For guitar players, what draws you to pick up the uke?


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Oct 27, 2022
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Hello all guitar players, I've always been a bit curious - what do you find charming about the ukulele and compels you to pick it up? There's less repertoire, need to work with the limitations of only 4 strings, the projection and dynamic range is a lot less.

I imagine a lot of guitarists don't see a reason to pick up the ukulele. Is it mostly the size form factor? Easier on the fingers?
Many reasons. It is portability and size for sure. But I also find it easier to play jazzier chords beyond the I IV V scheme, and for singing I don't have to push my voice as hard as with the 12 string. Important reason are acoustic jams that I like to attend where there are often multiple guitar players and it is easier to stand out and be heard with a uke. And then there are uke circles and Kanikapila which are so much fun.
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With guitar, I used to obsess to the point of fruitless frustration to get every chord to sound (voice) right. Too many strings, and never could get the hang of the dreaded "X" (do not play) strings shown on chord charts.

WIth ukulele, I can create the voice I want without the requirement to include every note in the chord. I was quite relieved to find out that I could play 5-note (rootless, for example) chords by choosing which note (not which string) to not play.

Happiness ensued. Guitar was gone. That all happened about the time I joined UU.
Size, convenience, portability and general fun. Not cost -- they are surprisingly similar. On guitar I got interested in shell voicings and partial chords and uke helped with that. It's been a fun challenge adapting to uke and figuring out how to get the most out of 4 treble strings. It will take me a long time to get bored with uke as there is fingerstyle jazz stuff, clawhammer and strumming techniques that will take me a long time to master. It's also inspiring having a different sound in your instrument army if you like writing.
I starting learning guitar, ukulele and singing five years ago. My choice is playing with others; and not performing for others or playing for myself at home.

I work lots more at singing better than on playing better. A narrow singing range means that there are two keys where I needed to harmonize up the chord or octave. With coaching and practice I’m almost able to lead songs in those two key ranges.

The baritone ukulele goes to indoor and outdoor sessions with uke buddies. Uke communities are fun and enthusiastic. Ukuleles are quiet so I just followed the song leaders and got lots of quiet practice strumming and singing. Repertoire is moderate because participants are happy with beginner and intermediate skills.

The guitar and banjo go to folk, Celtic, country rock, and bluegrass song circles. Participants range from late beginner to expert. Wide repertoire and solid jamming skills such as transposing and playing by ear are appreciated. When it’s my turn to call a song I offset my mid range skills by introducing amusing storyteller songs.

Playing alone at home is a low priority and instruments are often untouched during the offseason. I only play at home to learn new songs and practice new skills. My choice is a mid size guitar for easy handling and versatility. Using the same tuning means that fingers are prepped for banjo rolls and ukulele picking.

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As an eternal intermediate I hit a wall. Uke somehow helped me blast through. I think it's because my mistakes sound less atrocious so I'm less likely to give up on things. The trick for intermediates who can't read and don't know scales is to cheat and play chords in places up the neck. This works extra well on uke. Eg. Playing a c major at 0007 makes you sound like you are soloing or know what you are doing.
Ukulele has a sound/look that is very desirable for many situations, especially for children, folk and Hawaiian music.
I played guitar for almost 50 years, then in mid 2013 I bought a uke that looked like my Telecaster guitar just to hang next to it. I few weeks later I got a postcard from the Los Angeles Music Center for their annual Summer Play-Along, which I had done before with guitar, but this time it was for ukulele. I had one, so I signed up. When I played it to learn the few chords required, I was immediately enamored, so much so that having difficulty making the chords on my soprano uke, I bought a tenor.

After the sessions that summer, I was hooked by the re-entrant tuning, comfortable size, ease of learning, and all the great people I met at the sessions and in the group that I immediately joined. I never touched my guitars again and gave them to my nephew and a couple friends. I've since gone through about 40 tenor ukes, having now settled on 4 thinlines.
It's lovely to see that one of the reasons is the community and aloha.

All these posts very insightful. Guitars are embedded into most cultures, whilst the ukulele may not be and people have sought it out or found it. To a uke learner that is starting to get an interest in maybe trying the guitar it was counter intuitive to me why you may want limits or a 'gimped' version of an instrument you're familiar with. I can now see there's more to it. Fascinating!
I have to say, I don't put a lot of thought and justification into things I do, especially like what instrument I'm going to play around with or buy. I'm very impulsive in that way. I get an itch and I scratch it. I took a long break from playing guitar. When I retired and thought that I might want to get back into it I went to a music store to look for a guitar. I saw some ukuleles, I thought they looked fun so I bought one. I took it home and learned to play it. And it was fun for about eight years, but now I'm pretty much back to guitar.
As a player of both guitar and uke, I reach for the little guy waaaay more often because it is less cumbersome and just so relaxing to play for me. It’s also easier on my hands and fingers.

I can easily pick it up and throw it in the car and play in the front seat while my husband runs errands. It’s not a chore to bring along to friends’ houses. It’s easy to travel with anywhere. I play it in the canoe. Some of these things are either more difficult or simply impossible with the guitar. Everytime I pick up my guitar I feel like I accidentally bang it in a dozen places just maneuvering it around the house.

So I agree with people citing its size, fun factor, and portability. It is also surprisingly diverse once you realize you can venture beyond Hawaiian music or “happy songs.”
I have played guitar since I was a teenager. I learned the ukulele about 15 years ago because I have a bad back and it became so painful that I could no longer play the guitar for any length of time. In desperation, I decided to try the ukulele, because it was light enough to not cause back pain...and I fell in love with the ukulele. Like others have said, I love the ease of playing and comradeship of uke players. Now, with my back slightly improved, I am able to play small guitars, but I still play the uke too... I love both instruments and I'm so thankful for both of them in my life.
It's the social aspect that drew me in. Starting off I took a ukulele 101 class held by a Uke Jam leader on a Saturday. He told us to come out to the uke jam on Monday. I did, I had a blast, it got me hooked and I just kept going. I like to sing so that helped

In the past, before ukulele, my first attempt at learning guitar was very solitary. I would go down into the basement and woodshed with a Hal Leonard book, BORING. But after 5-6 years with the uke I picked up the guitar again, having fun is priority #1 and I don't beat myself up over mistakes.

The ukulele is fun, it's social, it travels well and people always seem to accept it with a smile. I enjoy playing both instruments
I had no interest at all in picking up the ukulele when I played guitar. I saw it as a joke, an instrument not to be taken seriously, a cute, quaint and silly little toy. It wasn't until I pretty much stopped playing guitar after 40 years of enjoying playing every day, pretty much everywhere I traveled in favor of the five string banjo which replaced the hold the guitar had on my heart. Three or four years ago, I used to frequent a banjo website where I enjoyed the videos of a banjo/ukulele picker who got me interested in playing ukulele. I took off the three low strings of my guitar and replaced the 4th string with a spare 1st string and went about saving up money for a uke and learning how to play.
Here is the guy who inspired me to take up ukulele.
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