What A Guitalele Is and Why You Might Consider Owning One

There are guitars, there are ukuleles, and sitting pretty in the middle, is the guitalele.

What A Guitalele Is and Why You Might Consider Owning One

As the name suggests, this is a hybrid instrument that takes the best parts of guitars and ukuleles and fuses them together to offer up a unique sound and different playing style. 

Learning to play the guitalele is such a cool prospect, because, not only is it a great traveling instrument, but it’s also a whole lot easier to learn than your standard guitar.

In this article, we are going to present you with every guitalele-centric fact, stat, pro, and con so you’ll be informed and ready to pick up your very first guitalele today, or not.

That’s right, what you’re looking to get out of a string instrument will depend on whether a guitalele is the right choice for you.

So, let’s not delay any further, let’s dive straight into the belly of the guitalele (hopefully you come out strumming). 

What Is the Difference Between A Guitar And A Guitalele?

To help you make sense of the guitalele, it’s a good idea to first draw some comparisons between it and the almighty guitar.

By doing this you will have a clearer idea as to whether a standard guitar is right for your style of playing. Or, maybe it’s little cousin (the guitalele), may just be what you were always searching for. 

What Is A Guitar?

What A Guitalele Is and Why You Might Consider Owning One

Guitars are instruments that play chords with six or twelve strings. They are usually made from wood and feature steel strings.

A guitar is played by plucking and strumming the strings. Guitars are also used in many different types of music including blues, country, pop, and jazz.

There are many different kinds of guitars. Based on the production of sound they can be categorized into two types: electric guitars and acoustic guitars.

Electric guitars produce sound by projecting it through an electric amplifier and speaker.

Acoustic guitars produce sound by projecting through a hollow wooden box.

Modern acoustic guitars can also be categorized into three types: the classical guitar, the steel-string acoustic guitar, and the archtop guitar, or “jazz guitar” as they are also referred to. 

The classical guitar produces sound by vibrating the strings of the guitar. The steel-string acoustic guitar produces sound by vibrating the strings of the guitar with a metal bar called a steel string.

The archtop guitar produces sound by vibrating the strings of the guitar but with a bridge mounted on top of the body of the guitar. This type of guitar is used in jazz music.

What Is A Guitalele?

What A Guitalele Is and Why You Might Consider Owning One

A guitalele is a reduced-size, hybrid guitar that is an “easy traveler”, while also producing a rich and lovely sound.

Blending the classical guitar and the ukulele together to create a surprisingly full sound scope that has familiar tones to a classical guitar capoed at the 5th fret.

It has six strings, and it is tuned to A-D-G-C-E-A. They can be played as either guitars or ukes. Guitalele is a type of guitar that doesn’t need an amplifier or speaker.

It’s made out of nylon strings and can be played while being carried around.

However, don’t get mistaken and think the guitalele is just another reduced-size travel guitar. They should be considered their own instrument.

Guitaleles are guitars with strings that are made with nylon. They are tuned a fourth higher than a regular guitar.

You can play chords using only the four higher strings and get a sound close to a ukulele. But when you play with all the strings, the sound is more like a guitar than a uke.

The best guitalele players use a pick to make the nylon strings sing. Nylon strings are lighter than steel strings so, naturally, guitaleles are also a little lighter to transport too.

Origin Of The Guitalele

The first guitalele was invented by John G. “Jack” Williams in the late 1950s. He called his invention the “guitalele”. In 1960 he sold the patent rights for $500 to the Hohner Company.

The company renamed the instrument the “Hohner Guitalele” and marketed it under their own brand name. Later, in 1964, the instrument was rebranded by Yamaha as the “Guitalele” and became one of the most popular instruments ever manufactured.

Today there are several companies manufacturing various models of guitaleles. These include Yamaha, Fender, Gibson, Martin, Taylor, Dobro, Takamine, Dobson, Kala, and others.

How To Play The Guitalele

What A Guitalele Is and Why You Might Consider Owning One

There are two ways to play a guitalele: pluck the strings with your fingers or strum them with a plectrum. Both methods have advantages and disadvantages.

Plucking the strings with your fingers gives you a clearer, louder sound. It is easy to learn how to play this way. But if you want to play chords, you will need to practice a lot.

Strumming the strings with a plectrum makes playing chords much easier. But it takes some time to master.

If you don’t know how to play chords yet, you should start learning now. To play a chord, just strum the strings while holding down the fret button.

Play A Chord Using Only Four Higher Pitched Strings

To play a chord using only the four higher-pitched strings, press the fret buttons corresponding to those strings.

For example, to play C Major 7th chord, press the 3rd fret button. Then, hold down the fret button until you hear a tone. You can then release the fret button and continue playing other notes.

To play a different type of chord, try pressing multiple fret buttons at once.

For instance, to play a D Minor 7th chord, press both the 2nd and 5th fret buttons.

Hold down these two buttons until you hear a tone, then release them and continue playing.

Playing Chords With All Six Strings

You can also play chords with all six strings. To do so, press any combination of the frets corresponding to the strings.

For instance, to get the open E minor 7th chord, press all five fret buttons. Hold down each fret button until you hear the desired note. Release the fret buttons and continue playing.

Practice Tips

If you’re new to playing a guitalele, you might find it difficult to play chords right away. Don’t worry! Just keep practicing and you’ll soon be able to play chords without difficulty.

Try playing along with songs from your favorite artists. This will help you improve your technique.

If you’re having trouble getting used to the feel of the instrument, you can buy a set of fingerpicks. Fingerpicks come in many shapes and sizes.

They allow you to easily pick out individual notes on the guitar neck. You can even use them to play chords. 

What Is The Tonal Difference Between The Acoustic Guitar and Guitalele?

What A Guitalele Is and Why You Might Consider Owning One

The difference in tone between the two instruments comes from the fact that the guitalele uses nylon strings instead of steel strings.

This allows for more flexibility when playing chords and melodies, but also makes the instrument quieter than its other cousin, the electric guitar.

When you put a capo on the 5th fret of a guitar, the strings change length. This changes how the strings vibrate and the pitch of the note.

When you play a chord, the strings are all tuned to the same note. But when you put a capo on the fifth string, it changes the pitch of the note by half step.

For example, if the first string is tuned to E, then putting a capo on the fifth string makes the note B instead of A.

A quick Youtube of both instruments will allow you to fully understand the slight tonal differences.

You’ll notice that the sound is very similar, but not exactly identical.

The sound that comes from a guitar is a more pronounced and fuller sound when compared to the guitalele. 

How Do I Play A Guitalele Like A Classical Guitar?

To play a guitalele like a classical guitar, you’ll have to learn how to fingerpick.

You will use your thumb on the first string, index finger on the second string, middle finger on the third string, ring finger on the fourth string, pinky on the fifth string, and finally, your right hand will rest on the sixth string.

If you want to play a different scale, simply move your fingers up or down one string.

You may notice that this method requires a lot of coordination. This is because the strings are so close together.

You’ll have to practice making sure that your left-hand stays steady while moving your right hand up and down.

You can also try strumming along with your right hand. For instance, if you’re playing C major, you would start by strumming the C major scale pattern (1 2 3 4 1).

Then, once you’ve reached the end of the scale, you’d strum the D minor scale pattern (3 4 1 2 3).

What Is the Difference Between Guitaleles And Travel Guitars?

Many people mistakenly group guitaleles and travel guitars together based on their smaller than “normal” guitar size.

However, even though they both have six strings (unlike traditional ukuleles which have four), there is a distinct difference in the way they play. 

As a result of their reduced size, the guitalele’s low string is an A instead of an E for travel guitars.

When playing a guitalele, chord fingering is the same as the travel guitar. However, the chord sound will be shifted a 5th.

Travel guitars are smaller than standard acoustic guitars, but most of them are still larger than guitaleles.

For this reason, guitaleles are considered better travelers than the travel guitar itself. But, there’s no denying that both guitar types are versatile instruments that suit people on the move. 

Why You Might Want A Guitalele

What A Guitalele Is and Why You Might Consider Owning One

Okay, so you now know that guitaleles are fun and easy to play. But, why else might you want a guitalele over, say, a ukulele or a guitar?

Well, it’s a good thing you asked because we’re about to hit you with four more reasons why you deserve a guitalele, and a guitalele deserves you. 

You Want More Versatility Than What Your Ukulele Is Offering

Despite having six strings, most players generally find a guitalele to resemble a ukulele more than an acoustic guitar. It’s because of the size, the tuning, and the way you play.

Therefore, while many skills are transferable between both guitars, it is easier to learn between a ukulele, and a guitalele, than between a guitalele and a guitar.

It’s good to have an extra string on the guitar, but having the extra two strings really makes things open up. Those who have played guitar before might want to consider picking up ukuleles instead.

You Want An “Easy Traveler” To Take Around With You

Guitaleles have soared in popularity in recent years for their full, six-string sound and for being super practical travelers.

Most players even regard them as having a better sound than travel guitars and, in general, are built with higher quality materials.

The high-quality nature of guitaleles means they are extra-durable and ready to handle an unavoidable knock or two which is all too common when traveling. 

You Prefer Playing With Nylon Strings

There’s no denying or hiding it, traditionally, guitars feature steel strings. These steel strings are hard to handle for newbies, and will often result in a player’s fingers bleeding during and after practice.

If you’d prefer not to go through the hardships and struggles of learning on steel strings, and save your fingers in the process, then nylon strings are where your fingers will find some strumming comfort.

Nylon strings are softer and lighter-sounding than steel strings. They are easy to play because you don’t need to put as much pressure into the strings.

If you haven’t developed calluses on your fingertips from years of shredding the guitar then going down the nylon string route is a much easier option.

As you probably could have guessed, guitaleles are always fitted with nylon strings, which makes them an obvious choice for ditching the steel for good. We can already sense your fingertips thanking you. 

You Often Capo The Lower Frets Of Your Guitar

If you’re someone who finds themselves regularly reaching for the capo, then it’s safe to assume that you are also the kind of player that would really enjoy and benefit from a guitalele.

Players who are skilled and confident enough to sing while they play, but typically use a capo to alter a song’s key to align with their vocal range would benefit tremendously from a guitalele.

Imagine your guitalele naturally strumming with a higher pitch to match your high notes, it would be delightful right?

Summary

As is evidenced in this article, guitaleles have a right to be classed as their own instrument. Pooling it in with four-string ukuleles would be wrong, and classing it as a guitar just isn’t fair.

Even travel guitars (which have many similarities) are still a long way off the nylon-stringed, ukulele-sized guitalele. 

If you’ve already got an impressive arsenal of guitars, ukuleles, and the rest, you may be looking to add the unique sounds of a guitalele to the mix.

Or, you’re planning a big traveling trip and want a musical sidekick that’s easy to bring along.

Or, maybe this is you considering what avenue to go down as your very first guitar, and you’ve always liked the sound and softness of guitaleles.

Whichever predicament you’re in, we hope this article has steered you in the right direction: toward or not toward a guitalele, that is the question?

With our evident soft spot for the cute and cuddly guitalele, we secretly hope you’re steering toward picking one up today!

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Howard Matthews