OK, so you have heard of a guitar, and you have heard of a ukulele, but what is a guitarlele? The ultimate battle between Guitarlele vs Ukulele is about to happen in 3…2…1!
While we are about to answer this question in a lot more depth, a guitarlele is a hybrid between a guitar and a ukulele. It is a six-stringed instrument that you play like a guitar, but it is about the size of a ukulele and produces a similar sound.
In this article, we are going to take you through the differences between a ukulele and a guitarlele in more detail, and also talk about why you might want a guitarlele to play.
If you do decide that the guitarlele is the instrument for you, we are also going to take you through our top three recommendations for the best guitarleles that you can buy, all of which are available in our shop.
Our Top Guitarlele & Ukulele Choices
Our choice for the best guitarlele overall, especially if you are looking for a classic tenor, is the KoAloha KTO-G6 Guitarlele, which is also the one you will see us using in more of our videos. If you are happy to pay more for a premium model and want a slightly larger baritone, we recommend the Kanile’aGL6 KOA 6 String Guitarlele. For a slightly smaller and more affordable instrument that is still of premium quality, then consider the Romero Creations Tiny Tenor 6 String Guilele which come in all solid Spalted Mango, Koa, and solid Spruce Top with solid Mahogany back and sides.
What Are The Main Differences Between A Guitarlele & Ukulele?
As the name suggests, a guitarlele is an instrument that is a hybrid between a guitar and a ukulele. It was first introduced to the market by Yamaha in 1997.
But, unlike a four-stringed ukulele, a guitarlele has six strings like a guitar. For this reason, it is a popular instrument with guitar players looking for a small instrument they can travel with, or for kids with smaller hands (and higher voices).
In terms of size, a guitarlele is much smaller than a traditional guitar, about one-quarter of the size (about 27.5 inches in total). This is roughly the size of a tenor or baritone ukulele, but much larger than a standard soprano ukulele.
The guitarlele is also different from the guitar in terms of its tuning. It is designed to be tuned up to a 4th, which is the equivalent of having a capo on your guitar on the fifth fret. So your open strings should be A-D-G-D-E-A (from low to high strings).
Read More: Can you name all the parts of the Ukulele?
The first four notes are similar to a ukulele, which is usually tuned to G-C-E-A, which, along with the size, is why a guitarlele sounds more like a ukulele. But as a note, if you choose a specialist six-string ukulele, this will be tuned differently again, usually tuned to G-C-C-E-A-A.
A guitarlele will almost always use fluorocarbon or nylon strings, much like the majority of (but not all) ukuleles, but will usually have wound steel strings on the lower A-D-G strings
The distance between the frets is smaller than on a guitar, and about the same size as on a ukulele.
A guitarlele is really designed for guitar players who want to get the ukulele sound or ukulele players that want the added lower range that the extra 2 strings provide. A guitarlele lets you get the ukulele sound without a lot of additional learning.
The guitarlele can also offer a gentle transition instrument for ukulele players wanting to learn the guitar. You can learn to work with six strings first, before adapting to the large size of a guitar as an instrument.
If you want to learn to play the guitarlele, check out our online Guitarlele Course For kulele and Guitar Players.
Want to know more about how exactly a guitarlele sounds in comparison to a guitar and a ukulele? Check out this video.
Top Three Guitarleles
The KoAloha is our favorite guitarlele to play, as you can probably tell by the fact that it is the instrument we play in most of our guitarlele videos. It is a standard tenor guitarlele that measures 17 inches from the saddle to the nut.
- Solid Acacia wood body with Mahogany neck
- 17-inch (saddle to nut) tenor size
- 2-inch wide nut
- Thin profile neck
Aside from being a very attractive instrument, the best thing about this guitarlele is probably the neck. It has a nice wide neck at a full two inches, which gives you the space you need to play those two additional strings comfortably. But, at the same time, the neck is slender with a very low profile, so it is light in the hands and will suit someone who already plays the ukulele.
The instrument also uses hybrid strings, which means that the lowest strings have a thicker gauge, while the treble strings are comparatively much leaner. This gives you a more varied tonal palette that you will either love or not, depending on your preference.
While this is not an entry-level instrument, it is certainly a very affordable option for more serious players. It combines a mahogany neck with a solid acacia body, which is a stable base that produces a great sound.
Made in Thailand, this guitarlele supports the five-point KoAloha headstock that makes it immediately recognizable as the great, accessible instrument you will love to play.
If you are looking for a slightly larger and heftier instrument, you will love this baritone from market leader Kanile’a. But be warned that it also comes with a premium price tag.
- Koa wood body with mahogany neck
- 20-inch (saddle to nut) baritone size
- 2-inch wide nut
- Thin profile neck
This is a super baritone, so it not only measures 20 inches from nut to saddle, but the butt of the body is also enlarged, like a super tenor, to give it a deeper and richer sound.
Made in Hawaii, the body is made from Koa wood with a mahogany neck and feels sturdy and quite heavy. But while the neck has a full two-inch nut, it is low profile, which makes it easy to handle and a little bit lighter.
This is a premium instrument for serious players who want to invest in their guitarlele. But it comes with all the bells and whistles, including an ebony fingerboard, silk neck finish, and even pickup pre-installed.
One bonus with this instrument is that the makers plant a tree for every instrument made.
If you are looking for something a bit more affordable but still in the premium range, you will love this teardrop-shaped tenor made by Pepe Romero in partnership with Grammy award-winning virtuoso Daniel Ho.
- Solid Spalted Mango, Solid Koa, or Solid Spruce Top/Mahogany wood body with Mahogany neck
- 17-inch (saddle to nut) tenor size
- Nut slightly under two inches
- Abalone rosette
This is another tenor instrument, but it is distinctive thanks to its teardrop-shaped body. The soundhole is also inlaid with an abalone rosette. The instrument itself has a high-gloss finish body with a mahogany neck, made in Thailand. It is finished with a striking ebony plate on the headboard.
It is a standard tenor size, 17 inches from saddle to nut, but unlike the other instruments on this list, the neck is a little narrower than two inches. Still, it shouldn’t feel cramped for most players. The neck is also quite hefty and much more like that of a classical guitar. This will feel comfortable for guitar players but perhaps a bit large for ukulele players.
This instrument produces some great crisp sounds, especially when fingerpicking.
Guitarlele Buying Guide
So, what are the main things to consider when choosing the right guitarlele for you?
Just like ukuleles, guitarleles actually come in a variety of sizes. The most popular options are tenor and baritone scale length. You can expect a tenor to measure 17 inches from nut to saddle, and 27-28 inches overall. Baritones are larger, measuring 20 inches from saddle to nut.
As you would expect, a tenor produces a higher sound more like a ukulele, while a baritone is a slightly lower and richer sound. So, the sound that you want to produce should dictate which instrument you go for.
Since baritones also tend to be a bit larger and heavier, guitar players sometimes feel more comfortable with one as it feels more like a classical guitar.
You will find guitarleles in lots of different materials, though any good guitarlele will have a body made from solid wood. Cheaper options will often use laminate, which don’t produce as good a sound as the body tends to be too thick.
A lot of guitarleles you see will combine a mahogany neck, which is strong enough to hold the six strings, with a solid wood body. The different body woods produce slightly different sounds.
Most mid-range guitarleles tend to be made from mahogany because it does really represent a balance between quality and affordability. It is a sturdy instrument that makes a strong sound thanks to the medium to heavy wood density that offers a good balance between sound and tone.
Instruments made with spruce tops produce crisp and clear notes. This is especially good when playing base notes as the result is an enriched and incursive low note sound quality.
As a tropical hardwood, acacia has a woody tone that is somewhere between mahogany and koa, but it has high levels of nuance that result in quite a dry sound.
Cedar top instruments give a controlled volume with a deep melody. It is not ideal for most strumming guitarleles because the sound lacks crispness, but it produces a nice sound when combined with more complicated fingerpicking.
Mango is a great wood that produces a warm and balanced sound with a lush tonal quality.
Koa wood produces a warm and sweet sound, but it is less sturdy so the instrument doesn’t tend to last as long. While Koa is not necessarily considered a high-quality wood for instruments, a lot of artists choose it specifically for its distinctive sound.
Rosewood is a popular wood used in guitars and usually only found on custom guitarleles. Rosewood produces a clear and lively tonal sound. This means that the high and low sounds are more pronounced, producing a brighter tone sound, which is often what you are looking for with a guitarlele.
Ovangkol is quite similar to rosewood in terms of the sound it produces. It also tends to be a found on custom made guitarleles for artists who are looking for a stylish and distinctive instrument.
A decent guitarlele could cost you are little as $150 or more than $2,000, with quality tending to match the price point. How much you should spend depends principally on what you want to use it for.
If you are looking for a short-term transition instrument as you move from ukulele to guitar or guitar to ukulele, a budget instrument, such as the Kala KA-GL,is all you need. The same is probably true if you are looking for a travel guitar, as the chances of the instrument getting broken or lost increase significantly.
If you want a serious instrument, you should be able to find something around the $800-$1,000 mark.
Should I get a ukulele or a guitarlele?
If you are a guitar player looking to produce more ukulele-like sounds on a instrument that works like your guitar, then a guitarlele is a great choice. It is also a good instrument for ukulele players wanting to add some richer, guitar-like tones to their ukulele playing.
But a guitarlele and a ukulele are two different instruments, and a guitarlele isn’t really an alternative if you want to learn the ukulele. If you want to learn the ukulele, get a ukulele.
Can you play a guitarlele like a ukulele?
While a guitarlele produces a similar sound to the ukulele, and the first four strings are usually tuned to the same notes as a standard soprano ukulele, the chord shapes that you make are much more like on a guitar than a ukulele. But while ukulele players will be accustomed to the size and the space between the frets, this is something that guitar players will need to adapt to.
Can you play guitar songs on a guitarlele?
Yes, you can play all of your guitar songs on a guitarlele using the same chord shapes. But the guitarlele is tuned one 4th higher, so the sound will be higher, as though you are playing with a capo on your fifth fret. For example a G chord on the guitar is called a C chord on the guitarlele.
So that’s it, a guitarlele is a hybrid between a guitar and a ukulele, with the six strings of a guitar but about the size of a ukulele.
This is a great instrument for guitar players wanting to produce a ukulele-like sound on an instrument they are accustomed to. It is also great for ukulele players wanting to add those richer, lower notes that you get on a guitar to their ukulele playing.
Read More: What is a Guitarlele?
A guitarlele can also work as a transition instrument if you are trying to move from a guitar to a ukulele or vice versa, and can make a great travel guitar or guitar for children.
The guitarlele is a relatively new instrument, so it is still in the process of building a strong following in its own right. But, it is probably only a matter of time for this versatile little instrument.
Do you play the guitarlele? What’s your favorite instrument? Any tips for others considering getting one? Share in the comments section below.