10 Reason It’s Easier to Learn the Guitar than the Ukulele

It’s a good job no one pays any attention to a word I say. If they did, they’d realise how often I contradict myself. I change my mind more often than I change my underpants (i.e. about once a week).

I’ve stated a few times that it’s easier for a beginner to play the ukulele rather than the guitar. But is it easier to learn the ukulele than the guitar? I thought I might run with the hypothesis that on this subject, and many others, I’m talking a whole load of fanny-rot.

It’s easier to learn the guitar than the ukulele because…

1) It’s easier to tune: The shorter scale length of the ukulele makes it decidedly tricky to get in tune. A slight tweak of tuner can send it wildly out of tune. Add to that the fact that strings take a couple of weeks to bed down and you’ve got a big problem. If even professional musicians like Amanda Palmer and Stephin Merritt can’t get their ukuleles in tune, what chance has a beginner got?

2) It’s possible to find a teacher: Google results for “guitar teacher” = 316,000. Google results for “ukulele teacher” = 1,480. The best way to learn a new instrument is sitting face to face with someone who is already an expert. It’s much easier to find those people with the guitar.

3) It’s easier to make it sound OK: Guitars naturally have a big sound which is generous to less careful playing. It takes a bit more experience to tease a good sound out of a ukulele. It’s all to easy to smother all the tone out of the poor thing.

4) You don’t have to worry about holding it: Sometimes ukeing standing up is a little like playing whilst juggling a sack of potatoes. And using a strap feels like giving in.

5) They don’t have friction tuners: The friction tuners on beginner level ukuleles are universally awful. I wonder how many people have given up on the ukulele because they couldn’t get the tuners to stick and didn’t realise you could tighten them.

6) It’s easier to find tabs and lessons online: There’s a whole lot more than there used to be. But the uke stuff still doesn’t come close to the amount (and, dare I say, quality) of guitar stuff.

7) You can buy a decent guitar in a shop: Imagine that. Walking into a shop and being able to try a wide range of instruments of playable quality and decide which one you like best. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a shop with more than one ukulele for sale. And I’ve never been in one with more than zero good ukuleles for sale.

8) No one cares what strumming pattern you use on the guitar: In my many years on the dark side, I don’t ever remember anyone discussing any strumming patterns.

9) The strings are in the right order: What the hell kind of sense does re-entrant tuning make anyway?

10) It’s physically possible to play and E chord on the guitar.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments.

(And, no, this isn’t an April Fools joke).

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