Mastering the ukulele gives you a sense of personal development and fosters a lifelong love of music.

Ukulele challenges

Learning to play the ukulele comes with everyday challenges.

Initially, your finger dexterity is limited, and transitioning between chords can be difficult, but consistent practice can help build muscle memory.

You may also find the strumming techniques and coordinating rhythm to be tricky.

Also, if you don’t have a background in music, it can take time to understand how to read the notes or tablature.

Lastly, staying motivated during the initial learning phase can be challenging. Dealing with frustration while learning is regular, so be patient!

Finding suitable learning resources and techniques that match individual learning styles can also be a hurdle. Patience, perseverance, and regular practice will help you overcome these obstacles.

Famous artists and songs featuring the ukulele

Here are some of the famous artists and their popular songs that feature the ukulele (and are generally easy to play!):

1. Jason Mraz – “I’m Yours”

2. Ingrid Michaelson – “The Way I Am”

3. Train – “Hey, Soul Sister”

4. Vance Joy – “Riptide”

5. Israel Kamakawiwo’ole – “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”

A few others are:

  • George Harrison – “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” (featuring ukulele in his solo version)
  • Eddie Vedder – “Tonight You Belong to Me”
  • Jake Shimabukuro – Known for his instrumental ukulele covers, including “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

All about the guitar

The guitar’s history

The history of the guitar stretches back thousands of years, originating from ancient stringed instruments. It underwent various transformations across cultures, such as the Greeks, Egyptians, and Persians. The modern guitar as we know it today began to take shape during the Middle Ages with the European lute and Spanish vihuela. Its popularity grew throughout Europe during the 16th century.

In the 17th century, the guitar adopted its six-string configuration and standardized tuning. During the 19th century, the classical guitar emerged, heavily influenced by virtuosos like Tárrega. It became essential and influential in blues, jazz, and rock in the 20th century, with figures like Hendrix and Clapton leading the way.

Introducing electric guitars revolutionized music and brought us new genres and cultural movements. With advancements in technology came various guitar styles, from acoustic to electric, pushing the boundaries of what the instrument could do. Today, the guitar is a universal icon, transcending genres and cultures, representing centuries of musical evolution.

Types of guitars

There are various guitar types, each catering to different sounds and musical styles.

A set of guitars
Image credit:
  1. The Classical Guitar is specifically designed for classical music. It features nylon strings and a wider neck and is well-suited for fingerpicking. Flamenco Guitars are very similar!
  2. The Acoustic Guitar comes in different sizes, including Dreadnought, Concert, and Parlor. To make sound, it relies on the vibration of the strings to resonate in its hollow body. Unlike the next two types of guitar, you don’t need an amp to play it.
  3. The Semi-Acoustic Guitar is technically an electric guitar, but it has a hollow body. You play it using an amp, which is popular in jazz and blue.
  4. The Electric Guitar, often utilized in rock, pop, and jazz, is equipped with magnetic pickups. It also relies on amplification to produce its sound.

Side note, did you see Eddie Munson absolutely shred on guitar in Stranger Things Season 4? That was an Electric Guitar!


More types include the following:

  • The Bass Guitar is similar to an electric guitar but differs in its longer scale length and thicker strings. It plays a crucial role in providing low-frequency rhythm and melody in bands.
  • The Archtop Guitar, commonly found in jazz and blues, has a distinctive hollow body and an arched top. It produces a warm, resonant tone.
  • The Resonator Guitar is known for its metallic body and resonator cone. It produces a distinct, twangy, so it is frequently used in blues and folk music.
  • The 12-String guitar, as the name suggests, has double the usual six strings. This creates a rich and full, so it is popular in folk and rock music.
  • The Baritone Guitar is tuned lower than standard guitars, resulting in deep tones. It is often used in alternative and metal genres.

With these various guitars, musicians can find the perfect instrument to cater to their playing style and preferences. If you’re unsure which to start out with, try a lesson and see how you feel!

Benefits of learning how to play the guitar

Like learning the ukulele, learning how to play guitar offers numerous benefits that enhance different aspects of life.

  1. Beyond mastering different musical techniques, it allows you to express yourself.
  2. Again, like learning any instrument, there are cognitive advantages to learning guitar; improved memory, coordination, and multitasking skills.
  3. Playing the guitar also serves as a stress reliever.
  4. Regular practice helps you learn discipline, practice patience, and instill a sense of determination, which are qualities that extend beyond music.
  5. Collaboration and group playing encourages social interaction, teamwork, and a sense of belonging.

Guitar challenges

Here are some of the more common difficulties of learning to play the guitar:

  • Pressing the strings and forming chords to play the guitar correctly is much more difficult and uncomfortable than on the ukulele. Try a guitar with plastic strings to minimize discomfort.
  • There are more strings than on the ukulele, so while you can play more notes, there are also more finger positions to get used to.
  • Like on the ukulele, guitar strumming techniques can be tricky to master, as they involve coordination and rhythm to create the desired sound.
  • You need to place your fingers down precisely and HARD to prevent buzzing noises.

Great artists and popular songs featuring the guitar

Here are some popular artists and songs to inspire you to learn guitar!

1. Taylor Swift – “betty”

2. “Blackbird” – The Beatles

3. Led Zeppelin – “Stairway to Heaven”

4. Carlos Santana – “Smooth”


5. “Best Part” – H.E.R featuring Daniel Caesar

And some more!

  1. “Stand By Me” – Ben E. King
  2. “The Thrill Is Gone” – B.B. King
  3. “Johnny B. Goode” – Chuck Berry

Comparing the ukulele vs. guitar

Size and portability

The ukulele and guitar have distinct differences in size and portability. Compared to a standard guitar, the ukulele has a compact body and shorter neck, making it smaller and lighter. This makes it easier to transport and store, which is particularly useful for traveling and quick practice sessions.

On the other hand, a standard guitar’s larger body and longer neck offer a more comprehensive range of tones and more versatility, but this can make it less portable compared to a ukulele. While both instruments have portable variants, the ukulele’s small size gives it a clear advantage for musicians who prioritize portability and convenience while playing on the go.

Sound and music style

The ukulele and guitar have distinct differences in sound and music style because of their unique characteristics. The ukulele has a smaller body and nylon strings, creating a bright and cheerful tone well-suited for folk, Hawaiian, and pop genres.

Its simplicity makes it perfect for beginners.

On the other hand, the guitar has a larger body and steel strings, giving it a wider range of tones that accommodate various genres such as rock, jazz, classical, and blues. Its versatility allows for intricate melodies and powerful chords.

While the ukulele brings a sense of simplicity and joy, the guitar’s flexibility allows for a broader range of musical expression. These differences make each instrument a distinct choice depending on the desired style and mood.

Learning curve: Ukulele vs guitar

The ukulele and guitar have different learning curves due to their differences. The ukulele is often easier for beginners to pick up quickly since it has less strings and is simpler. Chord formations are simpler, making it more approachable.

On the other hand, learning the guitar can be more complex since it has more strings, variations, diverse techniques, and finger placements. This makes the initial learning curve longer, requiring patience and practice to master.

However, both instruments offer rewarding experiences. You may find you have more confidence starting out with the ukulele since it’s easier to pick up. But if you’re interested in being able to play more sounds and songs, the guitar is for you.

What age should students start to play?

Deciding on what age children should start playing the ukulele is often confusing. Given its smaller size and simpler chord structures, children as young as 5-6 years of age can begin playing the ukulele.

On the other hand, learning to play the guitar requires more finger strength and coordination, which means it’s better suited for children 8-10 years of age.

Cost comparison

The cost of ukuleles and guitars can vary based on brand, quality, and features. Generally, ukuleles are more affordable than guitars due to their smaller size and more straightforward construction.

You can find entry-level ukuleles for around $50 to $100, while higher-quality models range from $100 to $300 or more. Guitars, on the other hand, have a wider price range.

Beginner acoustic guitars start at around $100 to $200, while intermediate to professional models can cost anywhere from $300 to several thousand dollars.

Electric guitars often require additional expenses for amplifiers and accessories.

Overall, ukuleles are a more cost-effection for beginners, but the cost can vary based on individual preferences and goals.

Genre versatility

Ukulele and guitar versatility varies across music genres because they have distinct sounds.

Like we mentioned before, ukuleles produce a bright and mellow tone, often associated with folk, Hawaiian, and light pop music. While they are excellent for creating cheerful melodies, their limited tonal range may limit their versatility in certain genres.

Guitars, however, are more versatile due to their broader tonal palette. They can be found in classical music, rock, jazz, blues, country, and many others, genrquicklysily adapting to different playing styles. With their larger bodies and various techniques, guitars can produce intricate melodies, powerful chords, and complex rhythms, making them essential for musical genres.

What should you consider when choosing between ukulele and guitar?

Personal interest and preference

When deciding between a ukulele and a guitar, iessentialtant to consider your musical preferences and the type of music you want to play. A ukulele is suitable for lighter, folk, or pop genres.

On the other hand, if you are interested in playing rock, jazz, blues, and various other genres, a guitar would provide a broader range of possibilities. Listen to the popular songs above and pick one you like to get started.

Time commitment

If you’re trying to choose between a ukulele and a guitar, it’s important to consider how much time you can commit to practice. Ukuleles typically have a shorter learning curve, which makes them a good choice for individuals with limited practice time. On the other hand, guitars require more time to learn due to their complexity.

Physical characteristics

The size of your hands and fingers is important when choosing a musical instrument. Ukuleles are designed with a smaller neck, which makes them comfortable for people with smaller hands.

Guitars, on the other hand, have more oversizedrger necks that may require more finger stretching. If you need a portable instrument, ukuleles are more compact and travel-frienthand to guitars.

Ultimately, choosing between a guitar and a ukulele will come down to of music you wish to play. You could even begin with a ukulele and advance to play the guitar over time.

Two people playing the guitar
Image by Freepik

The big picture: Ukulele or guitar

When choosing between the ukulele and guitar, consider your preferences, practice time, and physical comfort. Both instruments provide distinct experiences and musical opportunities. Whichever option you go for, learning an instrument is very fulfilling and fun!

Whether you decide on the ukulele or guitar, there are many benefits – from personal growth and cognitive advantages to playing your favorite song.

Are you ready? Try out a ukulele instructor or guitar instructor on Lessonpal to get started! They’ll be able to help you start out and guide you and will be with you every step of the way. They can even help you to decide which one to go with – ukulele or guitar. Get started today!

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