The Challenges Transitioning From Ukulele to Guitar

So, you want to transition from Ukulele to guitar. We love both instruments, so we get it. In fact, there is a long list of notable guitarist that also play the Uke. Guitarist the caliber of Eric Clapton, Pete Townsend, Brian May, and Jimi Hendrix all played the lighter, brighter sound of the Ukulele.

So, what can you expect when trying to learn the guitar? The good news is that the instruments have a lot in common. The bad news is the two extra strings and larger size of the instrument adds challenges a Ukulele player won’t be accustomed to. We’ll go over what to expect here!

Transitioning from Ukulele to Guitar

We’ve come up with four things that you need to consider when thinking about making the switch, or even taking up a second instrument. The size difference is the first and probably most obvious. The 2nd is the tonal range that the instruments are capable of, this makes sense when you think of the extra two stings and longer neck, but is not always intuitive. Tuning the two instruments is the third, and finally, many who switch have troubles with the wider, thicker neck size on the guitar. We’ll cover each of these in detail below!

 

1. The Size Difference between Ukulele and Guitar

This is probably the most obvious difference. In fact, when many people think of the Ukulele they think of a miniature guitar. With the average guitar being anywhere between 38 and 41 inches long and a Soprano Ukulele normally only being 21 inches long, this isn’t wrong.

Not only will this change how you hold the instrument but it will challenge your posture. Many who switch will tend to lean over the guitar to reach the end of the neck while strumming. This can really crowd your strumming hand, not to mention hurt your back! Sit up straight and move the guitar to the leg of your strumming hand. The size difference will definitely take time to get used to but might be the easiest transition in the end.

2. Larger Tonal Range

This question depends a lot on the way you tune your Ukulele, especially since that varies much more than guitar tuning normally does. To know the exact tonal range you need three things.

1. Lowest Open Note
2. Highest Open Note
3. Number of Frets (Scale Length)

 

So the Tonal Range is the number of steps between the highest and lowest open notes plus the scale length.

Lowest Open Note – Highest Open Note + Scale Range = Tonal Range

What does this mean for the Ukulele and the Guitar? The guitar can often have about four octaves of range, while its normal for the Ukulele to only have two.

 

3. Differences in Tuning

Assuming your Ukulele is tuned in the re-entrant style it’s normal for the switch to guitar to throw you off. When using re-entrant tuning you’ll be used to the second highest, then lowest, second lowest, then highest notes. With a guitar, the notes move from lowest to highest as you move down the neck.

If you don’t use re-entrant tuning you can simply capo the guitar at the fifth fret and the open notes of highest four strings will match with your Ukulele.

Single Ukulele

4. Larger Neck Size

The fact that the neck is more narrow on a Ukulele is no big surprise. For those with small hands, the fingering of the open C chord can be difficult at first, as well as many bar chords.

What may surprise you is that the strings are closer together on the guitar than a standard Uke. This can cause difficulties playing clear, individual notes. The strings are also set at a much higher tension for a guitarist, this leads to discomfort for many Uke players while they learn.

The Final Note

There you have it! While switching instruments is never easy these two are close enough that you won’t be starting from scratch. If you want to know more about the topic we’d recommend this thread on UkuleleUnderground or a guest post from Al Wood of Ukulele Hunt that was published on Guitarkadia. Finally, we hope you’ll check out more of our ukulele content that we continue to work hard to bring you!