Let’s begin this battle Guitar vs Guitarlele! You know about the guitar, and now you have found the guitarlele, but what is it really? Is it just a mini guitar? Is it a six-stringed ukulele? Or is it a completely different instrument?
While we generally treat the guitarlele as a unique instrument, you might think of it as either a mini guitar or a six-stringed ukulele. It comes down to you and your playing preferences. That said, we don’t recommend guitarleles for beginners or for children looking to learn guitar. For that, you will want a mini guitar, such as a ½ or ¾ size guitar.
So, let’s take a detailed look at the differences between a guitar and a guitarlele so that you can decide whether or not this is an instrument you are interested in adding to your repertoire.
We’ll also share our recommendations for the best guitarleles if you do decide to get started.
Differences Between Guitars And Guitarleles
The most obvious difference between a guitar and a guitarlele is the size. While your standard guitar is usually between 36 and 40 inches long, most guitarleles are about the size of a tenor ukulele, so about 26 inches in total length.
This means a lot of things. Firstly, the guitar is large and feels hefty, weighty, and substantial in your hands. The size of the body gives the guitar a richer sound with more bass than the guitarlele.
For some people, the much smaller size of the guitarlele means it is easier and more convenient to handle, while for others it can mean that the instrument just feels a bit lost in their hands. The smaller body also creates a thinner and lighter sound.
The different size of the instruments also means that the size of the fretboards is different. While both will have nut width between 1.75 and 2 inches wide, and while the fretboard of a guitar is usually about 26 inches, which usually accommodates 21-22 frets, the guitarlele fretboard is much shorter at only 17 inches and usually has only 19 frets.
This means that the spaces between the individual frets of the guitarlele are a little bit smaller. If you have small hands, that can be great, as it makes it easier to stretch your fingers to make the chords. But if you have big hands, it means that it can be a bit more difficult to squeeze your fingers into the shapes you want, especially as you move up to the higher frets.
A guitarlele is like a guitar in that it has six strings, while a ukulele only has four. But in every other way, a guitarlele’s strings are more like that of the ukulele.
First of all, a guitarlele will be strung with nylon strings, similar to most ukuleles. While you do get guitars that also use nylon strings, most steel string acoustic and electric guitars have steel strings. But this comes down to personal choice. You can always put nylon strings on your guitar.
But the thing that matters most is that the guitarlele is tuned like a ukulele, with two bass strings added, and not like a guitar.
Guitars are strung, from the low to high, to E-A-D-G-B-E, while ukuleles are strung to G-C-E-A. Your standard guitarlele is tuned like a ukulele with two bass strings added to A-D-G-C-E-A.
This means that the guitarlele is a fourth higher than a guitar, so it is like playing a guitar with a capo on the fifth fret.
But this actually changes a lot of things. When you are looking for notes, they will be in different places, and while the chord shapes are the same on the guitar and the guitarlele, the names of the chords are different. So, rather than being the same as guitar chords, guitarlele chords are like extended ukulele chords.
The guitarelele and the guitar with a capo on the fifth fret also won’t sound exactly the same because the larger body of the guitar will give a sound with more bass, while the guitarlele sound is thinner.
So, the long and the short of the different size and string configuration is that the guitar and the guitarlele sound different, and you also play them a bit differently.
You can hear the difference in the sound between a guitar and a guitarlele in this video.
So, after reading all that, are you interested in getting your hands on a guitarlele? Here are our top three choices for different budgets from the Uke Like The Pros Store.
If you are interested in starting to learn the guitarlele, also check out course, Guitalele For Ukulele and Guitar Players.
If you are looking for an affordable, entry-level guitarlele that is versatile enough for you to experiment with, then you will love this “Firewalker” from Kala.
The instrument features quality mahogany top, back, sides, and neck, but it is affordable because it is not solid mahogany.
It has a standard 17-inch scale with 19 frets, but the knut is quite wide at 1-⅞ inches, so there is lots of nice space for your fingers.
The “Firewalker” comes with standard A to A tuning, though you can request different stringing when you make your order if you wish. The Aquila Red 153U strings for guitarlele are perfect for tuning a tenor guitarlele E to E like a guitar.
This instrument comes with a pick-up built in, so you can also hook it up to your amp for an electric sound. The pick-up also has a built in tuner so you can easily tune up your guitarlele.
This is what makes the “Firewalker” a great instrument for experimenting, because you can do everything and see if you can produce the sound that you like.
If you fall in love with the guitarlele after playing this instrument, you might want to upgrade to one of the other two guitarleles on this list.
There is quite a big price jump between the Kala KA-GL-E guitarele and the KoAloha Guitarlele. But that is because with this instrument you get the solid Acacia body, which provides a significantly superior sound.
It is a classic figure-eight body instrument with its six strings tuned in typical guitarlele style from A to A.
It has a generous two-inch nut width, but the neck is ultra-thin, so it still feels light and manageable in your hands.
Aside from that, it is a pretty classic instrument with the 17-inch tenor scale length with 19 frets, a solid mahogany neck, and satin finish.
KoAloha is one of the most respected brands in the ukulele world, and the instrument has the classic KoAloha five-pointed crown scale that makes it immediately recognizable as a top-quality instrument.
If you are looking for a premium guitarlele and are willing to pay for it, then you will love this “Luna” guitarlele from Kanile’a, though it is still a pricey instrument even with the significant discount we are currently offering in the shop.
One of the special things about this instrument is that it partners a solid Spruce top with deluxe Koa back and sides, which combine to produce a rich sound that you won’t get with cheaper models.
The instrument looks cool as well, with the solid Spruce top, specially selected for its vibrate and bright sound, partnered with a thick three-layer rosette in Ebony-Koa-Ebony wood.
This is also a slightly larger instrument than the other two options, with a 20-inch scale length that accommodates a few extra frets for more dynamic playing. It also has a two-inch nut, so there is plenty of room for playing. The 20 inch scale length is that of a baritone ukulele, so this model would be considered a baritone sized guitarlele.
Made in Hawaii, Kanile’a is one of the few manufacturers that make the guitarleles out of solid Koa wood according to Hawaiian tradition.
And there are just lots of nice features on this instrument including top binding, gold hardware, and an ultra-thin mahogany neck.
It is hard to adequately describe the superior quality of this instrument, but you can certainly feel it when it is in your hands.
Kanile’a also plants a Koa tree for every Kanile’a and Islander instrument that is made to preserve this amazing wood for generations to come.
Guitar vs Guitarlele: FAQs
Is guitarlele easier to play than guitar?
It is difficult to say whether a guitarlele or guitar is easier to play. The main determining factor will be how comfortable you feel with the size. Some people prefer the heftier and more substantial size of the guitar, while others find the smaller size of the guitarlele more manageable.
Generally speaking, many people think the guitarlele is easier to play, as the smaller spaces between the frets mean that you don’t need the same finger flexibility to form all the chords.
Can you play guitar chords on the guitarlele?
Yes and no. You will use the same chord shapes when you play the guitar and the guitarlele, but because the guitarlele is tuned one-fourth higher, those shapes will produce different sounds. This means that you are making the same chord shape, but you are producing a different sound.
Some people find this easier, while others find it confusing. The difference in tuning means that you will also need to look for the individual note in different places.
Can a guitarlele be tuned like a guitar?
Yes, if you wish you can change the strings on your guitarlele and tune it like a guitar, from E to E rather than from A to A. The Aquila Red 153U strings for guitarlele are perfect for tuning a tenor guitarlele E to E like a guitar.
Your guitarlele still won’t sound exactly like a guitar, as the smaller body means the instrument produces a higher, thinnier sound than the rounder bass sound of the guitar.
What is the difference between a guitarlele and a mini guitar?
The principal difference between a guitarlele and a mini guitar is the tuning and size. As standard, a mini guitar will be tuned like a guitar, from E to E, while a guitarlele will be tuned like a ukulele, from A to A. But you can choose to restring and change the tuning on either instrument.
However, another key difference is that while guitarleles are almost always the size of a tenor ukulele, mini guitars come in a variety of sizes. A one-quarter size mini guitar is about the same size as a guitarlele, with a 17-inch fretboard. But you also get one-quarter, one-half, and three-quarter size mini guitars that are significantly larger.
Is guitarlele good for beginners?
If you want to start learning guitar, we don’t suggest that you invest in a guitarlele. Because guitarleles are stringed and tuned differently, scales and chords are also different than how they are on the guitar. So, while you might benefit from the smaller size, when you are ready to upgrade to a guitar, you will need to learn new scales and chords.
If you are looking for a small guitar for beginners or children, it is better to choose a mini guitar that is tuned like a guitar. This means that the scales and chords you learn on the smaller instrument will apply to the full-size guitar.
Many people want to dismiss the guitarlele as just a mini guitar, but we think it is so much more.
The guitarelele is actually very different from the guitar because the size, strings, and tuning mean that it has a much more traditional ukulele sound. But the addition of two bass strings gives you extra depth to expand your repertoire and play a new range of songs.
We also don’t recommend the guitarlele for beginners or children wanting to learn to play guitar. The scales and chords are different, so you will have to relearn them when you switch to guitar. If you are looking for a small-sized guitar for learning, then look at mini guitars.
What do you think? For you is the guitarlele a mini guitar, an extended ukulele, or an instrument that stands in its own right? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.