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Thinking about making the transition from guitar to ukulele?
Ready to finally start learning a different instrument?
After you’ve been playing guitar for a while, you may find yourself getting interested in transitioning to a new instrument. Learning a new instrument can be a great thing if you’re playing in a band, if you want to freshen up your songwriting creativity, or if you simply want to mix things up at home.
The ukulele is often one of the most popular choices for guitar players and the transition is very easy compared to other instruments. The instrument has a unique sound and a nice, warm tone that is hard to beat. The ukulele is also very portable and great for traveling.
Whatever your reason is for considering learning the ukulele, look no further. Below we’ll give you our top tips for making the guitar to ukulele transition.
1. Know Your Tunings
The great thing about transitioning from the guitar to the ukulele is that the tunings are so similar. While the ukulele only has 4 strings and the guitar has 6, the two instruments still have a lot in common.
The 4 strings on the ukulele are usually tuned to GCEA, which is exactly the same tuning as the top 4 strings of the guitar, a few octaves up.
If you want to get a feel for what it will be like to play the ukulele, it’s easy. First, place your capo no your guitar at the fifth fret. Then limit yourself to playing on the top 4 strings. Now you may be starting to see why it is so similar.
When transitioning to the ukulele you’ll be able to use the same chords you use on the guitar, just without the lower E and A strings.
However, while the chord shapes will be the same, the chords themselves will be different. When playing the ukulele, playing a D shape will give you a G chord for example, instead of a D.
However, once you get the hang of these few simple changes, playing the ukulele will be a breeze.
2. Get Ready for the Size
The next thing you need to be ready for when making the transition to the ukulele is the much smaller size. Especially if you’re getting a small soprano uke or concert uke, the change can be jarring.
The average guitar is usually between 38 and 41 inches in length, while the soprano ukulele is about 21 inches long.
However, even the larger baritone ukuleles have a much different feel than what you’re likely used to with the guitar. If you’re transitioning from the guitar to the ukulele, you need to be ready to change your posture a bit and get used to your hands being much closer together when playing.
On the other hand, the ukulele will be much easier on the fingers. So despite the size difference, it will also be much easier to play in some ways as well.
3. Be Prepared for a Smaller Range
When you switch from guitar to ukulele you’ll also need to accept that you won’t have the same range of notes to play with.
While the guitar fretboard spans about 4 octaves, the ukulele only spans about 2. This gives you a little less versatility than what you have with the guitar.
While this should seem obvious, it can feel a bit limiting at first to have access to far fewer frets than you have on the guitar. For such a small instrument you still have a lot to work with, but it will be less than you’re used to.
4. Be Careful With the G String
In the last point, we lied just a bit. One thing you need to be aware of when making the guitar to ukulele switch is that the G in the ukulele’s GCEA isn’t exactly as it seems.
The standard ukulele tuning G is actually tuned an octave up. This means that the G string will actually match the G played on the 3rd fret of the first string.
In this way, a ukulele is actually a bit more similar to a banjo. The high G string of the ukulele is part of what gives the ukulele it’s unique, bright sound.
However, it will take some getting used to, especially if you start trying to play a few guitar riffs or licks that make use of the G string. The high notes may surprise you until you get used to it.
Beginning Your Transition From Guitar to Ukulele
The ukulele is a great instrument to start playing if you’re usually an accomplished guitar player. The ukulele is also a great travel companion and many ukuleles are very affordable to get a hold of. The transition is easy and there are a lot of similarities in the way you play the two instruments.
If you’re ready to start playing the ukulele, keep the above tips in mind. If you do, your transition will likely be easy and you’ll get used to playing the uke in record time.
Ready to get your ukulele? Check out our list of the top ukuleles and find one that’s right for you.
Hi, I’m Harrison! I created this website to help musicians navigate the ins and outs of their craft and to help them choose new instruments and gear to add to their collection. I have 15 years of experience as a guitarist and singer and have also played many other instruments throughout the years including the bass guitar, piano, banjo, mandolin, and harmonica.