Get a Guitalele Already

The guitalele is a miniature guitar built like a ukulele, and it should be your next – or even first – musical instrument.

Guitalele

For comparison with any instruments you might already play, here are my subjective and flamebaity ratings of several instruments’ different qualities:

FunVersatilityPortabilityAffordabilityLearnability
Acoustic Guitar★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★
Bass Guitar★★★★★★★★★★★★
Clarinet★★★★★★★★★★★★★
Electric Guitar★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★
Guitalele★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★
Harmonica★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★
Keyboard★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★
Piano★★★★★★★★★★★★★
Recorder★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★
Saxophone★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★
Sousaphone★★★★★★★★★★★
Tuba★★★★★★★★★

The guitalele does earn the most stars here, but that’s a pretty crude heuristic. To elaborate, you should get a guitalele already…

Because it’s fun

Some instruments, like violin, are culturally very serious and competitive. Others, like sousaphone, are utterly ridiculous and more about showmanship than musicianship. The guitalele inherits a casual, friendly attitude from its ukulele roots.

Its six strings are tuned ADGCEA, which is non-coincidentally equivalent to capoing a regular guitar at the 5th fret. If you can play guitar, you already know how to play guitalele! The familiar fingering and small size make it even more conducive to passing around the campfire than a guitar is.

For newcomers to stringed instruments, the guitalele provides another easily overlooked benefit: its low-tension strings won’t hurt your fingertips.

Because it’s versatile

A major reason why guitar and piano are so popular is that they can produce multiple notes at the same time (polyphony). Unlike wind instruments, they also allow you to sing along and – in the case of guitar – use percussive techniques like tapping and slapping. This all adds up to the ability to play virtually any song on a guitalele without the need for accompaniment.

Because it’s portable

As my go-to travel instrument, my guitalele has joined me on trips to Mexico, Hawaii, Costa Rica, and Thailand. Ukulele lookalikes are especially appropriate in tropical locations :)

A guitalele can fit easily in an overhead bin and, in a pinch, underneath the seat in front of you. Flight attendants generally don’t mind either way. Tenor ukulele cases happen to fit perfectly and are a good idea if you travel often.

My one (minor) gripe about guitaleles is that they’re only slightly louder than ukuleles and can be hard to hear in noisy environments. That’s not an entirely bad thing, though! I can practice during layovers without bothering anyone, whereas I still have yet to find a place soundproofed enough for sax.

Because it’s cheap

$100 is way down on the low end as far as musical instruments go, making it a responsible investment for musical newcomers. Only “toy” instruments like recorders and diatonic harmonicas are significantly cheaper.

My guitalele has far and away the lowest cost per hour over its lifetime of any instrument I’ve played, and yet it’s still in great condition after three years.

Because it’s easy

If you want to start playing music but don’t have 10,000 hours to spend practicing, you really only need to learn four chords in order to play most pop songs. Unless you have huge hands, you’ll also probably find the widest frets on the guitalele more comfortable to hold down than on a regular guitar.

Once you get tired of strumming the basic chords, you can start the long journey of learning more colorful guitar techniques like bends, harmonics, and tremolo picking.

Another advantage over wind instruments in particular is that you can just pick up a guitalele and put it down without the ritualistic hassle of assembling, greasing, wiping, and draining.

Believe it or not, I have no ties to Yamaha and wasn’t paid to write this! No Amazon affiliate links here either :)

Having finally found an instrument that’s both extremely fun and extremely practical, I hope this review can help end that search for anyone else in the same situation.