View Full Version : Ukulele more difficult to play than guitar?

03-17-2015, 09:22 PM
I have been playing Collings OM1 and, recently, Kamaka HF-3.

It seems everyone prefers to play ukulele than guitar, because it is deemed easier to play?

I find it to be the opposite. It is rather hard to grip the ukulele due to the smaller neck and forming chords? Furthermore, it is less rewarding than the guitar, which is richer and fuller-sounding.

I do like the Kamaka HF-3 and respect ukulele playing.

I play jazz standards in solo fingerstyle approach.

What's your advice please?

03-17-2015, 09:50 PM
I think "difficult" can be defined in different ways. Yes, the points you make can it it more difficult to you. You could try playing a baritone ukulele.

But, to me, not to have to consider the two additional strings that the guitar has makes ukulele less difficult. I feel that I can learn more songs, do more fancier and complex playing with four strings than if I had six. But I am biased. I learned ukulele way before guitar, and have since just stayed with the ukulele.

I can see, however, that the guitar does provide a broader note range, simply by having more strings. An arpegiate of a C chord offers a broader range of notes than arpegiate-ing on an ukulele. And, in this effect, to try to accomplish the same musical complexity/range on an ukulele, would be more difficult.

To each, his/her own, I guess....

Hippie Dribble
03-17-2015, 09:55 PM
Welcome to the forums franticwonderland. Must confess I'm not certain what the advice you're asking for is in relation to though.

But to respond to your statements generally...

1. I think the "uke is easier" view is a can of worms. Been addressed recently on another thread (http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/showthread.php?104529-How-difficult-is-it-to-play-guitar-vs-ukulele&highlight=ukulele+easier+play+guitar%3F) you might wanna check out. My own view is that any instrument is as easy or difficult to play as you wish to make it. The journey and complexity of the journey is contingent on your desire, ability and how far you want to push the envelope. Yes, as a basic principle, it is easier to attain a basic level of proficiency on the ukulele but after that it's an open question.

2. Any transition between string instruments of such large scale length differences and neck profile differences is going to be a shock to the system. Stick with it. It'll become second nature in time.

3. I have found the ukulele to be incredibly rewarding and the joy of my life. If your basis for calling it 'less rewarding' is in comparison to the sound of a guitar with it's much bigger body, larger fretboard and melodic range you find 'richer and fuller sounding' then I question why you are playing the ukulele at all? They are two very different instruments that employ very different techniques to play them effectively. The uke is not a small guitar, it's a uke.

4. I think you'll find jazz music translates wonderfully to the ukulele. As it also does to the guitar.

03-18-2015, 01:08 AM
I agree with what others have said. The instrument may feel more difficult because you are so used to the guitar. I started out on uke, then transitioned to guitar which felt huge, cumbersome, and painful to my fingers at first. But then I got used to it and now holding the guitar is second nature. I then came back to uke (a soprano) and felt it was tiny, cramped, and almost too lightweight of an instrument to be real. That was the first time I had experienced those issues, solely because I was now used to a much larger instrument. People even have these issues when transitioning between uke sizes (for example, a hardcore tenor player trying a soprano). With time it will become comfortable. As for the sound, of course it will be different from a guitar, but I think beautiful and unique.

Jon Moody
03-18-2015, 02:00 AM
I do find approaching chords a little trickier on ukulele. Unless you're tuning with a low G, you're really just playing triad most of the time, so finding the chord that not only works in the context of the song but also in the voice leading you're doing can push your theory to the limit.

As for sounding richer, well, it's a tiny acoustic instrument with nylon strings compared to a larger acoustic guitar with steel strings. You have to appreciate the tonality it affords, especially with how in a mix, a ukulele can sit right on top of the acoustic guitar tone and complement it.

03-18-2015, 02:11 AM
I play both ukulele and guitar, and this is my perspective.

Guitar is a lot easier to play rhythm with than ukulele.
The bass strings give you that "security" of beat and the longer sustain gives you a bit of head room. I find it much easier to sing + accompany with a guitar than an ukulele.

Ukulele is more difficult to play rhythm, especially if you're playing it standalone.
There are no bass strings to give you that 'beat', and the shorter sustain adds challenges to maintaining a strong sense of rhythm (especially for slower, heavier pieces).

I find myself using ukuleles more often for playing instrumental solos, and guitars more often for accompaniment/rhythm.
Anyone else find themselves doing this?

03-18-2015, 02:18 AM
I've been playing ukulele for the past few weeks now, and I do (personally) find it much easier to play than the guitar...though I admit the Concert scale can feel a touch cramped at times. I learned a new song on it in less than an hour yesterday...The Carpenters' "Close to You"...and had it smoothed out by the time my wife heard it last night. Not too shabby for a fair-to-middlin' guitar player who had to look up most of the 16 chords in that song. To me, the biggest benefits to the ukulele are its size, four strings, and softer action. I can play it much longer than a guitar without getting fatigued, which leads to more rapid learning. Again, this is for me. Your mileage may vary.

03-18-2015, 02:39 AM
Having only four strings makes it more difficult to play full sounding and interesting accompaniments. It limits the low range so also the available keys for playing melodies without having to shift up an octave. It's easier to grab chords when you only have four strings to worry about. Sometime I feel like a cellist hauling my dobro around. You never have to buy a separate seat on the bus for your Ukulele.

03-18-2015, 04:31 AM
After more than 50 years of trying to learn guitar , my wife and I ended up with frustration and sore fingers, and the guitars went back into the closet. Three years ago we stumbled onto some videos of very happy people playing their ukes and decided to try it. We bought a pair of Kala baris and strung them dgbe (DGBE?). It's been a musical lifesaver for us. Because of short fingers and arthritis, we can now handle the chording for the 4 string. Our "happy hour is now a daily session of singing and strumming and a lot of fun. We still appreciate songs well played on an acoustic guitar, but our ukes bring us daily enjoyment in our "Golden Years".

03-18-2015, 04:55 AM
It is rarely "productive" to compare apples to oranges. It is possible to develop an appreciation of the strong points of one without constantly comparing it to the other (can you tell I'm a retired counselor?) There are many players here who are multi-instrumentalists. I don't disagree with what you say about the bigger sound and tones of a guitar, but I just don't have a need (or desire) to compare my uke to them. I tried guitar, but my hands and fingers just don't get along with them well. Much has been written online about guitarists starting with ukes including several threads here on UU. Here are a few to get you started just in case you haven't googled the matter: https://www.google.com/#q=ukulele+for+guitar+players

03-18-2015, 05:33 AM
It seems everyone prefers to play ukulele than guitar, because it is deemed easier to play?

Who is this "everyone" of which you speak? I bet if you did a survey, you would find far more guitar players in the world than you would ukulele players. If you mean that folks here tend to prefer the uke, well, it is a ukulele forum. For myself, I like them both, and play a few other fretted instruments as well.

I find it to be the opposite. It is rather hard to grip the ukulele due to the smaller neck and forming chords?

Like anything new, it will take practice to become comfortable. A ukulele has a lot in common with a guitar, but it's not a guitar. There is still a learning curve.

Furthermore, it is less rewarding than the guitar, which is richer and fuller-sounding.

You will find many definitions of "rewarding" that differ from yours. By that logic, a violin is less rewarding than a cello and a piccolo is less rewarding than a flute. Yet people still play them.

What's your advice please?

Advice on what? If you like the ukulele, put in the time until you get good at it. If you don't like the ukulele, play something else.

Brenda Wong
03-18-2015, 05:48 AM
Ukulele is actually harder to hold than a guitar which may affect some chord changing moves on the left hand.
I enjoy playing Ukulele because everything is achievable as long as you practice ! If you can't reach a chord on guitar, no matter how much you practice your fingers / hands are not going to grow . I also heard some long time leisure guitar players developed joint pain in their senior years so ukulele is a good switch.
Yes I think it's easier than guitar but not necessary more comfortable to play.

03-18-2015, 05:55 AM
What's your advice please?

Get a guitar. Duh.

Down Up Dick
03-18-2015, 06:17 AM
Right on! Icelander53, tell it as it is . . . :old:

03-18-2015, 06:23 AM
Before I got my first ukulele - in 1998 - I had already been a guitar player for over 30 years. I got the uke to play with uke players, but found the guitar more rewarding. Here we are 18 years later and I play ukulele a lot and rarely play guitar. For me the transition was very slow and I did find guitar much easier than uke for many years. At this juncture I find uke more rewarding than guitar. Easier? Well in some ways yes and in some ways no.

You feel what you feel so just go with it. I used to play saxophone in a jazz band and occasionally double on clarinet. When I grew up I was "forced" to play the clarinet and while I am able to play it, I feel a deep irrational, hatred for the instrument. I was forbidden to play saxophone as a child, and as an adult I have loved it. My jazz band started to play a lot of Dixie land and I was playing clarinet a lot more - which made me unhappy. Then it occurred to me that Sidney Bechet had used a soprano sax for the clarinet parts. If it was good enough for him it was good enough for me, I started using soprano sax for clarinet parts as often as I could and the jazz police never came and arrested me.

Nothing wrong with just playing the uke as a secondary instrument.

03-18-2015, 07:15 AM
I have been playing Collings OM1 and, recently, Kamaka HF-3.

I play jazz standards in solo fingerstyle approach.

What's your advice please?

Get a baritone ukulele and tune it linear DGBE or maybe try one of the 6-string Guitaleles. Coming from playing a larger stringed instrument like a guitar, you may benefit from a gradual downsizing to a smaller stringed instrument. I started with concert and soprano sized ukuleles and have gradually worked my way up in sizes (tenor uke then baritone uke) to 3/4 sized guitars. I also try to keep playing my smaller ukuleles occasionally to work on my ability to transition more easily between sizes.

You mentioned that you play "jazz standards in solo fingerstyle" which, in my opinion, is a style that might be better suited to a baritone sized ukulele or a tenor ukulele with a wide 1.5 inch nut width. "Richer and fuller-sounding" tells me you want more power and fullness than a smaller uke may have to give.

You might want to look at the new Pono Nui series ukuleles at The Ukulele Site:

03-18-2015, 07:22 AM
Neither is more difficult than the other. The real question is what one wants for output. After a half-century six-stringing (adequate-at-best picker) and finding beat-up hands and stubby fingers becoming less pliable, the switch to four (and eight) strings has been a musical life-saver.

I have to admit not being a "traditional" ukulele player. I like a bassier sound than high or low G GCEA, so my ukuleles (except one) are all tuned CGDA, just like my tenor guitar and tenor banjo. Also, this allows one "chord-muscle-memory" to transition among all my stringed instruments (mandolins are GDAE, but it's the same fingering in a different key).

I understand what the OP means about "richer and fuller sounding." That's one of the reasons I prefer CGDA tuning, as the low-C and low-G mellows away any screech or tinny sounds, even with the smaller body. With a baritone uke tuned this way, the bigger body really blasts almost as much as the tenor guitar. Yes, it's not "traditional" ukulele, but an adaption in the same way that tenor guitar evolved from the tenor banjo. It's all about the sound the player wants, not what is marketed by others. At https://soundcloud.com/steveztv/ are a few sound samples of different sized ukuleles tuned CGDA (and two mandolins GDAE) just to show that "richer and fuller sounding" is possible in the smaller-bodied ukulele.

03-18-2015, 09:02 PM
I have played guitar with rather limited ability since I was a child. I am a fan of all kinds of traditional jazz and blues stuff, and always adored guitar players like Blind Blake, Lonnie Johnson or the great Bernard Addison, who is all but forgotten today, but who recorded with Jelly Roll Morton in the 20s. I am a pianist, but I love trying to play guitar in trad jazz bands...no soloing, just comping away.... With the baritone ukulele, due to movable four string chord shapes, I can do that in just about any key; very much easier than with a guitar. So, for me, a baritone is a wonderful choice.

03-18-2015, 09:27 PM
as a complete novice who just wanted to pick up and learn an instrument (with zero musical background) definitely ukulele is easier.

03-19-2015, 01:08 AM
Difficulty is always relative. Most of it is overcome by practice. And being different isn't necessarily more difficult.

I find it easier to play than guitar - which I played since the mid-60s. Yes, the narrow neck takes some getting used to and I sometimes miss the bass notes. But on the other hand, I can reach more notes on the shorter fretboard.

But it all comes down to this: practice.

03-19-2015, 02:40 AM
Welcome to the forum, franticwonderland. Benny Chong used to play guitar. Now he plays baritone ukulele. If he can do it, so can you. As Ian says, it just takes practice.


03-19-2015, 05:00 AM
I dunno, is a saxophone easier to play than a clarinet? Is a bass easier to play than a violin? Is a tuba easier to play than a trumpet?

03-21-2015, 02:46 PM
Thanks for the responses!

I'm learning to play fingerstyle with easy fingerings and then transit to more complex fingerings.
Muscle memory developed over the years from guitar needs some adaptation when playing on ukulele, I guess.

Inspired to play like Craig Brandau.