If you have never played the guitar or ukulele, you may be wondering which one is better to learn. There is no real winner in this regard but there are some reasons that some would consider the ukulele over the guitar. This article is an attempt to answer this question and provide some insight as to why you would choose the ukulele over the guitar.
Is the ukulele better than the guitar?
As someone who plays both instruments and has for many years, my opinion says that neither is better than the other. Most musicians would agree that this is a ridiculous question. They are different instruments that serve different purposes and often complement each other. They play differently, sound different, and may appeal to different groups of people. Your idea of the “better” instrument may not be the same idea the I have.
It would be impossible to state that the ukulele is better or the guitar is better because each person would have their own opinion of this.
There is no doubt that the guitar is one of the most popular instruments in the world. Only the piano outperforms the guitar in a popularity contest. More people play the piano than any other instrument. The guitar comes in second place.
In knowing this, it stands to reason that many people have high regard for the instrument. Nearly every type of genre is centered around the sounds of a guitar and if not the primary instrument, can often be heard in the background.
While the ukulele is growing in popularity, you don’t hear it in mainstream music as much as the guitar. It’s doubtful that the ukulele will ever reach the levels of popularity that the guitar has.
Having said that, there are some areas where the ukulele might excel if you are trying to decide between the two. Depending on what you are looking for in an instrument, the ukulele might be the instrument of choice which WOULD make it a better instrument for you. Just because it’s a better instrument for you, however, doesn’t mean it is a better instrument overall.
Let’s look at seven reasons that a ukulele might be better than a guitar.
1) The Ukulele Is More Affordable
The ukulele will likely cost less than what you would pay for an acoustic guitar. This isn’t always the case and you can find some very expensive ukuleles.
Some of the more expensive ukuleles can be more expensive than some of the top brands of guitars.
However, for the beginner searching for an instrument, there are many ukuleles on the market that can be purchased for less than $150. Some can even be purchased for under $100 brand new and much less if you purchase a used one. You can purchase an excellent instrument in this price range, certainly one that will allow you to learn and become a competent ukulele player.
Of course, most of the options in this price range aren’t solid wood or they contain only a solid top. These are great for beginners because as a beginner you do not want to commit to such a high price right off the bat.
The ukulele allows someone to get involved in playing an instrument while keeping costs low. Purchasing an acoustic guitar can be expensive if you intend to purchase one that is top quality and will last and sound good. Even a cheap acoustic guitar will cost more than a cheap ukulele so this is something to consider if the price may be a deciding factor for you.
Another important thing to note is that ukulele strings will be cheaper in the long run. You will need to maintain the strings and change them from time to time. Although this is not a huge cost difference, it is still something to consider. I have found that ukulele strings last much longer while continuing to sound great.
My current set of ukulele strings have been installed for at least 3 years and I don’t plan on changing them anytime soon. I don’t play it very often but often enough to maintain competency with the instrument.
2) The Ukulele May Be Easier To Learn
The ukulele is a fairly easy instrument to learn. Most of the chords are easier to master than they are on the guitar. Since you only have four strings to focus on with the ukulele, it isn’t nearly as challenging as when you have six strings as you do on the guitar. A beginner can pick up a ukulele and begin to learn basic chords and strumming patterns rather quickly.
Don’t take this to mean that a ukulele is a toy and can be mastered quickly. If you are looking to master the ukulele and become an inspired musician, it is still going to take a lot of time, practice, and patience.
Many new musicians are overwhelmed when learning an instrument. Being able to learn the basics on a ukulele will give you a sense of accomplishment and inspire you to take your interests to other instruments, including the guitar.
3) The Ukulele Takes Up Less Space
In case you haven’t noticed, ukuleles are pretty small. Compared to a guitar, a ukulele takes up much less space. This type of instrument is perfect for someone who lives in an apartment or a small house and doesn’t have a lot of storage. The ukulele can be stored quite easily in its case and out of the way in a closet or under the bed.
You can easily hang it on the wall with a wall hanger and consider it a decoration if you don’t play it very often. Either way, you’ll be able to keep it tucked out of the way.
A guitar can also be stored quite easily but the ukulele wins in the small size department. Bigger isn’t always better so if you are looking for a small instrument that can store easily out of the way, a ukulele might be the better choice.
4) The Ukulele Isn’t As Painful
Playing the guitar can be challenging on your fingers and hands. For a beginner, this is often a difficult process to overcome. The pain from pushing down the strings as well as the pain from having to stretch your fingers to form chords can be excruciating. This often causes beginners to quit before they ever see any results.
While you also have this type of pain with the ukulele, it isn’t quite as bad as what you would experience with the guitar. Of course, this will also depend on the type of guitar that you are playing. If you are playing a steel-string guitar, the pain on the fingers will be greater than it would be when playing a classical guitar that has nylon strings.
While you will get calluses no matter which type of guitar you play, the steel strings may be more painful on the fingers than nylon strings will be.
If you already play the guitar, you know what I am talking about. It usually takes a while for your fingers to get used to this type of pain and to grow calluses. The ukulele will feel like a soft pillow after you have played the guitar for a while. Playing the ukulele is a nice break from the harder steel strings of the guitar.
5) The Ukulele Is More Portable
Since the ukulele is much smaller than a guitar, it is also more portable. It’s easy to pack it up and take it on a trip where is a guitar might be a bit more difficult. Whether you are taking it on a road trip, a camping trip, or a flight, a ukulele will be easier to manage due to its small size.
A ukulele makes a great campfire instrument or an instrument you can bring to your beach picnic. Put it in a small case and it becomes a small, lightweight package that is easy to carry wherever you go.
6) The Ukulele Is Fun To Play!
Any instrument is fun to play once you get the hang of it but the ukulele just has a special place in the fun category. It could be the cheery, happy sound that it produces or it could be the small size that just makes you want to pick it up every time you see it.
Whatever the case, the ukulele is a joy to play once you begin making beautiful music with it. This instrument lends itself well to happy and cheerful songs that everyone can sing along to. Because of its size, it’s also a great instrument to play while sitting on the couch, at your office desk, or wherever you happen to be.
My ukulele sits in my home office and I often take a break for a jam session with it. It’s easier than grabbing my guitar out of the case and small size allows me to remain in my office chair while I play for a few moments. It often brightens my day and takes my mind off difficult challenges I might be going through.
7) The Ukulele Is Perfect For A First Instrument
If you are a beginner and want an instrument that you can see progress with, the ukulele might be the better choice. A beginner can get started and begin to play songs pretty quickly with the right training. Even simple videos on YouTube or other instructional training online can have you playing along in no time.
When learning chords, you’ll have it easier learning finger placements on the 4 strings of the ukulele. Chords like C, C7, Am, and A7 are all one-finger chords that you can learn in a matter of minutes. Playing a chord that only takes one finger makes it seem that you are making real progress.
Even though the instrument is great as a first instrument, it can also be the only instrument and one that you can play all your life. Once you have surpassed beginner status, you can learn more advanced techniques, and playing styles that allow you to play this instrument and sound like a pro making the ukulele a serious instrument.
While this may seem like a ridiculous comparison, there may be a time when one instrument is better than the other for your specific purpose. If you are looking for something fun to play and don’t want to spend a lot of money on it, a ukulele can serve you quite well. On the other hand, if you are more serious about learning and playing an instrument, a guitar is a great choice.
The one that is best for you will be different than the one that Is best for me. You may even choose to learn both of these instruments, which is what I did. I generally prefer my guitar but there are times when I prefer to play the ukulele even more. This doesn’t mean that the ukulele is better or that the guitar is better. I often make my choice based on what mood I am in.