A guitarlele is a chordophones (stringed) instrument that combines several features of the standard classical guitar and the tenor or baritone ukulele. Despite being a guitar-ukulele hybrid, a guitalele (aka guitalele, guilele, ukitar, kīkū) remains unique in terms of its design and function and the advantages and disadvantages it presents when compared either to a guitar or to a ukulele.
Guitarlele is characterized by the portability of a ukulele because, much like a ukulele, it is only ¼ the size of an average classical guitar. However, at the same time, it possesses six nylon strings (similar to a classical guitar) instead of the ukulele’s usual four, which allows for the replication of classical chords on a guitalele.
The first four strings of the guitarlele come tuned the same as a ukulele. However, a guitarist can easily tune a guitalele with the same intervals as in a classical guitar (tuned up a fourth to ADGCEA). As such, a guitalele begins sounding largely identical to a standard classical guitar capo on the 5th fret. It usually has a built-in microphone that facilitates playing it like an acoustic guitar or connecting it to an amplifier.
Guitar/Ukulele Vs. Guitarlele
1. Sound Quality and Portability
Standard guitars with large and bulky, hard protective cases are extremely difficult to carry on the move. As a result, some guitarists tend to settle for a “travel guitar”– a less than a full-size instrument that does not hamper mobility. However, these travel guitars’ sound quality and projection do not quite match up with the standard ones. Therefore, a guitarlele – which is smaller, more portable than the travel guitars, and closer in terms of sound quality and projection to the standard guitars– presents a more viable alternative.
Another important feature that makes a guitalele more suitable to its counterpart, a standard guitar, is that the strings of a guitalele are made of nylon instead of steel (as in a standard guitar). Nylon as a substance is much less prone to rust or corrosion when compared to steel, thereby providing comparative durability to the guitalele. This factor particularly comes into play when the guitarist is situated in a humid climate zone that hastens the process of rusting.
3. Suitability for Beginners
A guitarlele effortlessly marries the simplicity of a ukulele with the pliancy of a guitar. The nylon strings of a guitalele are easier to press down than the usual steel strings. Moreover, owing to the smaller frets in a guitalele, the musicians do not need to stretch their hands much to reach the strings and form chords. Thus, guitalele presents a suitable alternative for a beginner who hasn’t developed the hand strength and discipline necessary to play a standard guitar. Moreover, since the guitalele is a guitar-ukulele hybrid and can be played simultaneously, guitalele learners can use the learning resources available to both guitarists and ukulele players.
Guitaleles generally command a reasonable price with a decent beginner-set usually priced around $100. As such, a guitarlele is much more economical when compared to an individual standard guitar or a ukulele, especially because it (guitaleles) combines the function of both.
Disadvantages associated with a Guitarlele
Some of the chief disadvantages associated with guitarleles are :
- Guitarleles are not as common or popular as guitars or ukuleles. Therefore, the purchase options for them are limited.
- Since guitarleles are not that popular, there aren’t many manufacturers who produce them. Given the limited supply and hence the lack of choices, a musician may face much difficulty in procuring a guitalele that suits his/her preferences.
- Owing to their limited popularity, servicing of these guitarleles is quite expensive. Moreover, much like the instrument itself, the available string options for the guitarleles are also limited.
However, despite these slight disadvantages, it is obvious that a guitarlele has a greater overall efficiency– in terms of its design, portability, suitability to various uses, ease of operation, cost-effectiveness, and longevity– when compared to either a standard guitar or a standard ukulele; making it an ideal chordophones instrument to be preferred by a musician.