Not sure whether you want to learn the guitar or the ukulele? With the guitalele, you don’t have to choose! 

Read on to learn more about this instrument, what makes it special (and different from its namesakes), and how to get started playing it.

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What Is a Guitalele?

A guitalele is a cross between a guitar and a ukulele. It’s sometimes called a guitarlele, guilele, ukitar, 6-string ukulele, or kīkū. It offers the portability of a ukulele, but plays like a small classical guitar

How It’s Different From a Guitar or Ukulele

One of the biggest reasons why musicians like the guitalele is its size. It’s a bit larger than a regular ukulele, but much smaller than a standard 6-string guitar. This means that it’s lightweight and easy to travel with, yet still produces quite a bit of volume. The guitalele is also often marketed to young players because it’s easier for them to hold and play a smaller instrument. 

Like the classical guitar and the ukulele, the guitalele has nylon strings. This makes it a perfect instrument choice for beginners—unlike steel strings, nylon strings won’t hurt your fingers or cause calluses. 

While the standard ukulele has only four strings, the guitalele has six, like the guitar. This offers a lot more freedom when it comes to creating chords and fingerpicking patterns. 

How It’s Played

Guitalele strings are tuned to ADGCEA. If you already play the guitar, you might notice that this is similar to standard tuning, but tuned up a fourth (as if you’re playing with a capo on the fifth fret). If you already play the ukulele, then you’ll notice that the top four strings—GCEA—are the same as standard tuning on a ukulele. 

This means that, whether you’re a guitar player or a ukulele player, you can pick up a guitalele for the first time and start playing right away. It also means that you can learn both guitar and ukulele songs using chord charts and tabs available online. If you play the ukulele, you’ll just need to make sure you don’t play the two lowest strings. 

If you don’t already play guitar or ukulele, learning the guitalele is very similar to learning the guitar. However, you’ll have a decision to make. Because the guitalele strings are transposed up, both the guitalele and the guitar use the same chord shapes, but create different chords. For example, the same shape that creates the G chord on the guitar creates the C chord on the guitalele. Before learning the chords, you’ll need to decide whether you want to learn guitar chords or guitalele chords. 

guitaleles
Source: instagram
Guitaleles via @ukuleleria

The right choice will depend on your ultimate goal. If you’d like to eventually play the guitar, it might make sense to learn guitar chords. This way, when you do make the transition, it won’t be too confusing. In the meantime, when you play guitar chords on the guitalele, they will be in a higher key than the original song, but they’ll sound just fine relative to each other. 

If you’d like to stay in the original key, you can also learn to transpose chords. For example, if the chord chart calls for guitar chord G, you can transpose it down four steps and play chord D. It will be shaped like guitar chord D, but sound like guitar chord G. 

If you have no plans to ever play standard guitar, you can go ahead and learn guitalele chords right from the get go. If you change your mind, you can always re-teach yourself later. Alternatively, you can play the guitar with a capo on the fifth fret or learn to transpose chords up. You may find that guitar chords are much more readily available online than guitalele chords, so knowing how to transpose is definitely a useful skill to have. 

man playing guitarlele
Source: instagram
Guitaleles are larger than ukuleles, but smaller than travel guitars. 

Try the Guitalele for Yourself 

Whether or not you have experience playing guitar or ukulele, playing the guitalele is simple, fun, and rewarding. 

If you’re hoping to teach yourself guitalele but don’t have prior experience with similar instruments, your best bet is to take an online course on how to play the guitar or the ukulele (or both!) and apply what you learn to your guitalele. You’ll find that the basic principles are very much the same.

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