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If you’re wondering how guitaleles differ exactly from guitars and which you should learn, this article is for you!

Several factors contribute to selecting the right musical instrument for you and your situation.

Some of these factors include:

  • the availability of the instrument,
  • the style of music you want to play,
  • awareness (just knowing that a particular instrument exists),
  • playability,
  • and much more.

To distinguish between the guitalele and guitar and help you determine which is best for you, I will try to answer the following questions:

  • What is a guitar?
  • What is a guitalele?
  • What are the differences between guitar and guitalele?
  • Should I play the guitar or the guitalele?

What is a Guitar?

The guitar is one of the most popular and widely used musical instruments in the world.

We use it in almost every genre of music.

The guitar is a musical instrument with frets, and it usually has six strings.

Typically, you play the guitar with both hands by strumming or picking the strings with either a guitar pick (plectrum) or the fingers and fingernails of the player, while simultaneously pressing the guitar strings against the fret (fretting) with the fingers of the other hand.

The sound of the vibrating strings can be amplified either acoustically or electrically.

What is a Guitalele?

A guitalele (it can sometimes be spelled guitarlele or guilele), also referred to as a kīkū, is a hybrid/cross between an old-style guitar & a baritone or tenor ukulele & “a 1/4 size” guitar.

You can learn more about the guitalele in my article about it.

But for now, know that a guitalele has six nylgut strings (like a classical guitar or ukulele) tuned like a regular guitar but up a fourth as if you were to capo a standard guitar on the 5th fret (ADGCEa).

Some people say that a guitalele is simply a travel size classical guitar that sounds like its capoed on the 5th fret.

However, I think of the guitalele as its own instrument with its own tunings and style.

What is a Ukulele?

The ukulele belongs to the lute family of stringed instruments which are typically made up of four to eight-stringed instruments.

Instrument makers use anything from inexpensive plywood, laminate woods, and solid hardwoods like mahogany to construct ukuleles.

A ukulele’s tone usually depends on the materials used to make it and its size.

In fact, the ukulele comes in four sizes including soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone.

This instrument typically resembles a small acoustic guitar, even though some ukulele manufacturers have produced them in a variety of different shapes.

More About the Guitalele

Here are a couple more specifics things about the guitalele including how it compares to the traditional ukulele: 

  • The guitalele, like a ukulele, is easily transportable because of its small size.
  • Like guitars and ukes, some guitaleles have built-in microphones to connect with an amplifier. 
  • You can play a guitalele like acoustic guitar in that the chord shapes are just like a guitar’s chord shapes.
  • In terms of size, a guitalele is about the same size as a ukulele. 
  • Some guitalele manufacturers use the term “6-string ukulele” instead of “guitalele.”

Differences Between A Guitar And A Guitarlele

Guitar
Guitalele
Bigger in size
smaller than the guitar
Sounds bigger and more bassy because of its size and bigger sound hole.
Tends to sound thinner, happier, and with more treble because of its size.
Usually costs more
Usually costs less
Somewhat harder to learn
Can be physically less challenging to play compared to the guitar
The strings are tuned EADGBe.
Standard tuning is ADGCEa (in the same intervals as a guitar except with a capo on fifth fret) – like a guitar transposed up a fourth.
The neck (fret board) is longer compared to the guitalele.
The neck (fretboard) is shorter compared to the guitar.

The above table only examines a handful of the differences between a normal guitar and a guitalele.

Let’s take a closer look at some of these differences.

Size

The general rule of thumb in regards to the size of these two is that a guitalele is smaller than a normal guitar but a little bigger than a ukulele (or sometimes the same size).

As at January 1997, Yamaha Corporation came out with its version of the guitalele; it was known as GL-1 Guitalele.

Its dimensions are:

  • scale length (nut to saddle) 432 mm (17″);
  • nut width 47.6 mm (1​7⁄8″);
  • body length 698 mm (27​1⁄2″);
  • body width 229 mm (9″);
  • body depth 71.4 mm (2​13⁄16″)

Some think a guitalele is a better option for kids who wish to learn how to play the guitar.

Sound

In the field of acoustic, bigger instruments tend to produce lower and darker pitches; this concept goes the same for the guitar and guitalele.

Because the guitar is bigger with a bigger soundhole and belly, the guitar tends to produce a darker, richer, and lower-pitched tone compared to the guitalele.

On the other hand, because of the small nature of the guitalele and the higher pitched strings, the sound comes out brighter and somewhat happier.

To understand this, put a capo on the fifth fret of the guitar, play a simple progression, then play that same progression on the neck of the ukulele [without any capo]. This is basically you playing the same chords on both instruments; your ears will tell the difference. 

Cost

Guitaleles are usually less expensive than guitars.

This is likely because guitaleles are smaller and simply require less material and less work to make that material into an instrument.

Learnability

Because guitaleles are smaller instruments with nylgut instead of steel strings, learning to play a guitalele is less physically challenging than learning how to play standard guitar for most people.

However, if you have particularly large hands, you may actually find the guitalele more difficult to learn than the guitar.

That said, although the mechanics of playing the guitalele may be easier than the guitar, the guitar is more versatile with far more dedicated learning resources.

Few songs and even fewer genres feature the guitalele.

So although a guitalele may technically be easier to play than a guitar, the lack of dedicated resources to learn the guitalele presents its own unique challenges.

Tuning

I have written comprehensively about standard guitalele tuning and guitalele tuning variations here.

However, for the sake of including

Neck

The neck of the guitar is obviously longer than the neck of a guitalele.

A conventional guitar could have anything from 19 – 22 frets while a guitalele could be anything from 14 – 20 frets.

The Guitar or the Guitalele? Which Should I Learn?

If you’re unsure of your commitment level to a new instrument and want something less expensive and easier to play, you might consider the guitalele instead of the guitar.

However, if you want a conventional instrument with more dedicated learning materials and are willing to spend a bit more money to learn something slightly more difficult, I recommend the guitar.

Ultimately, you want to choose whichever instrument makes you happy.

You should also consider the style of music you wish to play and what musical instrument best suits that style.

Even though you can break the rules of style by using an atypical instrument in a particular style, this requires skill.

Thus, I always recommend considering the typical instruments used in whichever style of music you prefer and learning those instruments.

You may also want to consider your lifestyle and how mobile you want to be with your instrument.

If you’re particularly mobile, you may want to learn the guitalele instead of the guitar because of portable it is.

If you’re still having trouble deciding which instrument to pursue, let me know in the comments!

Student of Guitar

How to Learn Guitar

© 2019 Student of Guitar

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