Can You Play Ukulele if You Know Guitar? (Explained)

play ukulele if you know guitar

Ukulele is a very popular instrument and not just because of “Over the Rainbow”! So how easy is it for someone to play ukulele if you know guitar?

Knowing how to play guitar will make it a lot easier to learn the ukulele. They are both string instruments that are somewhat similar.

In this article, we will go over the most common questions guitar players have when they are thinking of buying a ukulele.

Is ukulele easy if you know guitar?

Ukuleles and guitars are both string instruments, so a person who knows how to play guitar can usually pick up ukulele playing pretty quickly. However, there are some significant differences between both instruments that can make it difficult for guitar players to pick the ukulele straight away.

Guitar vs ukulele 

The main differences between guitars and ukuleles are:

  • Smaller body
  • Ukuleles only have 4 strings
  • Different tuning
  • Price
  • Portability

Smaller body

The most noticeable difference between ukuleles and guitars is the smaller body. Don’t be fooled thinking that just because of the smaller body you will easily adapt to ukuleles. In fact, it takes time.

The smaller body means that you will need to hold the instrument in a different way. It is also more difficult to press strings without accidentally pressing other strings because the neck is smaller.

You will also notice that the projection of the sound in the ukulele is very different from a traditional acoustic guitar. 

Ukuleles only have 4 strings

Similar to bass, ukuleles only have four strings. This also takes a while for a guitar player to adapt to. You will find yourself looking for that 5th or 6th string but it is not there.

Different tuning

The tuning is where the difference is most noticeable. While pretty much any guitar player can play bass because the tuning is the same on those 4-strings, the same does not happen with the ukulele. 

A traditional guitar tuning is EADGBE, while the ukulele is tuned in GCEA. 

This means that the chord shapes, scales, and licks you would use on a guitar need to be adapted to the different tuning of the ukulele. A good way to understand this is by thinking you are playing the higher strings on the guitar starting on the 5th fret.

This can really take some time to adapt to, and it is the most challenging part for guitar players trying to play the ukulele.


The difference in price between a guitar and a ukelele is also significant. Ukuleles are a lot more inexpensive, making them a good choice for people who want to start playing acoustic music but don’t have a lot of money to spend. 


Finally, ukuleles are extremely portable, and they can be a great way for guitar players to travel around with a ukulele instead of a guitar.

How long does it take to learn ukulele if you know guitar?

If you already know how to play guitar it can take a month to really master the ukulele. The biggest challenge will be to adapt to the new tuning and play chords with a slightly different chord shape.

But this all depends on the individual’s skill level and how much time they are willing to put into learning the ukulele.

For someone who is already familiar with playing the guitar, the transition to the ukulele may be a relatively smooth process, and they could potentially learn the basics within a few weeks. 

However, for someone who is starting from scratch, learning both instruments simultaneously could take several months.

Learning the ukulele if you know guitar

Knowing how to play guitar can give a lot of advantages when learning the ukulele. In order to switch from guitar to ukulele, you will need to focus on these points:

  • Adapt to the smaller body of the ukulele
  • Adapt to a different neck
  • Playing Fewer strings
  • Learn how to hold the ukulele

Is it better to learn guitar or ukulele first?

Learning guitar is a lot more difficult, but it allows you to switch to the ukulele or even bass easily. Although the answer to this question depends a lot on your musical goals, the time you want to dedicate to practice, and the budget you have to buy your instrument, a beginner should learn about learning guitar.

The reason is that it might be more difficult but it gives you a better musical foundation, and it is a much more versatile instrument. It will allow you to play different styles of music and learn a lot more about musical theory.

To a certain extent, the ukulele is easier to learn, but it is a lot more limiting. You will not be able to play certain music genres, and it will be more difficult to later transition into the guitar.

You can also learn both at the same time, but you will have to dedicate more time to practice routinely.

Is playing the ukulele like playing the guitar?

Generally speaking, the ukulele is a bit smaller and easier to hold than a guitar, which may make it a good choice for beginners. 

Additionally, the strings on a ukulele are closer together than on a guitar, which can make it simpler to fret the strings and play melodies.

Ukuleles are typically four-stringed instruments, while guitars can have six or more strings. 

Although they share some similarities, playing the ukulele is not exactly the same as playing the guitar.

Is it hard to switch from ukulele to guitar?

It is fairly easy to switch from guitar to ukulele, but switching from ukulele to guitar can be complicated. The reason is that the ukulele is a lot easier to learn, and it is a simple instrument, with just 4 strings, and a small neck. Additionally, the guitar has a more complex fretboard than the ukulele, which can make it harder to learn how to play songs on the guitar.

While the guitar is a much bulkier instrument, with 6 strings that require more practice in order to master. The range of sounds and versatility of the guitar also means that you need to dedicate more time to learning how to play the instrument correctly.

Is it difficult to learn ukulele if you know guitar?

It is not difficult to learn the ukulele if you know how to play guitar, but the biggest challenge will be adapting to a completely new tuning. The ukulele strings are tuned in a very different way, which can be a big challenge for guitar players.

Is it easier to learn guitar or ukulele?

It is easier to learn the ukulele because it is a smaller instrument, with fewer strings, and softer strings. This means that you do not have to pressure the strings with the same strength.

The ukulele is also somewhat limited in what it can do, so there are far more complex musical pieces that can be plaid on the guitar but cannot be plaid on the ukulele.

Should you learn the guitar or ukulele?

If you are torn between learning guitar and ukelele you might want to consider a few points before choosing between both of them:

  • How much are you willing to practice a day?
  • What kind of songs and music do you want to play?
  • Is this a hobby or do you want to be a professional musician?
  • What are your musical goals?
  • How much do you want to spend?
Difficulty to learnHighLow
The time it takes to learn1 year6 months


It is easy to play the ukulele if you know the guitar, even if you need to adapt to it, it should not take more than a few weeks to a month.

The ukulele is a great instrument for beginners because it is smaller and easier to play than the guitar.  It also has a cheerful, upbeat sound that is perfect for summertime sing-a-longs.

If you are interested in learning how to play the ukulele, there are plenty of online tutorials and YouTube videos that can help you get started. So why not give it a try?

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