How Difficult is it to Play Guitar or Ukulele?

Learning to play a musical instrument can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience, but it often comes with challenges. Two popular choices for beginners are the guitar and the ukulele. In this article, we will explore how difficult it is to play these instruments, considering factors such as size, complexity, and learning curve. So, whether you’re leaning towards strumming a guitar or plucking a ukulele, read on to make an informed decision.

Want to start your musical journey with a ukulele? Then read the article – Ukulele for Beginner.

The Size Matters

Guitar: A Bigger Challenge

The guitar is known for its larger size compared to the ukulele, and this size can indeed present both advantages and challenges for aspiring musicians. For beginners, the larger body of the guitar can be a bit daunting, particularly if you have smaller hands. Fretting chords and achieving the right finger placements can be more challenging due to the greater span between frets. This can initially lead to finger fatigue and discomfort as you build finger strength and dexterity.

Furthermore, the neck of the guitar is longer than that of the ukulele, which means you’ll need to reach further along the fretboard. This might require more effort and practice to execute smooth chord transitions and play melodies seamlessly.

However, it’s important to note that many guitarists appreciate the larger size of the instrument as they progress in their musical journey. The bigger soundboard allows for a wider tonal range and can produce richer, more resonant sounds. So, while the guitar’s size can be a challenge initially, it can also offer a deeper and more rewarding musical experience in the long run.

Ukulele: Compact and Friendly

In contrast, the ukulele’s compact size makes it an ideal choice for beginners. Its smaller body is more manageable, making it easier to hold and play. Fretting chords on a ukulele is generally less taxing on the fingers due to the shorter scale length and narrower fretboard. This makes it a more forgiving instrument for those who are just starting their musical journey.

The ukulele’s smaller size is also advantageous for younger players or individuals with smaller hands. It allows them to explore music without feeling overwhelmed by a large instrument. Additionally, the ukulele’s smaller body produces a unique, bright, and cheerful sound that many find instantly appealing.

Complexity of Chords and Strumming

Guitar: Multifaceted Chords

One of the key elements that can make playing the guitar more challenging is the complexity of its chords. Guitars offer a wide range of chords, from simple open chords like C major to intricate barre chords like F#m7b5. Learning and mastering these chords can be a timeconsuming process, especially for beginners. The intricate finger placements required for some chords can be initially frustrating, as it may take time for your fingers to build the necessary strength and flexibility.

Furthermore, strumming patterns on the guitar can add another layer of complexity. Different songs and styles may demand unique strumming techniques, such as fingerpicking, palm muting, or alternate picking. Beginners often find it challenging to coordinate their strumming hand with the fretting hand while maintaining the correct timing and rhythm.

Ukulele: Simplicity in Chords

In contrast, the ukulele offers a simpler chord landscape. While it does have its share of complex chords, they are generally fewer in number and easier to grasp compared to the guitar. Ukulele chords often require fewer fingers, making them more accessible for beginners. This simplicity allows newcomers to start strumming basic chords and playing songs more quickly, which can be highly motivating.

Strumming on the ukulele is also typically less complicated. Many songs can be played with straightforward downstrokes or simple strumming patterns, making it easier for beginners to maintain rhythm and timing.

The simplicity of ukulele chords and strumming patterns makes it an excellent choice for those who are just starting their musical journey or who prefer a more relaxed approach to playing music.

Learning Curve

Guitar: Steeper Learning Curve

Learning to play the guitar often comes with a steeper learning curve compared to the ukulele. Several factors contribute to this:

  1. Size and Finger Dexterity: As mentioned earlier, the guitar’s larger size can be intimidating for beginners. Fretting chords and transitioning between them can be challenging, especially for those with smaller hands. This initial discomfort can deter some newcomers.
  2. Complex Chords and Scales: The guitar offers a vast array of complex chords, scales, and techniques. While these aspects contribute to the guitar’s versatility and depth of expression, they also mean that beginners need to invest more time and effort in learning the fundamentals.
  3. String Count: Guitars typically have six strings, which require precise coordination between the strumming and fretting hands. Managing six strings can be overwhelming for beginners, particularly when it comes to fingerpicking and complex melodies.
  4. Learning Songs: Playing familiar songs on the guitar can take longer for beginners due to the intricacies involved. It may take some time before you can confidently play your favorite tunes.

Ukulele: Quick Progress

Conversely, the ukulele offers a more beginner-friendly learning curve. Several factors contribute to this accessible nature:

  1. Size and Playability: The ukulele’s compact size and lightweight design make it comfortable for beginners to hold and play. Fretting chords is less taxing on the fingers due to the shorter scale length and narrower fretboard, allowing for quicker progress.
  2. Simplified Chords: Ukulele chords are generally simpler and require fewer fingers, which makes them easier to grasp for beginners. This simplicity enables newcomers to strum basic chords and play songs relatively quickly, providing a sense of accomplishment and motivation.
  3. Fewer Strings: Ukuleles have only four strings, simplifying the learning process. Fewer strings mean less complexity in terms of string management and finger coordination.
  4. Faster Song Progression: Due to the instrument’s simplicity, beginners can often progress more rapidly with the ukulele, playing recognizable songs with less effort.

String Count

Guitar: Six Strings to Manage

One of the distinguishing features of the guitar is its six strings. While this characteristic contributes to the guitar’s rich and versatile sound, it also introduces complexity, particularly for beginners.

  1. Finger Coordination: Managing six strings simultaneously can be challenging, especially when it comes to fretting chords and notes. It requires precise finger coordination to avoid accidental muting or buzzing of strings.
  2. String Bending and Vibrato: Techniques like string bending and vibrato, which add expressiveness to guitar playing, can be demanding for newcomers. These techniques involve bending individual strings to alter pitch and creating controlled vibrato for sustained notes.
  3. Complex Chords: As mentioned earlier, the guitar offers a wide variety of complex chords, some of which require pressing down multiple strings simultaneously. This complexity can be daunting for beginners, as it demands both finger strength and dexterity.
  4. Fingerpicking: Fingerpicking styles on the guitar involve plucking individual strings in specific patterns. Coordinating your fingers to pick the correct strings can be challenging, especially when learning intricate melodies.

Ukulele: Four Strings, Less Complexity

The ukulele, in contrast, has only four strings. This simplicity in string count has several advantages for beginners:

  1. Easier Chord Formation: With fewer strings, ukulele chords are generally simpler to form. Most basic chords can be played with three or fewer fingers, making them more accessible to newcomers.
  2. Reduced Finger Fatigue: Fretting and pressing down on four strings is less physically demanding on the fingers compared to the guitar’s six strings. This can result in less finger fatigue during extended practice sessions.
  3. String Management: Managing four strings is less complex than six, making it easier for beginners to keep track of which strings to strum or pick. This simplifies the learning process, especially when starting with strumming patterns.
  4. Quick Progress: Due to its reduced complexity, beginners often make faster progress on the ukulele. It’s not uncommon to start playing simple songs within a relatively short period, which can be highly motivating.

Portability and Versatility

Guitar: Less Portable

Guitars, with their larger size, are inherently less portable than ukuleles. Their dimensions make them less convenient to carry around, and they often require a dedicated case for protection during travel. This means that if you’re a traveler or someone constantly on the move, the guitar might pose logistical challenges. You might need to plan ahead to ensure you have the right accommodations for your guitar during your journeys. Additionally, playing a guitar in confined spaces can be cumbersome, limiting its versatility in certain settings.

Ukulele: Portable and Travel-Friendly

Ukuleles, on the other hand, shine when it comes to portability. Their compact size and lightweight design make them highly portable and travel-friendly. You can easily fit a ukulele into a backpack or carry-on luggage, making it a perfect companion for vacations, outdoor adventures, or simply playing on the go. Due to its smaller size, the ukulele is more versatile in various environments. Whether you’re strumming by the campfire, serenading friends at a beach party, or playing in a cozy corner of your home, the ukulele adapts effortlessly to different settings.

In essence, when considering the portability and versatility factor, the ukulele wins hands down. Its compact size and ease of transport make it an excellent choice for those who want to enjoy music wherever they go. While the guitar has its merits, it is better suited for stationary playing and might require more planning if you intend to take it on your adventures. So, if you’re looking for a musical companion that can be with you no matter where life takes you, the ukulele is the clear winner in this category.


In conclusion, the difficulty of playing the guitar or ukulele depends on various factors, including your hand size, musical goals, and patience. While the guitar presents more challenges initially, mastering it can be deeply rewarding. On the other hand, the ukulele offers a more accessible entry point to the world of string instruments. Ultimately, your choice should align with your preferences and dedication to practice.