Does Learning Ukulele Help with Guitar?

Written by: MT Team

Updated: Aug 4, 2022

Is there an advantage of learning the ukulele and then learning to play the guitar? This is a common question posed when it comes to both musical instruments.

Another question that is often asked, Is the ukulele easier than the guitar? 

Before we can answer all of these, we need to find out first what are the differences between the two. While there’s an obvious similarity between them in terms of their shapes, there are some differences that are obvious as well. 

Some say that the ukulele is a miniature version of the guitar or a shrunken version. But there are some differences between the two.  

Difference Between Ukulele and Guitar

The guitar is bigger and the ukulele is smaller. You will notice that the body of the guitar is a lot bigger; it’s a lot deeper, and the neck is a lot longer. Longer strings are going to mean a lower sound, that is why a ukulele produces a higher sound than the guitar. The reason why a capo is put in the fret of the guitar is to produce a higher sound.  

With the difference in sound, you will notice that the ukulele has 4 strings while a standard acoustic guitar has 6 strings. There are specialty guitars that have 7,8, or 12 strings and the bass guitar only has four.

The Positioning of the Elbow

Whenever you play the ukulele, typically you hold it closer to your chest and it doesn’t sit on your lap. With a guitar, if you’re sitting down, you will want to be in a relaxed and natural position. The guitar should rest on your leg.

The positioning of the elbow pit is also different. When you’re playing the ukulele your elbow pit will be on the side of the instrument.  

But since the guitar is big, it’s going to be awkward and difficult to do the same. You will want your arm to rest on the top of the guitar body. And in that position, you have easy access to strum the strings. 

Difference in the Notes on the Strings of the Ukulele and Guitar

Another important thing is that you have to realize that aside from the difference in the number of strings, the notes aren’t the same on a guitar as on a ukulele. On the ukulele, the strings are G, C, E, A (starting from the top to bottom), while on the guitar it’s E, A, D G, B, E. Notice that there are two E’s on a guitar: the low E string is at the top, and the high E is at the bottom.

That might be at first difficult for a ukulele player to understand because you have four completely different strings on the uke, whereas in the guitar you have two E’s. 

But don’t make it confuse you, you just need to realize early on that there are two E’s on the guitar: a low E and a high E. A good acronym to remember these strings is “Eat All Day Get Big Easy”. 

Practicing the Scales

Another thing to remember is the difference between the fret size of the ukulele compared to the guitar. At first, you will find it challenging to transition from playing the ukulele which has a narrower fret as compared to the guitar.

The best way to overcome this is to practice the scales on the guitar to stretch and exercise your fingers. 

There are many finger exercises on YouTube videos specifically for this purpose. Expect to find it awkward at first but later on you will develop muscle memory and it will soon become second nature to you.

Transitioning for Strumming

Strumming with the ukulele is basically the same with the guitar so this one is going to be an easy transition from one to the other. Any strumming pattern that you learn in the ukulele applies to the guitar as well.

If you use a pick instead of your fingers in strumming the ukulele, there is not much difference when you use it in playing the guitar. Some use their index finger, their thumb, and even all four fingers in strumming and they notice that it’s similar to when you do it on the guitar.

Forming Chords From Ukulele to Guitar

Another thing worth remembering is that ukulele chords are different from that of the guitar. While there are similarities in the placement of the fingers on the fretboard for the ukulele and guitar, you must be conscious that they are not the same. 

As an example, the way you form the “C” chord on the ukulele is by holding down the bottom string on the third fret with one finger. The “C” chord on the guitar uses 3 fingers on the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd fret.  When you look closely and compare, the “C” chord on the guitar is similar to the E minor on the ukulele.   

So this must be a conscious effort on your part to know the different chords on the guitar when you transition from a ukulele. 

On a side note, some wonder if a ukulele uses a different amp than a guitar. The good news is a ukulele that has a pick-up can be plugged into an acoustic guitar amp without any distortion in the sound.

Final Words

Now that we’ve learned the main differences between a ukulele and a guitar, we can answer the question for those who are planning to start learning the ukulele if it helps in eventually learning to play the guitar. 

The answer is yes, it does help in a way in learning the ukulele and then learning the guitar because there are many similarities between the two instruments. 

In spite of the differences, the way that one plays the ukulele gives him or her the advantage of knowing the fundamentals and applying them to the guitar.  

With lots of practice and patience especially in familiarizing with the chords, there is no reason why a ukulele player will not be able to learn and play the guitar.

About MT Team
Posts on all things related to instrument education, gear reviews, and so much more. Written by the MusicianTuts editorial team.

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1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    Excellent post, I play guitar, and when I bought an ukulele to my children, I found that it was pretty easy for me to play it. But one thing is the tecnic, and another is to feel the uku and play it as ukuleleist, and not as a guitarplayer, this is quite difficult.
    Benjamin from GEARanking


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