It’s the year 2021, and most of us are already familiar with this tiny, cute musical instrument that looks exactly like a guitar, but smaller. Most of the people often confuse it with a guitar, and even call it one. However, an ukulele has pretty much contrasting features to that of a guitar. Yeah, it might appear as a guitar with a curvy body and a fret board with strings, resembling the common image of a guitar. A lot of people believe that I own a mini guitar, and I ought to correct them every time they regard my uke as a guitar. But throughout this article, I’m going to express how physical appearance can sometimes create an illusion despite of contrasting characteristics.
The ukulele was introduced in Hawaii by Portuguese immigrants. Slowly it garnered popularity in countries like USA, Canada, Japan etc. Generally made of wood, its body consists of a fretboard with four nylon strings on it. Mostly seen in a figure-eight body, ukuleles can also be found in an oval shaped body, called the pineapple shaped ukulele. Although modern ukulele strings are made of nylon, they were originally made of catgut- prepared from animal intestines. However, ukuleles with six or eight strings can also be seen in some places.
The strings of a standard uke are tuned in the variants of G-C-E-A, whereas a guitar is tuned as E-A-D-G-B-E. Since the ukulele consists of just four strings, compared to a six-string guitar; the pattern of chords differs in a much spectacular way. The prime character that differs both guitar and ukulele is the size factor. A guitar normally measures around 38 inches, much larger than an uke. Again, a standard guitar contains six strings whereas an ukulele contains four. There are two types of guitars: acoustic and electric; but an ukulele is divided into four classical types : soprano, concert, tenor, baritone. Soprano and concert sizes are the most commonly used ones measuring 21 and 23 inches respectively. Baritone is the largest among these four types with 30 inches length.
An uke is quite easier to learn as compared to a guitar, since it has only four strings and resulting in shorter chords. But it takes practice to master at anything, rather be it the ukulele or the guitar. The musicians believe that the strings of an ukulele are much softer and stretchy as compared to the metal strings of a guitar. With my own experience, I agree to this fact. While playing a guitar, developing calluses because of the pressure inserted on the metal strings is the most common scenario, but on an uke, it doesn’t take that much of an effort to play the chords on the soft nylon strings. However, I believe to learn something, you need to give in to a little bit of pain, isn’t it? The sound produced by an uke is warmer, often sounding louder than guitars, but softer.
People are slowly starting to recognize this tiny instrument as there are many people who are covering songs on their ukuleles and uploading on YouTube. The popularity of the instrument is reaching a wider audience. I hope soon people will start giving this instrument its own identity instead of making a comparison with a guitar.