PDA

View Full Version : Advice from ukers who also play guitar...



griemers
05-12-2010, 01:33 PM
So, lately I've had the itch to start trying to play guitar again. I played a little bit in high school and college, but never really made it much further than learning a few basic chords for strumming songs. Once I started playing uke, I kind of turned my back on the guitar and never looked back. I think a big part of it was the fact that most of the music I love-- ragtime, blues, jazz, tin pan alley kind of stuff, just works out so nicely on the ukulele.

Anyhow, I guess my question is, how hard is it to transition into playing those sorts of music on guitar as well? I've recently heard some fantastic old-time guitar music on youtube and such, and I would really like to learn to play. But, do you have to be an expert-level player to make it sound half-way decent? I mean, I consider myself a pretty good, average/intermediate uke player-- playing something like the arrangement of Robert Johnson's Hot Tamales that everybody plays is pretty simple on uke. Is something like this super-difficult on guitar?

Also, will my knowledge of the different chord forms/inversions for the more complex, "jazz" chords on uke translate at all into making them easier on the guitar?

Anybody else made this jump?

Any other advice greatly appreciated!

--G.R.

ashleychantel
05-12-2010, 01:50 PM
I started playing guitar long before I played uke, but I would think your playing skills on ukulele will help a lot when you transition to guitar. Your chord changes will probably be smoother a lot faster than if you had never played any instrument. I give guitar lessons and I've noticed that if the student has ever played any type of instrument before (piano, drums, etc) they catch on way faster than students that haven't ever played. And you don't have to be super good to make it sound good. I say go for it!

ukulelearp
05-12-2010, 04:00 PM
I started playing guitar long before I played uke, but I would think your playing skills on ukulele will help a lot when you transition to guitar. Your chord changes will probably be smoother a lot faster than if you had never played any instrument. I give guitar lessons and I've noticed that if the student has ever played any type of instrument before (piano, drums, etc) they catch on way faster than students that haven't ever played. And you don't have to be super good to make it sound good. I say go for it!

It's just a matter of figuring out if you want to change keys, and what to do with those bass notes. Also, it's sometimes hard to adjust to the tighter string spacing if you haven't played in a while. I've been playing my guitar and I find myself touching two strings at once, getting a nasty buzz.

Rodrigo
05-12-2010, 04:42 PM
I've been playing guitar for 2 years everyday, which is key to making progress with your playing; try to practice for at least half an hour a day, and learn as many scales and chords as you can as well as challenging yourself by playing songs that might be difficult for you. If you do this for a while, you'll make some decent progress. You already know how to play the ukulele so like ashleychantel said, it'll be easier than starting from scratch.

itsme
05-12-2010, 04:58 PM
Guitar is bigger and has two more strings. If it's a steel-stringed acoustic, your fingers will take some getting used to them and probably be sore for a while.

Other than that, basic chord shapes are about the same, except they're different notes. A "D" chord on the guitar is a "G" chord on the uke.

But as mentioned, basically everything you've learned on uke will help you on guitar. I say go for it. :)

BashfulPuppet
05-12-2010, 05:18 PM
The only real challenge will be learning what to do with the two additional bass strings. But this will be fun because it will add a different dimension to the music than you get on the uke. I've played the guitar for about 20 years and only picked up the uke a few month ago. it shouldn't be too hard for you.

griemers
05-12-2010, 06:09 PM
Thank you for the advice, everyone :). I guess what I'm wondering about is whether it is realistic to expect to be able to play the cool ragtime, jazz standards, etc. that I'm used to on the uke, or is that mainly the domain of professional musicians?

Lori
05-12-2010, 06:22 PM
I would say that playing the ukulele feels a lot like playing the guitar. The things you might have to adjust for are fret and string spacing, and the string tension being a little more difficult. That can make barre chords more of a challenge. If you can play cool stuff on the uke, it will really help you on the guitar. Practice is the key, and since you are motivated, you should have no problem.

–Lori

crowbardog
05-12-2010, 07:01 PM
I recently picked up one of my fathers old Stella Harmony guitars (set up for blues in a G I believe, he rambled off what the set up was when I picked it up while we were talking and I didn't pay much attention). It sounds frikkin' awesome and isn't as nearly intimidating as I thought it would be. It is more difficult to form some chords, but I'm having a ton of fun learning. I say go for it. Before you know it, you will be playing at least a basic form of some songs your intersted in. And it will just add to your repotoire.

lindydanny
05-13-2010, 05:41 AM
For me, just going back to guitar or uke after playing the other for a day or two causes a small mental block that I have to get over. The thing to remember is that any song you know is as much muscle memory as it is knowing the chords. I've played guitar for years before I picked up a uke and I know a lot of songs. But my hands know them on guitar, not necessarily uke. So, there will be a little transition there.

The trick is really just realizing that you will have to think and practice a bit to get that mental/physical transition down. I know of bluegrass players that can come to a jam with a guitar and during the evening borrow a fiddle, a banjo, a mandolin, and an upright bass and be amazing at all of them. They have just done it all for so long, they can make that transition.

Keep it up and don't be afraid to ask questions or buy a book or two to get your guitar skills on.

~DB

P.S.: Shredding on guitar is for mid-lifers and teenagers. A good guitarist knows more about rhythm guitar that even the greatest of shredders. Trust me on this one.

SailingUke
05-13-2010, 06:35 AM
I started playing ukulele when I was about 11. When I was in H.S. my parents finally bought a guitar (solid body electric).
In the 60's a kid with a guitar was cool, a uke not so much. A few years ago I started playing more uke.
What I have found is I am a much better player on both guitar and ukulele. Because of the tuning differences I find I now play shapes instead of chords.
I don't think about the chord names any longer. I was always a strummer only, I work out melodies on the uke and can in most cases transfer them to the guitar.
I believe the guitar is a little more intimidating to learn, but after playing ukulele it is just learning the bass string notes and getting some finger/hand strength built up.
My advice is go for it, it will make you a better player.

rasputinsghost
05-13-2010, 07:49 AM
I'm interested in picking up the guitar myself - should I try to go for a smaller parlor guitar to transition from the uke better or should I just jump in and play a full-size?

clayton56
05-13-2010, 10:51 AM
Hot Tamales is pretty easy on guitar!

One thing that helps on guitar is to get a pattern going that includes the bass strings. Having a simple "boom-chick" (root and fifth) bass part going as you change chords will make you sound like a star. Full-chord strumming is ok, but not as clean as on a uke. Some sort of thumb-then-strum pattern is easy and takes full advantage of the addition of the bass strings.

griemers
05-13-2010, 10:59 AM
Cool! I was hoping that might be a way to look at it, since the chord forms on the bottom four strings are essentially identical to those on the uke. Gotta learn how to throw in those bass notes now.

Pippin
05-13-2010, 12:04 PM
I have played both guitar and ukulele for over forty years. Lots of songs are easier on ukulele and some songs cannot be played quite the same on uke as guitar. I play guitar with a lot of embellishments, walking up and down the neck between chords and a combination of finger-picking and strumming. There are lots of songs I prefer playing on ukulele. As a performer and songwriter, though, I have played guitar and ukulele renditions of most of my original songs. I think of the ukulele as just another instrument and that means I might have both guitar and uke in a lot of songs. Ukuleles add a lot of great accents to guitar-oriented music. So, what I would do if I were you is expand your horizons and combine both instruments. Try recording both on a computer or a dedicated multi-track recorder.

Rodrigo
05-13-2010, 02:55 PM
P.S.: Shredding on guitar is for mid-lifers and teenagers. A good guitarist knows more about rhythm guitar that even the greatest of shredders. Trust me on this one.
Lies! There's plenty of "shredders" who can do more than just play fast.

penster
05-13-2010, 08:29 PM
The two instruments complement each other, but you will find that there are things that work better on the ukulele and things that work better on the guitar. I play ukulele, electric and acoustic guitar, bass and mandolin. I often get a real mental block if i've been playing the ukulele a lot and I pick up one of the others. The others feel too big and heavy and I can't remember the notes - but it soon comes back.

luvdat
05-13-2010, 08:47 PM
I'm interested in picking up the guitar myself - should I try to go for a smaller parlor guitar to transition from the uke better or should I just jump in and play a full-size?

Another guitar player for over 40 years chimes in...

If your inclination is smaller, consider something like 00 or 000 Martins. Try some out at a place like Matt Umanov's...the 15 Mahog series...my all time favs (minus the dreadnought). Over the years I became less inclined towards dreadnoughts...you can then look for less expensive equivalent sized ukes...there's also the somewhat overpriced Baby Taylor...but consider ALL options of smaller bodied guitars.

To state my bias even more clearly: if you're moving towards smaller (and want something different from the Takamine guitar army at open mics across the world) go smaller sized guitar!

Plan B: pick up a $70- from Sam Ash Makala baritone tuned to DGBE...and slap on some D'Addario J68's for baritone ukuleles...I'm telling you this cheapo's got mojo!!!

Pippin
05-13-2010, 09:31 PM
Another guitar player for over 40 years chimes in...

If your inclination is smaller, consider something like 00 or 000 Martins. Try some out at a place like Matt Umanov's...the 15 Mahog series...my all time favs (minus the dreadnought). Over the years I became less inclined towards dreadnoughts...you can then look for less expensive equivalent sized ukes...there's also the somewhat overpriced Baby Taylor...but consider ALL options of smaller bodied guitars.

To state my bias even more clearly: if you're moving towards smaller (and want something different from the Takamine guitar army at open mics across the world) go smaller sized guitar!

Plan B: pick up a $70- from Sam Ash Makala baritone tuned to DGBE...and slap on some D'Addario J68's for baritone ukuleles...I'm telling you this cheapo's got mojo!!!

What's funny is that I started with dreadnaughts and now have greater pleasure from playing OM and 000 bodies.

Deets
05-14-2010, 12:46 AM
I guess what I'm wondering about is whether it is realistic to expect to be able to play the cool ragtime, jazz standards, etc. that I'm used to on the uke, or is that mainly the domain of professional musicians?

Sure it is! Specially as you do have experience with guitar and uke. All you need is determination!

griemers
05-15-2010, 06:07 PM
^^ as is the case with most things..... Good to hear that though.

Luvdatuke-- Yes, those 00 and 000 Martins do look verrryyy tempting... I've only heard them on YouTube so far though. I think that I read somewhere that Martin considers them their best "value for the money" guitar. Madeleine Peyroux plays a vintage ('42 I think) 0-17 which is very similar to these. I'll probably be playing a hand-me -down Ovation side brand for the time being, but if I get anywhere with my playing, those Martins are definitely at the top of my list of guitars to try out.

Pippin
05-16-2010, 01:47 AM
^^ as is the case with most things..... Good to hear that though.

Luvdatuke-- Yes, those 00 and 000 Martins do look verrryyy tempting... I've only heard them on YouTube so far though. I think that I read somewhere that Martin considers them their best "value for the money" guitar. Madeleine Peyroux plays a vintage ('42 I think) 0-18 which is very similar to these. I'll probably be playing a hand-me -down Ovation side brand for the time being, but if I get anywhere with my playing, those Martins are definitely at the top of my list of guitars to try out.

You might take a look at Parkwood. My new PW320-M is solid spruce top, solid mahogany back and sides, solid mahogany neck, Grover tuners, comes with a gig bag (I will soon have a hardshell case). The guitar is selling at $499 at Musician's Friend and $550 at Guiter Center's website. I got a deal in the store in Columbus, Ohio ($368). Can't get much better than that... they gave me my ASCAP discount.

luvdat
05-16-2010, 02:28 AM
The thing with smaller bodied is this: they allow for more overall tonal balance and sonic space for vocals especially and other instruments. That big dreadnought wall of sound doesn't "cut through" for tighter rhythm play and frequently in acoustic/electric venues sounds like more of a mess, at least to my ears. Even the overly revered Martin D-28 has medium level treble response at best (after 10 years of opening up). Dreadnoughts (the name comes from a large ship) were originally designed for Bluegrass music. Yeah, lot's of guitars started out designed for something else...

The thing about dreadnoughts is this: that with the socalled better solid top (how high is the quality of that spruce really or the gloss?) they are plentiful...but do they really sound automatically "better?" If you get the chance to compare some cheapos, frequently the smaller bodied guitars (for example, among the Alavarez starter line) have an overall more accomplished sound. In short, even at the budet level, the manufacturer can "pull off" that guitar better.

The Parkwoods are simply great values from a working musician's perspective (for me the BEST perspective).

BTW, I have a real respect for Ovations in live venues. IMO, they blow away even more expensive supposedly "better" guitars.

I was down the NJ shore yesterday listening to some guy with a higher end Yamaha dreadnought acoustic electric play outdoors with a band. I said to my wife, "I wish I could go to the nearest Guitar Center and get this guy an Ovation."

ceviche
05-16-2010, 05:56 PM
You can do it!!!

If you're still intimidated by steel strings and short-term finger pain, trade it for wallet pain and get a guitalele. Easy transition to learning the guitar chords and such.

--Dave E.

Pippin
05-16-2010, 10:23 PM
luvdatuke has a good point with the Ovation guitars. I have owned six Ovations over the years. I have played many a gig with them. "Plugged", they are really great. Acoustically, they don't compare to a lot of solid-wood guitars, but they have the added advantage of being able to withstand a nuclear blast. They are rugged.