If you’re considering picking up a new musical instrument, you might be wondering about the differences between the ukulele and the guitar. Both are popular instruments, but they have some key differences that might make one a better choice for you over the other.
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The Main Differences between Ukulele and Guitar
Alright, let’s dive into the differences between the uke and the guitar. First up, size and shape. Ukuleles are typically smaller and have a more rounded shape, while guitars are bigger and have a more elongated shape. The difference in size means that the ukulele has a higher, lighter sound compared to the deeper, heavier sound of the guitar.
Next up, playing style. Ukuleles are usually strummed quickly with a pick, while guitars can be strummed or plucked with the fingers. Ukuleles are often used for light, cheerful music, while guitars can be used for a wider variety of music styles, from rock to classical.
Are the Chords the Same for Guitar and Ukulele?
So, now that we’ve talked about the differences between the two instruments, let’s answer a common question: are the chords the same for guitar and ukulele? Well, the short answer is no. Guitar and ukulele chords have different names and shapes, so you’ll need to learn new chords if you switch from one instrument to the other. For example, have a look at the C major for both guitar and Ukulele:
|C major in Guitar||x.220.127.116.11.0|
|C major in Ukulele||0.0.0.3|
Wildly different, no?
Now, there is a trick to convert guitar chords to ukulele chords by simply transposing the chord shape up or down a few frets. This is a well-known secret of musicians playing both instruments: Ukulele chords are the same as the chords on the first four strings of a guitar. So, if you know the distance to transpose, given the tuning of the guitar, you can easily find the corresponding Ukulele chord.
Have a look:
|G major on Guitar||18.104.22.168.0.3|
|Take the 4 first strings only:||0.0.0.4|
|This is C major in Ukulele||0.0.0.4|
|Transposed distance||From G to C. 2 1/2 tones|
Can a Guitarist Play Ukulele?
So, can a guitarist just pick up a ukulele and start strumming away? Well, kind of. As we mentioned earlier, the chords for guitar and ukulele are different, but if you know these tricks, so you’ll be able to learn the Ukulele positions in a breeze.
Also, if you already know how to play the guitar, you’ll have an easier time learning the ukulele than someone who’s never played an instrument before. That’s because you already have a solid foundation in basic concepts like chord progression, strumming patterns, and fretting technique.
Think of learning to play the ukulele like training for a marathon. Just like how a sprinter can run a marathon, but it takes time and effort to build up endurance, a guitarist can definitely play the ukulele, but it’ll take some practice to get used to the different chord shapes and finger movements.
But just like how a sprinter who trains for a marathon can become a better runner overall, playing the ukulele can actually help improve your guitar skills. For example, playing the ukulele can help you develop a better sense of rhythm, and make you a more versatile musician.
For example, think of Billie Eilish, who we are sure dominates the guitar well enough, but she is fairly known for using the ukulele in her music. She has used the instrument in many of her songs and has even performed on the ukulele in some of her concerts.
How to convert guitar chords to ukulele chords
Converting guitar chords to ukulele chords can be a bit tricky.
For example, for A minor:
|A minor on Guitar:||x.0.2.2.1.0|
|A minor on Ukulele:||22.214.171.124|
It is pretty tricky to get the shape of the chord correctly departing from the A minor on Guitar, unless you know how to transpose 2 and a half tones, which gets you to E minor, then, A minor on Ukulele would be the first four strings of the E minor on Guitar.
What??? Pretty cool, right?
|E minor on Guitar||0.2.2.0.0.0|
|Only the first four chords, and voila! you got the Ukulele’s A minor||126.96.36.199|
Well, these tricks only get you so far, you cannot hope to calculate and transpose every single chord, so just take the Ukulele and try to start learning each chord by memory
The good news is, there are many resources available online that can help you with this, including our songs area, where you can pick a song and just select the instrument you will use to play it with, the chords will automatically convert for you!
Can I Tune My Guitar Like a Ukulele?
You could, All you need to do is adjust the tuning pegs on your guitar to match the standard ukulele tuning. But the strings could break, as the tension could be too much to handle, especially for the D string. The standard tuning for a ukulele is GCEA, which means the strings are tuned to the notes G, C, E, and A.
This can be a fun experiment if you’re feeling creative, but be sure to re-string your guitar according to the thickness of the strings.
In conclusion, which one to play?
Playing either of these instruments can bring a lot of joy and satisfaction. It can also be a great way to connect with others and share your love of music.
If you choose to learn guitar or ukulele, or even both, the important thing is that you enjoy the process and find fulfillment in making music.