This article will establish the major differences and pros and cons of using travel guitar vs ukulele varieties.
We will cover the sizes, shapes, steel strings vs nylon strings, sound, tuning, and everything else you need to know about using a travel instrument on your next trip. By the end, you'll know what is the right choice as your next traveler guitar.
Read on to figure out which is best for you.
- Same chord shapes as a standard guitar
- Sounds more like a 'real' instrument
- Options for steel-string, classical, or electric guitar are readily available
- Easy to play
- Cheaper than guitars
- Fits in your backpack, so there's no risk of not being allowed as carry on luggage
- Usually much larger than ukes
- More expensive
- Harder to play for newbies
- The chords are different shapes than a guitar (annoying for intermediate guitarists)
- Not very loud for busking
Whether you lean toward a travel guitar or ukulele, they are both popular options among beginners, kids, and professionals seeking a small, travel-friendly instrument to carry around.
We all know that one essential thing for every globetrotter is to pack as lightly as possible, especially with “luxury items” like an instrument. These instruments solve this issue as they fit amazingly into carry-on luggage or a fully packed car.
Travel guitars come in many shapes and sizes. You can choose the type of guitar you prefer between:
They have all the same major characteristics their standard size counterparts like:
But they are considerably lighter. Most importantly, they're also smaller for travel.
Depending on the price range you are searching within, they can be a perfect musical instrument. For example, I’ve used a ¾ size acoustic guitar as my gigging guitar for extended periods in the past. I even kept using it when I got home from my travels.
Top-of-the-line ¾ size travel guitars can be perfect for a working musician whether they’re traveling or not.
Some great examples of the best ¾ acoustic guitars are the Taylor GSmini and Martin Dreadnaught Junior.
But, there are also even smaller options like the 1/2 size, which has lower string tension and lighter steel strings.
These factors add up to a safe option in case your guitar ever has to go in the undercarriage. There’s no worse feeling than forgetting to loosen the strings before your long-haul flight with a regular guitar to find the neck warped in transit.
½ size guitars also have a smaller neck ideal for learning barre chords.
Models like the Little Martin have all the qualities of their full-size guitars’ counterparts, only smaller. Yet, the string tension is much easier to handle for inexperienced players. Most importantly it costs considerably less than a regular Martin.
The same applies to the Hofner Shorty electric guitar or the nylon string Cordoba Mini m which are some of the very best traveler guitar options out there.
Travel guitars are amazing to carry with you everywhere you go. They are a perfect companion that will make your journey even more memorable.
It might even help you out find new friends by the bonfire, or earn some additional money busking in the main square of the city where you are staying. You have to admit, there are just a couple of things in life that can top playing in the main square of a city you’ve never been to.
When you first stumble upon a ukulele you'll first notice the size difference between a regular guitar and fewer strings.
They are SMALL!
And when we say small, we really mean that. The whole ukulele is practically the size of a regular guitar's body. But that doesn't mean it lacks a good tone. Au contraire!
This Portuguese instrument made famous in Hawaii became extremely popular in the last 10-15 years, mostly because of the various ukulele covers of famous songs that people put out on Youtube.
Literally, every popular song nowadays has a ukulele cover.
Just type in the song you want to learn on Google or Youtube and in just a couple of minutes you'll figure out the ukulele chord pattern needed to play your favorite tune.
Ukuleles are much easier to play as a beginner. So, if you’re new to learning an instrument the uke is a no-brainer choice.
The first thing you need to know if you plan on buying the ukulele is the difference between the 4 available sizes. They come in four sizes, soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone uke with soprano ukulele being the most popular, the one you see every day.
The soprano ukulele, the most popular one, is the smallest uke with the tightest fret spacing. They are ideal for kids and beginners, but also people with smaller hands or fingers, because of the small neck. The tone of a soprano ukulele is much brighter than on the other models.
The next smallest one is the concert ukulele which is around an inch longer. The tone is a bit fuller and more in the mid-range, and the bigger size makes the concert ukulele louder than the soprano.
We are moving on to the tenor ukulele which is around two inches longer than a concert ukulele making it ideal for fingerpicking. It’s called the tenor ukulele is because of that much bassier and fuller sound.
The last, and the biggest variation is the baritone ukulele. They are three inches longer than a tenor ukulele thus being the closest option to an acoustic guitar. The sound is very close to an acoustic guitar and so is the tuning, making the baritone uke the best option to transition to from the guitar.
Unlike the other ukulele variations that are tuned to a standard uke tuning G-C-E-A the baritone uke is tuned to D-G-B-E, the same as the highest four strings on a guitar.
We’ve covered the ukulele sizes let's move on to the rest of the characteristics of a uke. The ukulele strings are nylon, the same as on classical guitar, but the ukulele is tuned differently.
A standard ukulele is tuned to a G-C-E-A tuning which is the same as if you put a capo on the fifth fret of a regular guitar and play the four high strings, D, G, B, and E. This tuning is a bit confusing at first, so getting the ukulele chord sheet will be of great help at first.
As you probably noticed in this article, when talking about a topic like travel guitar vs ukulele there is no best answer or an overall winner. It is all up to you and your preferences to choose the best journey instrument for you.
Ukulele has an amazing, and unique tone. They are small and easy to play.
On the other hand, electric guitar, or an acoustic guitar is louder, more robust, and has a tone that everyone knows and loves.
It is only up to you to choose if you will sacrifice a place in your luggage for the bigger sound and a couple of extra strings instead of carrying an instrument that can fit in your backpack.
Check out some of your other content on small guitars to learn more. And let us know in the comments which travel instrument you chose.