Ukulele vs. Guitar: What is Easier to Learn?

If you’re trying to decide between learning the ukulele or guitar, Uku Global would love to help. First of all, both instruments provide wide open doors to creativity, community, and lifelong learning. Here at Uku, we are partial to the ukulele for a few reasons. When you’re first learning and you want to get to playing quickly, there’s no foul in taking the “easy” route. Here are some plus sides to the ukulele that make it a great starting point:  

  1. Size 

The ukulele is significantly smaller than the guitar. While there are a range of both guitar and ukulele sizes, on average the ukulele is less than half the size of a guitar. It is at least 50% smaller. Oftentimes, guitar players find themselves stretching their fingers to reach different frets. Learning to play guitar takes a certain degree of muscle training in your hand to adjust to that stretching and bending your wrist around the large neck. On the other hand, players starting out with the ukulele may find more instant gratification when it comes to reaching across the fretboard. 

If you are a young person or are shopping for one, you are probably looking for an instrument that accommodates smaller hands. The ukulele isn’t an instrument a player has to “grow into”, and thanks to the size the learning curve is also much smaller. On the other end of the spectrum, it is not too small an instrument for adults to play. While the small soprano ukulele may bring the most ease to children, the larger tenor uke will provide the same, easy to maneuver experience to adults. 

  1. Strings 

Number: The guitar has six strings, and the ukulele only has four. That is two less strings to keep track of, ultimately creating a more natural environment for your four fingers to learn to play in. 

Material: Ukulele strings are made of a soft plastic material called nylon. Nylon is malleable, it is easy to bend and manipulate. Guitar players often experience sore fingers because the hard nickel strings leave indents on the tips of players fingers, and eventually create calluses. While a ukulele player’s fingers may be sore when they are first practicing, the experience as a whole is much gentler. 

Tension: The word tension refers to how tight the strings are and how difficult they are to activate. Strings on the ukulele are much looser, meaning they do not require as much pressure on the fret to make sound when you strum. The less tension a string has, the easier it is to play.  

More Thoughts…

A couple additional factors that make the ukulele easier to learn are 1) ease of travel and 2) cost. If you are someone who is on the go, whether you’re driving from state to state or over to friend’s houses for dinner, the ukulele is the ideal travel companion. While you may not see the travel factor as making the instrument “easier” to play, the fact that you can bring it with you anywhere will ultimately help you to learn it faster. Sit it on your lap, toss it in the overhead bin, or strap it onto a backpack. It is there for you when you are ready.

Additionally, the ukulele can be as little as half the cost as a guitar. While guitars are hard to find under $100, it is more than possible to find a high-quality ukulele in the $50 to $80 range. This cost difference makes the instrument more easily accessible to new musicians. 

Which is Easier?

Although we advocate that the ukulele is easier to learn, that shouldn’t keep you away from trying the guitar at some point in your musical journey. The ukulele may open the door to a passion for other instruments you didn’t know you had. Before finding that passion, don’t be afraid to jump on the fast track to learning the ukulele!